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Old August 3rd, 2007, 10:57 PM   #1
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Which one of these is lit "right"?

I've been struggling with getting the lighting "right". When I use a smaller aperture to get rid of hot spots, the subject gets dark. I also am not sure how much shadow to have on the subject's face on the fill side.

I did 3 test shots and varied the background brightness (dark and Light) for a total of 6 shots.
THe 3 variations are:
f2.2 close up
f2.2 medium shot
f2.6 medium shot

Ignoring the hot spot on top of the subject's head, which one of these is lit "right" in terms of face exposure and background brightness?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ernesthouse/

Look at the "Lighting Test" set.

TIA
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Old August 3rd, 2007, 11:51 PM   #2
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I like "3 f2.2 Light Bkg Far" the best. I think it has the best separation between subject and background.
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Old August 4th, 2007, 01:46 AM   #3
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I like f2.2 "far" with either light or dark background the most. I think I would split the difference on the composition between near and far. The background is a bit busy in the "far" but the subject's forehead being cut off in the "near" doesn't seem right for that particular person.

I think the only thing I actually dislike is the shine on the subject's head. I'm guessing that you could move back the rim/hair/kicker light so it only shines on the back of his hair and shoulders. That would help separate him from the background and prevent shine.
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Old August 4th, 2007, 01:47 AM   #4
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Without seeing your examples on a properly setup monitor it's impossible to guess which is exposed to my liking. (my Apple Cinema display could be totally fooling me - that's the POINT of a well setup monitor)

I'd note that if I'd hired you to shoot this, I'd consider any or all of them perfectly acceptable as a talking head shot. If one proved to be a bit dark, or needed more contrast or gamma pop - I can do that in post. If you've given me video in an exposure range I can work with, you're good to go.

We can discuss the fine distinction between a slightly darker or slightly lighter background all you want - and how that might or might not affects the viewer's focus on the speaker - but in the end, I can see the subject well, the framing and environment is nice and not distracting and there's nothing wrong with the shots.

If the guy is FASCINATING - I guess I'd vaguely prefer the darker background because it kinda keeps the audience focused on the speaker. If the guy is boring, I'd maybe prefer the lighter background so that they can look at the plant until the guy says something interesting enough to warrent the audience looking back at him. But you know what? If I need one of those approaches, I can simulate that in about 5 minutes using filters in my NLE. So it really doesn't matter to me.

Really my point is that while pushing yourself to achive the best results you possibly can is always an excellent goal - sometimes the difference between two different shots is simply not enough to bother stressing about.

In an interview my short list of what's important is this...

Can I HEAR the subject clearly?
Can I SEE the subject clearly?
Has the videographer properly de-emphasized distractions in the subject and or the environment so that my audience can concentrate on the delivery and message and not get lost wondering what some pink fuzzy thingy on the desk is all about.

You've pretty much done all of that in ALL these shots.

Moving on to outstanding or superb set decoration, lighting, shot composition, and the rest is the hallmark of excellence and deserves to be appreciated and is a wonderful goal - but truthfully, if your lighting was routinely 5% poorer than the WORST of your samples - but you consistently got excellent INTERVIEWS that revealed interesting information about the subjects - I'd keep hiring you to shoot for me.

So, if you see yourself primarily as a traditional "lighting cameraman" - keep pushing to be as good with lighting as you can possibly become - it's a worthy effort and you're on the long road to a career with excellence on the horizon.

If you're a one man band doing it all, I think your lighting skills are probably fine and will keep growing simply with practice. So now maybe it's time to start de-emphasizing your lighting and put more empahasis on INTERVIEWING SKILLS so you get more interesting stuff from the people you light and shoot.

I suspect THAT skill will potentially make you a LOT more money than your already fine and growing lighting skills.

My 2 cents anyway.

Good luck.

Oh, and yeah, you need a flag for the guys bald head - but you already know that - so you're good to go next time.
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Old August 4th, 2007, 01:04 PM   #5
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EFPLighting was the inspiration and reference material for the whole setup. The mottled background, room partition, blue light and fresnel spot behind the head came directly from your designs. I think the only creative thing I added was the plant and the client's prop. As soon as I saw the hotspot on the guy, I thought of the technique you gave to lower the hairlight to only shine on the shoulders. Unfortunately, I didn't see the problem until post. My bad. As for EFPLighting.com, Thank you thank you thank you.

