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Old December 5th, 2007, 03:43 PM   #1
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Lighting a Christmas tree scene.

Hello,

I mostly lurk in the alternative imaging section but I had a different kind of question today.

Im a cinematographer for a short independent Christmas film that will be shot in two weeks and I would like some advice on lighting a set. Im not asking anyone to tell me how to light it, but I would appreciate any ideas.

Every time I do a film I try to raise the bar on the next one, using what I learned. I have high expectations for this one but im short on ideas. Im better at the technical side of things... I have been looking through photographs, and looking for references in other films but I really have not found much.

The setting is Santa is leaving presents at night.

Here are some pictures of the set (rough set. not final)
http://www.buysmartpc.com/temp2/xmas/

The lighting in the pictures is way too hot, and just wrong. It was just something quick I put up to be able to take these pictures.

Found some good advice searching, but looking for a little more.
I would appreciate any references, ideas, and/or comments.

Thank you for looking.
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Old December 5th, 2007, 03:49 PM   #2
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Well I guess the question is, "Where is the light coming from?" (Yeah yeah, but its a start.) Is the scene lit only by the lights on the tree? From a 'fireplace'? From some 'off camera source'? From moonlight through a window? What do you see as the primary source of illumination for the scene?
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Old December 5th, 2007, 04:01 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Richard Alvarez View Post
Well I guess the question is, "Where is the light coming from?" (Yeah yeah, but its a start.) Is the scene lit only by the lights on the tree? From a 'fireplace'? From some 'off camera source'? From moonlight through a window? What do you see as the primary source of illumination for the scene?
Well thats pretty much open. No more then what you see in the photograph is ever revealed so there could be anything. Its the evening, everyone is asleep. Its important to set that mood.

What I had planned to do so far is light the fireplace and help it with some additional light, place more powerful lights behind the greens on the counter above to throw some light/texture on to the wall, more powerful lights on the tree, and throw some moonlight through a window cookie onto the set.

This would still leave the set pretty dark and I would like to have a more warm, Christmas feel to it.

It may sound like I have it figured out, but I don't. But im not sure exactly how to execute this, and if any of this is a good idea. For example mixing moonlight with warm candle light color.

This has been on my mind for a few days now, I guess im just looking for a fresh pair of eyes and criticism.
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Old December 6th, 2007, 10:59 AM   #4
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Maybe a few more small spotlights from above to get more and smaller highlights. I guess it would help to set the candlelight-at-night mood.
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Old December 6th, 2007, 11:26 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Heiko Saele View Post
Maybe a few more small spotlights from above to get more and smaller highlights. I guess it would help to set the candlelight-at-night mood. The two highlights in your picture are a bit massive for my taste (and they seem to come from the side?)
Yeah, the lighting in that picture is really just thrown together. The photo was for the director and rest of the crew to get an idea of what to expect. Originally they were all on dimmers, and it looked much better. I had to take them off so the digital camera could focus properly. It still had problems.

I thought about using small spotlights, and I like that idea. I will work on that tonight. May have to buy a smaller light or two. The 300w-700w lamps I have in kits are a bit overkill. If it comes down to it I may try using focusable flashlights, though they tend to have distortions...
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Old December 6th, 2007, 06:03 PM   #6
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The first thing that you have to do is to get a good exposure from the Xmas lights; a good monitor is a must. Donít over expose these lights or you will lose the colors, if you have to go up with the gains in the camera. After that you must control the black (contrast) in the image, and there will be a lot of black. Use a large non directional light source, this could be a large Chimera, a lantern or a large reflector, adjust this light just enough to give you details in the blacks. Third paint the scene with small fresnel lights and place them only in areas that you want to stand-out. Control the output of the fresnel with dimmers, screens or ND gel, also diffuse these lights and put some CTO to warm them up. If possible backlight the objects with the fresnels to give depth and dimension.
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Old December 7th, 2007, 03:04 AM   #7
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Quote:
Yeah, the lighting in that picture is really just thrown together. The photo was for the director and rest of the crew to get an idea of what to expect. Originally they were all on dimmers, and it looked much better.
I realized after reading your post a second time that you said the lighting in the picture was not at all what you wanted. I edited my post, but you got me before the edit, sorry :)
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Old December 7th, 2007, 10:21 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Nino Giannotti View Post
The first thing that you have to do is to get a good exposure from the Xmas lights; a good monitor is a must. Don’t over expose these lights or you will lose the colors, if you have to go up with the gains in the camera. After that you must control the black (contrast) in the image, and there will be a lot of black. Use a large non directional light source, this could be a large Chimera, a lantern or a large reflector, adjust this light just enough to give you details in the blacks. Third paint the scene with small fresnel lights and place them only in areas that you want to stand-out. Control the output of the fresnel with dimmers, screens or ND gel, also diffuse these lights and put some CTO to warm them up. If possible backlight the objects with the fresnels to give depth and dimension.
Thats exactly what im looking for!

Here is an update I did last night:
http://www.buysmartpc.com/temp2/xmas/update.html

Its only 1/2 done. Im still not happy with it. The candles are not lit, I decided to take this picture after I had already started tearing it down.

I hung a china lantern with a warm gel on the bulb in the center of the room. (The ceiling is very high). Used a par at 8ft high and a simple cookie to cast the window shadow with a blue filter. The digital camera is not white balanced.

Other than that did some more set work. Put some more powerful lights behind the greens above the fireplace, and simulated a fire using an orange cloth and a open light lit resting on it. I think I need to dim the lights above the fireplace. I wanted that detail but not have a distraction. There will be an actual fire for the shoot, hopefully that wont be a problem.

There is a temporary green light on the xmas tree. I found that it helps bring it out since the tree is such a dark green color its troublesome to light. Im not sure if lighting a green xmas tree with green gels is wise. But so far it does not look too bad.

Next im planning to light the xmas tree, the gifts, block off the stray moon light to better simulate a window and use some backlight. I woke up this morning and thought to myself backlight! thats what its missing. Something else I want to do is put some detail on the curtain behind the tree.

Thanks a lot for the tips.
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Old December 7th, 2007, 10:54 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Heiko Saele View Post
I realized after reading your post a second time that you said the lighting in the picture was not at all what you wanted. I edited my post, but you got me before the edit, sorry :)
No problem, I appreciate your advice.
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Old December 7th, 2007, 11:18 AM   #10
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Also, you might try to use slightly larger wattage light bulbs on the Christmas tree. C6 bulbs work great, and will help illuminate the rest of the room with a warm glow from the lights of the Christmas Tree. I find that larger bulbs look better on the tree too, because they aren't such a small point of light.
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Old December 22nd, 2007, 02:08 AM   #11
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Eyes Wide Shut had a very cool Christmas look to it.
Lots of big xmas lights and blue windows...cool
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