Outdoor Lighting - Tips? Suggestions? at DVinfo.net

Go Back   DV Info Net > Special Interest Areas > Techniques for Independent Production

Techniques for Independent Production
The challenges of creating Digital Cinema and other narrative forms.


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old August 18th, 2010, 03:00 PM   #1
Major Player
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Sacramento, California
Posts: 560
Outdoor Lighting - Tips? Suggestions?

Hey everyone,
I am working on a film this fall and it has a ton of outdoor shooting during the day. Its also in areas with high buildings and also another area with large hills etc. I'll be shooting from 8am to 8pm. All day with possible harsh lighting from the sun.

I wanted to see if anyone had any tips for lighting my actors. Basically I will have the sun, and a bounce reflector. Anyone have any tips, or suggestions to help make this look even better. Might get a 2nd bounce reflector.

Thanks in advance!!
Silas Barker is offline   Reply With Quote
Old August 18th, 2010, 03:09 PM   #2
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Tallahassee, FL
Posts: 4,100
Well, it might help if you give us some idea of what you're looking to do? You say it's a 12 hour shoot. Does the script call for it to be the same time of day for the entire time? Or does the script allow for time (and light shifts). Because if you have to make 8pm look like 2pm, I hope you've got one heck of a budget!

Besides bounce you might want some butterflies or other tools. You might want numerous bounce cards, etc. You've asked a question that has 1000 answers because you've given us no details.
__________________
DVX100, PMW-EX1, Canon 550D, FigRig, Dell Octocore, Avid MC4/5, MB Looks, RedCineX, Matrox MX02 mini, GTech RAID, Edirol R-4, Senn. G2 Evo, Countryman, Moles and Lowels.
Perrone Ford is offline   Reply With Quote
Old August 18th, 2010, 03:14 PM   #3
Major Player
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Sacramento, California
Posts: 560
It does not have to be the same time during the whole shoot, but I know that it can be difficult to make things look good with unctrollable lighting. Some of the scene will be in shade and some in the sun.
Basically I just want it to look as good as possible but we are going to be shooting at all times during the day. Tips?
Silas Barker is offline   Reply With Quote
Old August 18th, 2010, 03:21 PM   #4
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Tallahassee, FL
Posts: 4,100
Yes, I have some thoughts. I'll ask a couple of questions and then offer some thoughts.

1. Do you have storyboards? If so, are they available for viewing?
2. What lights do you have available, and is there budget to rent more or others?
3. What grip gear do you have? And is there budget to make, buy, or rent others?
4. Are you going to be in public or do you have exclusive areas to shoot? If in public, do you have a permit?


Once you answer those 4, I'll give you my thoughts.
__________________
DVX100, PMW-EX1, Canon 550D, FigRig, Dell Octocore, Avid MC4/5, MB Looks, RedCineX, Matrox MX02 mini, GTech RAID, Edirol R-4, Senn. G2 Evo, Countryman, Moles and Lowels.
Perrone Ford is offline   Reply With Quote
Old August 18th, 2010, 11:01 PM   #5
Major Player
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Sacramento, California
Posts: 560
Storyboards are not drawn yet, no lighting is available and no budget to rent. No grip, no budget. Public with permits. We have bounce relectors available and the sun. Tips?
Silas Barker is offline   Reply With Quote
Old August 19th, 2010, 02:29 AM   #6
Wrangler
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 6,781
OK, so Silas, sounds like you are looking for "what's the best way to get good results using nothing but a bounce".

Best to avoid shooting into high contrast areas. Having direct sun and patches of shade in the same frame is less desirable. Backlit is generally the most flattering, which will be in the early morning and late afternoon hours of your schedule. If you are shooting in the fall, you are actually losing some good light with an 8-8 schedule--might want to think about pulling that back to 7-7. It can also be good to shoot full frontlit at those early/late hours, for a saturated, high key look. A little tough for the actors having the sun in their eyes but it is pretty, especially approaching sunset.

