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Old September 16th, 2010, 03:07 AM   #16
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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LIghting discussions are often fascinating around here.

Unlike many other types of discussions, there's never any one right answer (there are sometimes wrong ones!) Everyone brings different levels of experience and their approaches to the table. Often the original poster disappears for pages of posts at a time--sometimes I think they get scared off by the seemingly divergent opinions presented!

What I always look for (and often don't see) in these kinds of queries is the most important information of all: what is the nature of the shoot itself? Given this exact same location, you could shoot a sit-down interview, b-roll, a narrative short (and is that a comedy or a drama? naturalistic or stylistic?). Alex, it was well into the discussion that you revealed that you were shooting a interior decorator walking around the location, which then rendered any discussions of 180-degree rules or motivated lighting pretty well irrelevant. If I were given that assignment, my plan would be to determine a scheme that would let us move quickly, fluidly and see as many directions as possible without a relight; making the light "natural" or "motivated" would take a back seat to speed and efficiency. This is especially the case if the talent is not a seasoned on-camera pro.

Gelling that many windows (especially arched ones) is a long and involved job to do cleanly, especially with no window treatments to help hide mistakes/seams. Seems like a lot to do for a shoot of this type, especially if you have a small crew. I would be unlikely to undertake that plan myself in this instance, choosing to shoot with the majority of windows out of frame when possible and bringing up the interior level. Your plan of peeling off the off-camera gel is fine but it would require meticulous planning and shot-listing to know where you are going to be seeing in every shot so that you don't end up turning around and shooting back to one of the open windows. Re-applying ND to windows during this kind of shoot--again and in my experience, it's a bad fit in terms of time and energy. It is however good to know where the sun will be at given time frames during your shoot so that you can a) recommend the best shooting window and b) plan your shooting order around this. If the talent needs to shoot in a specific order, once again that may have to take precedent but it's still most helpful to know when optimal times are for a given room so that you can plan accordingly. Having 4x4 floppys will be helpful in case raw sun pokes through a window and you need to block that particular source, assuming it is off-camera. In a situation where those are considered exotic gear, taping black plastic (available on the roll from any hardware store) over the window will do.

Since the shoot is cancelled and the discussion is now purely academic--let's have fun and pretend that this location was to be used for a dramatic scene. Arguably, the "right" way to light it is to indeed gel down the windows to the appropriate shooting stop and then rebuild the light level by lighting through the windows. It takes a lot of firepower to penetrate multi-stop ND, hence the general preference for 18K's for this sort of thing. Since that's out of the reach of most of our gentle readers, the next best thing is to light from the same general direction, i.e. mount the lights inside the room above the windows. The Diva's would work well for this purpose as they are fairly punchy and have a good spread, so they won't "give away" the cheated source as much. Anyone approaching the window will appear to be lit from the window; the light will fall off naturally as the subject moves further away. Obviously there are situations where this doesn't work as well (low window/tall actor) but often the audience won't notice.

Now I put "right" in quotes above to indicate that there is always the possibility of going with natural light, depending on the type of project. Cameras today are beginning to allow us to capture the real deal, and while we are still fighting limited latitude with the more affordable ones, I can tell you that I've had the opportunity to play in the "future", shooting day exteriors on the Alexa with full sun adjacent to full shade and the image holds beautifully--less contrasty than my own eyes!

I learned quite a lesson doing a corporate shoot with Vincent Laforet earlier this year. We decided to shoot some b-roll in the subjects bedroom of him dressing for the day; I looked at the two hot windows in the room and started bringing in three Litepanels to augment and wrap the light around the subject. Vincent stopped me and suggested "let's just try it with available light". The result was completely natural and it set the tone that told the story. While the virtually undecorated apartment with its white walls seemed like it would be a nightmare to shoot at first, when the subject was in near silhouette much of the time, it all seemed to work. Clip is watchable here. I did light the actual interview--was actually a pretty elaborate setup--but all of the b-roll in the house was available light.

Moral of the story: few of us mere mortals master lighting, even the best cinematographers will admit to changing tastes and techniques as the years go by. And the only way to learn, really, is by trying everything once. You can pick up things from books, DVD's and yes even message boards--but rolling up your sleeves and experimenting has to accompany all of that.
Charles Papert
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Old September 16th, 2010, 10:00 AM   #17
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Since I would have been a 1-man crew, I thank God the shoot is cancelled! It would have taken a whole day to prep the place. But I would have definitely earned bragging rights. Thanks to all for your input.
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