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Old December 16th, 2010, 06:17 PM   #1
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LED or Tungsten, that is the ONLY question...

Hi all!

I have been reading these 2 very interesting, informative and cool threads:

My Cool Lights Experience

Low Budget Lighting Article

And I have learned quite a bit. However, I am unable to find a specific answer on this main question:

LED or Tungsten lights?

Situation:

Camera: Canon 7D

Purpose: Independent short movies with 'film' like look.

Where do I shot: Indoors 80%

I am saving money for hopefully next year get a set of lights. This is the kit I want to get:

Arri Softbank II Tungsten 4 Light Kit (120VAC) 571989 B&H Photo

It is a HUGE investment for me. But when I started to learn about LED lights, I started doubting again. I want to make a wise investment. And I believe it is wise to ask around here.

What do you guys think?

Thank you SO very much!
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Old December 17th, 2010, 08:19 AM   #2
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My answer based on over 30 years of shooting.... You really need a fully rounded light kit. Not just Tungsten, and not just LED. Each lighting instrument has different characteristics, the throw/spread/falloff are all different depending on the type of light. There really isn't a one light to rule them all.
Over the years my kit has grown to accommodate the different lighting situations I might be faced with.
From HMI's to Flo lights, from Tungsten to LED, open face to Fresnel. Each style of light has it's purpose and place.

Good Luck!

Dave
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Old December 17th, 2010, 10:14 AM   #3
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Hey Ben,
I would agree with David that it is important to have as many different types of sources as possible because we run into so many different setups from job to job. I think you could do a lot better with your $2750 if you are willing to step away from the Arri name, which is one of the best but they are expensive. Rather that wait until next year you might consider doing it piece by piece when the money is there as I have. I started with 3 daylight fluorescents; 2 fourbanks and 1 twobank plus 1 daylight 256 led all from Cool Lights. Next were 3 tungsten fresnels 150, 300, 650 and a 750 watt Source 4 elipsoidal. I plan on 2 to 3 more fresnels and 1 more 4 bank kino faux and then I will look more closely at LEDs as they mature. But enough about me; you might consider if most of your shooting is done with daylight or without and if the "film look" to you is hard light or soft. I certainly would add fluorescents to the equation for their low heat output, low power needs and the ability to relamp, tungsten or daylight as the need arises.
mb
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Old December 18th, 2010, 03:20 AM   #4
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Thank you guys!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben Tolosa View Post
Hi all!

I have been reading these 2 very interesting, informative and cool threads:

My Cool Lights Experience

Low Budget Lighting Article

And I have learned quite a bit. However, I am unable to find a specific answer on this main question:

LED or Tungsten lights?

Situation:

Camera: Canon 7D

Purpose: Independent short movies with 'film' like look.

Where do I shot: Indoors 80%

I am saving money for hopefully next year get a set of lights. This is the kit I want to get:

Arri Softbank II Tungsten 4 Light Kit (120VAC) 571989 B&H Photo

It is a HUGE investment for me. But when I started to learn about LED lights, I started doubting again. I want to make a wise investment. And I believe it is wise to ask around here.

What do you guys think?

Thank you SO very much!
Hi Ben,

Hey I just found this very nice two parts video that explains the differences between the types of lights. I am sending you PART II first, because it specifically talks about LED lights and I know those are the kind you are currently interested on.

YouTube - Choosing Lights PART 2

YouTube - Choosing a Lighting Kit - PART 1

Have a nice weekend Ben!!


Quote:
Originally Posted by David W. Jones View Post
My answer based on over 30 years of shooting.... You really need a fully rounded light kit. Not just Tungsten, and not just LED. Each lighting instrument has different characteristics, the throw/spread/falloff are all different depending on the type of light. There really isn't a one light to rule them all.
Over the years my kit has grown to accommodate the different lighting situations I might be faced with.
From HMI's to Flo lights, from Tungsten to LED, open face to Fresnel. Each style of light has it's purpose and place.

Good Luck!

Dave
Good morning David,

It is always great to receive advice from someone with 30 years of experience. So, you started when I was 2 years old ;)

I get your point about all kind of situations and light styles, so let me ask you then: What would you recommend for an indoor scene between two characters having a conversation sitting facing each other over coffee?

