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Old May 23rd, 2003, 06:14 PM   #1
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Lighting a Cafe:

Hi, I embarking on a shoot soon and there is a scene that takes place in a cafe with two women speaking. I am trying to figure out how I am going to control and light this scene because it takes place near a huge window with daylight streaming in. The end result for the short film will be B&W.

All of these are captures from some test footage I did with natural light from the Canon XL1S at the location. I Shot between F1.6 and F2.6 with the ND filter on. I also shot on frame mode with a 1/30 shutter with the manual lens.

I put some notes next to the pictures. My first thoughts from loooking at the scene is this.

from the master shot, I would gel the windows. The close side of their head, facing the camera will be dark however and anything they are saying and facial expression will be lost. There would be no way to really hide a light outside the window unless I put one on either side of them. This would still only light their face on the side away from the camera.

From the 2 shot, focusing on each one of them speaking. I could get away with natural light gracing one side of their face lovely, with the other side falling off into shadow. This could be augmented with a light outside of the cafe beaming in on their face just off camera.

Any ideas? How would you tackle this?
Thanks in advance.
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Old May 23rd, 2003, 07:57 PM   #2
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I think you are on the right track John. Here are a few thoughts that occur to me as I view your frame grabs.

Sure would have been nice to have a couple stand-ins for your actors.

Unfortunately, not every location lends itself to being a good shooting environment. This one is iffy. Note in the exterior shot that you cannot see into the restaurant. Hopefully you are not yet using the polarizer, because if you are, it ain't doing any good. Note the reflection of the building across the street. Did you rotate the pola to get maximum effect from it? Anyway, two people sitting at the table may not show up very well in this shot. Is there another time of day when the sunlight is punching into the building more? If not, then the best solution is to light the people from inside the cafe, which you probably do not want to do. The lights should be hung close to the windows, out of sight, to light the girls as though there is more sunlight on them. BTW, get rid of as much of the signage as you can. Then the girls may pop a bit more. I'm talking about the stuff pasted on the front window. The side window is OK. Hopefully, when you shove the girls against the window for this shot, they will show up OK. A lot depends on how much you want to use this shot. If its just to establish location, you can get by with just about anything. But if you want to keep coming back to the girls in the window, hmmmm.

The two shot. I would like to see what this would look like if you pulled the camera back farther and saw more of the interior, but I understand you may not want to have other people in the scene. One thought would be to put the girls in shillouette for this shot. Turn off all light in the cafe, maybe move the table into the cafe away from the window more (a cheat) and expose for the street and drive them into shadow. Just a thought.

If you want to keep with the scene exposed naturally, I think you are about there. Get rid of the big pot of flowers and maybe the little ones too. There is a lot going on here with all the traffic. If you want more light on the girls, use my above suggestion. Use two lights above and close to the window, imitating sunlight coming through the window. Color temperature doesn't matter, since you say this is going to be black and white. So use any sources you can get that will give you some punch. Remember, these people do not want to be as bright as the traffic outside in the full daylight. BTW, NDing the window would not be my choice. That's a lot of ND, and it will have to be put up in sheets. If you have never done this, trust me, it is an art. We're talking soapy water, squeegies, and lots of patience.

Camera left girl position. Assuming the indoors two shot is the master, the girl in the chair on the left is the one I am talking about. Her single position. Or, it can be an over, which is almost always better. Here is where you can have some fun. You could effect a sunlight slash on the background wall. Don't overdo it. Just something to break up that dull wall. You could cheat the table position to get the window out of the shot. Or, leave it in. This is where a bit of ND could be helpful. Just use it where the camera sees outside, so she keeps as much light on the camera right side of her face. I love window light shots. This is all gut feeling. If she needs more light on the window side of her face, you may be able to bounce some in from outside. Or, use the light we mentioned earlier. Be sure you have at least two good bounce boards and stands to position them. She may need a bit of fill on the camera left side of her face, and this would be great for a second bounce board. Be sure that she is about a full stop hotter than the background to give her some pop. (Unless you add a sunlight slash to the wall)

The girl camera right position. See above for girl camera left. Just move the set-up to the other girl. Same deal.

Just remember that a lot of what I have suggested is dependent on sunlight. You know the location, and where the sun is during the day, and if what I have suggested will work in this location. But this looks to be a reasonable location, and you should have a lot of fun without too much lighting work. I don't know what kind of instruments you have access to, but this would work with pretty basic units.

And next time, stand-ins, please! I do have to ask one question; is it me, or are these pictures soft? Out of focus?

If it was easy, they'd get a relative to do it.
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Old May 23rd, 2003, 08:22 PM   #3
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These stills were taking on a cloudy day, with no filters (no polarizer on the lens as of yet). I also did it hand held quickly and without a distinct object in view, it was hard to focus. I tried to focus on the rim of the chair, but obvious it is off. These pictures are also compressed JPG's that I hasitly converted from Bitmaps exported from Avid Xpress.


Thanks! That's was very informative. For the actual shoot i plan to strip the window area clean of plants and signs. I think I will go back and take the shots again with a stand in. THere werent any availible. Unforunately, It has not been sunny yet, so I dont know the time of day the light will be entering the cafe as of yet. That's high on my priority list to do. I have gelled windows before and I have a spot meter in my tool box. I would like there to be a dramatic fall off of light on their face. I have a camera test with the talent and here is a still of the effect I am going for.

One of the other challenges with the master shot, is that how can one add punch to the background, It's hard to seperate the planes behind them unforuantely once the background bounds into daylight.
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