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Old February 8th, 2014, 12:18 AM   #1
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Modifying 5500k light to match windows indoors

I'm trying to figure out how to modify 5500k lights so as to make them look like they are just natural supplements to window light. As an example think about talent in a house or office, with a window in the background.

We all know the main issue is getting enough artificial 5500k light to fill in shadows so that the scene outside the window can be knocked down so it won't blow out. Even with ND on the windows you still need to bring up the interior light to match.

Eventually I'll have the budget for HMIs, but for now I've been trying my own approaches for getting lots of 5500k light with cheaper lights like Kinos, softboxes, and simply bouncing gelled Lowel DP's off white cards or walls.

What I've been finding is that in order to get enough light to make a difference in wider two-person shots, I have to put the fixture awfully close to the frameline, and hence the light takes on a studio-artificial softbox sort of look which just doesn't look natural.

For one thing it's not complex enough; typically light that come through windows has been bounced around the interior a lot so it has a very different character, whereas the softboxy light is hotter closer to the softbox and generally very homogeneous.

So I'm wondering what sort of light modifiers or tricks people use to make their 5500k lights look like they are simply filling in sunlight from off-camera windows rather than looking like studio lights. One secret A DP shared with me is to add a smaller 5500k light (like a kino or small softbox) near the floor in front of the subject, to simulate sunlight which had been raking the floor.

I'm also thinking about experimenting with my 4x6 or 8x8 scrims that I just got and putting lights behind them, although I don't think the 1k tungstens that I have would be powerful enough except for tight shots; any way to shoot through scrims indoors without HMIs?
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Old February 8th, 2014, 10:25 AM   #2
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Re: Modifying 5500k light to match windows indoors

Tom,
Not sure you can use many modifiers to achieve what you want if the lights are not powerful enough to begin with. Small sources usually barely have enough power to make any difference against the sun. Every situation is different so you may find something that works one day and not the next. Even going up to HMI's is not a guaranty you will have enough power once you start modifying the light. Using the light from the outside instead of fighting it might be a solution but sometimes you have to bring the big lights to get the look you want.
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Old February 8th, 2014, 11:13 AM   #3
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Re: Modifying 5500k light to match windows indoors

Your best bet is applying not just ND to the windows but 85ND (at least 9, and if you only have smaller tungsten instruments, perhaps more) to eliminate having to gel your interior instruments thus losing more stop. You still have the disadvantage of not being able to push controlled daylight in from the windows since that still requires daylight balanced firepower, but at least you will be working at a light level that will allow your smaller instruments to have some punch. If you are able to rig units above the windows and out of shot that can motivate a push from outside, that will go a long way towards a realistic look.

If your schedule allows you to shoot at night, you can put white or light blue card outside the window placed to camera so that it fills the view and light it hot, then push another source through the window. It's always helpful in this instance to have some sheers in front of the window to break things up.

If neither ND or rescheduling are possible, you can use reflectors aka shiny boards outside to drive sun into the room which can be further shaped or bounced. This is dodgy for a shoot of any length because the movement of the sun requires that the reflectors will need to be "shaken up" aka refocused constantly, and you need to ensure that you will have a direct line of sight to the sun throughout the shooting period. A good sun positioning app will be helpful to determine this when you scout the location.

In general though it's very hard to balance against unadulterated daylight. It may seem strange that in this day and age of high-sensitivity cameras that we still use 18K's and the like, but the fact is that the sun hasn't gotten any less bright and you need muscle to counteract it!
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Old February 9th, 2014, 12:15 AM   #4
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Re: Modifying 5500k light to match windows indoors

I like that tip of putting lights above the windows to make it look like the light is actually coming from the window itself. I saw that done on a Disney film I worked on, where they hung Kinos above all the windows. Although that ends up being more light from behind the subject that has to be overpowered with key and/or fill.

But lets say I did have a huge honkin HMI with all the light I needed to overpower sunlight from windows. Where would I aim it: through a silk? At a wall, ceiling, or bounce card? How would I change the character of the light so that it wouldn't look like an HMI. I haven't gotten to the place of having enough lumens yet, but I already wanna know how to waste them!
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Old February 9th, 2014, 04:26 AM   #5
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Re: Modifying 5500k light to match windows indoors

Tom:

The suggestion I made of putting lights over the windows was meant to be done in conjunction with the 85ND, since that will knock down the amount of light coming in through the window as well as how the view outside will photograph. Again depending on what level of ND you use, you will be able to proceed with smaller 3200 units that can work off house power. If the windows are a predominant light source in the room, to keep a realistic look you wouldn't be looking to overpower with key or fill--the window light BECOMES the key, and you would add fill as required.

As far as what to do with a big gun (18K or similar): I hate to be vague but the fact is, there are many ways to approach it. That's just the nature of lighting and why it is difficult to discuss on a message board--it's more like an entire chapter (or more) in a book. In general, to create a direct sunlight effect I'll allow HMI's to play directly onto inanimate objects and people's bodies, but I like to add at least a frame of opal to the section that hits the face, unless the light is 3/4 or more to the rear, and usually 1/4 CTO or CTS. To lift up the ambience within a room i.e. indirect light, I'll bounce the 18K's into a large frame of ultrabounce or if I need more level than that will provide, through frames of thicker diffusion like 216 or gridcloth.

As was noted somewhere above, it can be a great look to work a floor bounce--I do a lot of lighting with instruments on or near the floor, like the venerable covered wagon, skips off foamcore sitting flat on the floor or even the floor itself. Aiming the light in from a high position through a window results in a nice window pattern on the floor, which becomes its own source (I may augment with a bounce card in the splash of "sun" as we move into coverage).

The key thing to understand about large instruments is that they do the same thing smaller ones do, just at a higher level. If you haven't worked with anything bigger than a 1K or 2K, an 18K may seem excessive or even a little intimidating--but 18K's take their pants off one leg at a time just like the others (so to speak).

Anyway--if you have specific questions on a given setup, I'd be happy to expand further.
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Old February 10th, 2014, 12:51 AM   #6
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Re: Modifying 5500k light to match windows indoors

I second Charles' suggestion. I use tungsten indoor lights (Lowel DPs) and gel the windows with rolls of Sun85N.6 3406 film. The 85N.6 cuts 2 stops and converts 5500K to 3200K, making it easier to balance the outside/inside ratio if you're using Lowel DPs.
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