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Old April 3rd, 2008, 02:37 AM   #1
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Soldier/ New Film maker needs lighting advice

Ok, This is my 4th thread and I am getting alot of good feeb back. I am serving with the Army in Afghanistan and making a documentary of my deployment. I will be conducting some interviews and wanted to go for a special look. If you have seen "Band of Brothers" then you know when they interview the real members of easy company the background is black and there is a soft white light on them, thats all. I was thinking of going for "that look" with an American Flag in the background and the camera on a low angle facing up. With a small budget how can I do this? Black sheet, USA Flag and a soft box light?!?!?

Chris

Last edited by Christopher Feder; April 3rd, 2008 at 03:45 AM.
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Old April 3rd, 2008, 01:53 PM   #2
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Depending, you may also need a backlight, and may need a background light for the flag. Or, there may be existing light sources to help with this.

I'm a huge fan of the Lowel Rifa as the most portable softbox, bar none. Small, light, good light, quick setup. More delicate than many.

My "suitcase" interview kit has 2 Rifa55 and a Pro for use as a backlight, as well as some 1/2 and 3/4 CTB gels and a couple reflectors. Rarely does the 2nd Rifa come out. The Pro comes out frequently.

All this on the assumption that you need to be pretty portable - ?
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Old April 3rd, 2008, 02:30 PM   #3
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I agree with the Lowell Rifa lights. Much easier to set up than most soft boxes and pretty durable. I got the 44 Kit which has a few other lights for the various other purposes such as backlighting, etc.
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Old April 3rd, 2008, 03:18 PM   #4
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If you want to recreate that look, yes, you'll want soft lighting as your key and fill on the subject.

But soft lighting is inherently non-directional, so keeping if off the background to get the "subject in light halo" effect typically requires some distance between your subject and the background and a fabric grid to control spill from the soft key.

You also need to shoot in a location where you can control ALL the lighting, so you start with no light and just put it where you want it. (subject and flag backdrop for instance.) This kind of thing does NOT typically work in a room with a window - even one with typical "leaky" blinds - since the spill from that can raise overall room light levels to the point where you can't get the "halo" effect.

Good luck with your project.
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Old April 3rd, 2008, 04:08 PM   #5
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Ok, Here is the scenario. I have the ability to control ALL of the lighting in the room to include the windows because all of our buildings on this base dont have windows for safety (Mortars, small arms fire etc). The Lowell Rifa lights are out of my budget (New) can I just look for any "Softbox" light that will do the job? Where do I want to be as far as wattage goes? Will a 24"x24" softbox work with a small light to shine the flag? Any special size boxlight? Can I just use a black bed sheet or should I get a real backdrop?

Chris
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Old April 3rd, 2008, 05:54 PM   #6
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Christopher,

The brand or even cost of the lights aren't important. What is important is that you're able to generate light of a single color temperature - daylight/tungsten, whatever and CONTROL where it goes. So a good light/softbox rig will be built to contain and direct the light without light leaks and will allow the use of light control gear like a fabric grid, to further direct the light onto your subject without putting more light into the room.

A good softbox like those from Chimera or Photoflex have fabric "ears" that velcro together around the lamp housing to prevent spill. And velcro or something similar to allow you to mount your grid to the front of the box.

With enough black wrap (mattte back aluminum foil) you can do this with standard lights and home-brewed solutions. It's just a whole lot easier with equipment designed to do it from the get-go.

For example, an open faced light or even a shop light, pointed away from the subject onto a large piece of white foam core - makes a lovely soft light. But it reflects back on EVERYTHING in the room, lighting not just the talent, but the WHOLE ROOM as well. So your background, even if it's black cloth, will turn GREY by being bathed in light.

The pro softbox with grid can light the person, keeping spill off the background so that the black cloth is TOTAL black and something like a flag would have no ambient light hitting it. So a small directed light on the flag would make it POP with vibrant colors - rather than being dulled by all the spill light.

Light CONTROL is what elevates video pictures from OK to beautiful.

Hope that helps.
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Old April 3rd, 2008, 06:34 PM   #7
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How about a flourescent for key and a Pro light or two for backlight and a light on the flag?

This would be low wattage and would produce nice images.

Have a look a www.coolights.biz for affordable flourecents.

I have the four bulb version and it is a joy for interview lighting.

This would be 3200k due to the Pro lights.

You can probably get away with a bed sheet if it is black and the room is dark behind it.
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Old April 4th, 2008, 03:19 AM   #8
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So I can get a boxlight off of ebay or something. So a 24"x24" 1K would work? Whats the distance I should keep the box light from the key and the distance i should keep the light from the flag? Also how far should I keep the key from the background? I was thinking just one box light a few feet from the key at their head level. I have black bed sheets but they look like they can shine so ill have to find a black backdrop. If I go with flourescent then dont I need to add gels? Can this by done with 2 lights? A good box light for the key and a light for the flag?

