View Full Version : Lighting


NicklausLouis
07-11-2003, 11:06 AM
I am hoping to begin shooting my indie feature I Like Clowns this October. Right now, the only light kit I have at my disposal is a friends starter kit that he got in film school. I have a few scenes planned that would require more lighting than two or three lights can give.

Also, I am currently rereading Robert Rodriguez's "Rebel Without a Crew" (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0452271878/qid=1057935537/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_1/102-9016555-3395351?v=glance&s=books&n=507846) (psyching myself up I guess). In it he talks about using "practicals" - 250 watt photoflood lights.

Now, he was shooting on 16mm and I will be shooting on DV. My question is, just how practical are the "practicals" nowadays (he did shoot El Mariachi over ten years ago), and how well would they work for DV? I mean are they too expensive or too difficult? Would it just be better to go and put 1000 watt bulbs in all of the fixtures of the house we will be shooting in, or should I opt for the "practicals"?

Keep in mind this is for wide shots (it's a party scene), all close ups will be lit by the light kit we already have at our disposal.

Thanks for any help.

Poke

spite
07-11-2003, 03:29 PM
I'm no lighting guru, but you can use practicals to light DV effectively. But technically, a practical light is just a light that is actually seen in the shot. IE, a lamp that's on in the background, etc. It could be a 50watt bulb, it could be 1000...

If you need more lights and don't want to spend a ton of money, go to home depot and buy some clamp lights (the kind with the metal "bowl" on them). Equip them with some high- or medium-watt bulbs. You should be able to clamp them to a door, an extra c-stand or something, or even have a PA hand hold it. It looks good on DV.

Just avoid flourescent light... that'll look like crap.

- Mike.

NicklausLouis
07-11-2003, 04:18 PM
I actually had thought of that, but was told it would be impractcal for the DV shoot (although, I question the knowledge of the man who told me). What exactly do you mean by "high- or medium-watt bulbs"? Do you mean 100 watt; 200 watt; 1,000 watt; 1,000,000,000,000 watt; what?

Poke

filmgirl
07-13-2003, 04:35 AM
I have a similiar question regarding Dv and lighting; has anyone out there used DV's limitaions (washed out look etc) to their advantage and how did you do it?
When lighting is taken care of a bit did it/would it help to wardrobe and set dress in rich colors rather than dull ones to help with this problem?

Poke, I know I'm not answering your original question, but I have been asking about DV lighting everywhere and I'll be sure to post anything I find out that would be of any use, back to you here, for you to have in your toolbelt! We filmmakers gotta stick together at this stage:)

film8ker
07-13-2003, 12:39 PM
I, too, am no lighting guru, but remember: 1. DV requires less light than film. 2. itís easier to correct underexposure in post than over exposure. 3. different cameras work better with lower (natural) light than others. For instance, the (factory standard) XL1 requires about 1/6 more foot candle power to create the same exposure as the PD150, so your camera and lenses will affect how much light you need. Have you tried screen testing it in a similar setting (your dining room for instance) with different lighting situations? It wonít take long and could be fun!

futerfas
07-13-2003, 06:36 PM
Please remember that you can't overload a practical lamp by putting a 250 or 300watt bulb in it, because you could easily start a fire or damage the lamp. Most practicals will take 150watts (and that's pushing it, since the manufacturer will often say 75watts or less). Te clamp light idea is similar to what Rodriguez was doing on El Mariachi, and it's what I used many years ago to light Hi8 in High School. They're not really bright, and these days I'm kind of known as a flame thrower when it comes to light, but they can be used to light up small areas in a flat way.

My two key recommendations about lighting are
1. Backlight;and
2. Diffusion.

Keep your main source to the back as possible, and then just fill in from the front with a less hard source. Also, use diffusion to keep the light feeling natural and less directional. Don't overlight with your "key" light, since this will look like a student film. "Motivate" your main sources, by augmenting the practical sources in the room (windows, lamps, TVs, etc.).

I disagree that fluorescents will look like crap, but you have to know how to control them and make the color temperature work. It's easy to take the yellow-green color out in post, but yuo can't gel them on set. Better to add green to your HMI's or have KinoFlos with Cool White tubes to match the practical fluorescent color, and then fix it in the timing. Or you could white balance it out.

good luck!
-Graham

filmmaker58
07-14-2003, 01:18 AM
Also remember that it's not so much the brightness of the lamps you get with MiniDV, but the contrast ratio. They handle low light pretty well, so what you want to do is just enhance the available light and don't overpower it. If you use a 1000 watt lamp to blast your subject, and expose for that, everything else in a room will be too dark. If you bounce that light into a white card however, and control the intensity (you can move it closer, or farther away, or use a dimmer or metal scrims) so it matches the available light, you'll get a more subtle, attracive light on a subject.

eager2learn
07-14-2003, 02:16 AM
You folks seem pretty knowledgable here. I'm caught between the proverbial rock & a hard place at the moment trying to shoot something with a TRV-900 in close quarters and one subject. Got questions...

