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Old May 12th, 2014, 10:25 AM   #1
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Pure White Background Advice....

I have a very small studio room (15 feet by 35 feet) and I am looking to do infinite white backgrounds and need some help. I had lights that came with my green screen and I tried to use that to light up the white photographers paper that I have hanging up and it doesn’t work. Everything in camera turns out gray. I saw online where a guy I follow (Izzy) did his with a light that looked like a painters light. He had it below the screen and turned it on and it completely over exposed the sheet and looked great. I was going to go to Lowe's to see if I can get 1 or two to see if they would work. Anyone have any experience in this?

Also, I guess I should consider spill over. My room isnt that big so my subject isnt gonna be able to see 10 feet away from the screen, they will be fairly close to it. Any suggestion on keeping this light from bouncing back on my subject?
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Old May 12th, 2014, 11:26 AM   #2
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Re: Pure White Background Advice....

<<This from another thread in this dept:>>

Ah, the infinite white void look. So simple that it must be simple to set up and shoot, right? NOT.
Well, not if full body.

Pretty much everything matters. A camera that can shoot clean in low light can help on the amount of lighting needed, but if you don't have a C300, F5, Red Dragon or Alexa, then to get perfect results (no post production hassles) you need enough gear and space.

#1) The screen. I use a roll of 140" wide x 50' white Seemless paper. (Most often I wish it were 280" wide.)
I put that roll up on a couple of big rolling stands that have big pipe couplers on each to grab and hold a 14' piece of black iron pipe that is the axle for the 12' roll of paper.

The 140" paper can be hard to find and needs to be delivered by truck freight = mo money.
The narrower 107"W is almost worthless for anything other than a direct frontal shot of one skinny actor who doesn't move. Using clear packing tape and a flat - super clean floor of enough size, I have put two pieces of 107" together - but this is a pain. The paper gets dirty easy and tears even easier. Not easy to hang either - i.e. tears very easy.

#2) You will need enough soft light to evenly light the white paper screen bright enough for whatever camera you are using (this is where a good camera with fast lens comes into play) - usually right about 100 IRE. We use a couple of Lowel Rifa 88s with 1000W in each. Hard lights, unless far enough away to flood the paper, hot spot.

For side lights,
we use a couple of 2K Desisti fresnels on rolling stands and hit both the screen and the talent with them - this means they need to be far enough away to hit both. (Not enough space means you will need to replace these instruments with big soft boxes.

For front light, we use two more Rifa 88s for the talent and sometimes a back-light (1K fresnel) behind and just above the screen as a back light.

IMO, this is barely enough to get it to work - and we shoot on Sony EX3s.
If they need more stage than the 140" paper can provide, we shoot green screen and record the hdsdi out of the EX3 in ProRes HQ or uncompressed, pull the key and turn the back ground white in post.

As always, your mileage may vary.
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Old May 12th, 2014, 12:20 PM   #3
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Re: Pure White Background Advice....

Further to the good advice Jacques has provided, in order for the Infinite White look to work, you MUST light subject and background separately. It's a balancing act - too much light on the background and you need to POUND your subject with light.

The ideal way is to establish what exposure you want on your subject (shutter, gain/ISO and iris), set the camera there and then add or subtract SOFT LIGHT (as Jacques describes) until your camera reads the background as white (or 100+ IRE on scopes and/or histogram) and then light your foreground subject accordingly.
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Old May 12th, 2014, 12:38 PM   #4
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Re: Pure White Background Advice....

Ideally you would have a larger area so the subject is farther away from the BG as possible, and thus using the inverse square law to your advantage.
One thing I use in photographic work is a set of bifold closet doors, painted black, just out-of-frame to help absorb some of the light reflecting from the BG.
The doors can be found at local big-box hardware store for about $30.
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Old May 13th, 2014, 09:16 PM   #5
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Re: Pure White Background Advice....

I have an idea of what the answer is going to be with this question, but I am going to ask it anyway.

Would a halogen work light work...like this....

Shop Utilitech 1-Light 500-Watt Halogen Portable Work Light at Lowes.com
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Old May 14th, 2014, 08:28 AM   #6
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Re: Pure White Background Advice....

You need something which throws a wide FLAT light for the background. Probably two of them.
I don't believe that light you show will do the job...or allow you to then properly light someone standing in front of the white background you've used that light to illuminate.
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Old May 14th, 2014, 09:07 AM   #7
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Re: Pure White Background Advice....

Brock,

Since you are dealing with a small space those work lights are less than ideal.

You should be able to build something that will work a lot better though.

1. Take 2 sets of those bi-fold doors a couple of posts above. Cover the side that will face the white background with aluminum foil - shiny side out (use contact adhesive such as 3M 77 in the spray can to attach foil).

2. Mount 6 or so Edison sockets along one side near the center hing of each set of doors. Wire them up and install the highest wattage bulb you can still get.

