View Full Version : How to light an HDV scene when planning to crush blacks later

01-17-2008, 03:00 PM
First of all, hello to everyone. This is my first post ever. I just joined today.

My questions are regarding a short film (suspense/thriller) that I am in pre-production on in which I will be producing, directing, and director of photography. I now own the Canon XH-A1 and I am using Adobe Premiere Pro CS3 for Windows.

I will of course be shooting in 24F and I want a dark and suffocating look to many of the shots and I was wondering what tips and guidance some more experienced people could give me on how to light my shots so that I can crush the blacks later in post. Although I wasn't crazy about the film remake of Halloween, some of the darker shots when Myers is attacking people is sort of what I'm going for.

Should I just leave some areas unlit completely and light others with good exposure without clipping the whites so that I can darken the image later?

Also, how do I technically crush the blacks in Premiere correctly? Is it just with GAMMA, or do I use other tools as well?

01-17-2008, 03:23 PM
I will be interested in this topic thread myself, as I too have an XH-A1 and want to learn about lighting suspense/thriller HDV 24fps shooting. I know HDV digital has less latitude than film so more care is needed with blacks and whites.

01-17-2008, 09:05 PM
you can crush the blacks in a 3-way color corrector.

I'd just shoot it exposed well and use the well exposed image as a great basis for correction and grading.

01-18-2008, 12:45 AM
You also have a setting in the XH A1 for your black compression. I generally leave mine at medium and do as Knightly suggested, but you can set the camera up for a specific look, which could save you some time in post, as long as you do some testing and make sure that it's giving you what you want. The obvious advantage to post processing is that you can try different things in post without committing yourself to anything.

01-18-2008, 11:06 AM
Yes, thanks for the comments.

Actually, I already have the most film like settings saved into a custom preset on the XH-A1. That is one of my favorite things about this camera.

Knightly, you stated that I could crush the blacks even more with a three way color corrector. I have previously done it in the RGB corrector. I normally think of the three-way corrector as having to do more with colors than anything else.

Could you be a little more specific as to how you yourself would go about lighting the scene I described, as well as exactly what steps you might make in post. Which settings do I actually go about changing?

Also, while actually shooting the scene, how should I light it?

For example, lets say you had a scene in which you wanted to have a person walking down a dark hallway in an old house. And the only percieved light you wanted to give the impression of was maybe some moonlight coming in through windows perhaps, and maybe at the very most, some light coming from a lamp or two from inside the rooms that the character was passing by as they walked down the hall.

What would be the best overall way to make the lighting work? Additionally, when I go in for close-ups , should I consider adding more light to the face, maybe with a diffused source of some kind.

Anybody with thoughts or ideas, please chip in. Thanks.

01-21-2008, 11:42 AM
Key through the windows (or place your key high and shine it through a cookie). Perhaps a couple of these down the hallway, non-diffused and gelled CTB to give sharp edges and push the light toward blue (the moon is a point light far away in the sky which produces sharp edged shadows and is reflected sunlight, therefor blue).

I'd fill low from the other side a bit darker so that it looks like a noir scene in the LCD, but that you can still make out details on the dark side of the face... the narrower your contrast in the scene (while still getting the look you're going for), the better with DV and HDV as they have limited exposure lattitudes (HDV is a little better than DV). For gel on the fill, I'd add some CTO (not too heavy) to push the two colors away from one another (but I like colored lighting and it may start to feel like an 80's movie) after white balancing to the fill light. That'll make the interior lights look orange and the exterior lighting look blue, contrasting the two in color. The fill lights could be more soft.

The contrast between the two of them would place the character as trapped between the safety of home (what I think of when I see warm orange light) and the unknown of the nighttime outdoors (what I think of when seeing the blue lighting with the harsh shadows.

You'd want to make sure that your character is light more than your backgrounds so that when you push the blacks down, the background becomes an abstract hint of the background as shapes and colors move in the blackness, showing that there is a world there but it's hard to make out.

Since the camera captures light, darkness is hard to do. It's generally done by lighting things somewhat normally, then dropping the exposure. Keep in mind that in the dark, our irises in our eyes open as well shortening OUR Depth of Field, so you may want to try to push the background our of focus a bit as well, keeping the background more mysterious. Of course, that would have you running a bit telephoto and would compress the background making your subject feel claustrophobic... if you want them to seem more alone, you could keep the camera wide which would stretch the scene out physically and stage them in the extreme foreground with the background stretching way off in the distance using the vanishing lines of the hallway (not sure how long your hallway is) to emphasize just how far the hallway stretches by lighting it in such away that it fades off into blackness in the background.

In the closeups, I'd light about the same...more severe shadows from the moonlight side and warmer light from the interior lamp-lit side.

Run tests, tape is cheap.