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Old September 3rd, 2010, 01:36 PM   #1
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Window Backlighting In Small Apt

I first thought to shoot at night to avoid the bright windows, but having second thoughts. Except for a couple of small lamps, the place is entirely lit from outside normally, so maybe I should keep it that way?

Good thing is my Diva lights have daylight tubes as well as tungsten, so I can balance for daylight. Now, I still have to deal with the backlighting. I am thinking of a roll of ND gel to put over the windows (if I can find one), but not sure if that will do. I think I can get Lee 299 1.2 ND which is about four f-stops. Is that overkill?
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Old September 6th, 2010, 05:56 PM   #2
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Not overkill AT ALL.

I always have a roll of that - Plus a roll of 3 stop plus CTO around the shop so that you can shoot in conditions like this with tungsten fill lights when required. (Tungsten fresnels and open faced lights "cut" better with barn doors than any big soft source and you can use small tungsten insturments to project patterns and break up otherwise ugly expanses of nothing with various cookies.

YMMV.
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Old September 7th, 2010, 01:04 AM   #3
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My concern is that the ND will cut out so much light that I would not be able to light the interior. I am thinking that if I left alone the windows not in the shot that there would be enough ambient light. That would be tough to do if the subject moves through the apartment.
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Old September 7th, 2010, 06:36 PM   #4
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Your thinking is backwards.

Let's say for argument, that you cut out ALL the light coming in from outside. Then you've essentially created a situation exactly like shooting in the room at night. Today's camcorders are typically so sensitive that you can shoot under candlelight. So you can expect to get a sensible exposure in almost any interior.

By knocking down the windows to the MAXIMUM degree practical, you'll find that you can open up your camera iris and see BOTH the interior and the exterior perfectly well.

And any typical light you add to the interior in order to pop up your subjects, will NOT greatly affect the exposure of your windows since the exterior light is so much stronger than any normal interior lights.

So don't worry. Trust me. Gel the windows. Put up whatever lighting you have for your interior shooting, and I bet you're a LOT happier with the results than you will be trying to expose anything with those windows untreated.

Good luck.
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Old September 8th, 2010, 01:28 AM   #5
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Thanks Bill. I am definitely going to gel the windows. I have been advised that .6 ND might be enough so as not to cut out too much light. If need be I can double up. As for shooting in low light, the Canon XHA1s is probably not the best performer, so I want to save whatever light I can. I lighting guy in town wants me to rent an HMI to light the interior, but at $200 a day, I just can't do it without cutting into my pay.
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Old September 8th, 2010, 03:01 PM   #6
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Alex,

The one part that I'm still failing to communicate properly is that you're thinking about that window light as providing general illumination for the room. And while it sorta does - the fact that it's sourced from BEHIND any people in the room means that it's not really FUNCTIONAL light from a camera's perspective. Yes, it lights up the room. Light from BEHIND a subject can ONLY function to outline it's shape. Period, that's it. In order to achieve an decent exposure on any surface NOT facing those windows, you need to either reflect that window light back onto your subjects. OR fill with additional light. And think about it. To ANY extent you dim the light coming in the windows, the FILL light will dim at the SAME ratio. You'll NEVER get additional fill light - you can ONLY lower overall light.

You'll ALWAYS be dealing with a lighting situation that makes your subjects look like they're in witness protection if your primary light is coming from behind them.

So by all means GEL the windows. Lower the overall light level AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. Why? Because you want to make it EASIER to add the light you WANT from in FRONT of your subjects in order to make the subjects STANE OUT in the scene.

Hope I'm being clear here. Too little window treatment is WORSE than too much. In fact, you'll get a better shot by simply blocking the windows with blackout drapes or blinds and shooting under ALL front light - than by trying to gel the lights too little in a vain hope of having them illuminate the room.

THe light coming from the windows WILL NOT EVER be key light (unless you change the shot geometry and/or reflect the windows in a way that they become keys) And without KEY being stronger than FILL or RIM light - you will NOT bring your subjects into well-lit prominence.

Simple as that.

Good luck.
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Old September 9th, 2010, 04:14 AM   #7
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How much ND factor to knock down the window?

Iris down the camera and see how many stops it takes to get the window to the level you want. Then figure out what ND factor will give you that many stops.
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Old September 9th, 2010, 12:24 PM   #8
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Good topic

Bill, I understood what you meant. The windows in the shot have to be gelled, period. The question is by how much? I still want it to appear to be daytime and the place has to look like it's being lit from out there.

Dean, I'm assuming you mean that I should light the interior so that it looks right except for the windows. Then find the proper stop down from there and add the appropriate gel.

