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Old December 25th, 2010, 10:18 AM   #16
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gotcha--but they are non-dimming, right? and how bright do they come these days, in incandescent equivalent terms?

Actually I quite like the look of tungsten practicals in a daylight balanced scene.
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Old December 25th, 2010, 10:35 AM   #17
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gotcha--but they are non-dimming, right? and how bright do they come these days, in incandescent equivalent terms?

Actually I quite like the look of tungsten practicals in a daylight balanced scene.
There are both dimmable and non-dimming. I use the non-dimming varieties. And they are available in incandescent equivalent of about 23w to about 120w at the big box hardware stores. You can get them up to about 250w equivalent at specialty stores I believe.

I keep a variety in 5500K, 3500K, and 2700k. This lets me use the 3500s if I need to balance to my tungsten sources, and use the 2700s to "read" incandescent in the scene.

They are very handy and you can walk out with an armful for $100.
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Old December 30th, 2010, 03:40 PM   #18
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Just so I understand, you are going to dress the dining room in your house to look like a restaurant? And you plan on shooting wide?

I don't like "kits". They have their place, but shooting movies is not it. Interviews? Fine. Movies, no.

By practicals, I mean two things. Traditional practical lights are lighting instruments which appear in the shot when a movie is framed. In this case, the overhead light in the ceiling, or a lamp in the back corner, a candle on the table, etc. I prefer lighting naturally where ever possible. And that means, if I am lighting a scene to look like the room it really is (such as lighting a kitchen to LOOK like a kitchen) then I am going to use the lighting thats already there. When you walk into a kitchen, it LOOKS like one. You don't have to light it to look like one. All you might need to do is to light it brighter.

This gets more complex if we are trying to emulate time of day. Like shooting a night scene but it's daytime outside, or vice versa. Or shooting in a warehouse, when it's supposed to be a living room. Then we have to invent all the lighting because it simply doesn't exist.

I tend to re-bulb practical lighting most of the time and actually light with it. Rather than jump through 100 hoops of trying to get movie lights in just the right places, I'll use the existing lights, bulb them much brighter, and in the correct proportions, and light my scene that way. I may add a fresnel here or there, or a softbox on the closeups, but that's about it.

Rather than blowing a bunch of money on a "kit", buy one HMI light (maybe a 650), and learn to light with practicals and that light. Buy grip gear and learn to shape your light. That will pay more dividends a LOT more quickly, than buying any "kit". If you start shooting commercial work or interviews, then maybe buying a kit would be good at that point.
Hi Perrone,

Well, yes. That is the plan. I intent it to look like one of those really warm old cute and cozy little 'cape house' restaurants we have here in Vermont. However, plans can always change. It is not relevant to the story for me to stick to 'that' kind of restaurant. I can always change it, it is just the convenience of having a 'location' inside my home. I do have a ceiling fan with a light on it. So, I could use that practical I guess. It has four light bulbs all pointing of different directions. But I can use it as a practical light source. I will post a picture or pictures of the 'location' as soon as I have a chance. Provably this weekend since I have Friday off. I did look at one of those HMI 525s, but they are almost 2k. Yes, it is less than 3k but that only gives me one light. I agree, kits aren't good on pretty much anything you do when you have a certain degree of experience. As an example, I did get my 7D's body only and got 3 lenses separately avoiding the stock lens that comes with it. But kits can become handy when you are a complete novice such as myself. I will do the maths and see what I can come up with 3k besides the kit.

I will try the practical approach as a test. It is not very expensive anyway but will take Charles advice and making sure I have the right wattage lamps for the bulbs I get. I am sure I will learn something.


As usual, I appreciate your advice very much.

Thank you Perrone and have a wonderful 2011 full of personal success, joy, health and happiness!!
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Old December 30th, 2010, 03:43 PM   #19
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On the anti-kit philosophy. This is relevant if one is intending to travel as light/compact as possible, such as laid out in that Walter Graff article that Les linked to. It's more space-efficient to get a general purpose case and cram a bunch of stuff in there as well. However you will likely end up scratching up everything as a result, and you will have a lengthy and complicated unpack and repack every shoot. The idea with a kit is that you are hopefully buying a set of lights at a discount against buying them one at a time; the actually case is somewhat immaterial, unless you are space-limited. I don't happen to love the Arri cases much--they are very specific in how things get put back, but they will keep your lights more pristine because of the dividers. A nice compromise is something like a Kata case that has soft dividers, although with a lot of weight in it, you may be missing out on the wheels of the Arri hard case. A lot of this will depend on the size of the vehicle you are using to transport gear!

