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Old June 27th, 2004, 06:37 PM   #1
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Uncontollable lighting at shows

Controlling your lighting in any environment is the best course, but what about events were lighting is beyond ones control? Are there tricks and techniques to get the most from those events? I’m asking this because last weekend I shot three 2-hour long gymnastics shows using 3 Sony PD170 cameras. I’ve set the focus to manual, white balanced, and set the rest to automatic. The stage was filled with approximately 40 red, green and blue lights (with 2 black lights on the edges) located on a rack to the top front of the stage (which resulted in intense moments of illumination 75% of the time). Setting the cameras to automatic exposure resulted in a nice even lighting of the background décor, but unfortunately, to my great despair, greatly overexposed the gymnasts. The fact that I had no time to prepare and make some tests, added to my anxiety. Had I locked the exposure on a gymnast with the lighting at its peek, the whole stage would have seemed dark, and would appear as if the gymnasts would be jumping around in a dark void. Had I compensated manually, and continually, the background would have shifted from well-lit to abyssal black (quite unnerving).

All of this, of course is very difficult to “fix it in post”. But if anyone has any tips and tricks for my next event, it would be greatly appreciated. And hey! If there ARE tricks for fixing it in post, that would help too.

Thanks all!
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Old June 27th, 2004, 06:53 PM   #2
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Try my favorite Photoshop trick- Copy the clip, and lay it over the original. Set it to Multiply, then adjust the opacity to around 60%. You will have to play around with it until it looks right. Good luck!
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Old June 27th, 2004, 08:42 PM   #3
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Hi Keith,

Just tried it, but with After Effects instead of PhotoShop, basically the same result should be expected, right? Any way, in some circumstances, where the subject is slightly over exposed, it helped, but on subjects that are more over exposed, there was no improvement.
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Old June 27th, 2004, 08:50 PM   #4
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I have done this in Premiere, and had moderate success. Like I said, you'll have to play with the settings a bit, but it should improve the image. Try raising the opacity a bit more.
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Old June 28th, 2004, 12:15 AM   #5
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Hi Frederic,

Rather a no-win situation, wasn't it.

I've always been told to set exposure to the subject, regardless of what it does to the background. Some wise guys on this forum also said that once the subject is overexposed, it's pretty much impossible to fix because there isn't any detail to grab.

We shot a pageant where we had no control of the lighting. When the girls walked to the front of the stage in the brightest lights the image was blown out. What I'd been told was true--we couldn't bring out detail that was not there.

The only other thing you could have done is ask to light the background, but I would think a stage big enough to accommodate a gymnastics event would take a lot of lighting.

Hopefully, someone else will reply with a neat fix or two!
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Old June 28th, 2004, 05:06 AM   #6
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Hi Frederick,

You have raised a problem which is the absolute nightmare to all of us who try and video events in situations where we have no control over lighting and audio. People who ask us to come and video these events, then expect the result to look like professional television are asking the impossible of us. Television and stage demand entirely different lighting requirements. TV lighting guys and stage lighting guys usually have opposing points of view on how to light a production. Television is a crafted to look the way it does. Our clients are not aware of the background preparation made before a televised event. I am always at pains to explain to a client like this BEFORE we shoot, the problems involved, and explain or show them how it will look and why. Computers in some respect have made a rod for our back. We expect them to fix the impossible and hours upon hours in post production are are spent sometimes trying to correct the impossible. There is a saying here in our country "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear". Remember to explain to your client at the outset the obstacles you face. It will save a lot of stress and disappointment to you and your client.

Owen.
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Old June 28th, 2004, 08:16 AM   #7
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Mr. Dawe is right on the money. Audiences experience almost
continous perfection each time the turn on the TV no matter which
channel they tune into. Millions of dollars of gear and incredible techincal
expertise are completely normal, yet here we 'little people' are trying to compete.

It only looks easy, because television production pros are THAT GOOD.
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Old June 28th, 2004, 09:46 AM   #8
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In a sense, I am comforted by the fact that we are all in agreement that uncontrollable lighting is the bane of our business.

Although I know that "fixing it in post" is practically impossible, for this particular project, I'll have to do my best in the editing to deliver a top notch program with only one flaw... overexposure here and there.

I wonder if I should put a "Videographer's comment" menu item on the DVD, explaining the technical difficulties of shooting live events... as well as saying nice things about the show itself, of course. :-)
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Old June 28th, 2004, 09:14 PM   #9
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Your 'videographers comment' is a good idea but maybe not on this one after the event. I don't know your client but he may say "Why didn't you tell me that in the first place". You best be the judge.
Make up a short showreel of your best work. Then introduce your 'videographers comment' idea. Then follow this up with shots showing what can go wrong if your pre shoot advice is not heeded, using these wonky shots as examples. Show it to prospective clients. It's a good policy to cover your butt before people kick it rather than afterwards.

Owen.
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Old June 28th, 2004, 09:20 PM   #10
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Great idea Owen! I like that :)
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Old June 29th, 2004, 03:14 PM   #11
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Owen, good advice. Thanks,
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Old July 11th, 2004, 06:42 PM   #12
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Like was mentioned earlier, you cannot fix blowouts because the visual information in pure white (100 IRE) is gone. When you are shooting, turn on Zebra Stripes (if available), and manually set your exposure as high as you can without blowing out anything you consider necessary. Some people say you should set the Zebra stripes to 75% IRE, because you start to lose picture info in steps over 75 IRE, but setting the exposure too low means you will be losing info on whatever comes in darker then you anticipated. Set stripes to 100 IRE and expose for that. In post, for darker parts (unlike blowouts), many times you can still grab visual info from the low end and bring it up with gamma alterations, and double layering clips, while retaining contrast info on the high end.
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