That is to bulk of work I am doing and look forward to keep doing in the future.

Thanks VERY much!!


Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Bolding View Post
Hey Ben,
I would agree with David that it is important to have as many different types of sources as possible because we run into so many different setups from job to job. I think you could do a lot better with your $2750 if you are willing to step away from the Arri name, which is one of the best but they are expensive. Rather that wait until next year you might consider doing it piece by piece when the money is there as I have. I started with 3 daylight fluorescents; 2 fourbanks and 1 twobank plus 1 daylight 256 led all from Cool Lights. Next were 3 tungsten fresnels 150, 300, 650 and a 750 watt Source 4 elipsoidal. I plan on 2 to 3 more fresnels and 1 more 4 bank kino faux and then I will look more closely at LEDs as they mature. But enough about me; you might consider if most of your shooting is done with daylight or without and if the "film look" to you is hard light or soft. I certainly would add fluorescents to the equation for their low heat output, low power needs and the ability to relamp, tungsten or daylight as the need arises.
mb

Hi Mark,

Well, I really appreciate your advice. It is exactly this, the type you and David are giving me, what I am looking for. I am kind of interested on the Cool Lights LED lights. The thing is, I have no idea about the quality of them. I recently work on a students film and I had the chance to look, touch and play with an Arri set. I was impressed with the quality. They felt rugged and made with the best materials. Even the blue paint felt like a 'superior' paint. Not that it matters much, but it just shows you the quality control they have.

But I did not have any chance with the Cool Lights. And I cannot tell by the pictures on their website. They look OK, like not cheap but not the highest quality either. Again, I am speaking from ignorance and only by my opinion of what I am able to see on those pictures. Since it is a huge investment for me, I want to make sure I invest my money wisely. The way they look is not a hugely important matter for me, but how long they will last on a good shape it is. At least on my experience, the quality control usually ends up being a reflection on the life on the product. What I mean is, if they look nice and polished, usually they last longer and brake less often.


I am willing to take a chance with the Cool Lights because I read really nice reviews so far. But before I go that route, I want to keep researching about lights in general. I do trust you guy's sets of expertise on this field since it is immensely larger than mine.

Thanks very much and I appreciate every bit of advice.

Kind Regards!!
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Old December 18th, 2010, 06:41 PM   #5
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Both!

I would feel crippled in my lighting ability with only LED or only tungsten and with no fluorescent instruments. For the foreseeable future, a well rounded kit will include all three.

Dan
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Old December 18th, 2010, 07:32 PM   #6
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Ben,

You're getting some good answers here from some very experienced folks. We see this type of question come up quite a lot and the answer is always difficult because typically the person asking doesn't have the experience to truly absorb the advice they are being given.

I am going to invite you to think about something for a moment. Something I tell people who are just getting into lighting films.

Your mindset is in the wrong place. Take your hypothetical:

"What would you recommend for an indoor scene between two characters having a conversation sitting facing each other over coffee?"

Your focus is on lighting the PEOPLE. This is fine if you are lighting an interview. But it's the wrong mindset for film. If you ask someone with experience lighting film, they are going to ask you about the SPACE.

How big is the coffee shop? What are the base lighting levels. Where are the windows. Are we shooting wides or are we in 2-shots or singles. What color are the walls, and the ceiling. What time of day are we shooting, and what time of day is called for in the script.

In film, we are concerned with lighting a space, and then placing actors in that space. Different spaces require different instruments. If we are shooting wide, then the instruments need to provide sufficient light levels while being out of frame. LED can't do that, and neither can fluorescent. So now we are into tungsten or HMI. If we are in a tight 1 shot, then maybe the LED or the Fluorescent is the correct instrument.

Also of nearly equal importance, or something more importance, is the grip gear. Grip shapes the lights. And unless you plan on blasting light straight at people and having it look like the 11pm news, then you're going to want diffusion, bounce, cutters, flags, and all manner of things to control those lights you just bought.

Typically, most people suggest starting with tungsten fresnels. They are controllable, they can be gelled, they offer a lot of punch, they can be diffused. You can make a hard light like a fresnel, very soft with diffusion or bounce. But a soft light like fluorescent or most LEDs, is practically impossible to make hard. So those tools are less flexible and usually more expensive.

