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I do think almost artificial looking harder light can work on some people far more effectively than the wrap around soft look


Hardlight and women are always seen as taboo together


You can still model a face and bone structure with soft light, it just takes more careful positioning and less fill for contrast. But you're right that you can't really do it with "wrap around" soft light; it usually takes a slightly smaller source to reveal contour on a face.


I've lit a couple interviews with a woman who's just stunningly gorgeous, with those high cheek bones and smooth skin. When I gave her the generic 3/4 front softlight, the cheekbones just disappeared. I really wanted to go more toppy with the light to model the cheeks more, but I was afraid our fairly "dry" newsy interview would start to look like a glamour setup!


But even in more "generic" setups you still have to move the lights around a little for each face. Even with soft lighting, the transition of light into shadow is just as important as it is with hard light.

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Hardlight and women are always seen as taboo together and I find it much more challenging, fulfilling and difficult to light a set with one set up using hardlight where everyone, male and female can all look great.


How does one light an entire set with 1 set up of hard light and make everyone look good!?!? :blink:


As far as the taboo goes, I'm not interested in it...I just don't like watching a film and being distracted by hard lights with obvious directions..."oooh they have a hard kicker right there." Also, the problem with hard light is that the actors have little to no freedom of movement. As much as I thought McGarvey overlit the hell out of The Hours, he gave his actors a lot of freedom to move and their faces were always lit beautifully and naturally.

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Yup...I remember that. Streep was initially horrified by McGarvey's lighting of her CUs, and told him "Please don't light me like this, again!" He and his crew came up with something called a "Streep light" which consists of a 4 by trace frame together with 216, with a piece of poly, with it's sides blackened and a 5k bounced into the poly. That's all in the New Cinematographers book.

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I did a movie a little while ago with RuPaul that we were forced to light a certain way.


He (her) wanted to be only frontally lit. This not always looked good, and was first, not always dramatically correct, and two didn?t always work to his (her) makeup's advantage.


What we ended up doing was a 4x4 kino with only one tube on, with opal and ND. The light did very little (except eye light), but it made him (her) more comfortable. We called this the RuLight.



Kevin Zanit

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VERY pretty portraits, Michael!

What camera did you shoot that on?


The footage was shot with a Sony DXC-D35 (Beta SP), and composited with Ultimatte in an Avid. But the stills here are played back from a VHS dub, and shot with a digital still camera off my consumer TV, then heavily corrected in Photoshop just to get it to SOMEWHAT resemble the original footage...

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light-colored backdrop


Funny story about that, actually... :)


As mentioned earlier, the room was quite tiny, but in addition to this, it was not pretty to look at, either! Having no backdrop on hand, and not wanting to use the cluttered mess as the BG, we used one of those tri-fold room separator things that we had found stashed behind a file cabinet. Problem solved. :P


As for your shots, that is actually quite close to the style of lighting an interview that I would normally do, but with the edgelight a bit higher up and slightly less hot. Looks great though! Oh and I love the way you lit the workshop - the hot slash of light in the back is perfect.

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One of my favorite set ups. Partially this comes from a bit of ignorance and bravery that I wouldn't have now.


A film I shot a few years ago, three key scenes were naturally lit with practical flourescents. I was shooting Super 16, 7279, Zeiss super speeds. This film was intended to be fairly dark, contrasty.


The first scene was in a hospital room. The only illumination in the room are flourescnet fixtures over the hospital beds. The Gaffer complained that it was too dark, but I assured him it was fine. Shooting wide open even over exposed the highlights by almost a stop. In telecine I had the colorist turn the light into an electric blue.


The second scene is a young boy walking down a long hallway in an old industrial NY highrise apartment building. The only illumination are the rows of flourescents down the hallway. The boy is in silhouette until he gets to the camera. Right at the camera he stands under a flourescent fixture. In telecine I had the colorist turn this from the garish green into an electric golden amber color.


The third scene was in a bathroom. The young boy has a gun and is contemplating suicide. He is standing at the bathroom mirror. The only illumination is the flourescent fixture over the mirror. The boy has dark skin and feels back lit with a little detail showing in his saddened face. It was perfect. In telecine I boosted the green to a stronger hue.


Of course there is some grain in the image because I was pushing the film to work under low lighting conditions. But the blacks were fine, and the slight grain added a proper texture to the material. Many people asked me how I lit these scenes and were shocked to learn there were no film lights involved in them at all. Particularly surprising because at this time the marketing machine was saying the only way to shoot natural light was with DV.


