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Old March 23rd, 2004, 10:59 PM   #1
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Lighting Help

I'll admit it, I have no clue what the heck to do about lighting. Also unfortunately, I know plenty about most other aspects of production.

Just for fun, we're trying to shoot a high quality FanFilm for Star Wars, we already have quality A/V equipment, editing space, programs, costumes, actors, etc...but I know absolutely nothing about lighting.

And with myself acting as the "technical director" of sorts (with no suitable replacement to be found), I think I should know something about it.

We're filming most of the movie on indoor sets, so unwanted ambient light isn't a problem. My question is, what kind of lights do you think would do the best job in that kind of a situation.

We're looking for quality on a moderate budget, and keep in mind I know absolutely nothing about lighting. Hence, I come here :) Thanks in advance for any help, and I'll answer any further questions that I may not know need to be addressed.
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Old March 23rd, 2004, 11:29 PM   #2
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Daniel, Daniel, Daniel...

I finally find you here! (No folks, I am not a stalker!)

You have come to the right place. If there is anywhere in the world that you will have all your questions answered, technical, that is, it is DV INFO.

You know how to get a hold of me if you need help on a personal level...say HI to POP for me.

RB

P.S.

This is a young man who has his head screwed on tight and has talent that is just yearning to be polished!
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Old March 23rd, 2004, 11:51 PM   #3
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Welcome, Daniel!
This may seem to be quite a vast subject. But, in fact, it's actually quite small. Like any other subject you may have studied, its applications are what lend apparent complexity.

First, I recommend that you peruse our "Read About It" forum. There you'll find many tips on good books on the subject of lighting.

Next, a freebie. Visit Bill Holshevnikoff's site, Power of Lighting. There you'll find a very nice, downloadable pamphlet (used by, and produced for, Arri) that covers some of the essential considerations of lighting design.

For a more visual mini-tutorial, take a look at Birns & Sawyer's 2-DVD set titled "Lighting for Emerging Filmmakers". It's well worth the expense, particularly if you do not have access to observing lighting pro's in action.

Lastly, take what you've learned from any of your initial research and just experiment. You do not have to first buy thousands of dollars worth of expensive lighting instruments. Use work lamps, photofloods, anything. Take very small "sets" and begin to explore how light interacts and how subtle changes and shadows can create a whole new look for a scene. This may be the best advice I can offer you.

Have fun!
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Old March 24th, 2004, 10:45 AM   #4
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I hear a lot of talk about "bouncing" the light or "diffusing" the light. Why would I want to do this, or what difference does it make?

Thanks...

P.S. - Rick, flattery gets you nowhere :P
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Old March 24th, 2004, 11:23 AM   #5
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learn classic 3 point lighting. then change it so YOU like it more.
get one of your actors or other crew members that would like to learn lighting as well, and as many differant types one lighting as you can put your hands on. spend an afternoon messing with any idea that comes to mind.
if a wacky idea that sounds impossible pops in your head, try it, but do it in pre-production so you dont have all your actors and crew standing around as you decide what type of light bulb.

Watch The Godfather!

sketch ideas before hand or even during your experiment so you dont forget.
remember light for contrast, not for color. if you can veiw your tests realtime on a blackand white monitor, it really helps.
for compositing <no fan film would be complete....> light for the world that doesnt exist yet, not the green screen hes in front of. if the twin suns will be setting dramatically behind your hero, BACKLIGHT him! if it will be night, dont light him to f11!

if all this sounds obvious then your way ahead of those of us who learn by trial and error.

most importantly, finish the project! Not for yourself. Because if people stop making fan films, what would happen to george lucas' ego?
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Old March 24th, 2004, 06:45 PM   #6
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Mini lighting course:

3 point lighting (woohoo!). All these lights are pointed at the subject:

"Key light" - the light that makes your subject actually show up on a screen. Your "key" light. Typically placed somewhere in front of your subject, at a 45 angle, placed high. For typical shadow placement have a good pal stand facing direct sunlight at around 1pm on a clear day and study the shadows on his face. Try to emulate that with your lighting. Take a pic for reference if you can.

"Back light" - The 2D aspect of TV and film compresses our 3D world into a flat surface, so we lose quite a bit, one big thing being depth. A light placed somewhere behind the subject (pointed at the subject) will create an "edge light" that will separate the subject from the background. The goal is to make the subject pop out from the flat surface, regaining some of your depth and giving the subject emphasis. However you achieve it, the main thing to keep in mind with backlighting is separation.


"Fill light" - Typically, those stark, high angle shadows created by your key light make for a very dramatic, contrasty look. Usually not a 'common look' (whatever that is). So the shadows are "lightened" (pun intended) with a 3rd light placed in front of the subject, pointed at those shadows. This light "fills" in the dark shadows with light and makes them less dramatic. A more "pleasing" look. Compared to key and back lights, fill light is more of an icing on the cake.

Understanding bounced light makes things a little more involved. The parameters involved are the quality and strength of light. Bouncing means pointing the light at a surface and letting it 'bounce' off that surface, onto the spot you want to illuminate, instead of illuminating that spot directly. If a person is standing next to a white wall and let's say the wall is out of frame, you can focus the light entirely on the wall. The light bounces off the wall and hits the person. The wall is effectively your light now. you notice 2 things: the light softens and weakens. This is because the surface area of the wall is much larger than the face of the lamp. Increasing surface area and eliminating the point source (light bulb) as your source of illumination softens light quality. The light weakening in this case is due to the increased distance the rays must travel to hit your subject and the chaotic diffraction taking place via the wall surface.

You can bounce any of the three lights mentioned. It'll more likely create more work as far as control but if you have the time you may find something you like.

Let me stress that all the above is merely a starting point, which is what you asked for I think. The wonderful world of lighting is a mad crazy world full of strange delights and chaos tempered by mathematical formulas. Enjoy!
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Old March 24th, 2004, 11:46 PM   #7
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Daniel, here's some food for thought...

You saw some classic 3-point lighting when you came to our studio.

Now, here's something that makes you go...Hmmm...

Negative fill!

I'll let you ponder this for a bit.

RB
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Old March 24th, 2004, 11:52 PM   #8
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Hint: It has nothing to do with Richard Clarke's current book.
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Old March 24th, 2004, 11:55 PM   #9
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Oh so THAT'S what that was called in the studio...it just looked fancy, but now that it's all been spelled out... *sigh* you guys just don't impress anymore ;)

Just kidding.

I will certainly look into this and play with some of the bouncing, direct lighting, 3 point system, etc. It seems simple enough to at least try.

Thanks a bunch guys, I'll be sure to dedicate the movie to "The Fun Loving Members of dvinfo.net" :) I'm not joking! It'll be in the credits!!
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Old March 25th, 2004, 09:07 AM   #10
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Ken Wrote:

"For a more visual mini-tutorial, take a look at Birns & Sawyer's 2-DVD set titled "Lighting for Emerging Filmmakers". It's well worth the expense, particularly if you do not have access to observing lighting pro's in action."


Ken, I am interested in that product, but it wasn't listed on the web site you linked to.... they had 4 different VHS products... it is available somewhere else?

Thanks.
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Old March 25th, 2004, 12:34 PM   #11
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Indeed, Barry.

Birns & Sawyer:
Movie equipment sales & rental: "A"
Web site attentiveness: "D"

The 2 disc set is actually shot from their on-site classes. I do not know who sells this DVD set. (I received a loaner review set directly from B&S.) So I'd just give them a call. Here's the page on their next seminar...this Saturday, in fact.
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