The conventional wisdom is to shoot your wide shots during these hours and shoot your closeups during the "ugly" hours when the sun is high, generally from 10-3 or so. However you will need at least two pieces of gear to achieve this: an overhead diffuser and a front bounce. A traditional butterfly is quite large and requires a significant amount of rigging; as you have made clear, you won't have that. Maybe try a cheap opaque vinyl showercurtain clamped to light stands (or available equivalent)--this could function as a good size diffusion source, either vertically or horizontally.

There are reasonable reflector kits that have a variety of surfaces. I have
one
that comes with two snap-out disks with different levels of diffusion, plus zip up covers that provide silver, gold, silver/gold weave, black and white surfaces (quite clever, they are reversible giving 4 different sources in one cover). $99. Very versatile and should last many years and over many projects. This will provide coverage for a medium closeup or tighter when used overhead, or more, depending on angle of sun.

As far as using a frontal bounce, the most natural results with a bounce are going to be holding it up high--it's much more comfy to hold it at chest height, but that is effectively uplighting (assuming the actors are standing) and often looks "lit". While a snap out reflector is handy, you can achieve the same effect with a large piece of foamcore (aka posterboard). Even though your budget is limited, you may be able to sneak one of these in--quite cheap to buy, and perhaps someone has something already mounted on one and you can just use the backside!!

Sometimes lighting is not about adding, it's about taking away. Use a solid (i.e. black surface) as negative fill to help shape an otherwise flat setup, like in full shade. Bringing it in close on one side of a face can provide interesting modeling.

Overall, picking and choosing around your location can result in "happy accidents". The sun bouncing off a building may provide natural fill, far more powerful than a relatively small bounceboard. You may get a nice rim light kick from a glass windowed building. A patch of shade in an oasis of hot sun can be used if you aim towards a shaded background; i.e. the camera is only seeing shaded areas. In this instance a bounce placed in the sun will have a tremendous effect compared to what it will do when one is exposing for sunlit areas.

Ultimately, the most important tool to have is a knowledge of the location and the position of the sun throughout the day. If you are an iPhone/iPod user, get a good sun tracking app like Sun Seeker and plan out your shoot days accordingly. Knowingly exactly when a particular direction or section of location becomes "shootable" will go a long way towards success when you are trying to work with such limited gear. The more planning you do, the better off you will be. Chasing the sun is a pain in the ass and it requires you to be extremely realistic about your time management skills (important part of being a DP). Read the skies, not only for sun position but direction of and speed of clouds etc. so that you can make quick decisions on how to approach an "in-and-out" situation, where the sun is constantly going behind the clouds.

You've got a big challenge approaching this with such few tools, but a little ingenuity and legwork may beef up your working package, while experimentation beforehand as well as thorough planning will give you extra ammo to be confident that you can achieve what you need to.
__________________
Charles Papert
www.charlespapert.com
Charles Papert is offline   Reply With Quote
Old August 19th, 2010, 07:04 AM   #7
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Tallahassee, FL
Posts: 4,100
Charles saif everything I could have, and better. Thanks Charles.
__________________
DVX100, PMW-EX1, Canon 550D, FigRig, Dell Octocore, Avid MC4/5, MB Looks, RedCineX, Matrox MX02 mini, GTech RAID, Edirol R-4, Senn. G2 Evo, Countryman, Moles and Lowels.

Last edited by Perrone Ford; August 19th, 2010 at 09:09 AM.
Perrone Ford is offline   Reply With Quote
Old August 19th, 2010, 07:34 AM   #8
Trustee
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Bristol, CT (Home of EPSN)
Posts: 1,182
Great post Charles. Very informative.
__________________
Paul Cascio
www.pictureframingschool.com
Paul Cascio is offline   Reply With Quote
Old August 19th, 2010, 12:13 PM   #9
Major Player
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Sacramento, California
Posts: 560
Thank you for the info Charles....that's alot of great info!

