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Old July 16th, 2008, 12:35 AM   #16
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Mike:

One of the hard skills to master is putting light where you want it, and keeping it off where you don't.

As Nino noted, the Chimera or soft box is your friend. That should be one of your next purchases, along with a fabric grid to keep the light from spreading all over the place. I'd get a least one for the 750 and one for the 1000 watt light. I'd also like to see a couple of 300 watt fixtures in that kit.

Now, in your lighting scenario, you've already gotten most of the best advice, but it bears repeating.

1. Always keep as much depth behind your subject as possible. This not only lets you have more room to play with separating your light sources, it also allows you to back up a bit and use a longer focal length to get a little video bokeh with the softer focus background.

2. I sort of liked the pattern on the wall. I'd back off the color intensity a bit, and cut about 2/3 of the light intensity, as well.

3. The key just plain needed more presence. Without the soft boxes, use your barndoors to make a reasonably small aperture, and then layer several thickness of diffusion to cut back on the shadows. Some folks would shoot the 1000 or 2000 watt light into a white bounce board and use that for the key, but in those tight quarters, you'd spray light everywhere & lose most of your back wall lighting. Also, here's a trick for your key to get it placed in the right spot and angle: turn off all the lights except for the key. Light the face so (in your case) the screen right cheekbone is just at the edge of the light, and the cheekbone casts a shadow behind itself. Toplight the hair and the shoulders. If the face shadow is too dramatic for your project, use a bounce board off to the right and redirect just a little of the key light to fill back in behind the cheekbone shadow. Works like a charm nearly every time.
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Old July 20th, 2008, 09:08 AM   #17
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Advice Taken, see stills.

I've tried to implement all of your much appreciated advice. Please offer your critiques on the lighting in these screen grabs. I shot this yesterday for the reenactment group that my parents and siblings are involved in.

I'm revising a video I did for them, earlier this year, to tell a little more about their group.

I was able to pick up a light with a soft box for this shoot, and am very pleased with the results.

Any comments and advice are still greatly longed for. I would like to know if this quality of shot would be acceptable for a demo reel in the future, and if not, what can be done to improve.

Thanks,

Mike Watkins
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Old July 20th, 2008, 09:33 AM   #18
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Not sure what parchment paper is? but it's a common trick with redheads to use the clips on the barndoors to hold a big sheet of diffuser - Lee and Rosco have suitable stuff - the heavy frosts or spun work pretty well, and you can use sheets of colour temp conversion in the same clips - I've never felt a need for a 'proper' sotfbox as the redhead is such a vesatile piece of kit. With some CT and diffuser in the box, most jobs can be managed quite well.
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Old July 20th, 2008, 10:30 AM   #19
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Mike,

This looks very nice indeed. Probably my only comment is that it seems customary to place the camera on the opposite side from the key light, and in this case it ssems as you've put the camera and the key on the same side. This is not to say it doesn't look good, because it does.

I might have used a bit more fill on the females but if you are trying for a consistent look, you got it. Great stuff.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Watkins View Post
I've tried to implement all of your much appreciated advice. Please offer your critiques on the lighting in these screen grabs. I shot this yesterday for the reenactment group that my parents and siblings are involved in.

I'm revising a video I did for them, earlier this year, to tell a little more about their group.

I was able to pick up a light with a soft box for this shoot, and am very pleased with the results.

Any comments and advice are still greatly longed for. I would like to know if this quality of shot would be acceptable for a demo reel in the future, and if not, what can be done to improve.

Thanks,

Mike Watkins
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Old July 20th, 2008, 11:28 AM   #20
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Mike,

Much improved over the first shot. It's looking.

I also picked up on the camera and key being on the same side and I still have some quibbles with the background.

The shadow of the coyote tells me that the light is coming from the left, but the facial shadows tell me it is coming from the right, which I think is a bit confusing.

I think in the one close up you shared, the background is much softer and it looks better, to me at least.

The coyote shadow is a sharp high contrast element in the shot, which I think is also making it compete with the subject for your attention. I think the eye tends to go first to the area of highest contrast which means that the coyote gets more attention than I think is wanted.

I'd still suggest trying to get the perception of more separation between subject and backround either by physical distance/depth of field, or softer more diffuse and lower intensity lighting on the background.

