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Old November 7th, 2006, 06:09 AM   #1
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lighting and mirrors

I will be filming a single dance instructor who wishes to face a large wall mirror (standing 3 to 4 feet from the mirror) and have me film her from behind. The main camera will be positioned so that I will film the reflection of her front (the main focus area of the shot) plus her back ... and of course, the goal is to avoid getting the camera in the shot by being at an appropriate angle. She will not be moving from that position a lot, so the camera can be fairly stationary.

One of my many difficulties is with lighting. BTW I wish to stick with fluorescents because we'll be working all day and dancers get hot. The ceilings are very high so hanging lights isn't possible.

I have a heavy-duty light-stand plus boom arm on which I'll be using a diva-lite 400 suspended above the mirror, lighting directly onto the subject herself. The stand will be on the camera side of the mirror. The boom is long enough and the stand tall enough that this can happen without any of the stand/boom/light appearing in the shot, either directly or reflected in the mirror.

Diagram:
xx = mirror, SS = subject (facing mirror), CC = camera,
LS = lightstand with boom arm, LL = position of light off boom

.......... xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx LL xxxxxxxxxxx mirror
................................................... LS

..................................... SS

............................................. CC


However this means the lower half of her body is not lighted to the same extent as the upper half. I'm thinking another Diva-200 angled from the base of the mirror toward her lower half? Maybe with plants in front of it as a disguise since it may need to be within the shot.

I would like to also have a light from the non-camera side, but haven't found a way to do this without getting the light in the shot, either directly (if it's facing her) or reflected (if it's behind her). I'll probably have to give up on this.

The room has numerous windows which is probably sufficient to light her from behind. Any windows appearing reflected in the mirror will have ND gel on them. All the fluorescents will be daylight balanced.

Finally, since this is in another state, I won't see the room in person until the night before the shot... so I'm working with many unknowns here.

Any ideas, suggestions, or experience with mirrors??
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Old November 7th, 2006, 04:40 PM   #2
 
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Pat, just remember that light bounces off a surface at the same angle it hits it. So if your camera is at a 45 degree angle to the mirror (and subject), then make certain the light is at any degree greater than 45.
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Old November 7th, 2006, 05:32 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay Gladwell
Pat, just remember that light bounces off a surface at the same angle it hits it. So if your camera is at a 45 degree angle to the mirror (and subject), then make certain the light is at any degree greater than 45.
Hi Jay, I think I'm understanding you, although my plan was to have the light directed at the subject (not her reflection)... so probably the refraction angle isn't a problem. Or am I missing something?
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Old November 7th, 2006, 08:27 PM   #4
 
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Use the mirror to you advantage. Using the same information I provided earlier, you can light the subject, from the front, by bouncing light onto her from the appropriate angle. All it takes is a little planning (and/or experimentation). One light to illuminate her from behind and another, angled and bounced, to illuminate her fron the front.
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Old November 8th, 2006, 05:50 AM   #5
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The idea to light her using the mirrors is great. Make sure the mirrors are really clean or you will have brightly lit fingerprints and dust. Bring some window cleaner and newspaper to keep the lint to a minimum. This shoot sounds like the perfect time for a Production Assistant. Perhaps the dancer has friends that will help clean and dress the location?
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Old November 8th, 2006, 06:18 AM   #6
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I agree with the idea of using the mirror as an advantage.

To recreate the front light idea that Patricia had originally would still require the boom arm (to keep the stand out of reflection), and the light could be positioned just above or just in front of the dancer, facing the mirror. This would give more effective distance between the dancer and the light source.

Unless the ambience is significantly low, Patricia, I don't think you would necessarily need any fill from the far side of camera, especially if you were lighting her frontally. However if you really wanted to achieve this, you could take the above light on boom arm and move it further left (from the camera's perspective) which will again create a "virtual" light that is coming from in front and to the left of the dancer. Of course it will need to be high enough to not be photographed, or flare the camera. Then another light from next to or to the right of camera aimed into the mirror will provide a source from the right side of the dancer. The need to stay with Kinos is a bit limiting, as they tend to fall off with distance faster than incandescent. I would recommend bringing along a 650 and 300 fresnel just as insurance, as they can be spotted in from a greater distance and have less overal spill. The heat given off shouldn't be a major factor from units this small. An even better but more exotic choice would be a Source 4 ellipsoidal spot, which can be shuttered internally to reduce spill.

If for some reason the mirror bounces aren't working, you can go back to your original scheme and simply move the dancer and the camera further away from the mirror, which will eliminate the top to bottom exposure issues you were concerned about. You will then need to play around with the camera to dancer's back distance as well as your focal length;moving the camera back and zooming in, for instance, will keep the same size on the dancer's back but magnify her reflected image. This should definitely be the first thing you set before lighting her so that you know what is safe in the frame.

If you really want to be safe, it would be worth it to take your camera to a loca dance studio (or really, place with a floor to ceiling mirror) and a friend and check out the placement variables, focal length etc. There's a lot of trial and error involved in getting both the real and virtual images to have the desired size in the frame, as well as the separation between the two left and right, and making sure the camera is out of the shot to boot. Once you have found the sweet spot, take measurements and bring them to the shoot. Obviously you can even play around with the lighting placement as well. The nice thing is that physics are physics so unless the mirrors are notably distorted, you should be able to easily recreate your rehearsal positions without having to go through it "on the day".

This isn't the easiest scenario you are working with because of the multiple variables, but as long as you have time to work through it you will do just fine.
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Old November 8th, 2006, 08:41 AM   #7
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Many thanks for the great suggestions. I've set up the trial situation at home, with some floor to ceiling mirrors and enough space to do the testing. I agree that the flo's may not be strong enough to light her by bouncing off the mirror, although that will be my first try. And definitely a clean mirror will be essential.
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Old November 8th, 2006, 12:04 PM   #8
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Another log on the fire...

