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Old March 26th, 2010, 08:04 PM   #1
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Tips on lighting for filming oil paintings with the Canon XH A1S

I will making a documentary on a painter and I need some ideas on how best to film his oil paintings.

Any help is greatly appreciated.
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Old March 26th, 2010, 09:04 PM   #2
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Interesting question, since most oil paintings have texture and tend to favor directional light. I think most oil paintings are meant to be lit from above, but you may want to confer with the painter - see where he wants the light to come from. I have two oil paintings in my house, and lighting them properly - even just for viewing them - is everything. Lighting them straight on makes them look very flat, while lighting them from an angle increases the contrast by creating shadows. I'm curious to hear what others have to say :)
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Old March 26th, 2010, 10:06 PM   #3
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Hi Joe,

I'm just up the street from you in Novato. Are you going to be filming him while he is painting? If you're just wanting to have show them I would consider shooting them with a digital SLR as a still and go for a long exposure. Then you could "Ken Burns" it into your docu.

It really depends on what you want to do to show the painting. Another very nice way to display a painting is so do slow pans and jib moves over them zoomed in tight. Then have a master shot of it after showing some of the more intricate details.

As for lighting. If you keep the movements slow enough you could probably get away with a pretty slow shutter speed so you won't need much light. I'd tend to try to film it in whatever environment the painter thinks works best. I'd imagine that would be some direct light on the painting maybe use a snoot or flag it tight so that the wall or surrounding areas are very dark.

Like Jay mentioned, oil paintings have a lot of texture to them so I'd probably go with a hard light. Maybe a small single Fresnel placed a little higher than the camera. Play with the angles and height to see what brings out the most character in the painting.

For the Canon's I'd try to find a preset that has a lot of vivid colors without over saturating them. Since you may be having a lot of dark areas in your shots you'll have to shoot with the smallest amount of gain you can get away with and any post cc will be difficult to do without introducing a lot of unwanted deterioration of the footage.

Keep me up to date on how the project is going.

Garrett
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Old March 28th, 2010, 04:01 PM   #4
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Paintings - used to shoot them for books, limited edition prints and more on a 5x4 sheet film camera, now I use a Phase One digital back (still).

Whatever your capture medium, soft light is the only way to get a good result: 2 identical soft sources, one at each side at 45degrees or less, depending on the type of paint used. Ideally the light sources need to be larger than the paintings. Gloss varnished paintings cannot be captured without polarised light sources.

Best to take on board the other comment and shoot these on a DSLR with at least a 70mm lens or more. Be sure to use a fixed white balance, custom balanced for light source, just as you would on video.

To get an accurate result, do not use a vivid profile - use Standard or even better, Faithful on the Canon, with colour space set to sRGB so it can be bought accurately into the video. On the XHA/G, use TRUCOLOR which matches up nicely to Canon DSLRs in Standard or Faithful spaces

There is a lot of skill in getting this right. Have fun!!
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Old March 29th, 2010, 11:07 AM   #5
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Interesting Nick, I would have thought that using two soft lights would give too flat a look. For a video presentation what would you focus on framing wise? I'd also imagine for camera moves you'd want to dolly instead of just pan.

Garrett
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Old March 29th, 2010, 11:19 AM   #6
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Thanks for all the great responses. I have a few weeks to do lighting tests before I drive to Tucson for this project...problem is I don't own any pro type lights. I'll make it work in any event.

Joe Cronin
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Old March 29th, 2010, 01:51 PM   #7
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Joe, you can rent soft boxes and lights very reasonably (even here in England!) - Lowel do some great products - The Rifa EX series offers tungsten or daylight sources - you will probably want to hire the biggest ones to give max light area (as opposed to max light output) - I find that 36 x 24" softboxes cover most situations for paintings. Chimera also make softboxes to go with other brands of lights.

BTW - the XH Colour setting is NATURAL0, not Trucolor - matches very nicely to standard on the EOS 5D2 / 7D

Garret, take your point, but even light is essential to avoid hot spots. I have been doing this for over 20 years and to show a painting at its best, the light has to be seriously precise; ideally within 1/10th f-stop across the painting: 2/10ths inaccuracy can be seen on a big transparency. Video will be slightly more forgiving.

Personally I would shoot the pics on a DSLR and move around or zoom in FCP as opposed to being limited by physical pans with the camera. Framing - The whole image, perhaps with artist and then zoom inwards to main area of interest?

Rifa EX Lights: Lowel Rifa eXchange

Chimera: CHIMERA Lighting
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