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Old March 30th, 2007, 10:30 AM   #1
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Lighting for drama films

I was looking at the DV Creator kits from Lowel but those seem to be optimized for interviews.

I've been renting some equipment locally that has worked out well, such as a Mole Richardson Fresnel Light and a Pepper 600. They worked out quite well for what I was doing, so I'm thinking of purchasing something like that.

I've been looking at Ianiro Redheads (which are quite cheap I'd say). And I'm trying to consider just buying two of those (and maybe getting a weaker bulb for the second)...but I've also been considering getting a softer light like a Lowel RiFA 66 but I don't know how effective these are in non-interview scenarios.

I've also come across other solutions from Lowel like the DP Light or the Fren-L 650 (though this one seems much more expensive).

Can anyone recommend a solution that is similar to the equipment I've been renting, but maybe recommend some improvements at the same time?
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Old March 30th, 2007, 11:41 AM   #2
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Modern narrative cinematography is mostly about recreating the look of natural sources, so the types of lights you need vary a lot in size, power, sharpness,and color. You need big lights to light big spaces or recreate daylight through a window, and you need small lights for small spaces, to hide, to recreate little spotlights on furniture, etc. You need a fresnel to get a good, clean hard light effect for shadow patterns, sharper cuts by flags on walls, etc. but you can use about any light (open-face, PAR, ellipsoidal, fresnel) for bouncing, softening through diffusion, back or edge lighting, etc.

Chinese Lanterns and fluorescents are also useful.

In really vague general terms, you need a hot punchy light to create a hot backlight or edge, etc. A PAR light with a narrow lens is good for that, or a big light that can be spotted down. In terms of value for money, a 1K tungsten PAR 64 with a narrow spot globe is good for that effect, or a 575w / 1200w HMI PAR, although HMI's are so expensive that they are probably worth just renting as you need them.

You need an even flat sharp light like a 650w, 1K, or 2K fresnel.

You need a workhorse open-faced light like a blond, redhead, Lowell DP, whatever just puts out a lot of light for bouncing, diffusing, etc.

You need small, focusable lights for accents, like a Pepper, Dedo, Inky.

Fluorescents have the advantage of being swappable between tungsten and daylight-balanced tubes, or able to be matched to a locations fluorescent tubes. Plus they are low in wattage and naturally soft sources.

A lot of modern cinematography involves soft lighting techniques, but controlled with flags and whatnot to retain some contrast and modelling. On bigger shows, this usually entails grip equipment like large diffusion frames, large flags, etc. So you need to figure out some simple, effective ways of creating a soft key light. Bouncing off of white bedsheets is a simple idea, or white card, foamcore, etc. Chimeras and other soft boxes on lights will work. Chinese lanterns and fluorescents. Frames of diffusion gel, etc. Plus some black flags.
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Old March 30th, 2007, 11:50 AM   #3
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A mole fresnel is a very nice light, whether 1k or 2k. Likewise Pepper.

If you've gotten used to working with fresnels take a look at the Arri fresnels. Also, perhaps less expensively, Altman makes some video field fresnels.

Redheads are open-face instruments, see also Lowel DP, Arrilite, and smaller Lowel Omni. But these are really quite different from fresnels.

*Open face* are much lighter (no glass). Minimal focusing ability. May have hotspots at some focus settings. Much less controllable for beam size/hardness. Require barndoors to control splash. If undiffused or not reflected, produce the harsh light of a bare bulb. Much less expensive.

*Fresnel* are heavier, kits are frequently 75-100Lbs. Focus capabilities are even and excellent. Usually don't splash light where you don't want it. Are somewhat softer, depending on focus. Are very versatile effects lights for cookies & etc., due to the variable focus, coherent beam, and lack of splash. Generally speaking they are very controllable and predictable.

A Rifa 66 is its own thing. Great if you are constantly wanting a softbox, not good for anything else. I have two Rifa 55s and they're great, especially since I'm always worried about air travel (small and light).
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Old March 30th, 2007, 02:07 PM   #4
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Thanks a bunch for the crash course.

I didn't know the difference between fresnel and open-faced now, and I didn't really know what the products were that I was comparing.

So I guess if fresnel lights are what I was using that I probably want to stick with those, cause I was very impressed.

The only fresnel light I could find locally though is a Lowel Fren-L 650 though. Why are these so difficult to find? I found an Arri dealer in Toronto, so I'm gonna price out a package for an ArriLite and an Arri Jr Plus.

I guess if I could find that LTM Pepper or Mole Richardson I'd probably just buy those, but for some reason I can't. Are they just old?

Would the Ianiro Redhead be an okay compromise for a fill light if I'm just bouncing it off the ceiling, wall or flag.

Last edited by Craig Irving; March 30th, 2007 at 02:52 PM.
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Old March 30th, 2007, 04:59 PM   #5
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Your arri dealer should be able to quote on arri fresnels, from 350-650w. An arrilite is much like a redhead.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Craig Irving View Post
Would the Ianiro Redhead be an okay compromise for a fill light if I'm just bouncing it off the ceiling, wall or flag.
Redhead is a fine open face instrument, great for bouncing as David noted above. It doesn't stop with ceilings and walls, look into "5in1" reflectors that allow you to unzip the reflector surface to reveal a diffuser, look into sheets of foam core... It's a lot easier to move a 4x4' half-sheet of foamcore than to move a wall.