But the bigger picture is whether or not you need all of the heads that are found in those kits. If $3K is all you are budgeting for your lighting purchases next year, I would probably have to agree that it may well be better spent buying a couple of a la carte units as well as some grip gear. That aspect gets tricky because it's a lot easier to buy a single item (light kit) than a series of bits and pieces of grip gear--it's hard to know what to get when you are starting out. It's something of a shame that there isn't a commercially available "starter kit" with a small but thoughtful selection of c-stands/clamps/flags etc., the grip equivalent of a light kit. Or is there? Anyone know of one? Maybe I should be designing such a thing! The problem of course is that just like a light kit, you can't please everyone. As the song goes, you say mafer, I say cardellini...

If you do have more money to spend on those kinds of peripherals, I still feel like a basic tungsten light kit is the cornerstone of any lighting package. Unless I am shooting something very specific (i.e.daylight exterior only), I will always spec at least one and usually two 300's, 650's and 1K's on every job I shoot. Flo's and LED soft lights are great and I use both as well, but you can always soften a tungsten unit via softbox or diffusion frame--you can't sharpen a unit that is built as a soft light. To that end, I personally feel the Arri Softbank 1 is the best choice for a four-light starter kit. I went for years without owning a fresnel kit, had a few oddball units here and there but always ended up borrowing or renting an Arri kit for small shoots or making short films. The Softbank 1 was on my wish list but I never got around to buying it. Finally I came across a similar kit for sale locally--it was somewhat beat up, but I finally got my Arris at a significant discount (hint hint--thanks to their durability they are a good buy used, unlike much of the cheaper knockoff gear). Yes, I hate humping that huge case into the car, but now I'm covered. However, as several others mentioned here, I also have flo's and LED's in my personal kit. My single favorite workhorse is the Zylight IS3--but that alone costs as much as these four-light Arri kits.

On Perrone's suggestion of using practicals to light a scene; it's a valuable technique but I will warn that all consumer lamps are designed with a maximum wattage (check the fixture, it is usually indicated) so relamping them with higher capacity bulbs needs to be done with care. You can usually push it a bit but putting a 150 watt bulb in a fixture rated for 75 watts is asking for trouble. Also, amping up practicals that are in the shot can result in blown-out lampshades and walls etc. It's standard practice to place practicals into a shot to create contrast and visual interest, but that placement isn't necessarily going to be ideal as a location for a light source as well. More typically one would work a unit from outside the frame that would create the appearance of emanating from that practical. I nearly always put practicals on dimmers so that I can adjust the output as required--I generally prefer dialing them down to maintain details in the lampshade and avoid hot spots on the walls. If the unit is in the middle of a space rather than up against a wall, it can be great to knock down the side of the bulb that faces camera while providing maximum output on the backside (can be achieved with a spray can of streaks 'n tips, or very carefully placed ND gel). A recent example where I dimmed the visible practicals and then recreated their effect here.

Now onto your scene, Ben. I think the single biggest hurdle you have is going to be selling this small dining room as a restaurant. Having walls behind each actor is the giveaway. I would recommend that you forego your planned wide shot and simply shoot it in coverage, unless there is a specific need to go wide. You don't always need a master, and here there is a very good reason not to have one. Put another table (or better, two) in the den with a few people sitting at it and try to frame the door so that you only see one side of it, which will suggest that there is a return (aka piece of wall) behind the actor rather than a doorway. Have a waiter cross in and out of the kitchen on the reverse direction to keep that side alive. It will be deadly if there is no background motion on either side and the addition of restaurant clatter on the soundtrack will not sell it by itself. Even if you can only get two other people (or crew!) to help out, you can have them change their shirts or wear a hat and appear on the other side as different people. Having movement on the edges of the frame is absolutely key for realism, and something that I regular spot as missing when people stage restaurant scenes in no-budget filmmaking. Have a look at this trailer I shot a few years back--it was all done at a very low-rent studio space that I had to make look like six or eight different environments. The restaurant scene at the beginning was shot in a tiny patio, admittedly bigger than your dining room! but you get the idea; four extras helped to make the place feel populated. If you'll humor me, probably the most ludicrous example of this was when I arrived to help a friend shoot this clip of a crowded red carpet event but only 10 or so extras showed up--I stretched those folks pretty far!

By the way, I'm purposely linking to shoots that I did with very limited resources as I think that is more apropos than jobs I shot with a full crew and generous G/E packages.One thing that you do have going for you on your shoot: the focus falloff of the large sensor 7D which will help abstract the backgrounds that much more as well as keeping the walls dark.Get movement in the background in the edges of the frame and you will be able to sell the restaurant environment that much better. In addition you may well want to cheat the table away from the back wall on both sides of the coverage to get the sense of a larger room, if possible.