Maybe a bit more fill on the faces would be good, but on the whole I think the facial lighting shows a vast improvement from your initial example.
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Old July 20th, 2008, 11:49 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul R Johnson View Post
Not sure what parchment paper is? but it's a common trick with redheads to use the clips on the barndoors to hold a big sheet of diffuser - - I've never felt a need for a 'proper' sotfbox as the redhead is such a vesatile piece of kit. With some CT and diffuser in the box, most jobs can be managed quite well.
Paul:

I use diffusion on barn doors frequently, as well. The problem I find is that, while it can make for a nice soft light approximating the quality of light from a Chimera, the light tends to spread all over the place. That's why I'm a big fan of the fabric grids in these kinds of lighting situations.
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Old July 20th, 2008, 11:59 AM   #22
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Mike:

You're getting there! The second picture (la.png) is starting to get the right amount of key light on the face. The others are still too dark for me, compared to the background. Couple of suggestions:

1. Don't key and back light from the same side--especially if you're not going to fill in the dark side a little. You've got both lights coming in from screen right, and no fill on the left...so it's a pretty unflattering nose shadow. As a general rule, the talent should be facing into the key. So if they are on screen right, with the open side to screen left, the key should be coming from the left side of the camera.

2. Key cool, back light warm. In this Western scenario, if all you have are incandescent (3200) fixtures, I'd do this: nice strong key with soft, but white diffusion. Backlight gets just a slight warming gel, maybe a piece of frost. The coyote/wolf gets a background light with at least a half CTO or other fairly warm/orange/straw gel on it. Be sure to white balance your camera with only the white key light, then add the other, warmer lights after the balance.

3. The other thing to consider in the background is following the shadow. You've lit the stuffed animal from the left, and gotten a really cool pattern on the stone fireplace. But notice: the snout shadow is projecting into the frame and onto the very light stonework. If you have enough room to pull that background light over to the right side of the fireplace, you can get the same patterns on the stonework, but the shadow falls away from the animal, off to the edge of the screen and into the darker part of the room, where it may disappear. A lighting purist might insist that the key and the background light appear to be from the same source...but I always check the shadows first, and see if they are leading into the frame and distracting.
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Old July 20th, 2008, 12:04 PM   #23
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Completely agree.

Mike, did you happen to take notes on any of the following:

Frame rate and shutter settings?
Iris position?
Distance of camera to subject and/or subject to background?
Lighting levels on the subject and lighting levels on the background?

I think in the instance of these shots Jim is giving more subtle details that will really begin to make this stuff look good.

Maintaining the directionalty of the shadows will help with the realism. To that end, I think the key is lighting to augment what is naturally there rather than lighting "to light". If that makes sense. If the room has a big window with nice soft light, then simply augment that rather than fight it. If you are in a room with no light, then imagine what the room would look like in nature, and build around it to create the look.

Depth of field is still a bit too much. What this seems to indicate to me is that your iris is too closed F5.6 or higher, and you really want to be working near F2 or more open for interviews. This will cause the background to soften up, and not draw attention away from your subjects.

Third, a bounce off a white card a couple of feet away would have taken a bit of the edge off and maybe softened some of the facial lines. I guess as I age, I am more sensitive to those kinds of things. And why I mentioned metering, is that you'd like the lighting in the background to fall off a bit. The coyote is as bright as the actors in the scene. Put enough light to suggest what it is, but not enough to make us stare at it.

One thing that strikes me in this is the framing. It's VERY good. Headroom is excellent. Laying the subjects on thirds is very good too. I might offer that if this is going to go into a longer piece, that you not place everyone in exactly the same place. Meaning that if you have 8 interviews and they are all in the same room, that you shift the background so that it doesn't look like you shot it on an assembly line. Moving the camera 5 feet left or right should do enough.

But again, this is 100% improvement over the first stuff, and now we're nitpicking. :)




Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Andrada View Post
The shadow of the coyote tells me that the light is coming from the left, but the facial shadows tell me it is coming from the right, which I think is a bit confusing.

I'd still suggest trying to get the perception of more separation between subject and backround either by physical distance/depth of field, or softer more diffuse and lower intensity lighting on the background.

Maybe a bit more fill on the faces would be good, but on the whole I think the facial lighting shows a vast improvement from your initial example.
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Old July 20th, 2008, 12:08 PM   #24
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You are back to your old tricks again.

The background is competing for attention, is too bright, too much in focus and too close to the subject. Back off you subject from the background by a lot. Place the camera in the next room if you have to and shoot thru the doorway. This problem of too much depth is worse on smaller chips camera such as the 1/3 chips, you really have to compensate by creating more distance. By increasing the distance of the different planes in the image you will also minimize the effect of light spills.