When I am setting it up should I see the results using the LCD on the camera or a different monitor I have? Would this be a good idea; Get the equipment and set it up with a "sit in" and try a few different things and record it and go back to see what works best?!?!?
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Old April 4th, 2008, 06:03 AM   #9
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Chris.


I would also favor the Cool Lights and the "boxlight" solution you suggest if it uses the compact spiral flourescent lamps which replace common household bulbs.

The compact flourescents are excited independently of the 60Hz 115V AC standard I guess you are supplied with on your base. Their cycle frequency is much higher. I understand the Cool Lights are also self-exciting and not dependent on the 60Hz.

If it is a relatively small diesel powerhouse on your base, there may be small deviations from 60Hz as big walk-in freezers switch on and off or there altogether may not be true sync to 60hz.

With simple overhead flourescent and tungsten lights you might find on the base, this may cause slow rises and falls in brightness and colour temp changes as the AC cycle phases slowly in and out of sync with your camcorder frame rate if you are shooting 60i.

If you are conducting your interviews in your own room, you might also do well to aquire some sound deadening material like blankets, doonas, sleeping bags or even just old scrunched up clothes to hang on walls.

If the black bedsheet shines despite your best efforts at keeping it distant from your lighting in your confined workspace, perhaps think laterally and hang a shred of camo netting across part of it as a backdrop.

The only other solution I can suggest is to paint a greenscreen backdrop on your wall, light it evently and put backgrounds in later at your leisure when editing.

You'll need something to get rid of some of the reverb in your confined workspace and environmental noise penetrating from the compound and the adjacent bunks next door. The portable buildings I imagine you are in may be both acoustically live and poorly insulated acoustically.

I imagine with electric appliances all over the place, there will be a strong acoustic background of 60Hz and harmonics, especially if there are wallmounted airconditioners anywhere around or you are unlucky enough to be near the kitchens and coolrooms.

This may well be stuff you already know and have dealt with so ignore at will.

Last edited by Bob Hart; April 4th, 2008 at 06:11 AM. Reason: error
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Old April 4th, 2008, 06:44 AM   #10
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Bob, We do have 115vac system here on the FOB and the room in questions is a conference room in a building that is not occupied with as many people at night as during the day. I do have some ability to add "sound absorbing" in the form of blankets and such but ill have to order some. I can shut down AC units if I need to. The building in question is about 1000 meters or so from the dining facility with freezers. Actually, the building is more or less in its own area. The only concern is that its close to the tactical operations center which has all the sattelite equipment and stuff, would that be a concern with audio? What if I purchase a green screen woudl that work? Could I still use the US Flag with a green screen? I keep forgetting the sound issue. WOUld I be able to pick up the little sound problems with a headphone on?

Chris
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Old April 4th, 2008, 09:50 AM   #11
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Chris,

For me could you define what you are referring to as a box light?

The flourescents we are talking about are made for the video industry. They offer two color temperatures, indoor (3200k) and outdoor (5600k).

If you are going to be conducting the interviews inside without any outside light, then the 3200k blubs would be best if you going to mix the light with other tungsten bulbs.

Having a "sit in" person is a great way to setup your lighting.

If you want to learn more, I would suggest the book "Lighting for digital video and television" by John Jackman.

This will show you everything you need to know about setting up interviews.
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Old April 4th, 2008, 11:43 AM   #12
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Chris.


If it is a conference room, then it seems like you have some more useful working space.

A cloth greenscreen would be okay but need to be evenly lit by a soft source.

The US flag should be fine in front of a greenscreen.

You may need to make a shade from cardboard or stitch some black material on back of the flag to prevent green penetration coming directly back through the open weave of the cloth which will mess up the chroma key and skew the flag colours.

If you can, put some distance between the your interviewee with flag nearby and the greenscreen to avoid green spill coming back onto the silhouette edges, maybe persuade your interviewees to wipe their faces down and be dusted with something to reduce sweat reflections of the green light.

There are far better practitioners on this greenscreen business than I so heed their advice in preference to my own.

There have been reported incidences of radio-frequency interference getting into Sony PD150s and Canon GL-family camera audio and also setting off the optical steadyshot servo. Radars also cause RFI.

All you can do is test with your camera at your intended studio before you put all the work into setting it up. Orientate the camera in many directions while you test.

If you are miking your interviewees with a lapel mike and intend using headphones, test with these attached as the leads are a likely path for RFI to get in.

