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Old July 9th, 2007, 03:59 AM   #16
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I thought of overhead lighting, but I felt it would look too unmotivated. That corner showed up in an earlier shot so I didn't want it too look completely different. Unfortunately, I WAS the gaffer on that shoot and there was no budget and I didn't have most of my kit available due to the location being out of town. Overall, I was happy with the results, but that one area was tricky. I guess if I had more time and equipment it would have been simpler.

I think I'm one step away from being a pro. I just need access to more equipment and a few more shoots before I would be comfortable charging strictly for my lighting skills. As it is, I understand how to get most scenes lit but there is no substitute for experience. It is experience that will expose me to the challenging situations that would bring me up to being a pro some day.
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Old July 9th, 2007, 06:30 AM   #17
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You mean you don't have an "art department" or key grip and gaffer to help you out? LOL. I think you're doing pretty well too from the exploits I've followed. Keep up the good work.
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Old July 9th, 2007, 07:21 AM   #18
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I recently had a scene with a setup very similar to the one you describe, Marcus, a front door set in the corner of a living room. As I recall we brought the light source (a 1200 HMI Par through diffusion) as far to the side as possible, then topped it with a solid to give a little shape and falloff. Because of the proximity to the walls, the actors were filled plenty from the other side. I never had a thought of putting a backlight on the scene because, as you noted, it has no motivation to be there and the actors provided enough separation. I believe that I used another 1200 direct raking across the opposite wall to give a sense of sunlight and give the shot a little more dimension--this partially hit the actors from chest level down, but was tightly boxed in with flags so that it didn't splay everywhere (suggesting a window pattern). It was probably 1.5 stops over key.

Our door was not dark however. If there was an issue with the actors getting buried against the door, I might have use a low-wattage soft source or large piece of beadboard positioned to create a good-sized soft reflection/kick in the door. The trick here is to keep the output down so that it does not act as another light source on the actors, but just reflects in the dark door.
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Old July 9th, 2007, 09:46 PM   #19
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Richard, I didn't even have anyone to help move lights and camera until more than halfway into the shoot. This big local guy that is friends of the director showed up after work and was very helpful. He jumped right in and filled in a pothole of labor shortage on the set. All small shoots need someone to run around and fill in where there are shortcomings. As it was, we had a crew of Director (John - Soil Analyst), Assistant Director/Boom Pole Operator/Computer-monitor Operator (Gabe - Excavation Equipment Operator), Camera Operator/Gaffer (Me - Event video/Handyman), and finally we got a Grip/Dolly (Shem - Road Paving Worker). That's a small crew to get everything done right. The Director was even cast as one small role so I ended up directing a few of the cutaway scenes. Did I mention that it was really hot and between 7AM and 7PM all I had time to eat was one piece of pizza? Dehydration is not good for the creative process. I like the challenge of wearing many hats on a shoot but that doesn't stop me from nitpicking the footage later.

Thanks for those tips, Charles. I think if I had a budget large enough to include two 1.2K HMIs that I would have had less trouble. I still think it would have been tough as there were no windows nearby that could have been the motivation for light across the back wall (perpendicular to the door). There was a dark hallway then the kitchen on that wall. I suppose if I had enough lights to have something more coming from the hallway in the other shots, I could have used it as the motivation for light back there. Unfortunately, we also had trouble with one of the renters at that location so our footprint had to be minimized and our time was cut short. Its those kind of constraints that help me stop kicking myself when I see average-looking footage. We did a decent job considering the location and time issues. With a little study and advice, it will be better than decent next time.
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Old July 9th, 2007, 09:54 PM   #20
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Motivated light doesn't have to be as literal as it seems sometimes. If you have other shots that show windows in the background as you indicated, the audience doesn't start trying to figure out whether or not daylight could possibly penetrate at the given angle etc.

I remember when I was on "The West Wing" how fascinated I was with the lighting style that played direct sunlight on characters in the Roosevelt Room, which was a conference room that was several rooms away from any windows on set, thus none were seen in shot. It seemed tremendously contrived that daylight could have leaked that far into the environment. But watching the show, you never notice or question this.

