Black shirts on a black background? Seperation? at
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Old September 19th, 2003, 05:14 AM   #1
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Black shirts on a black background? Seperation?

I am going to be doing a video with "interviews" of my friends, and I am planning on using a black background, and a couple of them will be wearing all black, and there's nothing i'll be able to do about it, heh. Anyway, I'm wondering what I can do to keep it from blending in?

I have a 500w worklight (one that sits on the floor) and I was wondering if putting that behind the stole to act as backlight would be enough?

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Old September 20th, 2003, 09:10 AM   #2
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Hi Alex,
It should be enough if you put it right behind your subjects and point it directly at the background. It should be about 4 or 5 feet in front of the background and just make sure you have an even lighting pattern from it so it doesn't draw away from the subject and you should be fine.
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Old September 20th, 2003, 05:55 PM   #3
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Yes, you could place it on the ground behind the talent and
focus it on the background, but . . .

Generally, for interviews what you want to do (for starters anyway) is
light the talent with what is know as
the "three point lighting system." A triangle of three lights with the
talent sitting somewhere near the middle of the triangle.

Key light is your main frontal light, or the "key" light of the set up.
It is usually your biggest light, and for most good setups an instrument
called a softbox.

The other frontal light is referred as the "fill" light. Generally, it is
not as bright as the key and is usually positioned to fill in some of
the shadows cast by the key on the other (frontal position)
point of the triangle.

The third light of the three point system is the back light.
This is usually placed above and behind the talent. The back
light is used to separate the talent from the background.
When positioned and adjusted properly you should get a nice
halo or rim of light on your talent's hair and shoulders.
(Check out some of the news shows to see this effect.)
Even if the background is black and the talent's shirt is black,
you should be able to get good separation between the two.

It is fairly important that the back light be dimmable as too much
doesn't look good. You could do that by using diffusion on your
worklight or a piece of metal screen (called a scrim) if you don't
have a dimmer.
Jacques Mersereau
University of Michigan-Video Studio Manager
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Old September 27th, 2003, 07:19 PM   #4
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OK here you go..

Well I don't think lighting a black background will help. You might want to point some hard light ring at the shirts to help them stand out from the background maybe even back light them or edge light them but you want to light the shirts.

Strength and Honor
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Old September 27th, 2003, 09:44 PM   #5
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Actually any light on the black will help. Many years ago when I was doing still work I used 2 colors of backdrop black and white I used one light only a 200 watt/sec strobe on a 42 inch white umbrella with a silver or white reflector on the opposite side. I could take a black background and turn it light grey by turning the strobe off the model on to the background more and turn the white background almost black by turning the strobe off the background. I never used more than the one light and a reflector for my modeling composite and fashion work. A little trick I picked up from Victor Skrebneski, one of the top fashion photogs here in Chitown, so yes lighting a black background will help. It's not enough but it will help and of course you do need additional lighting on the talent but the question as I read it was 'would a light on the background help seperate the black shirts from the black background?' Yes it will.
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Old September 30th, 2003, 07:47 PM   #6
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The backlight or "rim" light, as Jaques suggested is probably the way to go.

I generally like to move my subject far away enough from my black background as to not have any light spill on it.

I would not light the back as it would take away from your "infinity" background effect, (I am assuming that this is the effect you are looking for).

The nice thing about the rim light is that you can control it, this is especially important if your subject has blonde or light colored hair.

You might want to rake one, harder edged light across the wardrobe and control it with barndoors or a snoot and use a softer rim for the hair difusing it with maybe some spun or 216. Adding a little color like some 1/4 CTO or a light straw should help also. The soft rim probably won't affect your wardrobe edge as it will should be overpowered by the harder edged rim.

Good luck and stay safe, RB
"The future ain't what it used to be." Yogi Berra.
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Old October 2nd, 2003, 09:25 PM   #7
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First, DON'T light the background. Keep light off of it.

Dark objects (incl dark skinned faces, black VCRs, black automobiles) are given shape through specular reflections.

You didn't detail what lights you have. Assuming just work lights (you can do better with better lights) use one as a kicker on one side (a backlight off to one side, gives a rim of light on one side of the black shirt). Then light the other side with a large soft source -- if you don't have a softbank, then point a worklight ata big piece of white foamcore. The large white source off screen will create the specular reflections in the fabric that will letr the audience see detail.
John Jackman
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