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Old October 25th, 2017, 04:24 PM   #1
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How do I get around terrible theatre/theater lighting?

Hello all,

Iíve shot several musicals for a local theatre company as a one man band. Iíve encountered ghastly looking faces and wardrobe from certain theater lights. I was wondering if there is a way to compensate for the effects while I shoot.

Blue lights give me the most problems. In the past, the overhead blue lights ruin the colors. For the latest performance of Alice in Wonderland Jr. the front stage lights were blue. If an actor was close enough to be illuminated by them, it produced blue faces and clothes. Color correction (at least at my current skill level doesnít totally fix the issue).

I use a Sony A7s ii as my wide frame camera and use a Sony PXW-X180 for medium and close up shots. On brightly lit shots, both cameras look about the same. The X180 seems to not like the blue more than the A7s ii.

The theater and lights are old. (How old you ask? A few minutes after the opening curtain was drawn, a large portion of the ceiling fell in a hallway to the side of the main lobby. No one was hurt as everyone was in the theater.) Iíve spoken to the stage director about the blue lights but I believe he has more important things to worry about.

Iíve included several uncorrected screen shots to illustrate what Iím talking about.

Thanks for any and all replies.
Attached Thumbnails
How do I get around terrible theatre/theater lighting?-01.jpg   How do I get around terrible theatre/theater lighting?-01a_a7sii.jpg  

How do I get around terrible theatre/theater lighting?-01a_x180.jpg   How do I get around terrible theatre/theater lighting?-02a.jpg  

How do I get around terrible theatre/theater lighting?-02b.jpg   How do I get around terrible theatre/theater lighting?-02c_a7sii.jpg  

How do I get around terrible theatre/theater lighting?-03_too-blue.jpg  
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Old October 25th, 2017, 04:57 PM   #2
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Re: How do I get around terrible theatre/theater lighting?

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Originally Posted by John Kofonow View Post
I’ve shot several musicals for a local theatre company as a one man band. I’ve encountered ghastly looking faces and wardrobe from certain theater lights. I was wondering if there is a way to compensate for the effects while I shoot.
The short answer is no.

The longer answer is that the camera is doing exactly what it's supposed to be doing, which is recording what's in front of it. The fact that the lighting is weird is a feature of the staging. It's not a mistake. This is what the people in charge of the production want it to look like, and the camera does a faithful job of capturing that look. I'm not sure what the problem is here.

If you want it to look like a Hollywood movie you have to do what Hollywood does. Which is light it for the camera instead of lighting it for the audience.

OTOH, you're up against the human eye/brain visual system, which can correct color casts on the fly, especially skin tones. So the audience doesn't see the random blue casts nearly as much as the camera does. I'm just saying that I feel your pain. But I don't know what you can do about it if you can't change the lighting.

It could be worse -- at least it's not LED lighting.
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Old October 25th, 2017, 05:41 PM   #3
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Re: How do I get around terrible theatre/theater lighting?

Often this is the case for the amateur productions I've committed to video and agree blue is the worst and red not far behind.
White balance set to indoor helps vs auto.
The human eye/brain interaction shows the lighting to those live in the theater what it's supposed to look like whereas the camera is not so sophisticated.
I usually have a casual chit chat with the lighting guy and tell him how the camera likes to see nice even uncolored tungsten light on people's faces and that the funky colors are good when pointed to set pieces, not faces. This usually has no effect as it's just hit and miss for these amateur production lighting people. (remember in school the kid who couldn't act or sing got to do the lighting lol)
We notice the lighting but they don't. About all we can do is nail the focus and exposure and record nice clean sound
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Old October 25th, 2017, 06:08 PM   #4
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Re: How do I get around terrible theatre/theater lighting?

Thank you Bruce and Bruce.

This is exactly what I thought. But I know when people see the DVD they are going to say "what's wrong with that video guy?".

I'll prepare the Director and Stage director of what to expect when they see the DVD.

At least after six plays, the sound guy finally gave me good audio.

Thanks again.

John
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Old October 25th, 2017, 06:23 PM   #5
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Re: How do I get around terrible theatre/theater lighting?