Bear in mind that classic 3-point lighting approaches are not neccessarily indicated for dance (key-fill-back).

The issue is that we want to see good modeling on the body, no matter which way it turns, and in dance we expect to see a lot of turning. Interviews, not so much.

So, one approach is to start with kickers from the side(s), frequently called side booms in stage productions.

I'd suggest that one thing to avoid is flat, surround-and-fill approaches. Flat lighting will make it harder to follow what the instructor is showing, not easier. Muscles lose definition, limbs lose dimensionality.

I think that is part of what Charles is suggesting above, as Kinos tend toward providing wide flat light. He also suggested a Source4 ellipsoidal (aka. Leko), a classic theater light, very inexpensive to rent from theatrical supply houses. If you do go this route, you'd want their widest available to light a whole body in a room... or better yet work with the supplier on subject distance and beam spread.

Take it all with a grain of salt or two, but it's worth looking at side lighting. If you're liking it, but also need to catch her in a CU for some lines, you might go cine-style and catch her lines in a separate take with a separate lighting setup.
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Old November 8th, 2006, 12:45 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seth Bloombaum
Flat lighting will make it harder to follow what the instructor is showing, not easier. Muscles lose definition, limbs lose dimensionality
hmmm, perhaps this explains why as the years go by and I continue to shoot with soft lighting, I seem to get more and more flabby. Maybe time to change careers.

Good points though Seth. A bit tricky to make both the front and back views of a dancer look good simultaneously, but worth exploring!
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Old November 8th, 2006, 01:27 PM   #10
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If you're working with a dancer, you may want to look at doing some "rembrandt" lighting (high light slightly to one side in front of subject). Since you have a boomed Key light anyway, putting it up in front of her would light her front. ( http://www.rit.edu/~andpph/photoforu...t_lighting.pdf )

You could then move a light farther away using the inverse square law to reduce it's intensity bouncing off the mirror into the back of the subject and using some of the spill to "fill" in the darker bits from the Key.
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Old November 8th, 2006, 03:21 PM   #11
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It's been interesting experimenting with your ideas (only with flo's -- I won't have a fresnel kicker until tomorrow). When I bounce the key from above into the mirror and onto the subject, there's more fill and it's a bit flatter. But it certainly does pick up every piece of dust on the mirror.

When I direct the key from above at the subject (not bouncing), there are more shadows in the face and more of a need for a fill from the other side (which is hard for me to do without it appearing in the shot).

Right now the following diagram seems to work best. Where would I put a fresnel kicker to help make things more 3-D? Keep in mind that the left side will appear in the mirror.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

........................................................TL

.............................................SS

.......................................................BL

.....................................................CC

...................................................**

TL = top 4-bulb flo, on boom, bounced into mirror onto subject and aimed at face & upper body

BL = lower 4-bulb flo, on stand, bounced into mirror onto subject -- does a bit of fill and helps with lighting her back side and lower half.

** = small LED light on stand to give light to her face when she turns around

SS = subject

CC = camera
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Old November 8th, 2006, 03:58 PM   #12
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if you stop up a bit, exchange the lower wattage fill with the higher wattage key and move the higher wattage (now the fill) farther back (out of shot and reflection)...the distance should allow you to get it out of frame and get the light level below that of the higher key:
Code:
-------------------------------------------------

...................ss............................

ls...........kk.................................. (higher...out of frame)

.........................................ff......  (Lower, shooting up a bit)

........................cc.......................
(kk) aimed slightly toward the mirror so the falloff reflects and acts as a rim light
(ff) far enough away to act as a fill, but bee out of frame, falloff directed into mirror to act as a light for the reflected portion of the subject.
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Old November 8th, 2006, 05:17 PM   #13
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Any unit on the left of the dancer would require a considerably long boom with the stand on the right, or be mounted off the ceiling. But that would be a good placement to achieve the desired rim on the reflected image, although it might start to flatten out the dancer's back.

Another possibility may be to position the light on a low floor stand, and use a strategically placed plant, piano or something else found in a dance studio (!) to block the view of this light in the mirror; it would need to be placed up against the mirror or between the mirror and the dancer. The further back and more to the left this unit is placed, the easier it will be to hide, until it stops acting as a rim.
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Old November 8th, 2006, 07:23 PM   #14
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We have a winner! Cole's idea about the light up and behind the dancer was brilliant. My boom reaches pretty far and high, so putting it behind created just the right fill + rim. It really gives the scene a very nice look. Thanks so much -- I would have never thought of that.

I didn't understand the 'ls' in your diagram though, Cole. Could you explain that?
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Old November 8th, 2006, 10:11 PM   #15
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I'm just following up on the cleaning of the mirrors. You probably won't have this issue, but this is a mirror thread and I had a fight with a mirror a few days ago.

I did a 48-hour film festival sort of piece (this one is a whole week) that only had one day available to shoot due to scheduling of the crew. Needless to say, that turned into a long day. At 8:30 in the evening, we moved the shoot to a local bar that was kind enough to let us trample on their business for a couple of hours.

Bars have product placement items all over the place. Sometimes they are mirrors. I also had no time and no resources so only a single light was feasible. That light was hitting a mirror in the background and that mirror was not clean due to this place being a greasy spoon sort of joint. Great burgers. Anyway, I really wish I thought to bring something to clean that mirror as it got a foggy glare that did not sit well with me when I reviewed the footage. I covered up the hot spot with an actor's head, but the flare from the dirt/dust/grease looked like a halo. Perhaps glass cleaner needs to be added to the gaffer's box?

Good luck with your shoot, Patricia.
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