I’ll be shooting my first narrative short film, as a DP, upcoming weekend and have researched quite extensively all the options available concerning how to make the lighting more symbiotic with the story.
Let me first quickly describe the location, gear and setups and then follow that with a short bullet point list of thoughts and questions. If anyone has the time to help out I’d be super grateful!!
Location:Everything in this short film will be shot in one small bathroom that’s 9.9 feet wide, 4 feet deep and about 10 feet high. Please check the attachment I’ve added for a bird’s eye view of the location.
In a sense the size of the location is very compromised but that can also lead to creative ideas, as well as some cool shots, of which I have devised quite a few.
Light motivation:my intent is to simulate light coming from a window off screen, and facing the actor who’s seated in profile to it at the opposite side of the room. I intend to create three main lighting setups. One for early afternoon, a second for Sunset and a third for Night.
Lighting gear: Aputure 300D (2x), Westcott Flex 1x1 daylight (3x), a small powerful mini led light (for accents) and all form of diffusions and gels.
I intend to rent out the two Aputure 300D lightsas a substitute for Joker 400 HMI lamps. Advantages of the Aputures are lower heat emission, size and weight, which will come in handy in the tight space.
My camera operator owns the Westcott Flex 1x1 lights, nice!
Lighting usage: For both the early afternoon and daylight setups I intend to create two sources of light.
The first source, an ambient soft source light, simulating a window and facing the actor sitting at the other side of the room in the bathtub. I intend this light to provide a good exposure level (about T2.8) and it's kelvin rating, in relation to the camera white balance, will be dependent on the setup (wether noon, sunset or night).
I'll intend to either use the Aputure 300d in a soft box with honeycomb grid here, or, alternatively bounce the 300d off of the bathroom's (slightly beige’ish) white wall opposite to the actor. As a third option I can attach all the Westcott Flex lights together and simulate the window ambient light that way. For the bounced and westcott flex light options there might be a lot of spill and I’ll take care of that through flagging.
The second source will be a spot light. I intend to simulate the sunlight at sunset. As though the sun is casting light through the window frame and onto the subject in the bathtub. My intent is to create a cookie with the use of Cinefoil and simulate the window frame that way. I also intend to use it similarly for the night setup but simulating outside sodium vapour street lights. Especially with night setup I’ll play around with creating interesting shadows and shafts of light.
So these would be my two main lights sources for the three setups.
In between the lights and for many of the tighter shots I will most probably add diffusion and maybe bring in some extra (westcott) light for some extra punch/contrast or accent where needed.
Oh, and as for the noon setup will however only feature the soft light from one Aputure 300d because theoretically there’s no sun coming through the window at that time of the day. I could cheat a little and strike some light on to the floor but I think that’d be wrong. Right?
I’ve also thought for a while of adding a practical somewherein this bathroom but unfortunately, set design wise, there doesn’t seem to be any feasible location for it without it looking out of place or forced. A bare-bulb hanging overhead being the only (none original) option.
Camera gear “The Risky business and how I plan to deal with it ".
As far as camera gear is concerned I have decided to use what I have and make the best of it. Ideally, I’d prefer shooting Prores 4444/RAW on an Arri or Red but for this shoot I’m going to use tiny tools, both figuratively and literally speaking. One big advantage though is that their size will make things more manageable in our tiny bathroom location.
I intend to shoot on the sony a6500 mostly (and a little bit of a7s) connected to an Atomos Ninja Flame to record in Prores 422.Most importantly I’ll have access to its essential waveform monitoring tool as well as the handy False Color and extended zebra functions.
Also, if I decide to shoot SLOG2,I will be working with a contrasty LUT that we will create on set for each of our key shots for our 3 lighting setups (noon, sunset and night). These LUTS will be my main cross reference for making sure that the look is conserved between the different shot setups. Basically my idea is to have everything lit as well as possible in-camera so the colour correction business of matching shots in post production will not be compromised too much by the sub-par 8 bit 4:2:0 sony compression.
There’s a side of me that’s still considering wether or not to shoot in Cine4 Picture Profileinstead. I’ve never shot green screen sequences on the Sony’s in SLOG before and keying them with a Hypergama Cine4 type of profile should be easier on the post side of things. I’ll be doing some testing on Thursday, this concerning. Anycase I want to stick to one picture profile and not fuss around too much and I think it’ll be SLOG2 (on the a6500 at ISO800 for most of the shots).
Contax Zeiss line mostly. Maybe I’ll use my Aps-c sigma’s 16 and 30 F1.4’s for the few situations where the follow focussing will be tricky because of space issues, and I need to resort to autofocus. If this happens I’ll probably throw a 1/4 Black Mist Pro on the Sigma’s to soften them somewhat and hope that they’ll match well enough to the Contax lenses. This mix-matching is also something that I’ll be testing out tomorrow.
