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Throwing huge shadows, Expressionist style


Brett Cliff Harrison
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Hey, so for our next movie (a Southern Gothic), we want to have some shots that are extreme, the way Fritz Lang or Murnau did them. I.e. a shadow that's disproportionately huge (the hell with realism here). Specifically, the shadow of a one-winged angel figurine thrown huge on a door that a man comes through. I'm assuming you just put the figurine in front of the key light, close, and aim accordingly. However, I'm wondering if any of you have insights. Much appreciated.

 

Brett

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Yes, and remember, the sharpness of the shadow = distance from the object to the lamp is the square of the distance between the object and the surface. At least I think that's correct - have to look it up.

 

Or, the farther away the lamp is, the more distant the subject can be from the surface and maintain a sharp shadow.

 

Big sources are easier to work with.

 

Go with the 10k.

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An ellipsoidal such as a Source 4 will do a fine job. They're designed for theatre and have a GoBo slot (GoBo = goes before optics) that takes thousands of different patterns and crisply shows them.

 

https://www.gobosource.com/gos/stock-metal-gobos-c-60.html

 

You can also make your own gobo with black wrap, an xacto knife, and patience.

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  • 2 weeks later...

well a point source will throw a hard shadow - so the smaller the point the sharper the shadow.

 

As for shadow size on a background wall, you can figure out where/what angle - it's trigonometry. For simplicity sake, let's pretend the light source is completely flush with the floor. There are literally infinite places to stick a light to get a "comically huge" shadow - so let's hold some values constant for the example.

 

Let's say you want to throw a noir shadow of an actor on a wall. Your actor is 6' tall. And you want the shadow to be 12' high (6' above head-level). Let's pretend you can cut into your floor and put a point-source light at floor level exactly. So to figure out where to place the light, trace from the top of the shadow where you want it to be (we said 12' high) to the top of the actor to the floor. That point will be 12' away from the wall. You've made a 45-45-90 triangle - the legs of the triangle are equal. Bringing the light closer (still on the floor) makes the shadow bigger. Raising the light from the floor will make the shadow lower (but not technically smaller).

 

So for a shortcut - start with the light 2x as far from the wall as the object is. That'll give you a shadow 2x as tall as the object - though the light must be even with the base of the object to see it "head to toe" and double height.

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well a point source will throw a hard shadow - so the smaller the point the sharper the shadow.

 

As for shadow size on a background wall, you can figure out where/what angle - it's trigonometry. For simplicity sake, let's pretend the light source is completely flush with the floor. There are literally infinite places to stick a light to get a "comically huge" shadow - so let's hold some values constant for the example.

 

Let's say you want to throw a noir shadow of an actor on a wall. Your actor is 6' tall. And you want the shadow to be 12' high (6' above head-level). Let's pretend you can cut into your floor and put a point-source light at floor level exactly. So to figure out where to place the light, trace from the top of the shadow where you want it to be (we said 12' high) to the top of the actor to the floor. That point will be 12' away from the wall. You've made a 45-45-90 triangle - the legs of the triangle are equal. Bringing the light closer (still on the floor) makes the shadow bigger. Raising the light from the floor will make the shadow lower (but not technically smaller).

 

So for a shortcut - start with the light 2x as far from the wall as the object is. That'll give you a shadow 2x as tall as the object - though the light must be even with the base of the object to see it "head to toe" and double height.

That was gold and a half! Thank you, thank you!

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well a point source will throw a hard shadow - so the smaller the point the sharper the shadow.

 

Exactly. The diagrams and explanations here might help people understand why-

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umbra,_penumbra_and_antumbra

 

..If you look at the eclipse diagram and imagine the sun shrinking to a point then its obvious that the penumbra - the region of soft shadow - will vanish.

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