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Hey everybody. This is my first post :)

 

I wanted to get everyone's opinion on the lighting for this scene, and how Janusz Kaminski may have accomplished it.

 

post-69812-0-22543400-1458157620_thumb.jpg

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Looks like a large soft source off to camera left. Kaminski is fond of using Booklights, so it may well be one. There is another, harder source backlighting the room from high up on camera right. There is also perhaps a toplight on the table in the BG, although it could just be the practical lamp above it that is doing the work. The desk lamps are also providing some warm fill, as you can see on the face of the character talking to Tom Hanks.

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The basic setup is simple enough. What I don't get is how they magically make that same effect extend over the entire room without, somehow, spilling all over the walls and backdrop, for when people start walking around.

 

Witchcraft, I say!

 

P

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Most likely because the book light is large, at least 12x12, and backed up so that the drop off in illumination is minimized. It's probably got a light control grid on it, and whatever other grip work is necessary to keep it off the walls

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Yes, but even if it was huge - even if it was twenty feet square, which it may be - it should still fall off when he steps away from it.

 

This is, as they say, "the hard stuff." Anyone can light that shot as seen there. What's difficult is doing the 20 setups around it and having them all match. So often it comes down, as you say, to huge, huge amounts of equipment.

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it should still fall off when he steps away from it.

 

So often it comes down, as you say, to huge, huge amounts of equipment.

 

If the frame is 20 or 30 feet back, the drop off will be unnoticeable if the actors only move a few feet.

 

Kaminski refers to these book light setups as a '7 minute drill' so there's obviously a limit as to how much equipment can be involved.

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This is unfortunately the answer to so many "how do I make it look cool?" questions.

 

You can't.

 

Because you don't have a 20K.

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This is unfortunately the answer to so many "how do I make it look cool?" questions.

 

You can't.

 

You can. You just have to approach the problem from different angle. If you don't have a 20K, then you use an array of smaller lamps to create pools of light where you need them. If that doesn't work, you change the blocking so that you can light it. If that isn't ever going to work, then you make sure in pre-production that you find a location that you can light, or that has natural light that you can use.

 

I don't routinely carry lamps that big on the truck. If we're scouting a location that looks like we need one, I get one, and if I can't get one, then I argue strongly in favor of finding somewhere else.

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The problem is that nobody sees this stuff as difficult. The question would be why you need thousands worth of rentals (assuming generator, and so forth) to light a shot of a guy walking up to a desk and having a conversation. Sigh.

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The problem is that nobody sees this stuff as difficult. The question would be why you need thousands worth of rentals (assuming generator, and so forth) to light a shot of a guy walking up to a desk and having a conversation. Sigh.

 

Cheer up Phil. I think I can solve this problem for you. Let's break it down...

 

Let's say they did use a 20k tungsten fixture bounced out of a 12x12 book light on VIsion3 7219 500 ASA Tungsten stock... well, we can safely assume you're shooting digital, so double the sensitivity of your stock/sensor. Right, so we're working at 1000 ISO now, and only need a 10k tungsten fixture to get the same effect...

 

Urgh, well a 10k, or even two 5ks is going to require 3-phase power, which we most likely don't have. Alright. But what we do have is a digital sensor, so we can balance for daylight, and bring in HMIs instead. What do we need to get an equivalent to 10k of tungsten light? A single 2.5kw or two 1.2kw HMIs. They're cheap to rent, and we can plug them into the wall - voila! Crisis averted.

 

And since we're balanced for daylight, those tungsten bulbs in the practical lamps won't necessarily need to be dimmed to play in warm, we just need some low-wattage halogen bulbs that will balance comfortably for exposure at 1000 ISO. Easy done, and hardly too expensive (hell, you can put that cost on the art department's budget). And lastly, we need that little backlight, that's giving us some nice separation. At 1000 ISO, just a 575w HMI fresnel tucked way back in the corner of the room should do it.

 

Bam. You've just done Kaminski proud, and it's only cost a few hundred bucks in gear rental. Or, if you have a gaffer with you, it's not costing you anything extra, because he already has all of those bits.

Edited by Mark Kenfield
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You think I can afford HMIs?

 

And a gaffer?

 

I think in the last fifteen years of making at least pocket money out of camera work, I've only ever had anything you could realistically call a gaffer twice.

 

And yes, they absolutely do expect it to look like Kaminsky.

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Jesus... honestly?

 

A quick google just showed me 2.5kw HMIs for 95 quid a day and 575w for 65 quid in London. If getting those and a couple of frames of fabric aren't possible for the productions you're working on, then I think you need stop whatever it is you're doing to find camerawork, and start networking in other ways.

 

I've done a lot of tiny self-funded short films. But getting the producers to cough up a few quid to cover essential equipment like that for a scene has never been THAT impossible.

 

I think you just need to put the time in to network and work with a better class of producer. It can be done.

Edited by Mark Kenfield

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I could give you several names, including mine, of people who essentially gave up in disgust because of the situation I describe.

 

In the UK, you're either on the next Bond movie, or you're hanging around someone's mouldy flat with a DSLR, and there's practically nothing inbetween.

 

It is miserable, but that's life.

 

P

 

PS - and it's a lot, lot more than £95/day once you've factored in insurance and the fact that you actually need it for three days because of pick up and return time, and that's then two additional days, or at least half day, you have to work for free and... that's why it doesn't happen.

