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Old February 26th, 2014, 02:19 PM   #1
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Competing with daylight

Short of an HMI (too bulky, too expensive). Are there any LED solutions that will give me enough punch to compete with a backlit office window? The Westcott Skylux looked promising at 2250 lumens, but once you throw even a small softbox on it, it's too dim. Zylight F8 is another possibility, but still a bit steep at $2400.
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Old February 26th, 2014, 02:48 PM   #2
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Re: Competing with daylight

I dunno, Oren... Even tungsten has trouble "competing," and if budget is a concern I wouldn't be looking at LEDs right now if I were you. Does your setup have to be backlit? Can you use the window as your key instead?
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Old February 26th, 2014, 03:26 PM   #3
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Re: Competing with daylight

I just threw $3500 at the same "problem" and bought KinoFlo Diva400s.

They have completely changed my approach to lighting.
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Old February 26th, 2014, 04:45 PM   #4
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Re: Competing with daylight

This may solve your problem for less than $130. Do you have access to the outside of the window? If yes, then get a roll of this.
Rosco #3403 Filter - Rosco N.6 - 57"x21' 101034036020 B&H

Unroll it, but don't cut it. Simply tape it to the outside of the window, it'll cut 2 stops. Tape it down well so it doesn't flutter in the wind, otherwise you'll see reflections. Light the interior now, you'll find it very easy to control light with any 5500K fixture you currently have. If you're using tungsten lights, use this:
Rosco #3406 Filter - RoscoSun 85N.6 - 24"x25' 100034062425

When you're done with the shoot, roll it back up and reuse it over and over again!

Last edited by Warren Kawamoto; February 26th, 2014 at 07:56 PM.
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Old February 26th, 2014, 07:24 PM   #5
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Re: Competing with daylight

Agree with Warren. You'll have to read up on gelling light sources to both cut and match color temperature.

A cheaper alternative is to use a few layers of window screen, available in rolls from your local hardware store. You'll find some in both grey and black, and depending on the time of day you'll have to gel your interior sources for a match, but will use less of it.

If the window is side facing, or you don't mind blocking/reducing the view, then you can even use a white bed sheet to stop it down and again, gel your interior light sources to match.

If you cannot gain access to the exterior, then you'll have to gel the interior and cut it precisely to match.
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Old February 26th, 2014, 07:57 PM   #6
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Re: Competing with daylight

I had assumed the OP had the window in the shot.

I've never found window ND to be useful on location IF the window IS in the shot. Normally professional perforated screen is used in broadcast centres or live sports remotes and then of course the screen is significantly behind talent to allow depth of field to "take care" of suppressing the visibility of the actual screen.
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Old February 26th, 2014, 08:29 PM   #7
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Re: Competing with daylight

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaun Roemich View Post
I've never found window ND to be useful on location IF the window IS in the shot. Normally professional perforated screen is used in broadcast centres or live sports remotes and then of course the screen is significantly behind talent to allow depth of field to "take care" of suppressing the visibility of the actual screen.
I don't know about broadcast TV but it's pretty standard in narrative work to use ND and color correction gel directly on windows that are in frame. There is a skill to cutting and applying it to be sure. It's generally easier to do from the outside because you can be sloppier with the edges and use tape, although Warren's suggestion to keep it on the roll creates its own challenges because the tough thing about exterior gelling is keeping the wind from rippling the gel, which is very hard to avoid if it is not completely flush against the window and taped on all sides.

The best solution is the most expensive: hard gels, which are solid acrylic panels in the various flavors of ND and 85. Cut to the specific size of the window, they can be swapped out in seconds. I have yet to work on a production where we could afford the hefty price tag though.

A very interesting product is the Rosco Adjustable ND system, which uses a polarized window gel coupled with an on-camera polarizer so that you can dial the degree of ND up and down as the light changes. Very clever.

None of these are particularly cost-effective solutions so I won't bug you guys with any more info (but I guess I wanted to clarify what was "normal" at least in some situations!). Certainly if I am to shoot subjects in front of windows with minimal tint that we can't gel, I won't spec anything less than multiple 6K HMI's (these days, M90's). LED's and plasma lighting units are creeping up but not quite there yet in intensity.

Final thought on window screen, especially doubled up: you are much more likely to get moire that is visible to eye, let alone on camera with this solution.
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Old February 26th, 2014, 11:17 PM   #8
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Re: Competing with daylight

+1 for Gel - I use it on the inside - cut to size with a sharp blade (after a few windows you get a knack & doesnt take long) - spray a bit of water on the window with a cheap spray bottle from the hardware & apply the gel - water creates suction & holds the gel in place.
Advantage is that I can use softer light on talent.
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Old February 27th, 2014, 12:51 AM   #9
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Re: Competing with daylight

Thanks for the suggestions. I do carry some solar guard and ND gel with me, but rarely have the luxury of accessing the outside of the window (2nd floor and above for much of these shoots). Nor do I have too much setup time to properly cut/apply gel to a large window. Now that I use the One Man Crew, the camera sweeps an arc that shows more than a single window, which doubles my prep time with gels.
I agree that ND gel is often the better option than blasting a frontal light.