I do have a few hundred for some inexpensive equipment and there will be a few helpers around.
Might be able to get a overhead diffuser and a front bounce...or a butterfly, I just do not know much about these at all.

Most of the acting is standing or walking, so I'll use the high bounce trick you suggested for sure.

One other thing. We are actually shooting several scenes.
Would you suggest shooting all the wide shots first and then doing the close ups?
I am worried if we do ALL the scene wides and the close ups later that the lighting will not match.
I am able to go to the area beforehand and mess around, I make a point of doing that.

Thanks again for your helpful info!
Silas Barker is offline   Reply With Quote
Old August 19th, 2010, 07:09 PM   #10
Wrangler
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 6,781
Since you can control closeups, it's good to try to schedule them in the "bad" hours and shoot the wide stuff in the "good" hours, yes. However this may be difficult depending on the material you need to cover, continuity of performance etc. Getting the lighting to match is the more controllable function--if you need to match a backlit closeup at noon, it can be done by knocking out the top light and recreating the lower backlighting via reflector.

There are quite a lot of liberties you can take in lighting continuity; most DP's will opt not to force the reality of sun direction and instead concentrate on making shots look good. For instance, if two people are talking to each other and one is shot backlit, "logically" the other would be shot with the sun facing them. One option is to diffuse the sun on that character's face, however you will be inevitably knocking down the level by diffusing which will make them darker against the full-sun background. Another is to cheat the subject around so that they are also backlit, against a different background than the first character. This may seem a bit baffling--how can two opposing subjects both be backlit--but it is done a lot (renowned cinematographer Bob Richardson is fond of this).

Cheating is actually one of the other major weapons you have in your arsenal. Pick the best background for a given shot and don't worry much about the realistic geography in the scene, unless it is a clanging mistake (if a wide shot shows someone standing in front of a building and you shoot the closeup with them in front of a forest, obviously that's not a good cheat!!!)
__________________
Charles Papert
www.charlespapert.com
Charles Papert is offline   Reply With Quote
Old August 19th, 2010, 08:04 PM   #11
Major Player
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Charlottesville, VA
Posts: 700
One extra tip on the reflectors/diffusers:
http://www.amazon.com/Opteka-Collapsible-Reflector-Translucent-Carrying/dp/B001JSJWRY
I bought two of these (for ~$50) and they've been working great. Also got a pair of 36" 5-in-1 reflectors for ~$10 each. Great bang-for-the-buck.
Kevin McRoberts is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 3rd, 2010, 12:42 AM   #12
Major Player
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Sacramento, California
Posts: 560
Here is an image from one of the locations if this helps with lighting suggestions:

http://www.silasbarker.com/images/perspective.jpg


Might be tough because of the huge shadow that goes by.....but maybe we can work around that?
Silas Barker is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 3rd, 2010, 12:46 AM   #13
Major Player
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Sacramento, California
Posts: 560
Also do you think multiple relectors would be a good idea? I have one, just like the link above that Kevin posted (4' collasable 4 color)
Silas Barker is offline   Reply
Reply

DV Info Net refers all where-to-buy and where-to-rent questions exclusively to these trusted full line dealers and rental houses...

Professional Video
(800) 833-4801
Portland, OR

B&H Photo Video
(866) 521-7381
New York, NY

Z.G.C.
(973) 335-4460
Mountain Lakes, NJ

Abel Cine Tech
(888) 700-4416
N.Y. NY & L.A. CA

Precision Camera
(800) 677-1023
Austin, TX

DV Info Net also encourages you to support local businesses and buy from an authorized dealer in your neighborhood.
  You are here: DV Info Net > Special Interest Areas > Techniques for Independent Production

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

 



Google
 

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 10:25 PM.


DV Info Net -- Real Names, Real People, Real Info!
1998-2017 The Digital Video Information Network