You still have the key and the background light coming from different directions, you always must give the illusion that thereís only one main light source. Also soften the background light when you have something casting shadows.

Placing the key light on the broad side of the face will work in some occasions but not with ladies, particularly not with overweight ladies. As you can see itís not too offensive on the men. Again, the psychology of lighting will attract and make stand out the lighter portions of the image, we want to viewerís attention to fall on the eyes and mouth, this are the area that the key light should be concentrated. Cheeks, ears and chins are not important, Place the key light on the short side of the face, thatís the side facing away from the camera; easy to remember, the side where the camera canít see the ear.

Raise your key light; the cheeks are casting shadows below the eyes, thatís a no-no. This technique is called theatrical light; this is when you want to make someone look sinister. See the basic light positions below; remember that the best way to see if the light is well positioned is by studying the shadow it casts and particularly the shadow on the side of the nose. See the attached images.

Raise you camera, you are way too low, you are shooting up the nostrils. The starting rule should be that the camera lens should be at the subject eye level, you will then have to tilt down to frame it. For overweight people even higher is better. First you will not shoot into their double chin, second a higher camera angle will force the subject to raise her head, this will stretch the extra skin below the chin and make any double chin disappear or make it unnoticeable. Try it at home in front of a mirror.

When a person wears a hat you might have to use a different lighting technique, use a 90 degree light, only half of the face should be lit and no light at all on the shadow side of the face. Keep the key light at low height so the visor will not cast a shadow on the eyes, but be careful, donít place the light below the face or youíll end up with the sinister look. Compensate the shadow area with a good and soft fill. See the second pix of coach Gruden below.
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Old July 20th, 2008, 12:25 PM   #25
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Nino:

I don't know what camera/lense Mike is using, but I'd say the subject is not too close to the background--there seems to be plenty of separation. As you noted, however; the camera is too close to the subject, and the focal length is too wide and sharp through the image. Back up, zoom in. Always a good idea.

Mike: another thought occurs to me as I look at the images. Are these Western re-enactment folks? If so, the framed pictures handing on the wall to the left kind of detract from the ambience.

In this location, it might not hurt to slide the talent chair and the camera to the left a bit, and try to keep the edges of the video frame at or inside the edges of the fireplace stone. Slide the stuffed animal to the right to keep it pleasantly framed in the open area.
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Old July 20th, 2008, 06:06 PM   #26
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Thanks Again..

I am truly impressed with the ability of the people on this forum to offer such great advice and do so in a constructive manner.

Paul: Parchment paper is used for cooking, as a barrier between the pan and the food. I picked it up as a cheap diffusion material on a DIY website. I've been using it like you suggest, but find that it broadcasts light all over the place.

Perrone: I did in fact place the camera and key on the same side. To my eye it seemed more pleasing for this shot(I may be totally off on my analysis). I am using a canon xh-a1, and these shots were at 24p 1/48 shutter. I believe aperture was around 3.7ish. Distance between camera and subject was approximately 18', subject to background approximately 20'. Thanks for the tips and advice!

Bill: Thanks for the rules of thumb on the backing and key from the same side, I wasn't aware of this method. Also, I'll try gelling the background a bit next time. Too bad this was a one time setup in this location, and moving the coyote and rearranging the background for a reshoot won't likely be able to happen.

Nino:

Thanks again for your comments. They are much appreciated and informative. I think I was better on distance from the background, and that the problem is camera placement. I had room for another 10 or 12 feet of separation from camera to subject and probably should have used it. I'm finding that the XHA1 requires a good bit of separation to narrow the depth of field. Also, I just purchased the key light, used, and it was lamped with only a 500watt lamp. I am ordering a 1000w, which I believe will help.


So from a professional point of view, would these shots be acceptable, or would they fail the test? I plan on making this a side business, but don't want to get out there and begin promoting a sloppy product.

Again thanks for the advice and comments. Any additional comments are still very welcome and desired. My family and friends are too supportive(and inexperienced) to offer any criticism.

Thanks,

Mike
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Old July 20th, 2008, 07:07 PM   #27
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Mike,

I think a real pro would ding you for the these we are. I am nothing but a rank amateur when it comes to this stuff, but I have been on the learning curve a bit longer than you I guess. I think when you can get lighting on the subject and they don't look "lit", that's when you should start with the demo reel.

