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Old October 15th, 2001, 07:32 PM   #1
maarkoman
 
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Effective Lighting Help Needed

I recently purchased a Canon XL1s and began working on a short production, but I'm having a real problem lighting scenes for the desired effects. The scene takes place in a garage that is 20 feet wide, 40 feet high and 70 feet long. It is a suspense scene and I can't seem to light it the way I want. I'm using 3200k tungsten lamps for lighting and the effect that I want is a high contrast one--- normal lighting on one side of the actor's faces and very little light on the other to create contrast, harsh shadows, etc. Also, I would like a high contrast background as well--- well lit areas and very dark areas for contrast as well. The problem for me---I've shot the scene twice now--- is that if I use a lot of light, everything seems flat (Soap Opera style) and if I use more diffused light, I get the contrast and dark mood, but the light levels are too low and the footage is very grainy. I can't seem to get elements of both--- the clear picture with high contrast areas. The best example of the style I'm looking for is the X-Files style of lighting. Any advice on techniques or equipment would be greatly appreciated. Thanks
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Old October 17th, 2001, 10:40 PM   #2
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Me too!

I'm trying to do the same thing...same style of lighting...and getting the same flat or grainy look. Hard to find the middle ground here.

So, if anyone can answer maarkoman's message, can you also give us a tip about what is the best way to adjust for low light situations? Is it better to adjust the Iris, AE, or gain? Is spotlight mode better than trying to do it ourselves in manual mode, etc.

Thanks.

(and thanks maarkoman for bringing up the question)
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Old October 19th, 2001, 10:52 AM   #3
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THE KEY TO DOING THIS IS NOT TO HAVE A KEY DIRECTLY ON YOUR ACTORS. Bounce your key light onto the actors face and never head on. Select the side of the face you want to light and bounce from that side. If you want and even stronger conrast, (one side of the face dark, the other side lit) don't use your key light to light the actors. Use your fill instead and save your key for the background (x-files style, i'll get to that in a bit.) Because it is kind of hard to control a bounced key it will leak onto the other side of the face. That's why I suggested using your fill. A good idea too is to tape a thin strip of aluminum foil to your bounce card and that will give great eyelights. (make sure you crumple the foil, then uncrease it before taping it on.) it give you excellent control of the light source by moving the bounce card around. Of course a little back light and if necessary a second BOUNCED fill.

Now where the x-files gets this high level of contrast is actually not ON THE ACTOR itself but by using the backround. If you notice any shot in the x-files there's always an extremely bright source of light coming from the background. Usually a window or some ridiculously bright light bulb way of in the back ground. That's where your key light comes into play. However don't point it AT the background but instead point it in the direction of the camera.(not directly at the lens of course, anywhere in he 180deg. plane facing the camera.) This light is not meant to light the background but rather show it's presence and give you that high contrast look. Also place a little bit of light at differenct levels of the background this will give it some depth and add that third dimension to your scene.

I almost always use a long lens for these scenes with my actors in sharp focus but don't have your background out of focus. Acceptable focus is good. You don't want to hide all of the effort you put into creating dimension. However this will give it a more stylized look. And final little trick that I always like to do for this type of scene is to have the actors come into the light. That's all up to you of course.

Try this stuff out and i'm sure it should help. I've lit scenes like this a couple times on 16 and once on DV. I think it worked great.

Good luck.
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Old October 19th, 2001, 12:15 PM   #4
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Now THAT's what I call an answer!

Mastermind...your aptly named. Thanks for that input. I'm going to try it out right now.
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Old October 19th, 2001, 07:43 PM   #5
maarkoman
 
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Thanks Mastermind!

Thanks for the great ideas and taking the time to answer my questions. I've tested a couple of them and they do work well. I've also rented a "haze" producing machine for the next shoot which will add some mist in the air (very subtle, not heavy fog) which should help to make the lights beam through it. I'll let everyone know how it goes if they're interested.

I also tried a lighting technique I saw on "The Practice" in a test shoot. The lighting techs on that show often overlight one side of the face and underlight the other for contrast and it looks pretty cool. I mimicked the effect by lighting the subject almost directly from the sides to create harsh shadows. I used a 250 watt 3200k lamp from one side and a frosted 60 watt normal light from the other side. I also lit the background from the front and from far away with a 60 watt normal light. I then set the gain to -3 and stopped the exposure down a couple of stops. The effect was pretty close---a dark background high contrast lighting on the subject.


I just joined this little forum a few days ago and it already seems like a great place to share ideas and solve problems. Any more suggections would be greatly appreciated.
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