Bill,
Thank you for the thoughtful and insightful post. I know it consumed a decent chunk of time to do it. I particularly appreciate that you broadened the discussion to include other important things like interviewing skills. So many discussions here are about the technical aspects of production like equipment is all you need. As it happens, interviewing is something I chose to develop before lighting and set design. I think your post will benefit many who read this later. My main question was whether the background differences where significant enough to be "out of spec". You answered this well. Thank you.
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Old August 9th, 2007, 02:57 PM   #6
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the apparent light source question

Hi everyone

The Key light seems to be opposite from the shadows from the props.

Overall, I liked #3 best.

Single or double net or 1/2 scrim depending on fixture to take care of the bald spot.

Happy lighting!
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Old August 21st, 2007, 12:06 PM   #7
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Personally, these all feel a tad flat for my tastes, a tiny bit more key keeping the fill where it is would bring more dimension to the image. I'd like to see a little more light in the eye sockets too, since the eyes adds life to talking heads, the eyes are so very important in lighting interviews like this (though I can only really evaluate this looking at a properly calibrated reference monitor). Lowering the back light will eliminate the reflection on the head, but you said to ignore that.

The background might be a little busy, too much high frequency detail in the background detracts from the foreground. Usually it's not practical to have the camera 15 ft. from the subject and the background 8 ft. from the subject in order to get a sense of separation and softening of the background, which is what you need to do with tiny sensor cameras (unless you use a 35mm lens adapter, another story).

But these are all nit picky details, the basic image is good.
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Old August 24th, 2007, 11:37 AM   #8
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Thank you to everyone who gave feedback. I have to admit, I'm frustrated by the lack of catch light and am open to suggestions. It's tricky when the subject isn't looking into the camera.

This setup had a 300w Tota in a Chimera about 60 degrees to the left of the camera at about the 2-oclock high for key, a Frezzi Microfill with dimmer on the camera and a reflector opposite the key. Yet, no catchlight. What light is supposed to be providing the catch light?
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Old August 25th, 2007, 09:03 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ernest House View Post
What light is supposed to be providing the catch light?
The catch light is usually from the key, but it depends on the angle of the key, experiment and see how the position of the key affects the catch lights. Another experiment is play with a small 150W Fresnel fixture positioned as an eye light, it will also be reflected in the eye. Sometimes when using a large key, which appears as a large reflection in the eye, an tiny eye light will provide both a small, specular, catch light, as well a little fill in the eyes. If a picture is worth a thousands words, imagine what experimentation is worth. Trough experimentation you will discover many things you can carry with you on future shoots.
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Old August 25th, 2007, 10:56 AM   #10
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based on the way my monitor is set i prefer #4 2.2 ....

the set itself doesn't work for me ... i find the orange thing ( ball like ) distracts my eye from subject ....

eye/catch light - if the key light doesn't do it then i use a 200w light with heavy diffusion (scrimmed down ) right next to camera ( for your shot it would be to camera left) - approx 6" higher then lens ..
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Old August 26th, 2007, 02:39 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Donatello View Post
i find the orange thing ( ball like ) distracts my eye from subject ....
yes, a good rule of thumb to follow is, whenever possible, avoid "hot" colors in the background like red and orange, they compete with the main subject for attention. Turns out, from a human perception perspective, warmer colors (yellow, red, orange) move "forward" while cooler colors (blues, greens, violets) receded into the background. This is one reason you'll find many news sets emphasize the blue hues for backgrounds. Of course, the relative brightness also plays a factor, with bright objects moving forward. Keeping the background slightly darker with predominantly cooler colors will help your subject come forward. This is especially important with small 1/3" and 1/4" imager cameras with their near infinite depth of field. Since you don't have shallow depth of field to help separate background from foreground, lighting becomes even more important in creating a sense of depth and separation between foreground and background.
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