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Old February 19th, 2005, 02:01 PM   #1
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Lighting a romatic candlelit diner?

Hello all,

The main scene for my next short takes place at a dining room table over a romantic candle lit diner. I'm trying to figure out how to light this scene in a dramatic, romantic way (there may be a bit of foul play coming up). I'm waiting for a production monitor to arrive so some of my problems may reside there. But I'd like for you to take a look at some grabs from some early test footage that I've been experimenting with and tear them apart telling me what you would do differently. For the record I shot this with an XL2 and lit with lowel lights.

http://www.birthofthecool.com/Testing/still_1.gif

http://www.birthofthecool.com/Testing/still_2.gif

http://www.birthofthecool.com/Testing/still_3.gif
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Old February 19th, 2005, 04:04 PM   #2
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Can't remember the pricing, but there's a Tiffen filter that'd look nice for that kinda thing, check their website and there's loads of example pics.. looks nice but might cost too much money to buy for one shoot. Hire maybe?
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Old February 19th, 2005, 04:43 PM   #3
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Well, I have access to quite a few filters. Do yo know what it is and what you would try to achieve with it?
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Old February 19th, 2005, 08:42 PM   #4
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Looking at still #2... my eye was drawn to the tabletop, as it's the hottest spot in the frame. (That's good if he's doing something with his hands you want the viewer drawn to). I do like that you used candles as practicles; I've seen posts here regarding rigging them with bulbs, but nothing's gonna look as "real" as, well, reality.

So much of my lighting ideas come from my still-film background, but were I lighting this, I'd stick a 6 or 8" fresnel where it would light his face off-axis from the left-of-frame side; I'd put an 11" grid about 12" away from the fresnel lens, either with a pipe & clamp rig or a separate stand. (I've posted about grids before... they're soft yet directional, and I say "11 inch grid" because I have a bunch of speedotron grids in my still strobe kit, and you don't want a too-ticght grid from that distance) I'd gel it warm if you're using daylight balance. (Lighting outlets will rent grids for various strobe & hot systems, you might want to check what stock is available to you and think about mounting if you're interested).

Tight aluminum grids are dynamite for this type of thing, as they're sort of "directional yet soft", and they're really priceless for beauty or "romance"; just a unique, sparkly quality that's hard to get elsewhere. I've also put a circle of matte acetate/myar on the "lamp" side of a grid to soften it more. If you do a china lamp or a softbox, you'll get a ton of spill, which could be OK but seems like your scene could open up & go too ambient.

If I were on this set with no grids, what would I do to open up the face a bit (assuming that's where the intensity/emotion of this scene comes from) and reduce my reliance on the white bounce from the tabletop? (also assuming tight budget here). I'd look for any lamp that has some "direction" to it, either a par or fresnel or a soft light with barn doors... and I'd try shooting it through some sort of box or tube, likely on a separate stand (thought then you have to aim TWO fixtures).

Picture a 12" square cardboard beverage box, with cardboard dividers placed to put 16 wine bottles in it, and the top and bottom cut out; possibly add a sheet of vellum or spun diffuser to the "lamp" side, position it away from the lamp (I'm describing something flammable y'know). Play with distances & diffusion vs. no diffusion. I know that sounds nutty, but you're essentially replicating a (pricey) deep softlight/coffin with a (pricey) fabric grid, for a few bucks. (And would I paint the thing black?? For a warm-color scene, I'd let the brown cardboard eat some of the whites/blues...)

My kids were watching that "secrets of neverland" doco the other night, and I noticed an interview with every softbox covered in fabric grids... yeah, I'm a freak for those things...

Also, for closeups... a 50 or 100 string of white xmas lights, bundled up so the lamps are all together and just off-frame? Dang, that's PRETTY as heck!
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Old February 19th, 2005, 11:36 PM   #5
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Light the candle, turn out all the other lights and look at what the candle is doing and re-create that. Soft/semi soft sources

A China Ball can be nice. You may have to skirt it to keep it off the walls.

Keep lights off the candle(s), that's always a give away, unless it's coming from overhead. Use dots, or fingers to keep your light off the candlestick.

The middle of the table is way too hot. My eye goes there and then never leaves. I think it bought a house there :~).

Couldn't see #2, the pic wouldn't load.

Get creative. Keep it simple.
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Old February 19th, 2005, 11:59 PM   #6
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Try a #1 Warm Card to make everything more golden.
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Old February 20th, 2005, 02:11 AM   #7
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I took a crack at color correcting/enhancing the third still.
http://www.glennchan.info/Proofs/dvi..._corrected.jpg
If you use Vegas I could send you a .veg, and if you don't use Vegas then you shouldn't expect similar results.