1. I have a Blue Gel which the info says 'converts tungsten to average daylight' ... am I assuming correctly that regular house ceiling lightbulbs are Tungsten? If so, then if I use the Blue gel this will then match the light from a "Tota" lamp with Umbrella?

2. Am I understanding that using the "Zebra" pattern ON in the TRV-900 shows me where the lighting 'hot spots' are??? I'm getting too much light which is giving the subject a ghostly white hue (especially when I tried just the 10watt camera-mounted light...really bad stuff).

3. Should I screw around with the 'Gain' adjustment in the camera?

Thanks much.

filmmaker58
07-14-2003, 02:35 AM
Eager2learn,
Cameras balance to specific color temperatures. Tungsten is 3200 degrees kelvin, more on the warm side of the scale, and daylight is 5600 degrees kelvin, more on ther blue side of the scale. If your camera is balanced for daylight, your tungsten lights will look orange, so the blue gel will correct them to daylight so they look normal. If your camera is balance for tungsten, the blue gel will turn the light...welll, blue. (see the night shots in T2...tungsten balance film with blue light) Your TOTA lamp is Tungsten (3200), most houshold lamps are warmer than tungsten (around 2800 degrees kelvin)

Zebras indicate the IRE (I have no idea what that stands for) of the signal going to tape. To put it simply, 100 IRE is pure white, so as you approach that level, there is no detail in the video. Zebras are sometimes set at 80 IRE, as a warning that you are approaching overexposure, and sometimes at 100, to let you know that you're there. If at 100, there should be no zebras on a face, if at 80, you can let there be just a hint of them on the highlights. If you're not sure, go with no zebras, as it's easier to correct a slightly underexposed image in post than an overexposed one.

Always keep the gain on manual and at zero (unless you have no choice), as gain brightens the picture electronically, thus adding noise.

Good luck, and I like your name.

NicklausLouis
07-14-2003, 11:14 PM
Thanks for all the good feedback. I will take all of it to heart.

Based on all you guys have said, I am planning on using the ava. lighting plus 250 watt bulbs behind the action and 150 watts in front. What does everyone think of that.

film8ker suggested screen testing. I plan on doing that when I get my camera. I was just wanting to throw it out there now for any suggestions.

Poke

indietalk
07-14-2003, 11:30 PM
Sounds like you need an experienced DP and Gaffer. Maybe you can find a Gaffer with ligting that will work for free, then you won't have to worry about the lighting, it will be taken care of. :wink:

filmmaker58
07-15-2003, 12:08 AM
Not a bad suggestion. It is a collaborative art, and you can learn a lot from watching someone who knows what they're doing. A good plan is to try and find someone who is looking to move up a level, like a gaffer who is trying to D.P., or a Grip or electrician who is trying to move to gaffer. For instance, I'd work really cheap for the opportunity to direct a good project. (raises his "will direct for food" sign).

indietalk
07-15-2003, 12:30 AM
Not trying to discourage you from doing it yourself, but I am assuming you are the Director, and you will be busy enough. 8)

spite
07-15-2003, 01:47 PM
Yeah, what indietalk said is definitely the right idea. The reason I don't know much about lighting is because I usually have a D.P. who knows a ton about it. I've learned a bit from him, but I'm no expert. Of course, it's always good to know more, so if you do get somebody to do it, make sure they let you know what they're doing, so you can learn from it.

- Mike.

eager2learn
07-18-2003, 01:44 AM
filmmaker58 ...

Thanks for the en(light)en(ing) information!!!

Umh, (humbly confessing), it turns out I don't have a Tota ... it's a Lowel VIP and added a silver umbrella. I had it in a case for about 3 years and forgot I switched the order at the last minute :roll:

I also got in touch with a guy from Lowel who was helpful too. Amazing what improved when I ditched the umbrella and turned the light toward the ceiling corner(s)...but moving the flaps just a bit sure changes what happens on camera.