I am inclined to say purchase 2 fresnels.. a 2K and a 1K. Purchase some grip gear, and learn to shape those two lights. By the time you've learned to shape those two lights, and utilize daylight, and practical lighting, you'll be well on your way. Practical lighting with just a little touch of artificial light can yield excellent results with today's sensitive cameras.
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Old December 19th, 2010, 03:12 AM   #7
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Umm--a 2K, Perrone? Can't be plugged into household circuits (more accurately, shouldn't--most outlets are rated for 15 amps regardless of whether there is a 20 amp breaker in the box). Not the kind of gear that most people are going to be able to make good use of.

Even a 1K fresnel is on the larger side for the light levels that many people are shooting at these days. The benefit is that it might have enough punch to survive gelling for daylight if you need something hard for a gobo gag (i.e. interior daylight environment and you want a sun splash on the wall). I think that for many, a 1K open face has more utility, in that it is better suited for a generous sized bounce off show card/beadboard or even on the ceiling or wall. When mated with a Chimera, makes a nice large soft source, again with more punch than the same size fresnel. I definitely feel like a couple of smaller fresnels are critical, maybe 1 650 and 1 300. I haven't been keeping up with the latest low-cost flo or LED units but having a few additional soft sources are handy. Units with dimmers are extremely fast to work with, especially if the color temperature stays consistent as is generally the case with LED's.

I do agree that a basic grip setup of bounces, flags, nets and a couple of c-stands are very handy, along with a selection of smaller items that allow for heads to be mounted off stands (beaver plate, cardellini). And a selection of color correction gels, party gels and diffusion; basic expendables like blackwrap, c-47's etc.
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Old December 19th, 2010, 03:33 AM   #8
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One really good thing about the UK is that you can plug a 2.5k HMI straight into the wall. That means that you don't need to do a mains tie in for almost all small productions.
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Old December 19th, 2010, 07:11 AM   #9
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I have an anti-kit perspective on lighting articulated best by this article:
Light Kit

You'll find some great tutorial articles on that site. EFP lighting is another great instructional site.

Basically, after you learn about lighting, you need to DO lighting. As you grow in your understanding and skill, you will learn what equipment you need and like. Also, someone who understands lighting can use various types of equipment to achieve a desired look, tungsten Flo or LED. Learn lighting. Start out small and grow your kit as you learn what equipment you like/need to achieve the look you want. Each time you hit a situation, go back to the learning step. Rinse and repeat.
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Old December 19th, 2010, 10:03 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Papert View Post
Umm--a 2K, Perrone? Can't be plugged into household circuits (more accurately, shouldn't--most outlets are rated for 15 amps regardless of whether there is a 20 amp breaker in the box). Not the kind of gear that most people are going to be able to make good use of.
Maybe I'm just lucky, but I've never had any issues with my 2K lights on household. I agree it's larger than common for most, but by the time it's gelled for daylight, and bounced, it's about the only thing you can easily use in a wide to get levels up. A few 1ks would work too, but now you need several of them to do the same job. More gels, more stands, more outlets.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Papert View Post
Even a 1K fresnel is on the larger side for the light levels that many people are shooting at these days. The benefit is that it might have enough punch to survive gelling for daylight if you need something hard for a gobo gag (i.e. interior daylight environment and you want a sun splash on the wall).
Most people hardly light these days. I'm sure the folks at NEAT video are thrilled with that! :)


Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Papert View Post
I think that for many, a 1K open face has more utility, in that it is better suited for a generous sized bounce off show card/beadboard or even on the ceiling or wall. When mated with a Chimera, makes a nice large soft source, again with more punch than the same size fresnel.
I tend to use my 1K open faces quite a lot. And in small spaces, I find they do a nice job. But since I tend not to shoot tungsten much now, I find them a bit underpowered. I do a lot more diffusion these days and they really lack the punch I want most of the time.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Papert View Post
I definitely feel like a couple of smaller fresnels are critical, maybe 1 650 and 1 300. I haven't been keeping up with the latest low-cost flo or LED units but having a few additional soft sources are handy. Units with dimmers are extremely fast to work with, especially if the color temperature stays consistent as is generally the case with LED's.
The LED stuff is coming along, though I am still a bit up in the air on the CRI aspect. And it's still pricey. I'd still do HMI first at this point. But for getting in tight with something soft, we found LED to work nicely last year. I have been using a lot lf fluo for the past 2 years. Absolutely love it in my soft box, and I have used it a ton for practicals.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Papert View Post
I do agree that a basic grip setup of bounces, flags, nets and a couple of c-stands are very handy, along with a selection of smaller items that allow for heads to be mounted off stands (beaver plate, cardellini). And a selection of color correction gels, party gels and diffusion; basic expendables like blackwrap, c-47's etc.
Yep. People forget this stuff and it's critical.