To complicate things, the program is about interior decorating. I'm going to follow the woman through the tiny apartment as she points to various objects. It's a "before and after" kind of thing.

If I gel all the windows simultaneously, my lights may be enough to overcome the light loss. If that's not the case, I think I can break up the shoot into segments where I can gel or ungel various windows. I can use the windows that aren't in the shot for ambience and then use my lights for people.

I sure will be proud of myself if I can pull this off. My hat's off to anyone who can just eyeball this stuff.
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Old September 9th, 2010, 12:36 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alex DeJesus View Post
Dean, I'm assuming you mean that I should light the interior so that it looks right except for the windows. Then find the proper stop down from there and add the appropriate gel.
Yep, that's correct! Different cameras have different dynamic ranges, so what might be acceptable for one might not be acceptable for another. This eliminates the guesswork.
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Old September 9th, 2010, 04:11 PM   #10
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A good topic. People always asking about various lighting instruments on this forum, when the sun is, especially for small/medium-budget day shoots, the 600 pound gorilla in the room. That makes ND rolls one of the most valuable lighting instruments around! (Just my 2 cents).

Alex, remember that windows face in different directions so the sun streams into them sometimes more and sometimes less directly, not only depending on the direction they are facing but also relative to what time of day it is. There's no one answer as to how 'dark' your ND will need to be.

Also keep your blocking and framing in mind. Turning the subject and if they are sitting, the subject's chair, a 1/4 to 3/4 turn one way or the other, could add or eliminate the window from the background. Put diffusion material in front of a window that's not directly in the shot and it could be a nice soft key/fill. I'm sure you probably realize this, but that's another reason why no one can give you a definitive answer.

Last but not least, if the apt. is on the ground floor and there is room to do so, you can go outside, put a tube of ND on the extension arm of a c-stand, unroll it and clamp the gel to another c-stand, again both just outside the window. It can save you measuring/cutting up a lot of ND and trying to stick it in the inside frame of the window.
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Old September 14th, 2010, 09:19 PM   #11
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The window is your key as well as your motivated light source, who has lights on during the day? I assume your shots will include the window or ND wouldn't be an issue. That will put all your shots on the outside 180 relative to the window which will keep your key light off camera which is mostly how it's done. You'll still have to ND them to keep them from blowing out but if people are looking out the window during a scene then you've already lost.

Good Luck
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Old September 14th, 2010, 11:58 PM   #12
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Charles, forgive me but I have no idea what you mean.
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Old September 15th, 2010, 10:32 PM   #13
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To be more clearerer the light from the window should be the direction that your key light originates regardless of whether you stop down the window down or not.

To remain consistent with the 180 rule 180 degree rule - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and since you've indicated the window will be in the shot , your coverage shots will all be with the key light off camera as opposed to center.

Anyone want to help me out here, I don't think this is revolutionary thinking?
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Old September 15th, 2010, 11:31 PM   #14
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If you are shooting over an extended period of one day and not shorter bursts at the same time over several days, with the exception maybe and just maybe for a northside window in the US, the changes in that outdoors light source are going to be your biggest enemy. Changes in the dominent light source will be beyond your limited resources to control.

It would be a less inspiring shot but my personal preference would be to not include the window in the shot and put the daylight source behind the camera. If the existence of an outdoors environment must be authenticated within the apartment, maybe re-position and wet'gell the wall mirror with a tidily cut ND and include that in a shot so that a balanced outdoors background can be seen. You'll need far less gel to do it. That building next door will give you a major continuity issue as it is too close and will show lighting changes, jumping of shadows etc..

Take notice of the better and brighter more competent people than I who contribute here.

Last edited by Bob Hart; September 15th, 2010 at 11:37 PM. Reason: error
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Old September 15th, 2010, 11:34 PM   #15
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I still don't know what you are saying. I know what the 180 rule is, but that is not the issue. The pictures at the beginning of this thread show that the small apartment is surrounded by windows - impossible to avoid no matter what angle I shoot from. I was just trying to figure out how best to deal with the windows in the shot (gel) and the windows not in the shot. As I move through the apartment, different windows will be in the shot, and the others (not in the shot) can become key/fill sources. I was thinking to gel in such a way that I can quickly take the gel down as soon as that window is no longer in the shot so that it can become a light source.

In a perfect world, i would keep all windows gelled and then have an HMI or two to light the interior. I would not need the light coming from the windows. Then I would light the people with my Diva lights. Due to lack of space and no HMIs, I have to use the windows for light sources.

The good thing is, the shoot has been cancelled for now.
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