After you've spent your $500-5000 on instruments & stands, spend another $100 on a 32-40" 5in1 reflector and a couple sheets of foam core and you'll double the usefulness of the lights.
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Old April 4th, 2007, 12:01 PM   #6
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I've decided to get an Ianiro Redhead kit since it was quite a bit cheaper than the ArriLite and will basically only be used as a fill to bounce light off walls, ceilings, and foam core. To support the redhead, I will get a Manfrotto 049 stand.

I decided to also get the Arri Jr 650W Fresnel light which I suppose will be my key light. For this light, I decided to get a Manfrotto 004 Master Series Stand.

What other accessories are important for this type of equipment? How important are scrims and gels? I'm shooting on HDV so I'm assuming I can just open/close my iris to change light, shouldn't make much difference because my camcorder won't have much depth of field to work with anyway. And as for the gels, wouldn't it be preferable to add that in post?

As for foam core...where does one buy that anyway? Home Depot? And would you need to mount that to a C-Stand then?
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Old April 4th, 2007, 12:09 PM   #7
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Arri 650 fresnel is a nice light. You may find that it is pretty bright relative to your bounced lights, depending on setups. If so, you have some choices - move the 650 further away (if you have space), drop in some scrims, use some ND gel, or re-lamp it at a lower wattage. Many pros would have some scrims and some alternative lamps with them.

Of course, using some diffusion will also cut down on the amount of light, while making it softer.

The only gels I carry are some CTB (full, half, 1/4) for correcting tungsten to daylight, and a little red, orange and blue "party gel", occasionally used to color a background.

Scrims, reflectors, lamps and gels are relatively inexpensive...

Foam core is usually found at a large art supply store, recently I paid $16 US for a 4'x8' sheet and cut it down into two 4x4'. 3x3 is quite a bit easier to handle in and out of cars... some people make tape hinges so that their sheets are foldable. A c-stand is ideal, but heavy - spring clamps can be used to attach foamcore to light stands, coat racks, a bar stool.

There are also light little grip arms available to easily position a flexi-fill style reflector on a light stand.
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Old April 4th, 2007, 04:58 PM   #8
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We talk about lights alot in here, but David Mullen's latest post reminded me that you shouldn't forget about the accessories that are critical to controlling all of that light. The good news is that the tools haven't changed all that much over time, and they're pretty simple in the first place, but for lighting for drama (or anything else for that matter) they're as important as the lights.

Adjusting the iris on your camera changes the exposure, and it does so for the whole frame. As you get beyond the point where you are just trying to get enough light on the scene to get an exposure, you start to worry about how different portions of the frame look relative to each other. When that happens you need to be able to change how much of what kind of light reaches what objects within the frame. After the rough decisions of which light goes where, the flags, cutters, and scrims really start to play. Whether it's to tone down an overly bright table top, or keep a white door frame from being a distraction in the background, or tame an enthusiastic bit of wardrobe, the shadows are a key element of building the overall frame. They give you control that you simply can not get by adjusting the iris.

I'll make a similar argument for the importance of gels. While it is technically possible to adjust the color in specific parts of the frame in post, I'd argue that it is much more cost effective to do that on the set rather than leave it until later in the process. Besides, the color of the light affects how the medium reacts to it (regardless of whether it's film or silicon), so I think you can create looks on the set and in the camera that can not be replicated in post. All of this without touching on diffusion gels which alter the character of the light and should be a key element of your lighting toolkit.

Congrats though, Craig. You've got some different kinds of lights to play with, so be sure to spend time experimenting with them. Don't get stuck thinking that "this light is always the key", and play around with what kinds of looks you can get out of different lights.
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Old April 25th, 2007, 08:19 AM   #9
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As far as ND goes, is it any better to use a scrim instead of a gel?
Do they have different effects?

I'm hoping either of these solutions will suffice because I'd rather not invest in a C-Stand just to hold a flag up in front of my lights.
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Old April 25th, 2007, 01:12 PM   #10
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Scrims are quicker and easier to use for the most part than pieces of gel. Mole and Arri lights have round drop-in scrims that can quickly be added to or removed to get the effect you want.

There may be times however when you want to knock down just a section of the area you are lighting, and that is when a net on a C-stand will be most useful. Don't put much faith in half-scrims for this sort of thing, they are so close to the light source that the division between open and scrimmed sections is so blurred that the effect is unnoticeable. Another comparable situation is using barn doors rather than a solid on a c-stand to shape the light--the solid will allow you to define not only the area you wish to flag off but the quality of the transition between areas--for a harder cut, move the flag further away etc.

If you are indeed planning to use your lighting skills for narrative work, you will be able to achieve dramatic results much easier if you embrace the benefits of grip gear! Lots more to carry around, but much faster and more effective than trying to cut right at the light.
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