In the process of experimenting with the light, I've gained a newfound appreciation for the time it takes for even the pros to setup a shot (I've worked a lot in a TV Series & movies as an actor).

I do have a Lowel Rifa (sp?) - the medium sized one, and now on reassessment, just may have enough room to stick it up in this very confined shooting space. Decided it was better to delay production and (potentially) end up with a better outcome.

VERY helpful info about the Zebra pattern...I need to find out if the level is at 100 or 80. Mega important methinks!!!

I just shot a very short client testimonial for something before reading your reply. Used my Rifa Lightbox but had daylight coming in pretty strong in the location so now it makes sense why I have kind of a blue-ish tint. Am I assuming correctly that I should be able to just use a Video Filter to back off on the Blue (Cyan?) in editing?

Regarding my name: I toned it down a bit from "desperate2learn" :shock:

Thanks again for your kind feedback.

filmmaker58
07-18-2003, 02:48 AM
Yes, you should be able to color correct in post, but if you ad orange to the overall to get rid of the blue, your tungsten light is going to get even warmer (which is probably fine) It's best not to mix color temperaturers (unless you're going for that effect) on the key and fill, but I often use a blue light for my backlight or edge light. So if you can't get around shooting in a location with lots of daylight, try to set it up so it's the backlight.

You should be able to tell what your zebras are at by setting up a shot and looking at a monitor. Set the camera so that the zebras are just starting on the highlights of someones face. If there is still detail in those hightlights on the monitor, then it's probably at 80ire. If not, it's 100ire and you should avoid the zebras whenever possible.

NicklausLouis
07-18-2003, 08:49 AM
Sounds like you need an experienced DP and Gaffer. Maybe you can find a Gaffer with ligting that will work for free, then you won't have to worry about the lighting, it will be taken care of. :wink:

Well, originally it was the plan to get a DP, but after several bad experiences with smaller projects, I was leaning towards just doing it myself. My project will be shot on the weekends for about two to three months about a hundred miles from Austin. I know it'll be difficult finding a DP who's willing to do that for free, especially when you factor in that there might be days when certain actors have to work or scenes fall apart. As I said before, I have been rereading Robert Rodriguez's book, and he did it himself. I know I could do it myself.

I will keep trying to find a DP though, because I want my film to look it's best (it is a comedy that doesn't lend itself to the low budget look of movies like El Mariachi or Clerks).

Poke

NicklausLouis
07-19-2003, 06:15 PM
Another question I have, that could be a seperate topic, but I'll post it here cause it pertains to lighting, is - How much, if any, should I worry about make up for my actors? I want them to look good, but I won't have a make up artist other than myself and my wife, so I'm wondering if a little base will do.

Poke

eager2learn
07-19-2003, 10:21 PM
Yes, you should be able to color correct in post, but if you ad orange to the overall to get rid of the blue, your tungsten light is going to get even warmer (which is probably fine) It's best not to mix color temperaturers (unless you're going for that effect) on the key and fill, but I often use a blue light for my backlight or edge light. So if you can't get around shooting in a location with lots of daylight, try to set it up so it's the backlight.

Thanks again for the info. Hmmm...so better to add orange than to subtract blue, eh? Interesting.

You should be able to tell what your zebras are at by setting up a shot and looking at a monitor. Set the camera so that the zebras are just starting on the highlights of someones face. If there is still detail in those hightlights on the monitor, then it's probably at 80ire. If not, it's 100ire and you should avoid the zebras whenever possible.[/quote]

Am I understanding that the 80ire and/or 100ire settings are "fixed" in my Sony TRV-900, or can I select which setting (in case anyone knows...dunno where my manual is at the moment).

Regarding pokewowplayer1's question about makeup, this is something I'm interested in as well so am all ears.

NicklausLouis
07-20-2003, 12:04 AM
Please call me Poke.

On this site (http://www.otherleg.com/studio/ouat/ouatpre2.html), they said to use basic foundation. That's what I'm thinking will work. If anything, I might go to Barnes and Nobles and buy this book (http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?userid=34AZHE6FXR&isbn=0764500236&itm=8).

Poke

filmmaker58
07-20-2003, 12:39 AM
Adding orange and subtracting blue are the same thing. In a colorcorrection wheel, you will move the curser away from blue and toward orange (or whatever they call it)

I don't know if you can change the zebras in your camera, but that was a good way to find out where they are.