On to the actual lighting scheme. I wouldn't go with practicals in the background, i.e. on the buffet, as that will serve to light up the wall and look less restaurant-like. However you may want to consider a small practical on the table which can potentially serve as a lighting source or at least motivation for same, as David Jones mentioned earlier. If so, put another one on the table(s) in the den. If you need to provide more oomph, a low soft source alongside the table can continue the feeling of the center practical. If you went with the Arris, this could be the 1K open in the softbox, but you would likely want to dim and/or scrim it down quite a bit to be able to work at an appropriate light level. Another option is to do the "Robert Richardson" look by hanging a unit directly over the table and having it bounce up onto the actor's faces, simulating the look of ceiling spot that can be found in some restaurants. The trick is to keep the direct light off the actors so you can make a blackwrap snoot to restrict the spread of the light, or possibly box it in with the barndoors. A fresnel is a good choice for this, such as a 650. I've done it with Lekos or Dedos as well It's an aggressive, stylized look (think: opening scene of Inglorious Basterds).

For a less stylized look, another route would be to position a soft source to one side. You'll want to flag it off the background (for a softbox such as the one in the Arri kit, at least a 2x3 solid will be required if not a 4x4). A nice countered look will result from lighting it from the narrow side, which is the direction that the particular actor is looking. For instance, if Actor A is on the left side of the frame looking at Actor B, who's shoulder and back of head are on the right side of frame, position the light off to the right, about halfway between the actors. Since this is new stuff for you, if you have the time, move that light back and forth (closer to camera, closer to actor) and watch the results. The closer to camera you go, the flatter the light and the more difficult it will be to flag off the background. As you keep moving it upstage (i.e. away from camera), it will eventually turn into a half light. Try bringing it downstage, closer to camera, until it just hits Actor A's right eye. That can be a very appealing look. Rather than using another light to fill, you can bring a white bounce in from the left, or you can let that side of his face go dark. If the walls have enough value that you can see the outline of his head, this may work very nicely. One light and you are lit! Conversely, try moving the soft source to the left side of frame and see what that does--that's lighting from the broad side, a less popular approach for a low-key scene like this but maybe you will like it.

David also mentioned using a chinaball for a scene like this--that can be a great approach for an actual restaurant but they are tough to control in a small room as they tend to splatter light on the walls. The best kind have flaps that help with the spill. But they are another useful tool to have around, and in their classic form, very inexpensive to pick up (Pier 1, Ikea).

There are many, many ways to light this scene--two people sitting at a table is one of the staples of movies and lighting demos alike! If I was to use the example above with the soft source off to one side, I might add another one as a wrap/back edge from the same side; I might create some shape on the back wall by aiming a fresnel down from as high as possible on a stand just out of frame left that creates a scalloped down-light, which would help in separating Actor A from the wall. Or if I wanted that wall to disappear (sky blue you say? hmmm....), I'd just bring in a "liner", which is a low backlight as close to the frame as possible (in this case, from the left) that creates a line around that side of the subject's head, not too hot but just enough to create separation.

OK, my insomnia has caught up with me, so I might catch a few more zzz's. One of the best ways to learn lighting is to study references--find a restaurant scene that looks like what you are trying to achieve, and dissect the lighting. If you post stills from it here, we can more specifically describe where the lights are and how to go about it. The more specifics, the better.

Have a nice holiday folks!
Wow!

What a compelling answer. I truly thank you so very much. I wanted to take my time to read it well and answer the best I can. I checked your website and the Actor inside of me can't help to ask you: Did you happen to talk with George Clooney a little bit? Very cool and impressive imdb credits :)

I just checked that Zylight IS3 and just by the 2 pictures I've seen, it look very nice, well made and high quality unit. The kind that will last you for at least a decade. I will keep it in my B&H wishlist and I will get it if I get to become a pro someday (hopefully in the current decade ;)).

I checked the 'Farmer's Daughter' in Youtube since the link on your website seems not to be available (at least for me at the moment). I see what you mean, those lamps look super nice. Very well composed, but they also look very nice when you are panning the close up and the lamp/s appear very creamy on the background.

Yes, now I completely get what you mean about the little dining room sold as restaurant. I intent it to look like one of those really warm old cute and cozy little 'cape house' restaurants we have here in Vermont, but I just perfectly got what you mean by having people moving on the sides and/or background. I saw the 'This can't be my life' trailer and your point is very clear there. Thanks for this very simple but great lesson.

About the red carpet clip, it is funny how it came out. On a good way I mean, not only because the clip is funny but if you didn't tell me about the trick it looks like at least you had 50 extras available to make it look like over 100 people. But just ten extras is impressive. It looks naturally crowded and the photographers reflecting on the limo's window and background random screams sold it big time to me.
Quite a cool trick as well.
Oh, I forgot to mention the buffet has some mirrors in the middle of the body but I can flag that out with some dark cardboard of the same size.

