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Old May 15th, 2010, 02:19 PM   #1
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Office setting in-place lighting

I have been tasked with setting up stay-in-place video lighting in several standard office settings. Two or three will involve only one person for talent; one or two others will allow "roundtable" interviews of one or two guests. Since this is for an organization with few resources and trying to minimize crew, the idea is to have the lighting set, so that talent can walk in with a camera/prompter operator, turn on the lights, and shoot. I'm seeking ideas from those who may be able to judge whether my idea will be adequate.
The one-talent, news-update type settings will be short-space, desk situations, so the lighting will be confined to a rather small area. I'm trying to avoid floor stands as much as possible, as well as to minimize start-up and operating cost.
Here is my present thinking. Block any windows. Gel the in-ceiling fluorescent lights with ľ or Ĺ CTB or light magenta to bring them towards a more useful color for ambient. For key, use compact fluorescent bulbs in a softlight configuration akin to the Coollights model (CL-SFM2424 Cool Lights 24" x 24" Softbox with Grid - Cool Lights USA), suspended from the ceiling grid with Lowel grid clips, with extension to adjust height if required (possibly a plain copper pipe and clamp arrangement). Fill light if needed, same. Use one or two 50-watt parabolic bulbs, as for track lights, for backlight, using a Harbor Freight "dimmer" if needed.
By gelling the key (and fill) with partial CTB or CTO, the ambient can be balanced cooler or warmer for change of tone. A desk lamp can be used as a practical.
The camera will be a Panasonic HMC150 or something similar. My impression is that this lighting will provide adequate, though not ideal, lux levels, with one or two 100-watt-equivalent compact bulbs. I havenít tested lux levels. Anyone have thoughts on this?
The interview set-ups will be a little trickier, of course, but I can deal with those once I know more of what the furnishings will be. I'm more interested to hear back on my general principles of procedure. If it's generally in order, I'm off to Home Depot and to the web to look up DIY plans for the requisite soft boxes. Suggestions welcome.
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Old May 15th, 2010, 03:43 PM   #2
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Addendum

Another thought has occurred to me. Anyone have experience with compact fluorescent bulbs in China balls? I should think a 65W (roughly comparable to 200-250W in lumens) might be just enough for the one-person key/fill indicated above. Obviously not very controllable; present budget constrains me to limit myself to improving an office lighting look with some soft directional lighting and color re-balancing.
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Old May 15th, 2010, 08:33 PM   #3
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my random thoughts since nobody else has replied...

In a short set, the problem isnt getting enough light, its having some kind of contrast. A china ball will provide excellent soft lighting. You could light it sitcom style with a handful of china balls spread around just out of frame. The danger is that the close-walls will all bounce so much that you'll end up with flat mush. then you need to think about hanging up dark fabric as "negative bounce" just to add some contrast.

What will really sell the piece to me is what is behind the person at the desk. If you have a white wall, then the mission of your lighting will be to control the light so it keeps the wall dark... or at least, darker than white. However, if the background is a dark wood bookshelf filled with rich colored hardbacks and leatherbacks, then even if they get a bunch of spill on them, they'll appear to be contrasty by their nature. If you can come up with something dark, rich and contrasty by nature that fits the theme of the set, then so much the better.

I'm a sucker for hair light. It could be a 60 watt bulb in a metal scoop for $8 at home depot, but something giving a bit of hard, warm hit from behind always help up the perceived production value.

Its hard to gauge what your budget is, but for total-ghetto, my trip to home depot would bring home 3 clamp lights (the socket-on-a-wire with a removable clamp and scoop, not the college dorm plastic clamp light), a couple sizes of china ball, a couple daylight "compact" fluoros and at least one incandescent for rim light. (maybe get a couple different wattages for options since they are what, $2?). If i'm feeling rich, I'd probably drop $16 on a sheet of white and of black foam core as positive/negative bounce (or to be cut up as flags/cookies)

Everything after that I'd put my energy into set decoration.

And really, the very first thing i'd be doing is lobby to get the desk and interview chairs as far away from the wall behind them as possible. I'd rather have my camera crammed against a wall than the talent. The more room you have between the talent and the wall, the more options you have for depth/contrast stuff like "splashes of color".

For the in-ceiling-fluoros, If you are gonna use them, I'd buy daylight bulbs before i'd bother gelling them. I never trust old bulbs for flicker and cri, so a set of decent "warm daylight" bulbs wouldn't be a bad idea.

just my 2c, and hopefully will spark some better ideas from others.

cheers!
-andrew
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Old May 16th, 2010, 01:19 PM   #4
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In response

Much obliged, Andrew. What I'm up against here are time, money and simplicity. My budget is an undefined hundreds, not thousands, though over the coming year, there will probably be the opportunity to go add to the Coollights and Lowel Omni/Prolight/Tota equipment in the existing studio.

The office space is indeed standard, dropped ceiling space, and I'm starting out dealing with desk locations that someone else is choosing, based on some modular office furniture. Your point about the light bouncing around from the China balls is useful; I might end up spray painting the wall-facing half of the outside black or covering with black ripstop. As mentioned in my orginal post, I will be using little tungsten lights for back (hair) lighting. The "ceiling grid clips" I mentioned are actually Lowel scissor clamps with the stud.

I am hearing (from you and other forum posts) that gelling the ceiling fluorescents is not the way to go. Since the area I'll be lighting is small, I'll probably save the $$ I would have spent on a roll of gel and buy some proper bulbs for the several relevant fixtures.
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Old May 16th, 2010, 10:41 PM   #5
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Sounds like you are on top of things. My only thoughts are:

For a china ball, you really dont need ceiling studs. In fact, none of the home depot lights will make use of it, so I'd opt for a piece of wire before i'd pay for scissor clamps.

"Daylight" fluoro bulbs are very common these days. You can get a several different color temps at the depot for cheap. My warning is to be prepared to scrub them if you get any flicker. Flicker is often the ballast which is a bit more of a mission to replace than the bulbs. (depends on the fixture and your time, of course) I'd definitely have a fallback setup in mind.

I wouldn't spray paint the china ball. I like your ripstop idea better. Any piece of dark fabric would give you better light control than spraypaint. Might look a bit lame, but a coat hanger with a short drape of fabric hung from the grid would work fine. The china ball supports are notoriously flimsy. You might get away with it, but i'd bet with a big enough piece of ripstop to control the light, you'd probably find the fixture leaning too far towards the fabric.

The biggest danger is that once you rig everything up on a poor man's budget that the powers in charge will then think thats the high end of what they'd ever want to pay. ha. (that or you'll get a fantastic looking setup and your talent will show up with a violent facial spasm, an inability to remember more than 3 words at a time and a habit of loudly cracking their knuckles. doh!)
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Old May 17th, 2010, 02:08 PM   #6
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High CRI flos

For anyone interested, a colleague sent me this link for high CRI fluorescents.

BlueMax? Full Spectrum Fluorescent Lights
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