And you don't need HMI pars--your daylight source that you described could have worked. I did a few shots in that area that didn't have the splash of sunlight and they worked fine. As long as you have a bit of contrast in the frame (i.e. you are not flat-lighting everything into oblivion), you can get away with a lot. Of course there's nothing worse than having to shoot into corners, but they are unavoidable sometimes; and other times you just have to be creative and find ways to stage the action so that you can get away from the walls.
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Old July 9th, 2007, 10:23 PM   #21
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The large daylight source we had was a life-saver, but the ambient light was overpowering except for in that corner due to the door acting as negative fill. Where the actors stood the light was okay, but the shadows in that corner screamed Cheap Home Video! What got me is that I never before thought of corners as being difficult. I guess I never ran across that situation and it suddenly really stood out how odd the light looks in a corner.

I guess what you say about motivated light is going to be what saves me. I got rid of the ugly shadows and that is probably all that matters to the audience. Where I should have put more effort was in understanding the script. I read through it, but it just didn't turn into a picture in my mind. We visited the location before the shoot and that helped, but I still wish I "felt" the movie before we started shooting. We should have rehearsed some scenes in their actual location so I could have prepared mentally for where the light needed to go.
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Old July 10th, 2007, 12:19 AM   #22
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While the 455 is a great daylight source for sure, any fluorescent can't fight the sun too well when it's present. That's where the HMI's come in and they still have their place. The earlier poster that mentioned two 1200w units, that definitely may be overkill for a lot of situations but I bet Marcus could have used at least one 575w fresnel or par for instance.
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Old July 10th, 2007, 05:45 AM   #23
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I think I know what I should have done with the type of equipment normally available to me:

1. Don't forget the blankets or scrims to knock down the excess light from the front window!

2. Use the 4-bank (55W each) CL-455 daylight fixture with a bit of diffusion.. Put a diffuser over it and fill the whole area with soft light but put it off slightly to the side a bit opposite the door.

3. Bounce some of the light coming in the window off a reflector to supplement the CL-455. I didn't have my reflector holders. That was a mistake. Reflectors without holding arms are not very useful as they take up an entire crewmember.

4. I think I also need to make some sort of mirror to send a beam of light deep into buildings. If you know sunlight is going to be in your shot, a reflector/mirror will vary their intensity along with all the other sunlight in your scene. Collapsible reflectors on arms are handy outdoors without wind, but indoors there isn't much for them to reflect. A mirror can handle wind as it is rigid and it would send in a beam of light

5. Put a bright but fairly hard daylight fixture way off to the kitchen/hallway side (opposite the door). I'm thinking something like a 150W HID or a 1K tungsten with CTB would be appropriate. I hate high-wattage tungsten, so I would opt for an HID.

What all this would accomplish would be burying the hard shadows of the talent in the dark door and it would put a light across the back wall to give it texture. I might even gel the hard light with a touch of color to make things more interesting. The big soft source would not cast significant shadows on the back wall as they would be soft and mostly overpowered by the hard source coming from the side. Since the soft fixture and reflector would be slightly to the same side as the hard source, the soft shadows would at least be on the correct side.

Even though the hard light from that side is not entirely motivated, it would match the way I lit the kitchen. There is a window on the right side of the kitchen that is directly opposite the front door (but about 25' away). I put an 85W fluorescent out that window to fake a sunny window. If the living room was lit the same way, it probably would not bother the audience because there would be a sort of continuity with the lighting scheme. I think the reason I didn't do this was that the 85W was just a 6500Kelvin bare bulb and the soft source I had was overpowered by undamped sunlight coming from the wrong direction.
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Old July 10th, 2007, 01:00 PM   #24
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Or use the classic cookie window pattern on the back wall instead of the colored gel. That might look even more natural and add even more interest. And you'll be able to do that with a daylight HID really well too.
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