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How would you light it?

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I shot some sort of a 'ted talk' in a big hall and what was asked was to light the stage and the speaker with soft light, without lighting the background (there were slides showing on a screen)

I used a 1k tungsten light through a 24*36 diffusion as a key light, and an aputure 600d with a softbox for the fill... I fortgot to bring flags to cut light from the background


I'm not really happy with the results, and next week I have another shoot like that

I thought maybe using bigger sources with from far away and flags to flag light from the background

What are your thoughts? How would you approach the lighting?

I'll mention that the lights in the hall itslef are no good and I'm also tight on budget...


Thank you very much ??????




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Bigger soft lights farther away mean even bigger flags! In this case, a slower fall-off over a greater distance is not going to help make the subject brighter and the background darker, the opposite happens.

What you need are light control tools -- eggcrates for soft frames plus flags, teasers, etc. Are there any theatrical lighting pipes near the front edge of the stage to rig from?

If you want to kill the light off of the screen, then stand where the screen is and look out - if you can see the light source, then it's hitting the screen.

I recently lit a stage space for a soft frontal key using two Skypanel 120s end-to-end, then the grips hung an 8' x 4' black teaser on a piece of wood out a few feet in front of the lights to take it off of the upper half of a curtain in the background.

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You can light from both sides of the stage, together with honeycombs on the soft-boxes. The more on the sides, the less it spills on the background. But going too far you end up with the speaker's face dark in the centre, which is not pleasing (or very theatrical). So you need to keep the sources slightly on the front. Also, if the speaker is not at the centre of the stage, he will quickly receive much more light from the nearest side. Greater distance helps.

Having the sources high above and pointing down also helps, because the shadow will be lower and less noticeable.

And of course, the farther the speaker from the background, the better.


Edited by Nicolas POISSON
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Hello Ofri,

 Is this is a narrative film --- making a movie with a "Ted Talk" scene within it,  or a public event?

I'm going to assume it is paid event.  Is this place a theatre (for plays), or just a space?

I'm going out on a limb here and suggest that what you need are theatrical lighting instruments for this project.

By that I mean Century "Lekolites" or their modern equivalents.  

First, for the sake of the audience's experience,  (I assume they've paid to sit there),  there should be (as much as possible), no equipment in their way.   (Magic).   I'm referencing your photos of stands and diffusion in isles and walk paths... fire marshal very unhappy.  (Third photo).  You don't want an audience member tripping over a light stand or cable, do you?

Try and find clips of past performances of this "Ted Talker" to determine how much area they utilize/traverse onstage..  Is the area in the photos where you will be working next event? Do they stay on the carpet circle?

Now, back to the instruments.  I would argue that "soft light" is your enemy  because it goes everywhere!

If they walk from stage right/camera left to stage left/camera right with a stop in the center occasionally you may "wash" the area with toplight looking down. Separation from the background.  Lekolites and Source Fours have built in shutters to eliminate splattering the screen with light and are "focusable" to soften bounce off the floor.  No flags needed.

Does the house have a stage lighting system  ----  dimmers, light board etc. and pipes from which to hang the lights you will need?

Especially out front?   Again, if the performer goes back and forth across the stage you need to light them from above 35/45 degrees frontlight and slightly defocused at necessary key level.  I'm not sure I like the idea of them standing centerstage  for long periods of time (in front of the screen), blocking the image for audience down front.  (First and second photos).  Can you hang black curtain to hide side lights on trees stage left and right?  (second photo: notice spill on screen with diffusion).  Do you have a dimmer board operator and rehearsal time to plan effects as speaker move across stage?

Please, none of what I suggest is meant to contradict the above commenters.  They are absolutely correct;  but if this is a paid "theatrical" event and not you creating a movie scene, then "ballet"  or roving speaker rules/guidelines may have more weight and appropriateness to the success of the event people have paid for.  Recording it should be as invisible as possible.

Study closely the "Ted Talks" (the screen is higher behind the speaker, generally),  downlight and frontlight.  One or two follow spots may be necessary.  (Locked down or moving). Color for sidelights, front light with bastard amber and steel blue? Can't get the screen higher... then light around it (no soft light),  (They use some wild color for accents--- but you don't have enough lights for that).

Make a virtue of equipment shortage: all the area around the speaker darkened except where they are. Walk into pools of light. In a way,  you kinda need to know their "routine"  before lighting.  To illustrate upstage sideline lighting with "trees" and hanging curtains check out "The Turning Point" with Shirley McLaine and Ann Bancroft.  It's a great movie. (And brought back memories of my early theatre days).  

To wind up this long epistle,  if you are creating a "movie scene"  disregard the fire marshal comment, but study the no "softlight" option. Lekos and Fresnels are your friends at the appropriate time.

I hope this of some help to you.

And:  to beginning cinematographers, there are far worse things out there to do,  than to spend time in the theatre with lights, set building and painting while learning photography.  Film and Theatre are about creating illusions; theatre does it in real time while film does it in reel time.?

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