But today I wouldn't take that much of a chance. The real negative of shooting that way is sharpness, shooting wide open with older lenses on 16mm, I could see that the sharpenss took a real hit. Today I'll light to proper exposure, build my contrast into the exposure, then print down in post, and keep it sharp.

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Here is a shot and set up from something I did




basically no budget - but 10 par cans left over from a wedding the night before and a £6 shower curtain - 2 of the par cans were broken due to the heavy party :-)




6 x 1kw - into a shower curtain and 2 Hard back lights and quite a bit of negative fill - shot on 50mm lens at T2 with shutter way down - I think...




Rolfe Klement


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  • 2 months later...

i wanna bring this thread back to life.


this first grab is a master where i had originally intended to use a 4x4 mirror outside to punch the sun through the window. on the day of, we had partly cloudy skies with some good wind, so i scrapped the mirror idea and just ended up using a 1200 HMI. i filled the actor with a kino diva off to the right of frame. i think i used a couple tweenies to bring up the shelving and storage bins in the background. of course, we used a good amount of smoke as well.



same setup, just dropped the fill a little



i'm also a fan of using available light at certain times of day. for this scene we shot early in the morning and i used a tungsten balance. even though it's not "lit" i think the white balance, make-up and angle all contribute to make the shot work for me.





i love seeing stills of everyone's work and reading about how they set-up the shot. let's keep this thread going!

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Thank you very much.


I try keep it simple and push process. Most of my stuff is 18 pushed 1, 1.5 or 2 stops - I hate to say it but that is it.


I saw a nice simple setup recently - basically a china or muzball through a net - as a softlight - either static or mounted on a dolly - you might even be able to use it for Steadicam


I am paying far more attention to "make up" then I used to. and eyelights...And getting better looking talent :) Because it really can add that final "x" factor - apart from the story, story and story


And Fotokem and Soho Images are great as well


once again thank you



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2k (sunlight) from window creating highlight on the screen left of his face.


Bounced 1k on a whiteboard to (source supposed to be from lamp)


A bit of practical light from a lamp right under the frame i think a 40w.


Lamp in the background lit by a 1k from above. Which suprisingly came out like the lamp was on.




image quality is a bit bad from the compression from avid to quicktime which i took a screencap from to post.


XL2 + ps technik w/ panavision 35mm lenses.


Pic is from a recent mid term I finished shooting for school. I still need lots more practice. It's great that I can see people and read about other ppls set ups and learn from that.


edit : sorry the pic is so big :(

Edited by Andre Lim
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Here's an example of the "reverse key" technique discussed earlier for talking heads (key light on the side of the face furthest away, fill on front side). As mentioned, it helps with nose shadows, but it also creates more of a layered look, because the part closest to camera is not the brightest, so you get three more-distinct levels of illumination: key, fill, and whatever your background is doing. I'm also a fan of less backlight/edgelight, and using background color, focus, and light level to create the separation.


This particular setup is a Lowel Rifa to camera right (with egg crates) placed a tad forward of being direct side light (to catch just a little of the fill side of the face), a piece of foamcore for fill at camera left, a diffused sungun on a stand for the shoulder, and a gelled Tweenie slashed across the background.


The second one is a more extreme example with just two Rifa lights, one on the left for the face and the desk wash, and another over the other shoulder with 1/2 CTO. The monitors in the background could use some edging, but it was a quickie. Both DV, SDX900.post-1414-1111420808.jpgpost-1414-1111420837.jpg

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Guest Tim van der Linden

Here's some stills I took. Both are really, really simple setups where some nice natural things happened to work out for me.




On this one I benefitted from the wickedly cool steel blue flourescents that you can see in the frame. I supplemented it with a china ball with a 250w Photoflood 4800k bulb and I think some 1/4 CTB, but I'm not sure about that. I would have loved for a dedo or such so that I could only have hit the girl, but alas, this is all I had available at the time. The light in the hall in the hall in the background is just a clamplight with 1/2 CTB on it and I think a 150w 3200k bulb. Shot on Kodak Portra 160VC.




This one is about as simple as it gets, almost entirely in natural light supplemented by a 750w strobe with a softbox in front of it to give her the wrap you see around her body. The blue smear on the wall is from my crappy scanner. Also shot on Portra 160VC.


Oh, and a note on both of these, when I scan them into my computer the contrast is upped notably and they tend to get a little dark, so these images aren't 100% of what you get but it's enough to give you an idea.


Here are two stills from the same scene in a feature I shot last august, on the DVX100a.