Thanks for chiming in Charles. I think I agree with all of your points provided the shooter is going to shoot at 3500K, but my mind automatically adjust for 5500K these days.
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Old December 20th, 2010, 11:04 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben Tolosa View Post

I get your point about all kind of situations and light styles, so let me ask you then: What would you recommend for an indoor scene between two characters having a conversation sitting facing each other over coffee?

That is to bulk of work I am doing and look forward to keep doing in the future.

Thanks VERY much!!

Kind Regards!!
As others have pointed out, it's really hard to say without more particulars.

Maybe it's an evening first date in a coffee shop...
I might use a 1.2K HMI w/blue gel outside streaming through the side window with the interior of the coffee shop lightly fogged to pickup the rays, a 3200k China ball above & between the 2 people, practical w/dimmer on the table between them, 300w Fresnel through a cuc to apply a nice diffused pattern to the table top, a 420w fresnel w/bastard amber gel & dimmer to highlight the woman's hair, 500 LED w/ 1/8 minus green & 1/4 CTO hitting the guy's shoulders to give a little separation from the background, 1K on a dimmer w/sapphire blue gel throwing a pattern on the wall behind them, 650w fresnel w/dimmer to highlight the jukebox on the wall behind them which plays music which will become their song, Diva 400 w/grid to light the waitress as she brings the coffee with a bounce board beside her, a 150w fresnel as an eye-light on the guy as he talks to the girl, a Diva 200 for the closeup of the girl.
There are many ways to light a scene, and this is just one example.
Good Luck!

Dave
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Old December 23rd, 2010, 01:48 PM   #12
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Merry Christmas and THANK YOU ALL!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Brockett View Post
Both!

I would feel crippled in my lighting ability with only LED or only tungsten and with no fluorescent instruments. For the foreseeable future, a well rounded kit will include all three.

Dan
Interesting. I did not know, so thank you for the valuable input Dan. I am still researching and found out HMI are VERY expensive.

Merry Christmas!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Perrone Ford View Post
Ben,

You're getting some good answers here from some very experienced folks. We see this type of question come up quite a lot and the answer is always difficult because typically the person asking doesn't have the experience to truly absorb the advice they are being given.

I am going to invite you to think about something for a moment. Something I tell people who are just getting into lighting films.

Your mindset is in the wrong place. Take your hypothetical:

"What would you recommend for an indoor scene between two characters having a conversation sitting facing each other over coffee?"

Your focus is on lighting the PEOPLE. This is fine if you are lighting an interview. But it's the wrong mindset for film. If you ask someone with experience lighting film, they are going to ask you about the SPACE.

How big is the coffee shop? What are the base lighting levels. Where are the windows. Are we shooting wides or are we in 2-shots or singles. What color are the walls, and the ceiling. What time of day are we shooting, and what time of day is called for in the script.

In film, we are concerned with lighting a space, and then placing actors in that space. Different spaces require different instruments. If we are shooting wide, then the instruments need to provide sufficient light levels while being out of frame. LED can't do that, and neither can fluorescent. So now we are into tungsten or HMI. If we are in a tight 1 shot, then maybe the LED or the Fluorescent is the correct instrument.

Also of nearly equal importance, or something more importance, is the grip gear. Grip shapes the lights. And unless you plan on blasting light straight at people and having it look like the 11pm news, then you're going to want diffusion, bounce, cutters, flags, and all manner of things to control those lights you just bought.