If there are computers operating in your tactical operations centre, likely the transmitters, feedlines and dishes have been carefully set up to avoid RFI, so it may not be such a problem if at all.

Your biggest problem if it occurs at all may be terrestrial comms such as VHF / UHF handheld or vehicle radio traffic, nearby repeaters or databursts. Unless by satellite downlink, these propagate omnidirectionally and not in a narrow beam like a dish or gain antenna.

I expect that your conference room building is the metal clad prefabricated or transportable variety with doors made of sheetmetal over ply or dense foam cores, so some RFI shielding for VHF / UHF may already be happening. Plywood floors will not be much help though.

If you do get some RFI, you may find it helpful to check if the metal on the building is connected to ground. With plastic plumbing this sometimes does not happen. A long metal picket driven into the ground, wired to the metal siding of the building and the ground around the metal picket being kept damp may help.

If you do this yourself, be mindful the building may have been wired wrong and when you connect the earth bond you may get zapped. Best to check with your engineers or electricians first. They may already know of methods of reducing RFI in those buildings.

Headphones will be a definite must have, as they will reproduce buzzes and spikes before a speaker will.

You may find that you need to operate your camcorder on battery if RFI is fed in via the recharge lead.

The local audio amplifiers in some camcorders for powering headphones may convey a background hiss which may not be in the actual audio recording.

Last edited by Bob Hart; April 4th, 2008 at 11:53 AM. Reason: added text
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Old April 12th, 2008, 07:22 PM   #13
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Hi, Christopher, It seems you have plenty of ideas here. I just wanted to say I totally understand what you are trying to do. I am in the Army too, about to deploy for my second time.

I am taking my HD-100 on the plane with me, and shipping my one Rifa 44 to myself. I will also ship some china lights, a tripod, etc. All my other lights are too big & heavy to send to the middle east.... I packed my editing workstation in the connex. Some guys think it's cool, the others figure I'm nuts. Oh, I also have 4 track lights that I modified to have their own cords. Those are very nice, they are 50W each, not very powerful, but mount easily, and do good for highlights etc.

I hope to set up somewhere with all my stuff & send videos home to my family, as well as videos of the other guys in the unit to keep their families happy.
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Old April 12th, 2008, 09:10 PM   #14
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Hey Justin, Good to hear from another trooper. So then from your perspective being one who has already served, I was looking at the Rifa 44 Pro, 55 Pro or 66 Pro. I was actually going to approach a local vendor for a "sponsorship" for the lighting. As you can see my interview idea is simple however my sound issues will another task. So the Rifa lighting system should work in itself correct? Since I will be conducting the interview inside I would imagine I will not be needing any gels, right?

Most if not all of my platoon thought I was nuts when I started mounting cameras in the Humvess, MRAP's, Helmets and weapon systems. In fact I think they were ready to send me to have my head examined UNTILL they all saw what video I produced so far on media player, NOW all of a sudden everyone is my best friend... GO figure. Well I do work with a good group of soldiers and for the most part if not all, they support me and so does my command thankfully. Whats your editing workstation? Whats your MOS?

Chris, 21B, Combat Engineer, HOOAH!
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Old April 12th, 2008, 11:28 PM   #15
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Christopher, the Rifas are great, since it's like an umbrella. Super light & small, so it ships easily, and produces wonderful soft light. You won't need to Gel anything unless you have light from other sources that have a different color temp. If you can do it, you might want some Gels in case you find other light sources to use, you can gel them to match your Rifas.

As far as sound, just get your mics as close to the mouthes of the people you are interviewing as you can. I have a Sennheiser wireless system I am loving. I got it recently, and the mic is tiny, so it can be put just a few inches from the persons mouth, with the wire hidden under clothes. This way the sensetivity can be set low so background sounds are lessensd. I wish I had 2 sets, but I can get along with the 1 I have for now.

My Editing system is a fairly fast (generic) PC with lots of hard drives in it. I use Sony Vegas 6 (which I was running on a laptop last deployment). I would love to upgrade to Vegas 8, but I spent my $ on lighting gear, and a Firestore capture system.

My MOS is 13M (Multiple launch Rocket Systems) I almost reclassed to Broadcast Journalist, but instead I am getting out of the Army after this deployment to try my luck making videos for a living.

I think its funny to see everyone make jokes when they see me show up with tons of video gear, and then want a copy of what I make with it later. And then there is the "official" video guy in the unit recording video in a format he does not know how to edit... My command does not really know the extent of my video knowledge yet, since we just re organised for our mission, but the word willl spread soon enough. I can't wait for the video guy to bring me his footage so I can convert it for him. I'm not the mean type. But the idea gives me a wierd sense of satisfatcion for some reason.
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