Ok, so that’s the barebones info of my setup more or less. Here are the bullet point questions/thoughs:
The biggest issue that I’m worried about with lighting concerns a wide shot of the actor sitting in the bathtub. Here the ambient replicated window light will hit him head on and the lighting will thus be of a flat broad type. He’ll be seated in profile to the light (which is good for all the other shots that I have planned) but the camera in this wide shot will be oriented in the same direction as the lights, creating the flat look. Fortunately this specific shot will not feature much at all but I’m wondering wether it’d be ok to cheat and create more of an ambient bounce off of the ceiling/beadboard here, to create top lighting instead... I can definitely try this on set and see for myself - and will probably do it if I have the time (so I can learn from seeing it with my own eyes) - but I may quite well not have time to do this and therefor, your experience here would be highly appreciated :) Would changing the natural motivation of the light for this shot, by adding some ceiling top light and maybe removing some of the motivated window light be an accepted cheat? Most of the other shots I have planned will tighter framings and insert shots which will mostly be of a side or 3/4 lighting style. Not much backlighting will be possible unfortunately because there’s no motivation for it and room for it (the actor will be sitting right again the wall). Kelvin wise for the three setups, my initial thinking goes like this. Noon setup: Ambient Aputure light set to 5500K. Camera to 5200K. Sunset setup:Ambient Aputure light CTB gelled to about 6000K. Sunset cookie Aputure 300d gelled to 3200. Camera set to 5000K. Night Scene setup: Ambient aputure set to somewhere around 5000-6000. Aputure cookie setup gelled to 2800 (or gelled less intensively and bounced into unbleached muslin). Camera set to 3200K. I will definitely be adjusting these kelvin ratios a bit so it looks natural. This is something I need to read up on a little more or just gain knowledge for, through experience. Please warn me though if you think I’m looking at this completely wrong. What about the Aputure 300d lights? Do you think these are a good fit for the job? From the output ratings it seems as though their output should be more than enough. Maybe I won’t even use them to their full capacity. Although, I intend to use thicker diffusion for some of the closer shots of the actor, so they may very well serve their purpose. I think Aputure 120d lights would be too risky/soft even for this small location. I don’t have that much experience yet, so maybe I’m wrong. Nonetheless, there will be some macro shots where I will want to close down the aperture quite a bit, as well as some higher frame rate shots too, so I think even if the 300D’s are way too powerful for some shots (the wide and MCU’s), they should come out very handy for the specialised ones at least. Another reason why I’ve gone for the Aputure 300d’s is that according to the specs they have (with the fresnel attachmentat 0.5m) a lux rating of around 140000. This is more or less the same intensity of the sun, which is something that I want to conserve and not tone down. This way the light intensity will feel more realistic, than if I were to use a less powerful light. Correct me if I’m wrong here. This is a presumption of mine and I am not that experienced yet! What do you guys think of shooting on the a6500/a7s and of trying to nail the shot as much in the can as possible? Do you think I’m shooting myself in the foot here with the 8bit compression? Can it be done? Or would you strongly advice against it? If you do advise against , the only feasible alternative I can see myself going for (budget and size wise) is a Blackmagic Production Cinema Camera. But that camera comes with its own share of woes ( ISO 400 to prevent banding noise traumas would be the only sensible option). I intend to also shoot some (slightly) submerged underwater setups with a waterproof underwater casing, something like this: https://www.google.com/aclk?sa=l&ai=DChcSEwjRjLvBjO7cAhXYhLMKHfRtB7AYABAMGgJxbg&sig=AOD64_3UGnYLEaZDeE2wftdtnYEh6cc7wg&ctype=5&q=&ved=0ahUKEwiA2bTBjO7cAhUEmeAKHZYcAOcQ9aACCEQ&adurl= I have never shot underwater scenes. Is there anything that you guys can warn me about? I know the focussing will be different because of light diffraction. Will the light (kelvin) quality change? I'm guessing the filters needed for underwater shooting only apply to outdoor situation but maybe I’m wrong. Do you advise recording a x-rite type of colour board at the beginning of each first shot of each new shot setup? Snoot for the aputure 300d. Would you recommend I get such a bowens mount snoot for the 300D?https://www.amazon.com/SUPON-Honeycomb-Speedlight-Photography-Moonlights/dp/B06X92L878/ref=sr_1_7?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1533655510&sr=1-7&keywords=snoot I feel I can just as replicate the same snoot effect with a Cinefoil. If there’s some reason why this would be more useful for replicating the sun through window frame effect, definitely let me know.
That’s it I think; for now at least.
It would be fantastic if someone with more experience could pitch in. I have much more experience as a director, editor, videographer and even composer than as a DP. However, I’m truly fascinated by this field and I really enjoy dipping my toes in it a bit. Really hoping they won’t get burnt too much this weekend...
Thanks for reading :)