First scene of Inglorious Basterds!! Probably the best scene I've seen in the last 10 years. Not only for the cinematic perfection (everything looks perfectly lighted!) but the acting of that Actor (he won the Oscar last year for that performance!). One of my favorite scenes ever, I love the script and the evilness of that character on that scene! I love the lightening but it seems that is a light coming form a window on the roof kinda deal. Brilliant and yes that is a great idea I can try as well.



Why would you pick the softbank I over the softbank II? The only difference is that you get 3 650s on the II instead of 1 300 and 2 650s. Couldn't you dim down any of the 650s if you want less light?
Just curious, they are pretty much the same set.

Well, those were many useful and inspiring ideas to me. I really appreciate them. I will take a picture and post it either here or on my flickr page (and will link it here) so you can have a better idea. As soon as I have a chance I will do it.

Charles, I can't thank you enough for your time. I truly appreciate of the information you've given me (and to all the people who reads this thread).

I wish you a very successful and healthy 2011!!

Best and Kind Regards!!
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Old December 30th, 2010, 10:47 PM   #20
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To Perrone and Charles

Hey guys,

Here we have 5 pictures of the location. Please excuse my Christmas madness and mess:

Temp Album for lighting thread - Ignore this album if you wish - a set on Flickr

I hope that gives you a better idea. The fifth pictures shows a fish tank just in front of the table. Which I might need to move to shoot the scene. If I do not get a master I might just manage leaving the darn thing there. I do have a Canon 16-35mm which I could use for a wide.

At any rate, thank you guys as usual!!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old December 31st, 2010, 01:12 AM   #21
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the Actor inside of me can't help to ask you: Did you happen to talk with George Clooney a little bit?
I did, but I already knew him from "ER". He's a great guy. Always a pleasure to work with.

I wish I could have worked on of the more memorable Coen films than "Intolerable Cruelty" but them's the breaks. It was just exciting to be on set with the brothers, as well as work for Roger Deakins of course.

regarding your ceiling fixture--that wouldn't qualify as a practical you'd want in this instance. Leave that sucker off, it will just flatten out the room. If you really want to make that room look like a restaurant, it will require a lot of sleight of hand--the less you see, the better. Stay away from those wide lenses unless, as I said before, there's a piece of business that requires you to go wide. If it's just two people talking, keep it tight and the background dark with the sense of movement back there and you will have a better shot of selling the space of a restaurant. Even a cosy Vermont one has more than one table!
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Old December 31st, 2010, 07:11 AM   #22
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Ben, another option is to rewrite the script so that your available shooting options fit the script and don't look out of place. For example... Rather than a restaurant table scene, how about the couple is at a cozy bed and breakfast, which your room looks more closely to than a restaurant.
In low budget film making it is always easier to write a scene for a location you have access to, than to try and turn a barn into a hospital lobby.

Good luck with your project!

Dave
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Old January 5th, 2011, 08:38 PM   #23
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Great!

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I did, but I already knew him from "ER". He's a great guy. Always a pleasure to work with.

I wish I could have worked on of the more memorable Coen films than "Intolerable Cruelty" but them's the breaks. It was just exciting to be on set with the brothers, as well as work for Roger Deakins of course.

regarding your ceiling fixture--that wouldn't qualify as a practical you'd want in this instance. Leave that sucker off, it will just flatten out the room. If you really want to make that room look like a restaurant, it will require a lot of sleight of hand--the less you see, the better. Stay away from those wide lenses unless, as I said before, there's a piece of business that requires you to go wide. If it's just two people talking, keep it tight and the background dark with the sense of movement back there and you will have a better shot of selling the space of a restaurant. Even a cosy Vermont one has more than one table!
My goodness, what an honor to work with Roger as well. Superb job in Shawshank Redemption...

I really admire George as an Actor. Not only for being a good Actor, but for the star charm he has on and off the screen. That alone earned him my humbled admiration.

I am sure working with the Coens was like going to Disney everyday instead of going to work. Such an invaluable experience.

Yes, that seems to be the best way to go. I can think of it similar to one brief scene in Ocean's Eleven where actually George and Brad have a brief conversation where George mentions to Brad he is planing to take on 3 casinos.

I will definitely do that, and for now saving for the Softbank I or II kit so I can have something to begin with. I figure I can also use it for some photography I do...

A million thanks to you Charles ;)


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Ben, another option is to rewrite the script so that your available shooting options fit the script and don't look out of place. For example... Rather than a restaurant table scene, how about the couple is at a cozy bed and breakfast, which your room looks more closely to than a restaurant.
In low budget film making it is always easier to write a scene for a location you have access to, than to try and turn a barn into a hospital lobby.

Good luck with your project!

Dave
Happy new year Dave :)

That is an idea I did not think of. But it is very helpful because it will sell that place a lot better. You just gave me snow tires for my snowy scene ;)

I very much appreciate your advice Dave.

Have a wonderful 2011 and I wish you a lot of personal and professional success!!

Thanks very much to you both!!!!
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