There are many ways to light. Many styles. Everything from Film Noir (watch some old Bogart movies or Edward G. Robinson), to really natural lighting (watch Kurasawa movies for example) to movies that emphasize glamour like the new Sex and the City. If you can get a copy of The Other Boleyn Girl, watch that.

You'll find that generally Hollywood likes punch color and contrast. Asian movies tend to use more diffused and natural light. Really depends on the subject matter. Try to rent or buy movies that have master cinematographers. No Country for Old men is a GREAT example. I'd recommend The Assassination of Jesse James as another (same guy, Roger Deakins) but it's a HARD movie to watch. Rent Raging Bull to see an extreme example the other direction. Freeze frame these on closeups and mid shots to see what the lighting is doing both on the principle and the background. Raiders of the Lost Ark is a masterpiece when it comes to that.

Something in your last comment struck me. You have significant subject to camera distance, but nearly equal subject to background distance. Your focus will hold WELL past the subject. So if you have to put the principle nearer the camera and further from the camera, do that. And use enough neutral density filtering to get that lens open. Even if you have to play with shutter speeds. For interviews it just wont matter that much.

I also noted that you lit these folks with some fairly strong lights. The trick to that game is not more light, its to move the fixture closer. If you watched some lighting setups for soft interview lighting, you might be surprised how close the lighting and fill are. I'll find a link to something I have in mind that should give you an idea.

[Edit 1]

Look at this focus test I shot with my light meter: http://www.vimeo.com/1370136

Pause it at about 6 seconds. You'll see the the manufacturer name in sharp focus but the neck strap is not. The neck strap is only about 8" behind the meter. The closer you can get the camera to the subject and zoomed in to frame, the more you can throw the background out of focus.

-P


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So from a professional point of view, would these shots be acceptable, or would they fail the test? I plan on making this a side business, but don't want to get out there and begin promoting a sloppy product.
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Old July 21st, 2008, 06:33 AM   #28
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Letís start with the: ďif you are good enoughĒ to start marketing you services. Today everything goes, I seen people getting paid for stuff that ten years ago you couldnít even show to you brother in law. A lot depends how the rest of your shooting and editing goes. Exactly what type of work do you intend to offer.

Interviews are an important part of any production especially features because most of the time the program hinge around interviews. Also people are accustomed to see interviews everywhere on TV or on the web and they can tell the difference between good and bad interviews. For many clients the quality of the interviews is a gauge to indicate of how good the shooter is and how he/she compares to other shooters.

If you have the room use it to increase the subject-background distance instead of the distance between camera/subject. If you put the camera too far from the subject you will end up compressing the image and you will lose the illusion of depth. I wouldnít place the camera more than 8 to 10 feet from the subject.

Donít up-lamp your key light unless you run out of F stop and the image is still dark. Open you lens and adjust the light for the exposure. Try to shoot at least at F2.8 open more if the lens has it. With a smaller chip camera shoot wide open and adjust you lights to get the proper exposure.

Lower the intensity of your background light; you want it to be underexposed by at least one to two stops in respect to the subject. Direct the background light behind the subject almost as a glow behind and let the light gradually drop toward the edges of the background. Remember that we are not there to take pictures of backgrounds.

Sometime less is more and better. I donít always have two or three hours to set up an interview, often I have 20 minutes to get it done but it still has to look decent. I have added a few shots below done with one 650w open face light as a key shined thru a large diffuser, one small 250w Lowel Pro light mounted on a XXsmall soft box and another 250w Lowel Pro to just bring up the background. Thatís it, 3 lights.
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Old July 21st, 2008, 10:25 AM   #29
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And when you put the subject closer to the camera, watch out for exaggerated perspective if you're shooting at the wide end of your zoom.

Re separation of subject and background, maybe focusing a bit in front of the subject so they're toward the back of the zone of sharp focus (hyperfocal distance) would help. A tad of softness on a face never hurt anything - particularly in HD where there's more resolution than most people's complexions can take.
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Old July 21st, 2008, 10:53 AM   #30
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Mike,

Found what I wanted you to take a look at.

Look at the first two example videos here:

http://poweroflighting.com/videos.html

Note in the first video especially, the distance of the lights to the talent. And what that large, soft source does for them. In the second video, you see much the same thing outside.

Note that this gear doesn't have to be costly. I built some 3x3 and 4x4 silks out of window screen materials purchased at Home Depot. Total costs with fabrics was less than $20 each. Foamcore is 3 sheets for $15 at Office Depot.
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