Typically, most people suggest starting with tungsten fresnels. They are controllable, they can be gelled, they offer a lot of punch, they can be diffused. You can make a hard light like a fresnel, very soft with diffusion or bounce. But a soft light like fluorescent or most LEDs, is practically impossible to make hard. So those tools are less flexible and usually more expensive.

I am inclined to say purchase 2 fresnels.. a 2K and a 1K. Purchase some grip gear, and learn to shape those two lights. By the time you've learned to shape those two lights, and utilize daylight, and practical lighting, you'll be well on your way. Practical lighting with just a little touch of artificial light can yield excellent results with today's sensitive cameras.
Hi Perrone,

It is on a positive way a bit funny sometimes how cool it is to receive advice from guys with, for example, your experience. I am saying that on a good way, like a smile on my face reading these forums because is so valuable to learn more about the craft here at Dvinfo. For that, I sincerely thank you very much. I promise to do my best to truly absorb your observations.

No, I never thought about it that way. I am a kindergardener when comes to filmmaking. And lighting is a completely brand new subject for me. From now on, I am going to think about the SPACE first when thinking of lighting a scene for film.

This particular scene is between two guys over coffee at a restaurant table. It is supposed to be in the evening. We are using my dinning room which is about 11 x 8 feet. I am planning on starting the scene with a wide and then shoot over the shoulders, and then just close ups so I can intimate the conversation as it gets more tense. Then going back to over the shoulders at the very end. The walls are sky blue, the ceiling is white. I have a buffet hutch behind one of the Actors. There's two doors, one leading to the den and the other one to the kitchen. Each door behind each Actor, but one of them will be mostly out of frame. The is a 3rd door but it is behind the camera. No lights leaking from that door since there is now windows around that hallway. I am going to add some background sound to resemble a medium traffic restaurant area. I do have a C stand with a turtle neck base.

Based on your recommendations, what do you think about these kits and why?:

Arri Softbank II Tungsten 4 Light Kit (120VAC) 571989 B&H Photo

Arri Arrilite-Fresnel Four-Light Combo Kit 571996 B&H Photo

Lowel Solo Kit TO-96Z B&H Photo Video

What do you mean about 'practical lighting'? Maybe is a dumb question, but you mean lighting with light sources like a lamp I can have in my living room?

Cannot thank you enough for your advice and have a Merry Christmas!!


Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Papert View Post
Umm--a 2K, Perrone? Can't be plugged into household circuits (more accurately, shouldn't--most outlets are rated for 15 amps regardless of whether there is a 20 amp breaker in the box). Not the kind of gear that most people are going to be able to make good use of.

Even a 1K fresnel is on the larger side for the light levels that many people are shooting at these days. The benefit is that it might have enough punch to survive gelling for daylight if you need something hard for a gobo gag (i.e. interior daylight environment and you want a sun splash on the wall). I think that for many, a 1K open face has more utility, in that it is better suited for a generous sized bounce off show card/beadboard or even on the ceiling or wall. When mated with a Chimera, makes a nice large soft source, again with more punch than the same size fresnel. I definitely feel like a couple of smaller fresnels are critical, maybe 1 650 and 1 300. I haven't been keeping up with the latest low-cost flo or LED units but having a few additional soft sources are handy. Units with dimmers are extremely fast to work with, especially if the color temperature stays consistent as is generally the case with LED's.

I do agree that a basic grip setup of bounces, flags, nets and a couple of c-stands are very handy, along with a selection of smaller items that allow for heads to be mounted off stands (beaver plate, cardellini). And a selection of color correction gels, party gels and diffusion; basic expendables like blackwrap, c-47's etc.
Hi Charles,

Well I thank you also for the above advice. What do you think about those 3 kits I just mentioned above your quote on my answer to Perrone?

Will the first one fit your recommendation the most?

Thanks so much and guess what?.. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Les Wilson View Post
I have an anti-kit perspective on lighting articulated best by this article:
Light Kit

You'll find some great tutorial articles on that site. EFP lighting is another great instructional site.

