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Old March 30th, 2008, 04:42 PM   #1
Major Player
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: London, UK
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rate my lighting

Hi Guys

If you have the time I'd really appreciate some feedback on this shoot.

It was the second time I've used lights so I'm sure that there are shortcomings.

I used the following kit, pictured:
Lowell Rifa
Lowell V Light (with umbrella)
Lowell Prolight
two Arris (650 watt I think, one is behind the rifa)
One Lastolite reflector (on ceiling)

I wanted to create a warm intimate atmosphere. Pools of light. Not obviously lit. It's friends in a kitchen.

There was a highlight on the forehead of the banjo player on the right.

Do you think I would have got better results with a Kinoflo and Dedo lights? In which case I may rent these the next time I do anything like this.

Thanks for looking.
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Richard Gooderick is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 30th, 2008, 05:30 PM   #2
Inner Circle
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Arlington, TX
Posts: 2,229
Tough to make such close quarters look natural and nice.

The three people look alright, but overall, the room looks rather uneven to me.

The hard spot lighting might be too close which keeps the area small.

I would say some flourescents would create more of glowing look and not such large ratios throughout the room.

I can't really see the effect of the overhead bounce either.

This might be a case for simple lighting. Just some Flo's at a sort of high angle to drop the shadows behind the people a bit.

They are soft enough to leave some darkness in the back.

This might look a little less dramatic, but the subjects will be covered well.

Just my opinions!
Tim Polster is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 30th, 2008, 05:48 PM   #3
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 6,750
Hi Richard:

This being your second time out as you said, congratulations and welcome to the long but rewarding pursuit of lighting!

OK, so your goal was, as you said, to create a warm and intimate setting with pools of light yet not obviously lit. I'm guessing that you have some reservations about the result, especially in those terms.

The biggest problem I see is not even so much in the lighting, it's the set. Your musicians are right up against the walls, and the room is so crowded to begin with that it is visually tiring. I get that it is supposed to be a casual/spontaneous house jam but I feel cramped and honestly, pretty turned off by the dirty dishes, pizza leftovers and general clutter. The first thing I would do is clean up the space and remove as many conflicting items and clutter as possible. Keep the bowl of oranges, lose virtually everything else off that counter. The flowers are pretty but maybe put them upstage, replacing the coffee maker. Go for simple, sparse textures and colors. Production design/art direction has an importance that cannot be understated. You don't have to make it sterile, just simplified for the 2-dimensional medium.

That done, you have a pretty small space there so it's tough to light--whoever is closest to the fixtures will be much hotter than the next person. You will also want to keep the walls as dark as possible to focus attention onto the musicians, create that intimate mood and further simplify the frame. For this reason, you need to be careful with your frontal and ceiling bounces--you've lit everything from camera position so there is no dimensionality to the light.

What I would personally do is place a soft source to the left, behind the foreground guitarist (the Rifa, if you had room for it, or a bounce card against the wall lit with a 650 on a low stand). This will give you a beautiful rake across the three banjo players. You may have to arrange them so that the lady in the middle is not shadowed. A flag would be good on the upstage side (away from camera) to keep the light from spilling onto the side and back wall.

Next, a low soft frontal fill--either another bounce or Rifa, between where your cameras were positioned in that picture. It could be at or below the table level. You may well want to lose the table in any event, or replace it with a smaller one if necessary. This will give a subtle amount of fill to the musicians, particularly the guitar player on the left, without heating up the back walls too much. This could be gelled warm, perhaps a 1/4 CTO, or just use a warm bounce (I think I see a gold flexible bounce on the ceiling?)

Consider bringing a small table lamp from elsewhere in the house and place it in the background to add a little contrast. Put it on a standard household dimmer and adjust it to eye so that it is not too hot. Then you can take your little Pro light and work it from the side onto the rear guitar player, to pick him out a little. There's not a lot of places to hide that light, so you might be better off with a slick little trick such as this: take a small household bulb and socket and find a way to cantilever it off the back off the table lamp (flexible wire like a coathanger, perhaps), then position it so that the lamp hides it from camera view, this will give you a perfectly believable sense of the lamp lighting the person. Some judiciously applied blackwrap (or alumimum foil if you don't have blackwrap) can help shape the light so that it doesn't spill onto the back wall. Of course make sure that the bulb is not too close to the lampshade for safety reasons.

