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Old September 22nd, 2004, 01:35 PM   #1
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To return to a remark made much earlier:

What lighting tricks do you use to isolate people from their backgrounds?

For example, I have an apartment with white walls. I can paint them, dress them, or control the light off them completely. But I'm still in the primitive stage with my lighting--we're talking clip-ons and practicals, and (as soon as I find one) a china ball--so I have limited control over where light goes.

Do I have to upgrade my lighting to isolate an actor from the sea of white? Or must I dress the wall somehow to give the eye some relief from the huge blowout?

Also, when I have a tiny bit of light control and a smaller range of tones--e.g. a nicely dressed, in fact cluttered setting--how many stops of light difference between background and actor would you use? (I say "stops" because without any sort of hand-held meter, I can get an eyeball sense of stops by increasing exposure on the camera, and watching when zebras appear on various parts of the picture.)

Perhaps this sort of thing is horribly subjective. But as right now there's a huge gap between what I can produce and what I think of as "good," anyone else's thoughts would help.

Michael
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Old September 22nd, 2004, 03:49 PM   #2
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The standard three-light setup will include a key light in the front on the subject, a background light to highlight the background, and a highlight in the back pointed at the subject. The highlight will put some light on hair and edges of clothing, setting them off from the background.
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Old September 22nd, 2004, 04:58 PM   #3
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Cool. I Googled "three point film" and came up with something on (surprise) DV Info Net.

When I'm a big boy and have nice controllable fixtures, I'll easily be able to implement the suggestions in this article:

http://www.dvinfo.net/articles/lighting/graff2.php

..which talks about moving past conventional three-point lighting.

One interesting point: "None of the talent is brighter than the background in any shot. "

Picking up a clue that woulda bit me iffit wuz a snaik, I think I'll spend some time browsing other of those useful DVinfo articles.

Michael
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Old September 22nd, 2004, 06:06 PM   #4
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Check out the ARRI Lighting Handbook PDF from this page:

http://www.arri.com/infodown/light/broch/htm/main.htm
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Old September 22nd, 2004, 06:36 PM   #5
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Michael:

White walls for video just plain suck, to be vulgar about it. Breaking them up with dressing is a good call. Also avoiding shooting directly into the wall is always a good thing; try to shoot into corners when possible.

If faced with the possibility of having to shoot against a white wall, unless I was trying to create a particular look I would keep the exposure down a good three stops on the wall. Keep in mind that equal exposure on a face vs a white wall does not mean that they are similar tones on camera; a white wall with 3 stops less light may mean that the reflective reading would be the same on both. Thus the actor is not "brighter" than the background, but it will have that appearance.
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Old September 28th, 2004, 11:32 AM   #6
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> we're talking clip-ons and practicals, and (as soon as I find one) > a china ball--so I have limited control over where light goes.

A comment on the china ball at this level of equipment. Try making one of your own. There is a plan that can be found several places on the web, such as here:

http://www.videouniversity.com/china.htm

I made one (then a second since I found the first so useful) a bit more simply. The same 12" plastic post lantern replacement globe ($10 Home Depot/Lowes). The same 250 watt photoflood bulb (these dont last long so plan on replacing it after each project and always have a spare). I bought a premade fixture that is just a bulb holder with a male electric plug. I plug my extension cord directly into it. I hang the lantern by a short length of insulated chain. Just be careful you dont electrocute yourself. Dont overlamp it or you will melt the plastic.

It was the main source of illumination for my first short on miniDV
(http://www.undergroundfilm.org/films/detail.tcl?wid=1014743).

The china ball provides a good key light in a small area when people are moving around or you really dont know what you are doing with regard to position (my case). It will light up a small room with white walls pretty evenly (thus it wont help with the separation from background problem). Cheap and effective and forgiving.

just remember one thing: you don't have any effective control over the light from it. Its a blunt instrument.
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Old September 28th, 2004, 08:31 PM   #7
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Bill's film

"It was the main source of illumination for my first short on miniDV"



Very nice piece, Bill. And the young lady who played your lead was quite good.

What camera did you use, and what wide angle adapter? I did feel there was a bit too much lens distortion in the early part of the film, but it worked for you in the corridor shot. And I like wide screen format as much as the next guy, but maybe a more modest wide screen would work better for an intimate film like this.

I encourage everyone to take a look at Bill's film, "Point of Separation."
http://www.undergroundfilm.org/films...cl?wid=1014743

Wayne Orr, SOC
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Old September 28th, 2004, 09:23 PM   #8
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Not to hijack this thread, but thanks for your comments Wayne. I'll send a copy to Allison.

That was taped on a 1 chip Canon PI with the Canon wide angle adapter.

I dont use a WA adapter much anymore (on my current GL-2) in large part because by the time I zoom in enough to eliminate the distortion for interiors there is no point in having the WA on.

The video looks even wider at Underground film for some reason--they stretched it more. It was originally the Canon 16:9 "squeeze" over a 4:3 matte.

A more correct aspect ratio can be found on my site (in WM9):

http://ball.tcnj.edu/movies/

My more recent project is also there. Comments on that one also appreciated.
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Old October 4th, 2004, 09:55 PM   #9
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Hey my brother.

If you want to light your subject and have them stand out from white walls you can get great stuff and this is what I suggest to you-

You need to light your white walls two to three stops higher than your subject to make them white. Use hard light tota's arri, whatever.

try to get some distance between your subject and the wall your are shooting against.
get as much distance as you can.

Light your subject's face and body soft with a lightbank and the head with a good strong hairlight. I would use a arri 1k fres or dedo.
Use negative fill and flags where needed do draw away light from the subject.
You will have -
Bright white back ground with all the detail for your subject.
Strength and honor

Richard












<<<-- Originally posted by Michael Bernstein : To return to a remark made much earlier:

What lighting tricks do you use to isolate people from their backgrounds?

For example, I have an apartment with white walls. I can paint them, dress them, or control the light off them completely. But I'm still in the primitive stage with my lighting--we're talking clip-ons and practicals, and (as soon as I find one) a china ball--so I have limited control over where light goes.

Do I have to upgrade my lighting to isolate an actor from the sea of white? Or must I dress the wall somehow to give the eye some relief from the huge blowout?

Also, when I have a tiny bit of light control and a smaller range of tones--e.g. a nicely dressed, in fact cluttered setting--how many stops of light difference between background and actor would you use? (I say "stops" because without any sort of hand-held meter, I can get an eyeball sense of stops by increasing exposure on the camera, and watching when zebras appear on various parts of the picture.)

Perhaps this sort of thing is horribly subjective. But as right now there's a huge gap between what I can produce and what I think of as "good," anyone else's thoughts would help.

Michael -->>>
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