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Old March 19th, 2006, 03:44 PM   #1
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nightmare lighting situation

Last weekend I had a last minute shoot in a difficult area to light and wasn't too pleased with the results, so I was hoping someone could help in case I have to re-shoot. I was shooting in a small room with silver reflective walls (like tin foil). I needed even lighting all around and did the best I could to get rid of the shadows, but on some close-up shots I got really big, dark shadows. Obviously there's nothing in post I can do to correct this, but if I have to re-shoot, any tips?
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Old March 19th, 2006, 04:08 PM   #2
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Can you post some sample footage/photo's of the room? And a list of the available light sources you got will be handy as well to give you useful tips.
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Old March 19th, 2006, 05:49 PM   #3
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If you had ridiculous amounts of time, you could semi-rotoscope the shadows so that they are less strong.

The opposite of:

This is possible in some editing programs, and all special effects / compositing packages.

2- One way to get rid of shadows is to use soft light. One way is to use a reflector. You can build a very effective + portable one by taking a cardboard box and taping/gluing crinkled tinfoil onto it (you can make the whole reflector so that it folds in half for portability). You can use a C-stand + grip arm + grip head to hold the reflector (or other grip equipment).

Victor Milt suggests using a laminated piece of white posterboard (get a big piece of paper, get it laminated). I haven't tried that myself. It'll roll up and be more portable.

There's also white foamcore, and reflectors like Photoflex's which will collapse into something smaller.

Reflectors need light hitting them. It can be an existing light source (i.e. the sun), or one of your lights (i.e. a backlight, or just a light you aim into the reflector).

The advantage of reflectors is that they draw no power, are fairly fast to setup, reflects whatever color temperature is hitting it, and is cheap. They won't work as well when lighting conditions are changing (i.e. the sun is passing behind cloud cover, or moving throughout the day). They do require another light source.

Ceilings and white walls are good natural reflectors. One way to get soft light quickly is to aim some light into the ceiling.

---There other way to get soft light is to create it. There are various designs for fluorescent lighting that can give you soft light. Very low power consumption, the tubes can be swapped to change color temperature (close to 3200k or daylight).
The main designs are things like Kinoflo's design, and fluorescents in a chinese lantern (i.e. gyoury, victor milt's "nanolights" which VM gives instructions for).
Expensive. Aren't as compact as softboxes/chimeras.

You can also use tungsten lighting. The main designs are softboxes/chimera ( ) and scoop lights and variations on those.

3- Another method that may work is to place something between the subject and the light that is casting the shadow.
A flag or other opaque object will simply block the light. The reflector from above can double up as a flag.
A silk or other diffusing material will turn the light source into a soft light.
Diffusion gels on a light will soften it slightly.

A softbox or reflector should probably be the first thing you try since they're the most basic.
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Old March 21st, 2006, 03:54 PM   #4
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Well, that does sound like a challenge. Faced with that situation, I'd probably go with soft light to minimize the shadows. I'm going to guess that controlling reflections off of the walls will be an issue for you, and I don't know how far off the walls you can get. Chimeras are better than bounces for creating soft light with less spill. I'd probably got for a bounced backlight if it was needed at all. You might even be able to use a wall for bounce if the wall is not too shiney. Something else you might consider is draping (duveytine or some other fabric) the out-of-frame walls to prevent unwanted reflection.
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Old March 21st, 2006, 04:00 PM   #5
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I once did a (still) shoot inside "The Pizza Hut Mobile Unit"... which is basically a semi trailer with an expanding side, outfitted as a mobile commercial kitchen. EVERY surface was stainless, except for the floor. Twas a beeyotch!

Though I agree with most of the soft-light suggestions above, the number one rule of soft light is a large, diffuse light source, as close to the subject as possible. (The larger the source, the farther away it can be).

You have to stop thinking of lights as "lamps" and think "panels". A light pointed at a white ceiling turns the ceiling into a "panel". The more spread from the lamp, the bigger (and thus softer) the panel. (Controlling what the spread strikes *before* it hits the ceiling often takes some work and compromises).

If you have a smaller softbox, say in the 1' x 2' to 2' x 3' range, try this: in a darkened room, light a small object on a tabletop with the face of the softbox a few inches away, and a white card as a reflector. Nice & soft, huh? Now, move the softbox 6 - 8 feet away and notice how much harder the light gets (I've seen enough people wonder why their softbox wasn't "soft" when it was ten feet away...)

When space allows, I'm more fond of large scrims than reflectors (though an off-frame wall can be a great reflector, too. Problem with foamcore is that it's too dang SMALL). I have a lot of westcott panel stuff, but mostly I just stretch 8-10 feet of sheer-ish white fabric (from Jo-Anne's -- cheap!) between a couple c-stands (often with a conduit crossbar & clamps). Aim some lights at it (from far enough back to get some spread) and you're good; lift it a few feet and you can move freely in front of it. Make a big enough "wall" of it and talent has a huge sweet spot. In an office or house location, try walling off the ENTIRE space behind the camera with fabric and backlighting it. (Get your light stands up to the ceiling and angle them down a bit, looks more natural)

I have some stuff that's more like a gauzey white net/mesh that softens yet still keeps a natural "sun" look with some hardness to the edges... looks more "real" yet opens the shadows up. Outdoors it's great for cutting down harsh backlight on talent or background elements, too.

And, doing the PVC or conduit scrim frame means you can put it at an angle, more overhead, which again looks natural.

Sorry for the long post, but give it a try sometime... try thinking "how can I get a big, lit, PANEL and see whatcha get.
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Old March 22nd, 2006, 06:09 PM   #6
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I've been hoping to find a white mesh for some time now. I can't seem to find anything suitable. Outdoor sunscreen fabric always has a color and cheese cloth is too fragile. I really like the idea of a combined soft/hard light source and a white screen would allow air to pass through on the often windy Hawaii days. Any ideas for a source?
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Old March 23rd, 2006, 05:35 PM   #7
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I have a pile of fabrics I choose from; my favorite open-white is some kind of fine netting; it's a polyester-ish fabric, got it at the big fabric store, and had velcro sewn to it to fit my big westcott scrimjim frame. It wasn't remarkably pricey. I also have westcott's black mesh, which drops the light a stop yet keeps shadows hard. Now THAt was expensive since it's sewn for the scrimjim system, but any black mesh would work.

When I need something, I just go to Jo Anne fabrics on a sunny day, and take a few bolts out front (tell them first!) and see how their shadows look.

As far as color temp goes, I've never gotten anything than had a major effect. Some of the bright white fabrics look a little blue-ish, but the ones I've chosen are fine. They may be having a *very* subtle effect, but nothing that's bothered me.
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