Basically, after you learn about lighting, you need to DO lighting. As you grow in your understanding and skill, you will learn what equipment you need and like. Also, someone who understands lighting can use various types of equipment to achieve a desired look, tungsten Flo or LED. Learn lighting. Start out small and grow your kit as you learn what equipment you like/need to achieve the look you want. Each time you hit a situation, go back to the learning step. Rinse and repeat.
Hey, thank you for that link. I will probably re post it on my blog about filmmaking. Doing is the name of the greatest teacher humankind has known to date ;)

That is what I want to do, but I need a set of lights first. In the meantime, reading these forums has been very instrumental and rewarding to me. Very cool article, it is a bit long but not too too long. That guy Walter has plenty of experience and worked for big name customers.

Merry Christmas Les!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by David W. Jones View Post
As others have pointed out, it's really hard to say without more particulars.

Maybe it's an evening first date in a coffee shop...
I might use a 1.2K HMI w/blue gel outside streaming through the side window with the interior of the coffee shop lightly fogged to pickup the rays, a 3200k China ball above & between the 2 people, practical w/dimmer on the table between them, 300w Fresnel through a cuc to apply a nice diffused pattern to the table top, a 420w fresnel w/bastard amber gel & dimmer to highlight the woman's hair, 500 LED w/ 1/8 minus green & 1/4 CTO hitting the guy's shoulders to give a little separation from the background, 1K on a dimmer w/sapphire blue gel throwing a pattern on the wall behind them, 650w fresnel w/dimmer to highlight the jukebox on the wall behind them which plays music which will become their song, Diva 400 w/grid to light the waitress as she brings the coffee with a bounce board beside her, a 150w fresnel as an eye-light on the guy as he talks to the girl, a Diva 200 for the closeup of the girl.
There are many ways to light a scene, and this is just one example.
Good Luck!

Dave
Uff, OMG Dave... that is why big movies invest all that money to pay for the experience guys like you have...

Man, that will take me decades to learn!!

Robert Rodriguez said, if you are creative and technical you are unstoppable. Yeah right,.. he's right but it is not THAT simple... Oh joy!

I do thank you for your answer, and will glance it once when I get my kit and start lighting my space first. Very much appreciated and...

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!
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Old December 23rd, 2010, 02:17 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben Tolosa View Post
Hi Perrone,

This particular scene is between two guys over coffee at a restaurant table. It is supposed to be in the evening. We are using my dinning room which is about 11 x 8 feet. I am planning on starting the scene with a wide and then shoot over the shoulders, and then just close ups so I can intimate the conversation as it gets more tense. Then going back to over the shoulders at the very end. The walls are sky blue, the ceiling is white. I have a buffet hutch behind one of the Actors. There's two doors, one leading to the den and the other one to the kitchen. Each door behind each Actor, but one of them will be mostly out of frame. The is a 3rd door but it is behind the camera. No lights leaking from that door since there is now windows around that hallway. I am going to add some background sound to resemble a medium traffic restaurant area. I do have a C stand with a turtle neck base.

Based on your recommendations, what do you think about these kits and why?:

Arri Softbank II Tungsten 4 Light Kit (120VAC) 571989 B&H Photo

Arri Arrilite-Fresnel Four-Light Combo Kit 571996 B&H Photo

Lowel Solo Kit TO-96Z B&H Photo Video

What do you mean about 'practical lighting'? Maybe is a dumb question, but you mean lighting with light sources like a lamp I can have in my living room?

Cannot thank you enough for your advice and have a Merry Christmas!!

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.
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Old December 25th, 2010, 09:28 AM   #14
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Perrone, did you mean to say HMI there? I'm guessing not--would be a strange selection to combine with incandescent practicals, also not exactly inexpensive--and unless there are units from new manufacturers I haven't heard of, 575 is the typical wattage in that range, never heard of a 650 HMI.

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!
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Old December 25th, 2010, 10:11 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Papert View Post
Perrone, did you mean to say HMI there? I'm guessing not--would be a strange selection to combine with incandescent practicals, also not exactly inexpensive--and unless there are units from new manufacturers I haven't heard of, 575 is the typical wattage in that range, never heard of a 650 HMI.
Quite correct Charles. I still think it terms of Tungsten wattage ratings.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Papert View Post
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.
When I re-bulb with practicals, I use compact fluorescents (Typically 5500K). They run cool, are efficient, and I can bring the levels up quite a lot without worrying much about current draw. Sorry, I should have specified.
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