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Old June 18th, 2005, 02:31 PM   #1
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Lighting a Large area

I am very new to lighting. I've read a lot, but I don't have much practical experience, so I'm a little unclear as to what lights to choose and rent.

I am prepairing to shoot a 2 hour training video to train gymnastic teachers. It will shot in an area about 30 feet by 35 feet, and having the wide illumination is important, because the action will cover a large area.

I have contacted a lighting designer, who has yet to get back to me again. Could anyone point me in the right direction as far as what you think I'll need?

Thanks

-Jason
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Old June 18th, 2005, 10:47 PM   #2
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I shot a self-defense video in which the active area was similar to what you describe. I was lucky in that the gym I was shooting in had very high windows on either side, which acted as great "rim lighting", that is, light coming from above and behind to throw a rim of light around the talent. I decided to stage all the action at the very front of the gym so as to keep most of the natural light coming from behind. I rented 2 400-watt HMI lights from a local grip house. They were Joker lights - very strong punch and hard throw. Too hard, in fact to use directly pointed at the talent, so I bounced them into a 6'x6' griffolyn, which is basically white vinyl - a little more punchy than a silk. I set up the griff at about a 45 degree angle to the left, slightly above the talent, and had the natural daylight rim coming in from behind on both sides. For most shots this looked great. I occasionally used a daylight-balanced Biax light for fill in close-ups.

This may not be similar to the location you have, but hopefully it gets you into my frame of mind for the shoot: use natural light if you can get it, but only use it as a rim light, from behind or to the side, as it's probably going to be the strongest light in the scene. Use HMI's, because no tungsten light will ever compete with the sun. You can run HMI's off regular outlets and at least have a fighting chance. Keep your key light as soft as you can while still having enough punch to cover the whole area. Shooting the lights through very light diffusion such as a china silk or bouncing off a reflective surface such as the griff does that. Use a very light fill (the Biax) so as to keep the lighting somewhat directional. The added benefit of using the windows is I didn't have to use lights for the background - I could just concentrate on lighting the talent. It was also a sunny day with north-south windows, so the light was pretty consistant over the whole shoot.

If you could describe the location in more detail, it would help to know what kind of challenge you're up against.
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Old June 19th, 2005, 12:01 AM   #3
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I'll be shooting in a windowless gymnastic school, basically a converted warehouse with 25 foot ceilings. The lighting in the warehouse is mercury vapor lights, which we'll be leaving off, because they pulse every few seconds, and that looks hidious on camera. We'll be shooting trampolines, so we'll need to light the tramps themselves and up to at least 8 feet above them, because we'll be shooting people bouncing. The background right now is a white wall. I haven't decided what to do about that yet. I was thinking of using it to bounce a backlight source, but I'm nto sure.

Thanks for you help so far! It is much appreciated!

-jason
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Old June 19th, 2005, 01:38 AM   #4
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How about some basic 1000 watt halogen work lights? Bouncing several off that white wall sounds like it could fill the room.
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Old June 19th, 2005, 09:09 AM   #5
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I didn't think that Jason was looking for a cheapo solution, since he was talking about renting lights and hiring a lighting designer. For a couple of hundered dollars, you can rent all the lights you need to make this video really look professional.

I might suggest to let that white wall fall off into darkness as much as possible by shooting at the far end of the room. Then, to make it interesting, use just one or two lights with gels and/or gobos to throw a pattern on them. You could even use a small computer projector to toss the gym or video logo onto the wall. That way, you're not using a lot of lights trying to light a plain white wall, which would look awful, anyway.

Since you're in a windowless room, the light levels can be much less, but the same ideas about sourcing and placement apply. You could easily get away with just 4 or 5 lights, and still make it look pretty slick.
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Old June 21st, 2005, 09:51 AM   #6
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I would consider using medium soft bounce lighting from the camera position.

I would use 4 to 6 48" foamcore boards mounted in C stands held up high... about 10 to 12 feet off the ground and facing the action. Angle the boards down slightly and hit them each with a 1000w. Lowel Quartz D or some other open faced high output light. Aim as necessary to cover the action.

If you can bounce off the ceiling or attach some boards up there use this to your advantage, as well.

Finally, add some moderately hard rim lighting from the two sides to seperate the subjects from the background.

My feeling is HMI's are rarely needed unless there is a window visible in the shot and then I can usually get around it. The UV radiation from working around them all day is not worth the risk to me and my crew.

George
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Old June 21st, 2005, 06:49 PM   #7
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George, I was not aware of any UV radiation danger from using HMI lights, so I called around.

Recently, there have been instances of field news reporters getting very, very close to small (200-400 watt) HMI lights for long periods of time and recieving very slight burns, like a mild sunburn on very sensitive skin. However, this is a relatively new phenomenon that has only occurred with small lights that can placed very close to the talent, and could only happen if there is no additional glass or diffusion to break up the light - only a safety screen in front of a bare PAR, for instance.

Typically, HMI's are powerful enough to be placed well away from talent. They may also have UV-retarding safety glass or, in the instance of PARs, several layers of glass such as fresnel lenses that lessen the risk even more. I understand that even a plain sheet of glass in front of an HMI cuts out upwards of 80% of UV radiation, which is minimal to begin with.

The point is that in normal, coventional use, there is little to no danger in using HMI lights. Somebody please correct me if I'm wrong, but it's kind of like saying "I don't use toaster ovens anymore, because the last time I stuck my nose in it for 5 minutes, I got 3rd degree burns". You can injure yourself on many kinds of equipment, but HMI's are very safe - both for talent and crew.
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Old June 21st, 2005, 11:57 PM   #8
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Thanks a lot for all your help so far! I really appreciate it. It seems you are all suggesting roughly the same idea, that being bounced lights a little higher than the action? Am I going for a pretty standard 3 point setup? Perhaps a couple key lights above and a fill lower? The rim light should be lower power than the key lights, correct? Is there a good ratio? Finally, could you suggest any dedicated lighting books I could read? I think I I need to play with some stuff to really get a feel. You all mention different types of lights and I know what they are, but I have no experience of what they look like! Would you suggest renting a bunch of different lights to experiment with?

Thanks so much, I really appreciate it!

-jason
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Old June 22nd, 2005, 08:36 AM   #9
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Scott:

Nothing new about UV radiation from HMI's. Depending on the instrument, they can give you a serious burn if you are around them. I know because I have been burned on my face and arms from being around 1200 watt units for only 30 minutes or so before I knew better.

Newer instruments may, in fact, have better UV shields but there are still tons of older units around for rental that do leak UV from the back and sides.

Again, for me they are not worth using if I can accomplish the same thing using plain old lamps...and I usually can.

George
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