3. Position them facing the background and adjust to get an evenly lit background.

You should be able to put that stuff together including the doors for under $100. It will be a much more even light than the construction lights.
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Old May 14th, 2014, 09:43 AM   #8
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Re: Pure White Background Advice....

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brock Burwell View Post
I had lights that came with my green screen and I tried to use that to light up the white photographers paper that I have hanging up and it doesn’t work. Everything in camera turns out gray.
So.... why do you think this is? What will cause a huge expanse of white to look gray in camera?

Typically, it's not the lights, or the background. It's the camera, doing autoexposure. It sees all that white, and closes down to bring that white down to a nice middle gray. That's what averaging meters are supposed to do. Unfortunately for you, that's not what you want.

In order to get a white background to be white in camera, you have to set the exposure correctly. Auto exposure almost certainly won't work. So go manual, and open up. How much? That's what a waveform monitor is for. Many cameras include a waveform monitor and a vectorscope these days. Else, many production monitors do. If you don't have either, you can do it with zebras in camera if you can set them to 100%. If you don't have that, you can use a histogram. If you don't have even that... you'll have iterate. Open up a couple of stops, shoot some footage, import that into your NLE and have a look. Your NLE should absolutely have a waveform monitor, so bring it up and see how close you got your white background to 100 IRE. Adjust your exposure accordingly, rinse and repeat until done.

Now think about what you just did. You got the exposure right for your background. And it's now set manually. You still have to light your talent. And you don't have the luxury of changing exposure to do it. All you can do is change the lighting on the talent to do it. As before, a waveform monitor on set makes this relatively easy. Without that, setting your zebras correctly will work too. Without either of these, life becomes more difficult, but if you really want to get it right, you just have to work at it.

Bottom line: if you are going to make a habit out of using either black or white backgrounds (or greenscreen, for that matter), get a waveform monitor on set and use it.
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Old May 17th, 2014, 05:05 PM   #9
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Re: Pure White Background Advice....

The first question I would ask is, what camera are you using? A consumer camera might not be the ideal instrument to achieve this look.

I have done white background shoots with full body shots and two regular size set paper rolls hanging, one slightly overlapping with the other. The paper color was "Super White". We used Lowell Fluoro-Tech fluorescent lights for the background and for the subject. Matte magic adhesive tape was used to prevent shadows from the paper overlap. The camera we used had a white clip adjustment so we set it to clip the background at 100% and made sure the subject was never overexposed. Worked well.
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Old May 17th, 2014, 11:41 PM   #10
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Re: Pure White Background Advice....

Taggin onto what John said:
Quote:
Originally Posted by John DuMontelle View Post
You need something which throws a wide FLAT light for the background. Probably two of them.
What this video showed, "Lighting for Composit Portraits" at
, was exactly the same thing. Illuminate the background with two umbrella lights because they spill the light all over the place. Aim them at about 30º and 1/3rd in on each side for an even exposure.

For the talent or subject, use softboxes but don't let the light spill onto the background. Flag if necessary.

As an aside, although the video is about green screen:
One can use any color for the "green", even white. The problem with using white for green screen, though, is if there is any white in the subject/talent it will be a problem. If the white is just for picture taking then obviously this is a non issue.

It was an interesting tutorial on green screen lighting, ~ 1:15 long!
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Old May 20th, 2014, 12:02 AM   #11
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Re: Pure White Background Advice....

Call me crazy, but couldn't you use a green screen and then key it out to whatever shade of white you want? Just thinkin.....
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Old May 20th, 2014, 05:36 AM   #12
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Re: Pure White Background Advice....

In theory that looks like it would work but in practice it doesn't. Its really hard to pull a key perfect enough to drop in a solid color such as white and have it look good.
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Old May 20th, 2014, 05:40 AM   #13
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Re: Pure White Background Advice....

Though...it has been done successfully. ;)

I've done it several times with my Sony EX3...however there are many who will disagree feeling it is too risky.

I prefer the green screen method only because it saves me time and lets me make client changes easily if they want variations on a white background...say with a white vignette instead of solid, flat white.

It does still come down to lighting it correctly or it will not work.
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Old May 20th, 2014, 08:17 AM   #14
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Re: Pure White Background Advice....

You are also using a camera well suited for greenscreen. That doesn't hurt. :)

Using a camera better suited for the task does make it easier to get a nice edge. There is much less aliasing and other negative artifacts with the 3 chip cameras versus the dSLRs or other single chip cameras. Also DOF is deep which again goes in favor of getting good edges. Those things I've found have made more impact in getting a good key than the compression/subsampling does. I do record to an external recorder to get 4:2:2 with the EX1 if at all possible.
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Old May 26th, 2014, 06:30 AM   #15
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Re: Pure White Background Advice....

Masks are your friend too. I used to struggle with lighting my green screen evenly, especially on the edges, even though my talent was always positioned in the middle of the set.

Then I discovered that I could begin my editing by drawing a mask around the talent. This cut my work in half. Of course it works best with nearly stationary talent, such as a talking head.
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