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documentary, talking heads: size of light sources


Pete Weirich
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Hello together,

 

at first I had 50 lines worth of text in this window. :D

But let's keep it simple. We all know what the limitations on documentary style interviews

are or might be. Time & Space.

 

I have tried to use frosted 4ft 2/4 bank kinos, 1x1 Lightpanels, 750W arrilite plus + chimera s...

Often times it's daylight balance of course.

 

It just does not seem to do the job. Not bright enough, not big enough.

Now these problems surely apply to all crews out there. So I am trying to figure out what

a goto-setup could be in terms of brightness and size, while being not too bulky or producing

too much spill that needs tons of grips to control.

 

To start the conversation, I'd like to show you a closeup of an interview.

I am trying to figure out how it was shot. What do you think they used? For

such a close shot, theoretically the source could be quite close. But it seems

to be farther away, not sure why I do think that, though.

 

post-69136-0-53224600-1447533839_thumb.jpg

post-69136-0-28986900-1447534512_thumb.jpg

 

I would really appreciate your suggestions for light setup and lense. Thank you very much in advance!

 

My guess:

- Light source: it seems to be round. No clue. (Octodome? output probably not high enough. Briese on a docu? probably too big.)

- Lense: probably 80mm / 1.8 ?

 

Best

Pete

Edited by Pete Weirich
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Pete,

 

The first thing to do is look in his eyes. That looks like a 4x4 or alternatively a 6x6 slightly further away. If you flood a 4x4 of 216 or grid cloth you'll probably get something very close to this as long as you have the distance from the subject to diffusion frame correct.

 

You'll also notice a slight pick up in the shadows near his ear. More than likely that's a large-ish bounce just over his shoulder. A piece of foam core or a large fold out reflector would work.

 

Stuart

------------------------

illuma.blogspot.com

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Pete

 

To me it looks like a single soft source with a bounce fill.. or that fill is just coming off a wall .. nice and simple and looks good..

 

Basic principle.. the bigger the light source .. compared to the subject.. the softer the light.. 6x6 scrims through frames ..while ideal.. which need time.stands and weights and alot of room.. hardly ever going to work for doc,s shooting in peoples houses or offices.. for a shot/frame as in your pic.. your lucky as you can get a smaller light in close.. which will be as soft as a much larger light further away..

 

A trick I have found is buy an expandable round diffuser .. clip it onto a reflector holder.. just an arm and a stand.. (probably need one small weight to make it stable.. and then bang a light through it.. trying to light as much as the diffusion as possible and avoid a centre hot spot..the diffuser is now your light source .. move it in as close to edge of your widest frame.. I have found this to be the simplest,and smallest "kit" for a soft interview key light.. I use then Lite panel,s or a couple of Arri Locaster LED,s as source light.. also small,battery powered and dont get hot.. small and easy kit..

 

Lens wise I have a Canon CN7.. 17-120mm.. again small (for a 35mm zoom lens !).. and quite fast iris wise.. most interviews from 50-85mm .. your pics it look like fairly long lens.. which also helps to get your background out of focus.. primes will also work as well or better as they are usually faster..easy to achieve SDF.. but you,ll have to stop the interview if you want to change frame sizes.. alot of directors dont want to do that.. but the "doc" zooms are not cheap.. basically at the moment the canon CN7 17-120 or the fujinon Cabrio 19-90.. but really the only to go in my experience ..

 

Good luck

Edited by Robin R Probyn
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  • Sustaining Member

It's hard to get around the fact that if you want to go softer, you either have to move the soft light closer to the subject or go larger. There are large soft lighting techniques that take up less equipment than others but some are easier to flag or cut than others. Sometimes the simplest thing is to just hang a 6x6 or 8x8 white sheet using a T-bone rig (hang the cloth from a pipe supported in the center with a C-stand) and just bounce a light into it, or a couple of small lights to get the spread.

 

If I'm working with Kinos and a 4' 4-bank is not soft enough, I just put two units together, above and below, to create an 8-tube source, which can be more flexible than switching to an Image-80 Kino.

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I have tried to use frosted 4ft 2/4 bank kinos, 1x1 Lightpanels, 750W arrilite plus + chimera s...

Often times it's daylight balance of course.

 

It just does not seem to do the job. Not bright enough, not big enough.

(Octodome? output probably not high enough.

 

 

What do you mean 'Not bright enough'? Are you attempting to balance your lamps with daylight? If you are, you'll need a small HMI source, like a Joker 400/800 or maybe a 1.2kw Fresnel. If you're shooting in more controlled conditions a small tungsten kit should suffice, Maybe a couple of 650w and a couple of 300w lamps. My preference would be for fresnels, but if you're going to diffuse them, then open face lamps are just as effective, and often cheaper.

 

If you're working as a small ENG crew, then you'll want to keep the grip work to a minimum. There are many lightweight, fold away diffusion systems available, like the Westcott Scrim Jim. Or you could stick with soft boxes, like chimera. You'd probably need at least a 2'x3' to keep the light reasonably soft.