That is LED lighting. Even worse it might be a mix of old tungsten Lecos above but the color issue is coming from the LED pars lining the front of the stage. This is more about the blue LED lights reacting to the cameras sensors than is the human brains ability to compensate for bad color shifts. When LEDS are set to their pure blue it can be worse than just a bad color look, it can record to like a smeared texture. Look at the face of the two girls in photo 5.

Those light heads are programmable. If the lighting director will work with you there is a fix. Ask him if he will add some green to the blue to get them off of the pure blue setting. It does not have to be a lot of green, they can still look blue. It needs to be just enough to get them away from that crazy LED pure blue. You can have a camera set up when he adjusts it to see the difference when it is enough and if your lucky you might both be happy. Do not trust a small viewfinder screen for this adjustment. Have a playback LCD monitor to see what is happening.

I hope this helps. I can't explain it further but I have seen this trick work. It was taught to me by a LD I know that is cool enough to work with his video guys. LED lighting from DJs plays hell with the wedding guys too. It will absolutely ruin your shots.

Kind Regards,

Steve

PS The only way you are going to avoid those blow outs in your wide shots is to expose for the brightest highlights and let the rest fall where it may. Some guys use exposure compensation in auto, others stay manual. it all depends on the stage lights and what your comfortable with. I shoot only manual. The brightest thing on stage is almost always the main subject (at least should be).
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Last edited by Steven Digges; October 25th, 2017 at 06:47 PM. Reason: SP
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Old October 25th, 2017, 07:09 PM   #6
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Re: How do I get around terrible theatre/theater lighting?

Another possible fix for part of this set IF they will work with you. Stage actors have marks to hit. This stage is clearly marked. Look at photo 5. About a two or three foot difference in placement is destroying the girl to the rear because she is taking the full beam of the uplight in the face. The girl to the front is close enough to the light that her face is above beam width.

Faces are of course most critical. You might be able to save the faces in some key scenes just by moving the "marks forward" when key actors are at stage front. I know that is a poor solution but it might look better than turning the faces of Alice in Wonderland into Alice and the Ghouls.

Steve
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Old October 25th, 2017, 10:31 PM   #7
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Re: How do I get around terrible theatre/theater lighting?

I experience these blue LED blowouts occasionally on my A7Sii and FS5. I believe the issue is that the color gamut of the selected camera profile sometimes isn't large enough to accurately capture the colors outside of a standard 709-based gamut. The solution for me is to shoot the show in S-Log2 and add a quick LUT-based color grade afterwards. In fact, I prefer this as it simply captures more of the dynamic range of the set. Here's something shot with the A7Sii as the CU camera in S-Log2:
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Old October 26th, 2017, 02:39 AM   #8
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Re: How do I get around terrible theatre/theater lighting?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruce Watson View Post
I'm not sure what the problem is here.
There definitely is a problem here, a problem of a camera not being able to display the colors accurately, I can assure you what you see on the frames that are posted is not what what you see with your own eyes at the live show.

I think Nate is right about the reason why most camera's can't deal with these kind of lights, I have Sony camera's (handycams) that can't deal with these lights at all and depending on how much blue light is used it can look horrendous with faces or clothes that look completely overexposed with no detail, even if exposure is spot on. My jvc gy ls300 however can deal with this because with a latest firmware JVC added a natural color matrix preset specifically designed to deal with blue lights and eventhough it's difficult to get accurate colors at least nothing is blown out so you have more control in post when it comes to grading.
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Old October 26th, 2017, 06:32 AM   #9
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Re: How do I get around terrible theatre/theater lighting?

Yes all very nasty. Once on a TV show we had to replace 2k blue gelled Tungstens with blue LEDs. We ended up using 200 watt LEDs. They drove the blue channels to the same level as blue gelled 2Ks. Unbelievable the drive out of blue LEDs. A lot of cheaper LEDs have a very high blue spike in their spectrum which tends to overdrive the blue circuits in many video cameras.