My comments:
1- The face needs a light on it. It's dark. If it's intentionally dark, then make it more dramatic by adding a back/side light or something like that.

In the corrected image, I brightened the face with a mask. But that brings out video noise.

2- In the corrected image, I crushed the shadows using a color curves filter. This makes the background a lot harder to see, which may be desireable. If you crush the blacks further, the background will be even harder to see.
3- Maybe gel the lights to be a little warmer? Right now the paper, tablecloth, and hands stand out because they're brighter and cooler than everything else.
4- I applied some diffusion to the image. You can do this easily in post.
5- Do you want your lighting to foreshadow things to come? (i.e. make the guy look more evil by using hard lighting and/or having a hard light from the side)
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Old February 20th, 2005, 10:20 AM   #8
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Thanks guys!! I didn't really think that it had to look like all the light was coming from the candles... I'm going to relight and shoot some more test footage tonight. I'll post again.
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Old February 20th, 2005, 06:25 PM   #9
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You're on to something, Matthew. I feel you need a little more light on your background to help separate your subject, who is disappearing into the gloom. You could try something as simple as a 100w incandescent bulb in a paper china ball with a dimmer. Run the dimmer around 70% to give reddish effect to the background. Place the china ball close to the wall out of sight, which will give the light a bit of a shape. Or not.

For inspiration, check out paintings by George dela Tour, who would have been a great "director of photography," had he not been a great 17th Century painter. Also, look at any movies with these scenes, such as Peter Greenaway's "The Draughtsman's Contract." Peter was trained as a painter, and later got into filmmaking. And of course, Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon" is sort of the "gold standard" for using candle light as a source.

Why not learn from the best?

Wayne Orr, SOC
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Old February 20th, 2005, 06:32 PM   #10
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Just to bolster what Wayne says, you can check out a dela Tour gallery by clicking here and find a bit of info about Barry Lyndon by clicking here, and finally, you can see some stills from "The Draughtsman's Contract" by clicking here.
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Old February 20th, 2005, 07:06 PM   #11
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Wow, John, thanks for that amazing follow-up. I hope everyone will take a moment to check out the first painting of "Joseph the carpenter," in fact, do yourself a favor and download the hi-rez version to your computer for study. Pay particular attention to the transluscent quality of the boy's hand caused by the candle. Breathtaking.

The first time I saw a painting by dela Tour was in the Ufizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, and it literally stopped me in my tracks. His work was largely ignored for many years, but about twenty years ago, he was "rediscovered" and given a major exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, where a number of his paintings still hang. You can find other examples of his work on the web.

Thanks again, John.
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Old February 21st, 2005, 11:50 PM   #12
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Still not there yet, but maybe I'm closer? Maybe it's still to warm? Not dark enough on the wall by the plant? I think I went to far in the other direction... Let me know what you think.

You can see the old ones at:
www.birthofthecool.com/testing.html

http://www.birthofthecool.com/Testing/still_1b.gif

http://www.birthofthecool.com/Testing/still_2b.gif

http://www.birthofthecool.com/Testing/still_3b.gif
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Old February 22nd, 2005, 12:26 AM   #13
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Matthew,

You definitely have a nice touch with lighting. IMHO though, you've gone from a nice chiaroscurro effect to a more typically-lit scene that isn't quite as romantic. My vote would be to take down the background a bit, and also try to localize the light a bit more...like the examples Wayne referred to. For instance, in 2b, shouldn't the girl's hair should grab our attention before the candles?

But that's just my opinion...
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Old February 22nd, 2005, 12:52 AM   #14
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Matthew, your pix look great! Now get out there and shoot the damn thing, and quit worrying about the look. Follow your gut.

Wayne
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Old February 22nd, 2005, 01:03 AM   #15
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Thanks guys, but like John said, I'm still not there.. Wayne, I'm really new to all this, this will be my second short. I have a production monitor coming this week so hopefully, that will help a bit as right now I'm just relying on my viewfinder.

My first short is here: http://www.birthofthecool.com/films.html

I did it as a film noir so I wouldn't have to worry about color. It really wasn't a short just a lighting experiment that I edited together and scored.

I tried to get back to darker, but these seem too dark now. In my editor they seemed good, but when I opened them in photoshop they seem murky. I just wish there was consistency, it would make this easier. I don't mind them darker, but would like more light on the actors face. Of course this is also difficult because I'm standing in for the actor while I do these test so I'm adjusting the lighting, taping myself and then reviewing the footage. Of course that's how I did my first short, so I'm a little used to it.

http://www.birthofthecool.com/Testing/still_1c.gif

http://www.birthofthecool.com/Testing/still_2c.gif

http://www.birthofthecool.com/Testing/still_3c.gif

Edit: I know I'm obsessing about this, but since it's my first real short film, I don't want it to look awful...
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