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Same goes for my area. I get calls all the time to do 7-day shoots for $100 (that's less than $20 per day). I say no, of course, but I realise these people don't have the $1000 it would take to rent a 1-ton grip truck which would solve all their issues, AND pay the insurance for covering the weekend which will allow you to rent the truck in the first place.

 

What's even more interesting is that those same people would more than likely spend that $1000 ON A NEW CAMERA! rather than production.

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Most likely because the book light is large, at least 12x12, and backed up so that the drop off in illumination is minimized. It's probably got a light control grid on it, and whatever other grip work is necessary to keep it off the walls

 

Stuart, when you make the booklights do you hang solids off the sides of the diff frame- making a giant softbox/chimera type of light?

 

How do you control the spill or is there any?

Edited by Edward Lawrence Conley III

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I don't use booklights that much, but when I do, I use a light control grid on the diff frame, and then solids on each side as necessary. I try not to do any more grip work than is needed, as these setups can end up taking forever.

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I don't use booklights that much, but when I do, I use a light control grid on the diff frame, and then solids on each side as necessary. I try not to do any more grip work than is needed, as these setups can end up taking forever.

 

It's times like those, that people need my 'Orb' light!

 

1zOE4DE.jpg

 

7' in diameter, supersoft, and you can mount the whole thing on a single combo stand with wheels - which allows you to reposition it in seconds.

 

I could give you several names, including mine, of people who essentially gave up in disgust because of the situation I describe.

 

In the UK, you're either on the next Bond movie, or you're hanging around someone's mouldy flat with a DSLR, and there's practically nothing inbetween.

 

It is miserable, but that's life.

 

P

 

PS - and it's a lot, lot more than £95/day once you've factored in insurance and the fact that you actually need it for three days because of pick up and return time, and that's then two additional days, or at least half day, you have to work for free and... that's why it doesn't happen.

 

There isn't a single production insurance policy out there, that will bat an eye-lid at covering the cost of a couple of small mains-powered HMIs. And no one charges additional day rates for picking up gear the day before your shoot and dropping it off the day after.

 

We have similarly ludicrous, no money shoots here in Australia (which I don't believe is a particularly different kind of market to Ole Blighty), but there is still a significant amount of work above that, that is low-budget (rather than no-budget), and can afford to supply the basics that you need to get passable results.

 

Indeed there seems to be more of that work than ever these days, thanks to the internet, and the current content boom.

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Two 1.2s and a 575?

Tell him hes dreamin!

 

In my experience on big jobs its unlikely to be a BFL book light and walk away to check your phone. Thats four electrics plus grips with a world of lamps and a forest of cutters. Just out of shot is a Charlie Foxtrot of legendary proportions and as soon as they want to move on its gonna be an epic rebuild to get a world of crap out of shot and ready to light it all again differently.

A book light is never just a book light. Its empty the truck and ka-**(obscenity removed)**-ching on OT.

 

All for a closeup of Jamie Lanisters finger as he pretends to be egyptian.

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Same goes for my area. I get calls all the time to do 7-day shoots for $100 (that's less than $20 per day). I say no, of course, but I realise these people don't have the $1000 it would take to rent a 1-ton grip truck which would solve all their issues, AND pay the insurance for covering the weekend which will allow you to rent the truck in the first place.

 

Quite so. I think a lot of people either never did this sort of work, or somehow forgot that it exists. The reality is that most of what's called filmmaking is actually done on that sort of basis. The world where you can afford trucks and lights (and insurance!) is the top 5%.

 

What's even more interesting is that those same people would more than likely spend that $1000 ON A NEW CAMERA! rather than production.

Tell me about it.

P

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So you cant get your 2) 12x Frames, two 1.2K's, 575w HMI, or the 1-ton and the grips etc etc. Thats fine, Come on guys isn't one huge part of our job as Director of Photography problem solving? That is the fun part, Most of the time ha.

 

So you want to achieve that similar look to Bridge of Spies. If you have access to at least some lights. Say an Arri kit from your buddy, no insurance needed. Perfect. That kit has a 750W maybe a 650w or two, 300w, and a chimera. Take the 750 throw on the chimera with 1/2 or full grid, want it super soft use the baffle in addition to the grid on the front. Thats your soft source to replace the book like. Take one 650w and use that as the backlight. Now use the 300w and spot it on the desk. Those practicals you have throw cheap dimmers on them balance your camera to tungsten and when you dim those practicals down they will warm up.

 

Don't have any of that junk. Find a location with a large window balance to daylight and buy a thin bed sheet or a frosted shower curtain and throw it up over the window. Now you have a natural soft source. If you have even one light throw it up in the back corner for your back light.

 

My point here is there are plenty of different ways you could get a similar look. In no ways am I saying it is easy to achieve what Kaminski has done. But with planning and even a small amount of stuff you can go along way.

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The way I'd end up doing it is probably with fluorescent.

 

I have about 1100W of 4' fluorescent which can be snapped together to form a single unit or rigged more spread out on lightweight stands. In either case it would be rather smaller than a 20x diffusion, but probably has a bit - well, quite a bit - more output than a 5K tungsten through diffusion. The shadows end up being a bit segmented and it's a pain to rig, and it wouldn't be nearly so soft, but you'd get some sort of image.

 

Some sort of image, anyway.

 

P

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