One trick some people use under the conditions is to shoot at 5600K or higher and then white balance correct in post to bring down the blue. This example was shot at 9900K on the A7S


This one at 5500K


The best I could come up with quickly trying to keep to just one correction plugin to make life easier was this. It was done using NewBlue's CF CororFast - Open FX plugin which is available for a number of NLE's. Once the blue channel is clipped this badly it's almost impossible to correct.

Chris Young
CYV Productions
Sydney
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Old October 26th, 2017, 06:38 AM   #10
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Re: How do I get around terrible theatre/theater lighting?

I noticed you will deliver on dvd. DON'T
dvd will make the lighting much worse and really negatively impact the way they view your work.
I drew the line last season. Simply saying that the video options are Blu-ray and downloaded Hidef file both 1080p and 720p versions
The dvd format which was introduced in 1994 is no longer available due to it's inability to properly display modern video on the screens people have in 2017.
dvd is like looking through a very dirty window where everything is fuzzy and colors are muted which generally looks smudged.
Many would watch the video on their phones and tablets which don't have any kind of disc capabilities. Thus downloading is the way for most people.
Sales have been unaffected and I feel much better not having my work brutalized by dvd's low resolution.
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Old October 26th, 2017, 07:01 AM   #11
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Re: How do I get around terrible theatre/theater lighting?

Quote:
"... it might look better than turning the faces of Alice in Wonderland into Alice and the Ghouls."
Steve,

I read your last line and cracked up laughing for that is what the video looks like at times.

Thanks for the laugh and the advice. I think I'm going to copy your advice about trying to add green and send it to the stage director. I just looked at some still photos taken during the performance. While most like good, I can see the blue light effect in some of the posted photographs.
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Old October 26th, 2017, 07:15 AM   #12
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Re: How do I get around terrible theatre/theater lighting?

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Originally Posted by Nate Haustein View Post
I experience these blue LED blowouts occasionally on my A7Sii and FS5. I believe the issue is that the color gamut of the selected camera profile sometimes isn't large enough to accurately capture the colors outside of a standard 709-based gamut...
Nate,

After watching your very impressive video, I sit here embarrassed by what I shot. That said, I know I'm just starting out and have learned so much just from shooting the few performances I have. I've also learned so much at DVInfo from so many who are willing to share like you do.

I will shoot in S-Log2 next time and see how that works out.

Thanks, John
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Old October 26th, 2017, 07:21 AM   #13
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Re: How do I get around terrible theatre/theater lighting?

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Originally Posted by Christopher Young View Post

The best I could come up with quickly trying to keep to just one correction plugin to make life easier was this. It was done using NewBlue's CF CororFast - Open FX plugin which is available for a number of NLE's. Once the blue channel is clipped this badly it's almost impossible to correct.

Chris Young
CYV Productions
Sydney
Chris,

Thank you for the suggestion to shoot at 5500k. I know I had set my cameras much lower that that. Thanks even more for the example video. It was very, very informative and helpful.

John
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Old October 26th, 2017, 07:24 AM   #14
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Re: How do I get around terrible theatre/theater lighting?

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Originally Posted by Noa Put View Post
There definitely is a problem here...
Yes there is! However, after reading the replies, I now know there are things I can do on my end to improve the end product.

John
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Old October 26th, 2017, 07:40 AM   #15
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Re: How do I get around terrible theatre/theater lighting?

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Originally Posted by Bruce Dempsey View Post
I noticed you will deliver on dvd... DON'T
Bruce,

I definitely agree that the DVDs are too fuzzy.

I shoot the videos for a community theater company and sell the DVDs to interested actors/parents/grandparents. That is the only way I make a little money (very little) for all the time and effort I put in. Of greater value to me is the skills I've learned doing these shoots and making the DVDs.

My first performance DVD (one camera) created last year took me about 40 hours to film, edit, and create the DVDs. For my latest one, I shot two performances with two cameras in one day, edited and exported the video in under a day and then created and packaged up the DVDs in under two hours. I'm impressed with myself only because I now know more and I'm more efficient.

I will definitely look into doing online delivery (although I have the equipment to do Blu-ray). That would allow the customer to pay less overall which could also give me more sales.

John
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