As for using the window as my key, the whole point is to have a more interesting shot looking out the window. Otherwise, I would just close the blinds and use my softbox.

I do have two Alzo pan-l-light twins. They are 400 watt equivalent, and even using two would only give me approx. 800 watt equivalent of soft light. I'm figuring that I need about triple that to get those windows under control.
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Old February 27th, 2014, 09:40 AM   #10
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Re: Competing with daylight

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oren Arieli View Post
Short of an HMI (too bulky, too expensive).
The Cool Lights CDM instruments are about as bulky and expensive as tungsten, and about as flexible, but with the light quality of HMIs. They work surprisingly well.
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Old February 27th, 2014, 01:32 PM   #11
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Re: Competing with daylight

A twist to what's already been suggested with ND rolls: if you see a quick/non destructive way to mount it, bring a thin/light drape/window treatment, one of those off white semi translucent ones. You might be able to find ones that cut the right amount of light on their own, but more naturally, i would just use the very light ones to hide your NDs on the windows behind it. I have not tried this, but its a basic principle. many windows usually have such a 'privacy' drape

This of course is unless you actually want to see the outside scenery.
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Old February 27th, 2014, 01:46 PM   #12
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Re: Competing with daylight

And although you specified your desire to have the windows in the shot, it's almost always easier to imply the sun vs compete with it. you can imply any time of day you want, and cookie it for any type of effect. You might even come up with something you like much better than your original idea since it frees you up to control it.

these shots are from the hairline budget feature i'm on. It was actually supposed to be shot while the sun was up, but it ran that far behind due to the location, and after getting the director to understand there is no way we could make our own 'sun' out there with the tools and access that we had. i made him the deal that as long as we never show the window, i can squeeze an implied sun out of it with a 250watt pro light.

note: those little lights do run hot, and it was checked after every take to ensure nothing was at risk. safety always!

and yes, i gaff taped a venitian blind cookie
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Old February 27th, 2014, 03:29 PM   #13
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Re: Competing with daylight

Darren's point is well taken, it's often a lot more desirable to shoot night-for-day because you can control the color temperature and intensity of every source including windows. Obviously doesn't help if you want to view scenery out there. When you do look at the windows, you can cover with tracing paper and backlight with a small unit to the desired amount of heat. In this instance having some translucent shears help break up the otherwise featureless white. An even better way is to place a white board or card some distance from the window such that it fills the window to eye and front light that, as this gives you some space to push another instrument through the window to create a sunlight effect.

I had an interesting opportunity last year when shooting on a pre-existing set used for a broadcast cooking show. They had an LCD monitor mounted in the window of the set and a video source with a variety of backgrounds feeding into it. I selected a background and proceeded to push it hotter than they normally would so it would read semi-blown out (of course for broadcast they would have it all "legal" and thus unrealistic looking). Ultimately I think it doesn't look 100% convincing but it was an interesting in-camera solution.
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Old February 27th, 2014, 04:02 PM   #14
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Re: Competing with daylight

Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Papert View Post
it's pretty standard in narrative work to use ND and color correction gel directly on windows that are in frame. There is a skill to cutting and applying it to be sure. It's generally easier to do from the outside because you can be sloppier with the edges and use tape, although Warren's suggestion to keep it on the roll creates its own challenges because the tough thing about exterior gelling is keeping the wind from rippling the gel, which is very hard to avoid if it is not completely flush against the window and taped on all sides.
As always, Charles is 100% correct. I however have yet to perfect the skill of NOT destroying "expensive" ND on the roll trying to apply it and have met VERY few folks shy of Big Industry film/dramatic people who can.

I tend to ASSUME when these questions are asked here that it is typically small crew applications. I don't normally have the good fortune of working with folks of Charles' calibre (or that of his team) so ofttimes it just isn't worth the hassle, nor the expense of TRYING to cut ND roll gel and ending up with tears and ragged edges and flapping in the wind.

Of course, one can also use a mister bottle filled with water and a squeegee to apply the film to the window to minimize/eliminate rippling.
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Old February 27th, 2014, 05:46 PM   #15
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Re: Competing with daylight

Thank you Darren and Charles. The CDM light was something I considered, but even at 650w equivalent, I think I'm in the same boat once I pass it through some silk. I guess I'll have to do my best to avoid those windows when I don't have the time to gel them.
Another consideration I might not have taken into account is the blast of light hitting the talent to compensate for the backlight. An HMI, even at 1/4 the price would probably be too bright in the talent's eyes in order to get a balanced exposure with visible windows.
Anyone have success with those big 6x55watt fluorescent bank lights as a source? 1300 watts of soft light is a nice starting point, but I'm assuming it would still need to be quite close to the talent to balance the exposure from a visible window.
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