As far as a makeup artist goes, I love to have one when I'm able. I'm fortunate enough to work with Jim Sacca in Las Vegas, who is one of the best. People take for granted what a makeup artist does sometimes. I've had instances where there was up to a 2 stop differece in actors skin tones with a spot meter. So my lighting would be even over the whole set, but one actor would always be blazing hot (he was pale in comparison). So Jim evened them up for me and saved me some major hassles with lighting. I've also shot a lot without makeup, and you can get away with it, especially if they're supposed to be hot & sweayty. But if you plan on big closeups, there is a huge difference.

eager2learn
07-25-2003, 02:02 AM
Thanks again for all the great info here.

craig54
07-25-2003, 11:08 AM
f58 - Thanks for the info on make-up.

NicklausLouis
07-28-2003, 09:45 PM
I spoke to an aquaintance of mine recently. He's a film major at the University of Texas. He told me about a project he worked on last summer. He basically said that they used 250 watt halogen lamps, and connected to them small umbrellas with the undercarriages spray painted silver to bounce the diffused light onto the scene. He said it worked wonderfully. Has anyone else ever heard of anything like this?

To me it seems kind of dangerous, but it would definitely becloser to actual movie set lighting than rinky dink chrome work lights.

Poke

indietalk
07-28-2003, 09:49 PM
I spoke to an aquaintance of mine recently. He's a film major at the University of Texas. He told me about a project he worked on last summer. He basically said that they used 250 watt halogen lamps, and connected to them small umbrellas with the undercarriages spray painted silver to bounce the diffused light onto the scene. He said it worked wonderfully. Has anyone else ever heard of anything like this?

To me it seems kind of dangerous, but it would definitely becloser to actual movie set lighting than rinky dink chrome work lights.

Poke

There's one way to answer your question. Test shoot. It's all about what shows up on the screen, not whats behind the scenes. If you can't find a DP or a Gaffer with lighting equiment, and you must resort to building your own lights, test everyting. When you see what you like on the screen, then you will have answered your question. :wink:

NicklausLouis
07-28-2003, 10:12 PM
There's one way to answer your question. Test shoot. It's all about what shows up on the screen, not whats behind the scenes. If you can't find a DP or a Gaffer with lighting equiment, and you must resort to building your own lights, test everyting. When you see what you like on the screen, then you will have answered your question. :wink:

Awww ... but it would be so much easier if everyone would just tell me what works.

Seriously, though, I plan on testing when I get my camera (still a month away), but I was just throwing the idea out there so someone could let me know how crazy I am for even thinking about it.

Poke

eager2learn
08-03-2003, 03:38 AM
I forgot to ask if anyone doing DV actually uses a light meter???

If so, any tips & recommendations (mfr/model, etc.)???

Thanks!!!

mediathreat
08-03-2003, 10:57 AM
I have a spot light meter I use to see whats going to be under or over, but other than that, with DV it's best to shoot with a NTSC monitor. The monitor will tell you rapidly whats too hot and whats crushed in the blacks.

scottspears
10-18-2003, 08:09 PM
Lighting on the cheap is always a challenge. The first choice is to try to use natural light whenever possible. One thing you can do is go to a hardware store and buy insultation. The hard foam for houses that has a silver cover which makes a great reflector. You can bounce tons of lights in through windows. I had to do something like this once when the power went out on a three block radius of LA where we shooting. I was using medium sized mirrors to bouce in fill. You just rest the foam board against a tree, chair or something stationary and aim it a window. You'll have to re-aim periodically because of that pesky rotation of the earth thing.

You can pick up 500watt work lights at hardware stores. They are tungsten lights that come on stands. They are great for boucing off ceilings and walls for soft room filling light. I don't recommend pointing the directly at people because the light is too harsh. Another alternative is to find a way to hang a frosted shower curtain in front of this light and it's a bog soft, diffused source. These light usually run around $30. Sometime they come with two heads which I find is over kill.

The silver scoop lights mentioned in other posts are good.

For small accent lights and kickers you can get little focused halogen lights. Screw them into socket on a cord and clamp them to a light stand or something. You have a nice kicker on somebody. Or it can light some background element.

My advice is poke around camera stores that carry used gear. I bought a couple of Mole 1000 watt baby lights for $50 each. You should buy some used light stands so you can clamp lights to them or hang the above mention shower curtain off them. Get some spring clamps for that. I'd get at least one real movie light with barndoors and a stand to use as your main light, then suppliment with hardware store lights. I'd bet you could build a light kit for DV shoots for around $200.

As for when I was poor and starting out me, I saved up and bought a used Smith Victor light kit for $250.

Scott