Finally, a small unit like a Prolight or Dedo clipped to the top of the shelves above the banjo player's heads, well-snooted to give a little edge light to the foreground guitar player. If possible, this could be on a short stand and hidden behind the banjo players which might be nicer as an uplight, which is preferable as his look is down rather than up. This would be well-motivated by the newly-placed table lamp behind him; it all depends whether the light could be properly hidden down there or not. A Litepanel or other similar small unit would be a great choice also as they can be taped up and hidden more easily.

This plan would deliver a believable and elegant look where everyone has a bit of edge light for snap and separation, but overall warm and soft. And again, it's just what I'd do off the top of my head and not seeing the space firsthand. The next person who posts may have a totally different lighting plan in mind, and it may be just as nice!
Charles Papert
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Old March 31st, 2008, 02:15 AM   #4
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Location: London, UK
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Hi Chris and Tim

Thanks for your post which are incredibly interesting, helpful and thought-provoking.

There's obviously more than one way to skin a cat.

You're right about the bounce. The idea was to create a warm pool of light around the table. The hard lights were too powerful when I bounced those and I abandoned using them. So I used the rifa, which wasn't powerful enough and didn't seem to do a lot. So I ended up with a base lighting level that was much higher than planned. I didn't mean to swathe the shelving etc with light. More darkness away from the table was the idea.

I really appreciate your detailed response.
The room was very small and I was effectively a guest at the evening so there was not much I could do about the mess on the table. They were having a party. I did remove a wine bottle that I thought was empty but apparently it wasn't, quite, and that raised a protest :-)
I see what you mean about visual clutter and next time round I will think more about what I could do beforehand to manage this.
The idea of a pool of light failed and I think I ended up with lighting levels that were too high overall and then had to blast light at the three banjo players in order to get them looking OK.
I had thought about getting rid of the table but decided to drop the leaf and film from behind it in the hope that it might make the viewer feel more like they are part of the group, sitting at the table.
There was so little room that it took me quite some time to move out of position at the camera. I even thought of filming from outside through the open window beforehand but dropped that in case it rained. There is airplane noise outside too (Heathrow flight path).
Thanks for the ideas about light placement. They are great.
I didn't see how I could get any separation in such a small space but these ideas make that possible.
I see that you are both advocating the use of indirect or soft lighting.
Do you think that my idea of bouncing light off the reflector on the ceiling would have worked if I had used a more powerful rifa or if I had used an arri with some gel to tone it down? Or would that light have been from the wrong direction?
Next time round I will try the table lamp trick and see if I can liven that up by using an extra light source.
Do you think that a chinese lantern could have been useful if I could have suspended that above the table out of shot? It's something else I had considered.
Charles. I did look at renting some light panels. I don't know anything about them but the light seemed very cold. Would you gel these too?

Thank you for taking the time to comment. I really appreciate it.
Richard Gooderick is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 31st, 2008, 08:09 AM   #5
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Hi Richard:

The problem with the ceiling bounce is that it scatters everywhere. If you had the ability to cut the resulting light off the back and side walls, you'd be on to something. This would require a teaser which could be as simple as tinfoil or preferably black fabric like duvetyne taped on to the ceiling, hanging down a foot or so in front of the bounce itself. By the way, no reason you can't just bounce off the ceiling itself and save your reflector and stand for something else. Conversely you can take your Rifa way up to the ceiling and point it down at the musicians, but again you need to be able to cut the light off the walls etc...don't think the Rifa has fabric eggcrates (does it?) but a set of flags would be required otherwise. A china ball is fine but it too needs to be controlled with a skirt around it otherwise you are blasting light everywhere once again.

The Litepanels are daylight balanced but they come with gels so you can quickly make them 3200 or even warmer as needed. With onboard battery, a great little light to hideaway in the middle of the set.
Charles Papert
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Old March 31st, 2008, 10:11 AM   #6
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Location: London, UK
Posts: 792
Thanks Charles for answering my questions so comprehensively. I really appreciate it and will be much better equipped to deal with similar situations in future.

To answer your queries:
There wasn't an eggcrate on the rifa.
The trouble with the ceiling was that it was a sort of duck green not white. That's why I used the lastolite. I thought that the gold surface would create a cosy effect too. Your suggestion about using a teaser make sense. And I wouldn't have known what to call it before :-)
I remarked to the hire company that the panels gave off a very cold light. They didn't tell me that you can gel them. So I've learnt something useful there too.

I saw that someone in the New York area is making a bracket for china balls so that you can fix them precisely and flag them accurately. I may look into that.

Once again, many thanks. Much appreciated.
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