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Old December 29th, 2008, 06:44 PM   #1
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Lighting for television / computer monitor effect.

Hi guys, I am new to lighting and would appreciate it if anyone here can give me a little advice regarding a scene I need to shoot. The only experience I have with lighting is using the traditional 3-point interview style. This upcoming scene I need to shoot, however, calls for a more strategic approach. The upcoming scene involves an actor sitting on a sofa in front of a Christmas tree while browsing the internet on his laptop. The effect I would like to achieve is to have the main source of light to be coming from his laptop screen and create that realistic glow around his face / in his eyes that we constantly see in movies. The only other light source in the scene, besides the laptop monitor, will be the lights on the Christmas tree in the background. I will have three fluorescent 35w umbrella lights and two 125w fluorescent softboxes to work with. All of the bulbs are 6400k. Here are a couple of questions I have about lighting the scene:

1.) What is the best method to create a realistic glow on the subject's face from the laptop screen? Has anyone ever done anything similar? I could use the real light from the monitor, but I think using my light kit would be a better choice. How do I position my lights to make the effect convincing?

2.) I will be mixing 6400k fluorescent lights with regular Christmas tree lights in the scene, so there could be a color temperature problem. Will white balancing be enough to solve this issue or is there any other approaches to to fix it?
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Old December 29th, 2008, 06:54 PM   #2
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Here is a good example of the effect from The Matrix:

http://www.droitvp.org/MATRIX_Trinity.jpg
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Old December 30th, 2008, 01:00 PM   #3
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Which camera?

First, you're going to need to gel the florescent "video" lights with CTO. The light from the computer will need a dimable, directional light to the talents face. You will want this light to be a somewhat higher color temp. Maybe 500-1000.

If it's a fairly tight shot, you might be able to put enough lights on the tree to not need the other lights (except the one on the laptop)
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Old December 30th, 2008, 02:28 PM   #4
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Thanks for the help, Don!

I'll be using a Sony Z1U. I figured gelling the lights would be recommended but I don't think my budget will allow it. Ordering gels online is too expensive for me with shipping and everything. And I can't think of any local stores that sell gel materials. Is there a good cheap alternative, or a chain store you know of that sells cheap gels? As for directional light, that shouldn't be a problem. I could easily replace the umbrella on one my lights with a cone or something.
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Old December 30th, 2008, 04:28 PM   #5
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Hi Brandon,

When I try to picture your challenge, I would suggest you try to keep the amount of added lights limited to a minimum.
My approach would be to use as much of the available light as possible. This would retain the quality of the lights in the christmas tree in the background and will give you the opportunity to use the light from the laptop screen as a real lightsource. Setting the desktop background of the laptop to a solid white or gray (or a slightly tinted off-white) will make it possible to regulate that lightsource.
For a whitebalance I would choose a mix between daylight and tungsten. Approximatly around 4300K. This will give all the incandescent lights a nice orange tone and the light from the laptop screen will not render too blueish.
Be very carefull with your blacks as well. Suppose you are looking from a 3/4 angle to the person with the laptop. The laptop (which is the actual lightsource) will light the persons face from his front. This wil also light the side of the face your camera is looking at. Try to reposition the laptop slightly, so it is biased towards the side of the face that is furthest away from the camera. If neccesary use one of your daylight softboxes to enhance the light from the laptop (you can bias this light even more to the far side of the face). If you have an eggcrate for your softbox use it to reduce the daylight spill. If you don't have an eggcrate, you can use a large cardboard box as a snoot for your softlight. Just open the bottom and the top lids of the box, paint the box black on the inside and place the box in front of your softlight.
For a backlight, try to enhance the light from the christmastree with a directional incandescent light. Give the persons head and shoulder a subtle rim of light on the side closest to the camera.
Use a very very soft and barely noticeable incandescent fill. Probably one or two houshold incandescent lamps reflecting off a wall will do the trick.
If neccesary, depending on the amount of noise the Z1 produces, you can certainly try to check if it withstands a higher gain setting (start with a gentle 6 dB). This will give you 1 stop extra sensitivity. It can be helpfull in low-key situations like these.
Also, try to use some real candles lighting up your background, as well as a few very close to the camera. They will make very nice out of focus foreground subjects.

Good luck,
Robbert-Jan
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Old December 30th, 2008, 05:06 PM   #6
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Thanks for all of that useful info, Robbert-Jan.

I just found out that alternatively I can use a Bescor on camera light, this one here:

Bescor | VS-65 AC/DC On Camera Light | VS65 | B&H Photo Video


Instead of bothering with the fluorescent lights, I can attach that Bescor on a light stand and use it as my key light. Since the Bescor bulb is so close to the same temperature as the Christmas lights, do you think that would look better, and as realistic, than actually using the real light from the laptop? For most shots, the camera will be facing the actor, so I could turn the laptop off and just use the Bescor to imitate the glow from the screen. I also have other household lamps which use the same bulbs, so I can use them for my fill or rim light too. That would eliminate my color temperature problem.

I love the candle idea too. Thanks a lot!
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Old December 31st, 2008, 03:53 AM   #7
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Hi Brandon,

I don't think you have a color temperature problem. On the contrary, if you carefully whitebalance around 4300K the mix between daylight and tungsten will work in your advantage to sell the illusion. Having a blueish cast coming from the laptop (or a fluorescent to mimic the screen) will serve as a nice counterbalance to to all the warmer reddish tones in your image coming from candles, christmas tree lights and the lot. These warm colors will certainly enhance the christmas atmosphere, but if too predominant, they will make your shot look muddy.
You could use the Bescor light on a stand as a backlight.
One other tip, make a small quicktime (can be very lowres) were you have a solid color or white changing abrubtly to another solid color or a gray every now and then. Make it about a minute long. If you play this quicktime looped and fullscreen, it will look as if the actor is visiting different sites (or watches a movie on his laptop).

Good luck and best wishes.
Robbert-Jan
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