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Old May 26th, 2008, 02:25 PM   #1
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Indoor Lighting to Look Like Nighttime?

I'm going to be filming a 10 minute scene for a friend. It takes place at nighttime with a lady sitting on the couch watching tv. There can be one, maybe two house lamps on. But he wants it to be obviously nighttime.

My concern is lighting the scene need enough light to get a good image on the tape, but not so much that it won't read as nighttime.

I'm using an HV-20 at 24P fps/48 shutter, so the camera has marginal low light ability. I can edit in either Avid Xpress Pro (could upgrade to MC) or Sony Vegas, but am not familiar with the different post techniques that can accurately darken an environment.

I've thought about shooting during the day with the shades drawn to have enough diffuse light and then try to create night in post. But right now I'm just pretty confused.

I don't expect any magic bullets. But any ideas or thoughts would be much appreciated. THANKS.
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Old May 26th, 2008, 04:13 PM   #2
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Peter:

It's all about contrast within the scene. Nightime is not simply a darker version of daytime, there are pockets of light and shadow that are entirely different. During the day there is an ambient level of light in a room, at night it has to look like it is just the lights in the room that are working.

The easiest rule of thumb for lighting is to look at the existing light and augment it to read on camera. If the actress is watching TV and it's supposed to be dark in the room otherwise, then position a light so that it is coming approximately from the direction of the TV (you may or may not want to have this light flicker, either by using an appropriate dimmer or by waving something in front of the lens--be careful, this can look cheesy). A practical light or two in the background will help keep things from getting too murkey; place these on dimmers also so that they can be dialed down enough to keep the shades from overexposing. A few small units placed here and there to accent other things in the background will help. What you DON't want to do is bang a light off the ceiling, or have a lot of softlight leaking around the set or anything that will pick up the ambience overall to make it look like daylight. And if you are shooting during the day and windows are visible, you may need to hang black material behind the blinds (the outside of the house is best) so that you can't see light leaking in through the cracks.

Attached is a still from something I shot a while back that is, how convenient, a gal sitting on the couch watching TV. It's actually a bit darker in the film, I lifted the levels up a little bit in the still for print. A TV light gag plays on her face, as well as a warm soft source off to the right (in motion, you can see the TV light play mostly on the dark side of her face); there is a backlight behind and to the left of frame to separate her hair (motivated by the light in the shot). A low unit behind the stairs gives a little texture to the woodwork while the backlight plays on the banister.

Of course there are many ways to light a given scene, but hopefully this gives you a start.
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Indoor Lighting to Look Like Nighttime?-ajjvc2.jpg  
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Old May 26th, 2008, 08:49 PM   #3
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Freaky Charles, here's some test shots we did for our feature a few years ago...

For the TV flicker effect, we found that waving your hand too quickly looked stupid, but spreading your fingers out and moving your hand sporadically and medium speed up and down in front of a blue light looks like a tv screen with stuff happening on it... The way we figured it out was to shoot a day of horribly unconvincing footage, then turn on the tv and watch what it did on the wall. I actually watched the wall for an hour and noted how it reflected the TV (geek am i?)
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Indoor Lighting to Look Like Nighttime?-james-blue-lite.jpeg   Indoor Lighting to Look Like Nighttime?-james-dark-zoom.jpeg  

Indoor Lighting to Look Like Nighttime?-james-lighting.jpeg   Indoor Lighting to Look Like Nighttime?-james-lit-zoomed.jpeg  

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Last edited by Cole McDonald; May 26th, 2008 at 08:54 PM. Reason: added flicker effect info.
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Old May 26th, 2008, 09:34 PM   #4
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The reality of a TV as a light source is several-fold: TV's are essentially daylight-balanced, so their light output is fairly blue especially compared to household practicals. A full-CTB light source, while accurate, may feel a bit "much" so I usually go with half-CTB. For the shot I posted above, I actually had a red, green and blue light bulb behind diffusion, each on a separate channel of a flicker box set to fairly slow variation.

In most instances , you want the light source to show up as a variation in intensity but not much movement (why the fingers in front of the fixture can look wrong). Essentially the TV itself becomes a light source, so it's best to recreate it with a source of similar size (like a small Chimera). Depending on the type of show being watched, whenever there is a cut you might see a shift in luminance (output) and possibly a bit of color shift as well. My best results have often been having a dimmer on the unit and having the chap on the knob make fast shifts to different places on the dial, with errratic timing (3 seconds--1 second--4 seconds etc). You set a high and a low point on the knob to keep your exposure in check.
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Old May 26th, 2008, 09:59 PM   #5
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I forgot that this clip is still up at the JVC Pro Video site (it was part of a promotional video on the HD100); the complete scene is at the end of the video.

http://pro.jvc.com/prof/attributes/v...&feature_id=19
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Old May 28th, 2008, 09:40 PM   #6
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Charles,

Watched the clip, really liked the camera movement coming down the stairs!

Thanks so much for your input.

I'm assuming that using light off an actual tv (even if its augmented with another light source) on her face is a no-no.
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Old May 28th, 2008, 11:00 PM   #7
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It's not that it's so much a no-no, it's just that under most circumstances it's not going to put out enough light, unless it is a substantial sized screen and the actor is fairly close. Easy enough to test with your camcorder. One interesting idea would be to use a video projector tied into your source material; shooting it from behind onto a good size piece of medium diffusion (like 216/250) would result in a light source that has the built-in intensity and color shifts built-in. This would be pretty nifty if you were shooting over-the-shoulder or in profile and could see the TV screen in the shot; the light on the actor would again match what you see on the screen.

But it is worth stressing that the "reality" of a TV set lighting an actor is really only appropriate if it is the primary or only illumination in that room. Having all the lights on in the background and having a strong TV effect on the actor is a bit cheesy.
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Old May 29th, 2008, 01:01 AM   #8
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We did this for a commercial shoot once using the matrix digits falling down a persons face. Worked amazingly!

If you wanted to reflect television viewing, you may want to defocus the projector heavily and dim it a bunch as it'll be really hot compared to the rest of your lights generally, and in very sharp focus on the actor's face and the back wall.
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Old June 5th, 2008, 10:35 PM   #9
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To underscore that a scene is a night interior, I usually have one or two small (underlamped) practicals on, and if there are venetian blinds, I leave them half open with a 1K outside, shining through the blinds with a #1 CTB.

If the actual window is impractical, I would set up a 1k or smaller inside with the same gel, but shining through a small venetian blind cookie clamped in front of the fixture. Either way, the combination of venetian blind shadows on the wall (or even falling across your subject), and blue light says loud a clear, "it's nighttime".
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Old June 6th, 2008, 04:47 AM   #10
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Great thread - I plan to do something similar for an upcoming project and of course it's never as easy as it looks. I have a large (42") screen I may use, but even that doesn't throw out that much light. Due to the not so great noise levels on many camera's (including the HD100) it might be essential to film during the day...it will be 'fun' working out how I can achieve this with a couple of twin R8 flori's, a CRI and a halogen (500w) worklight mind.

Thanks for posting that video Charles - great to see the JVC HD*** in such an environment.

btw - the Japanese film 'Ring' is good example of a television lighting a room/subject.
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