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Lighting per shot vs environment


Doug Wolf
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Hello group, 

While having a long history in VFX, I am fairly new to the practical side of things. I am planning on doing some short films where once the general blocking of action is done, I want to pre-light for the environment rather than make each shot perfect. I plan to have bounce cards to move around quickly for each shot to shape the light a tad. All my on set experience has been on high end productions where every shot is setup for 10 mins to an hour or more, or super low budget with little to no thought put into lighting. Is environment lighting even a practical consideration? Any vid tutorials out there or help on this subject would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!

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Hi Doug, welcome to the forum!

Talking about my own experience, I light environments as opposed as shots as I like giving a 270º freedom to the director. 
It works for me because I work with people who understand it and we block the scenes together to shoot that way and probably because I like being invisible with my lighting and I light from outside the locations (through windows or with practicals)

Said that, if I go from a wide master shot to a close up I add either a diffusion frame near the talent and negative fill or a polyboard / china ball + negative fill if I have time in order to shape the face a bit.

Placing a diffusion frame + negative fill for a close up usually takes 5 to 10 minutes (depending on how many crew you have). 

So it definitely is a practical consideration and once that makes things a bit more natural under my point of view. 🙂 

Here are some practical examples:

 

 

 

 

Edited by Miguel Angel
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Doug, can't answer your question. I can only relate what the late Robby Müller had said in an interview. Even if it was a large street scene Müller liked to light the entire scene so he needed to make the least amount of cuts. He said every time you stopped the camera for a cut to set up a new shot, you lose the flow of energy...or something to that effect. 

Good luck!

Edited by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.
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https://www.afcinema.com/David-Watkin-1925-2008.html?lang=fr

David Watkin was the master of lighting a set once and barely doing any relighting for coverage.

It helps to use a camera with the widest possible dynamic range because you will have some hot areas in the frame.

Think of it as if you had to light the set for a flowing 360 degree Steadicam move...

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Thanks to everyone for the responses. So speaking of least amount of cuts, etc. Have any of you ever used multiple cameras to get as much coverage possible at the same? If money wasnt an issue to have all that equipment , could you light so that each shot could be covered from three angles, close, over the shoulder and wide?

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Increasing the number of cameras can potentially increase the amount and speed of covering a scene. The risk is with more cameras its harder to keep them out of each others shot, potentially diminishing the visual quality - as it may not be possible for a particular camera to be in the "best" position.

I just did some booming swinging (helping out a friend) on a feature shoot that used 3 cameras. It absolutely made both lighting and boom swinging difficult. At times the coverage looked a bit locked down and shots often felt a bit off the eye line. I'm not even convince it saved that much time as each set up with 3 cameras took longer to rig in the first place. The actors quiet liked the fewer takes. Personally I prefer the rhythm of single camera and the ability to focus on one shot at a time - nearly always looks better.

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Multiple cameras sort of force you into a longer-lens look, and it's harder to cheat people and objects for better composition for one camera without making it harder for another camera.  And the eyelines tend to be wider. At some point, you have to ask yourself if you are making a movie or just documenting a performance. Altman made a style out of this approach, sort of a loose observational style with an ironic distance.

I mean, is the point of the exercise to just to not take care in making a movie, or is it because of performance reasons?

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I've found, on the low budget side, that lighting the environment and minimally lighting the coverage works great.

For example, we set the look of the scene in the wide shot: street light through a window and practical lamps. On the coverage or close ups, we basically change just the key light by either making it softer, different position, etc. It's always case by case, but in general the key light is moving.

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I think a lot of cinematographers aim for that ideal master shot lighting that needs almost no adjustments for closer work, it's a dream a lot of us have. Sometimes we manage it, sometimes it's just not possible. Sometimes it's a budgetary issue, it takes better production design and set rigging for great wide shots indoors whereas even a show with a tiny budget can light a nice close-up.

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Everyone is pretty much on the same boat here. Yes, light the set and follow the actor around with a bounce card. Nothing wrong with that.

My addition would be to, if you can, add an LED panel light to follow the actor around for their kicker as well. An Astra softbox with eggcrate works well, or create a snoot out of foamcore yourself to control the spill. LED kickers are great because they can be dimmed to an appropriate level and most are bi-color, so can play as spill from daylight or tungsten.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 4/2/2020 at 7:29 AM, Doug Wolf said:

Thanks to everyone for the responses. So speaking of least amount of cuts, etc. Have any of you ever used multiple cameras to get as much coverage possible at the same?


To be conscious however that using a heap of cameras all at once, mixing together your wides and tights, will screw over your sound department. Not a good thing!

(and I'm sure other departments too, like makeup/art/etc also would have preferences against that as well, but I can only speak from my own experience as a sound mixer)

  

On 4/2/2020 at 8:25 AM, Phil Connolly said:

I just did some booming swinging (helping out a friend) on a feature shoot that used 3 cameras. It absolutely made both lighting and boom swinging difficult. At times the coverage looked a bit locked down and shots often felt a bit off the eye line. I'm not even convince it saved that much time as each set up with 3 cameras took longer to rig in the first place.


Exactly.

Edited by David Peterson
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