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Old April 22nd, 2004, 06:24 PM   #1
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Sinister Light

Hi, Folks...

I'm shooting a short tomorrow that features a very dark, disturbing subject matter. It's a one man monologue, and I want to light it in a way that is harsh and stark (menacing) without being too obvious about that effect being my goal. In other words, I know that light directly under the chin will produce that "flashlight as a kid MONSTER look," but I don't want it to be hugely obvious that I'm trying to add a sinister look.

The room will be completely dark, save for the spotlight(s) on the character's face. Would it likely be best to shoot down on the character, maybe at a slight angle?

Of course, I'll experiment with different lighting, but a lot of you guys on here have a GREAT knowledge of lighting procedures, and I knew you could give me a good jumping-off point.

Thanks in advance....

-Rusty-
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Old April 22nd, 2004, 08:04 PM   #2
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Possibly overhead spotlight. We used to call them "monster lights". Has same effect as under the chin but more "natural". Or you could place it above but slightly behind the top of the head making the face even darker.
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Old April 22nd, 2004, 08:38 PM   #3
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I'd use a small hard light that you can focus...

From my kit, I'd choose a Mole inkydink with a focal spot on the front and I'd position it high and to one front side (take your pick depending on your set and camera position.)

Yeah.. seeee???

yeah
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Old April 22nd, 2004, 09:26 PM   #4
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Thanks, guys, I'll try both those ideas. I like the idea of the light being above and a little behind; it seems like that would cast an ominous shadow, yet still look like light that could be from a natural setting.

Any other thoughts are always appreciated.
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Old April 22nd, 2004, 10:13 PM   #5
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I like the idea of an overhead light with some fill, but maybe as the monologue goes on you could dim the fill so that the subjects eyes go dark, creating a skull like feel.

Scott
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Old April 23rd, 2004, 10:52 AM   #6
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"...dim the fill so that the subjects eyes go dark, creating a skull like feel."

Cool! - I like that idea!
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Old April 23rd, 2004, 03:46 PM   #7
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You may want to add a small focused (snoot) light with blue cel coming from behind (one of the side) to separate the face from the background unless that's the effect you want. This is what I use to simulate moonlight.
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Old April 23rd, 2004, 08:34 PM   #8
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I was recently playing around for a similar look and thought I'd share few stills in case they give you some ideas.

These were taken under 2 standard halogen floodlights of 90 watts (there was some other ambient light). One flood was directed at the wall from a ceiling fixture and the other straight down at me from a hanging overhead fixture. They are obviously crude, but illustrate some different ways to go for sinister.

The first is the classic quick and dirty scary look. I'm directly under the hanging flood and of course the whites are badly blown.

http://ball.tcnj.edu/examples/very.jpg

The second is essentially the same setting but much darker (I think I closed down the aperture). A big improvement with more shadows in the face,

http://ball.tcnj.edu/examples/dark.jpg

The third is similart to what some have suggested here. I stepped forward moving the light source from the hanging flood slightly behind me. Still a problem with blown whites.

http://ball.tcnj.edu/examples/behind.jpg

The final is a different approach and one I particularly like. I stepped up close to the camera. More sutble kind of sinister but the closeness of the face and its darkness compared to the spot on the wall works for me.

http://ball.tcnj.edu/examples/close.jpg

In any case using _two_ lights instead of just one makes a big difference. You can play up the constrast between the actor and the set. Also you can motivate the spot on the actor better by making it appear to come from the same place as the second, background light.

Hope these are useful.
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Old April 23rd, 2004, 09:52 PM   #9
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Once again, thanks for all the great advice. I've shot the footage already. Bill, we used a lot of the same techniques.

I'm VERY pleased with the way the piece came out, and I would not have gotten the lighting to where I wanted it without the help here... THANKS!

I've posted a still from the shoot if you guys want to check out how I ended up lighting it:

http://www.theumpiremovie.com/sinister.jpg

Let me know what you think...
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Old April 24th, 2004, 09:22 AM   #10
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Nice work! I like that look. What camera did you use?
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Old April 24th, 2004, 03:07 PM   #11
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Thanks, Ryan. I was pleased with the way it came out. This place is a Treasure Trove of information!

I shot that with a GL-2. I like the camera a lot. The only distraction with it for me has been the occasional "Heads Dirty - Use Cleaner" prompt. But, after checking the posts here, I learned that this isn't uncommon for the GL-2 and I should only actually use the cleaner if I see breakdown in the picture.
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Old April 25th, 2004, 11:35 AM   #12
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<<<-- Originally posted by Rusty Williams : This place is a Treasure Trove of information!

-->>>

I know what you mean. Between here and DV.com, I don't know why anyone would need to go to film school.
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