This first one is one light, a 150w dedo with full CTB on it, mounted on top of the set (about 10 ft high). The computer screen is a composite, there was a green screen mounted in that space that was lit with a 2x2 kino. The spill from the screen worked nicely with the green letters on the computer.




This one is just a reverse CU of the previous shot, same 150W dedo but with 251 in front of it to be a bit nicer to the actress. For the letters of the computer screen, the director programmed a string of blurred letters and numbers to run vertically, with intermittent red spots representing the names of people who have deceased. We hooked his laptop up to an LCD Projector and simply ran the program, and the projector made a dandy eyelight.


edit: now resized, sorry about that

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  • 2 weeks later...

Some beautiful examples. Thanks for everyone's generosity.


I'm coming late to this most excellent thread but thought I'd offer up some of my own. As a low-budget/no-budget filmmaker working with fast filmstocks and fast DV cameras, I love finding locations that lend themselves to beautiful practical and single-setup lighting. I love being able to model my characters with realism and move quickly from camera setup to setup on a tight schedule. As I work my way into higher-budget projects, I will be a big proponent of building lighting into the production design.



Shot in a coffee shop for its generous amount of practical 12volt track lighting that I re-focused to my talent locations. Added 1/4 diffusion to some lights. Added a 1K Baby w/ straw through the front window to simulate a streetlight. Camera: JVC GY-DV500.



Selected this location for the huge, luminous glass wall at the back of the elevator lobby. Added 2 1K Baby's +1/4CTB+1/4diff 40 feet from scene to provide a daylight fill/key. Turned off the Baby's for the last frame allowing the luminous wall to key the left of the talent. Camera: XL-2.



Used practical single-tube flouros at each landing (one with .3ND to create a contrast ratio and to enhance beams coming through stair risers from below.) Let the lights flare in the lens. Camera: XL-2


One day I may have to learn how to use "real" lights. :D



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I would love to see more setups and examples and I am sure everyone else would


This is a setup that I just mastered and loved.


I used a 250 watt photoflood with a bastard amber gel and some wax parper for diffusion. For the fill I used a silver reflector just out of the shot. For the backlight I used a small flourecent light gelled blue.


As for the cool blue bakcground I had used a large 4' by4' diffusion frame with a 250 watt photoflood gelled blue to flood the background in cool evening blues. As for the practical I used a 40 watt soft white bulb with a blue gell to match the background light.


Keep in mind that I am using a home Digital 8 camera and edited with windows movie maker so the quality is the best I can get know.



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Maybe the best thread ever, more setups please :)


Here's something I did ages ago, not particularly proud of it, but here it goes. Nothing special, just a simple day int cu. No flashy lighting, either, just though I had to contribute with something.


Lit with a 1.2k HMI Par from behind/kicker position and keyed with a kino from pretty frontal low angle.



Edited by Riku Naskali
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Here's a fun setup that I gaffed for director of photography, P.J. Raval and director Jeffrey Travis. I don't have any frames from the 35mm camera yet, so forgive the digital snapshots, but they're fairly representative.



the cast from camera position



the set diagram - click for a larger version




a view from the 2K kicker/key



panoramic of location with hot tub at right (hidden by crew)



Kodak 5279

camera ? Panavision Pana-star 35mm


2K, 1K, 650w 300w, 150w fresnels

on-set distro w/tap into household breaker box

Edited by mmorlan62
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Well, hell, if we're allowed to post stupidly simple stuff, then here ya are


So these are stills from a short I did. Here is the wide shot. Keep in mind this is the final color corrected version, and also brightened a bit for the web (hence the greyish blacks, and the hot area in the right part of the frame--it's not that hot in the "real" version)




Really very very simple. The key is a 2x4 kino, off frame right and somewhat frontal, laid out horizontally, and the kicker is a 1200w par HMI that was outside the house, coming through the window from about 10-15 feet away. I believe it had no lens, and had the crap scrimmed out of it ('cause I was open to 1.6). The fill is whatever. . .I didn't have a fill light (I think it could use a tad more but oh well), just whatever bounced around the room from the kino, I suppose. You'll notice the dude gets more kick than the woman, and she has a brighter key than he. Again, oh well, it happens. That's it! Two lights. I should add that the eyelight is the keylight.


I was going for sunlight, like there was a window off to frame right that was lighting them. I suppose I kinda pulled it off. Should've overexposed the key side a little, maybe a slash along the wall or something. Oh well.


Here's a still from his CU



And hers:



For whatever reasons (makeup, decent looking location, whatever) I think it came out pretty well, so here it is. I hope you appreciate what I do for you people. I had to make a whole separate page on my site to host these pics.

Edited by Josh Bass
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