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as long as your not worried about being intrusive size usually isn't a problem even in a small space. I often bring in a 6x 1/2 Lite Grid or full lite grid cloth and just hang it on c stands loosly as to not worry about the frame size if I cant get a full 6 feet I will just span it over 5ft or something.... any smaller and use a 4x4 frame. 6x is kinda the ideal size at 5-6ft away from the subject to get a nice wrap. often times with using frames like this and needing to balance daylight I will put a 1.2k HMI through the frame or 1.8k HMI. If you don't need to match daylight no need for big sources. a 4x4 kino backed off so it evenly fills the frame can be enough.

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For lighting interviews I'm partial to a chimera. They're especially nice because they don't take up as much space and are modular. I'm looking at the Westcott Spiderlite TD6 which accepts compact fluorescents, nice because the source itself is large (all those low wattage bulbs) and so the diffuser can be closer to the light. Space always seems to be at premium and I prefer to put extra space behind the subject to create separation rather than behind the camera with lots of stands, flags and lights.

 

Shooting an interview at F/1.9 80mm might be frustrating.

Edited by Daniel Madsen
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Pete,

 

I forgot to mention that one product I've used and really like is the Westcott Scrim Jim. It's a modular metal frame that snaps together to give you about a 4x4 diffusion frame and it folds up in a small duffle bag. I believe it comes with some diffusion and a bounce rag or two. The one I used was borrowed by the director, so I'm not exactly sure. It seems to work well for documentary shoots where you don't want to have to carry in tons of cases and you don't want to lug "big" heavy equipment, like a Matthews solid aluminum 4x4 frame. I used it with a 1k Fresnel flooded and it was soft enough. If you need to go a bit softer you can always use the barn doors as a diffusion mount and put some light grid across the front of the light doors to double diffuse. As far as spill goes...it wasn't a big deal for my particular shoot so a Chimera with an egg crate wasn't necessary. I also don't remember exposure being difficult.

 

There are so many great options for lights out there that it's hard to recommend a particular model or brand. I can say that as far as color changeable LEDs go I've really liked working with the Fiilex and Cineo brands. I haven't had any noticeable issues with skin color on either. A few of my colleagues really like the BBS Area 48 light, but I haven't used them personally.

 

I really love shooting documentary interviews. I wish I knew more directors who were into documentaries instead of narratives...Sigh...

 

Hope this helps.

 

Stuart

--------------------------

illuma.blogspot.com

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They are great till the velcro wears out :).. thats the plus with the expandable .. no frame and they snap out tight.. its pretty much the most compact ,large enough for close head/shoulders diffusion "Frame" you can get...

 

Not the best.. but easiest for minimum gear ,tight space work.. IMHO..

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I got to try an Arri Skypanel for an interview setup yesterday, man that thing is bright. We were using it as a frontal fill above the lens through a 4x4 frame of 216 but I could see using it as a key in the future. We were using a 1.2k Par in a book light for the key, other times on the same project we have used a Joker 800 in a chimera. You definitely need to use HMIs or at least the newer more powerful LEDs like the Cineo HS or Sumo Light if you are competing with the sun. Kinos are definitely not going to cut it in that scenario.

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I have been stuck with kinos a lot in that situation - if you can get a 8-10bulb kino and get it through diffusion you can pull it off - the background will be hot and the source isn't perfect but it's ok if you are doing medium shots or something and can get it pretty close.

 

Those Skypanel's look very cool.

Edited by Albion Hockney
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This set up is not cheap but you won't find a better key for lighting interviews. I made a Barger like 3 lite out of 3-1k nook lights mounted inside a chimera quartz speed ring. I put a switch on each one so I can turn them on/off as needed. There's a bulb house in LA that makes a 650w fcm style bulb with an infrared coating that boast the output of a 1K bulb. The coating transfers more heat to the filament and in turn produces light which is really close to 1K output. You can plug all 3 of these nook lights on the same outlet no problem. My DP's love it.

 

I also made a custom chimera front out of muslin. With a baffle and muslin front used together you have a highly adjustable soft light from 1K technically up to 3K of gorgeous customizable soft light that you can plug into one outlet. You can change diffusion fronts as need for the quality of light you are looking for based on your subjects face but I'm a fan of single source interviews and the baffle with muslin front is incredible. It would be a crime to use fill light with this set up. I have the 2x3' and the 4x3' chimera. I like to use the 4x3 for a larger source but it's good to have the smaller option in case the space is tight. I recently purchased the 5ft octaplus with 7ft expansion kit for this set up. As we say back home...fuggedaboutit. So gorgeous. I have also used the octaplus without the front and just the baffle. Creates this semi sourcey soft light with round eyelight that is second to none for certain applications and moods. Beauty stuff mostly.

 

This has been my go to light for interviews since I made it. I made a version two that is sleeker. Expensive set up though. After the chimera speed ring, the chimera quartz bag and the bulbs which at 24 bucks each, with spares, is expensive. Much cheaper than a Barger though and brighter!! But you will have it forever and the quality of light is priceless. Takes up no space. I put it on a C stand with no head to reduce the profile even further. C stand takes up less floor space than one of my beefy baby stands.

 

I also have the litepanel Astras which are so incredibly bright I was shocked. I shot one thru a frame of 216 from 4ft away for a daylight interview set up and was blown away at the quality and intensity of light I got from it. I had to dim it down 25% it was so bright. A great ultra portable option.

 

Calabrialightingandgrip.com

Edited by Nicholas Calabria
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