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Tibor Hencz

How to light a studio set as if it was outdoors

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Hi,

I'd like to light a set in a studio and make it look like it was outdoors. Sort of like this:
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It's really hard to find anything on this technique, because I don't know what it's called.

I thought I could use some strong tungsten lights and 200T film.

(HMI lights and 50D film would not make it more believable, because the color temperature will be balanced out and won't be noticable, right?)

Any tips are appreciated.

Thanks

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Maybe dig through the archive and read David Mullens excellent thread on Manure. Lots of discussion around studio based EXT sets. 

 

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Posted (edited)

you need to mimic the sky ambience with a large cold soft source and then make a believable sunlight to light the subjects and background. 

I believe that star trek shot is lit at least partially with spacelights but you can use lots of different techniques to get approximately the same end result. 

I have for example done sky ambience in a small studio by rigging the largest overhead frame I can over the subjects and then filling the frame with cold light sources like hmi or gelled tungsten etc.  Then making the "sunlight" with diffused or raw tungsten fresnels or hmi par depending on what is needed. It is also possible to bounce the "sky ambience" instead of lighting through a diffusion frame if bouncing is easier or cheaper etc. For example using white molton or cheap white paper etc. for making a very large surface for bouncing cold light.

How large a set you'll want to light for daylight look and what units etc. are available for you? 

You will want to observe a little how the real outdoor daylight behaves to be able to mimic it better in studio. Though the soft cold ambience + harder warmer brighter direct light is usually a good starting point and you just need to fiddle the ratios and colour temperature differences to sell it to the audience 🙂

Edited by aapo lettinen
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The thing is, I don't find that Trek shot in the slightest bit believable.

Partly because of the red sky, of course, and partly because that skirt is supposed to be part of a paramilitary uniform, but it just looks like a studio shot.

It's been done better, I'm sure, but is that really your example?

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Posted (edited)

the thing is, the sky ambience needs large surface area soft and wrapping lights and can't really be done effectively with small hard sources without diffusing and clustering them. It is possible to rig lots of smaller units, for example 4x4' Kino Flos in a row side by side to create a large surface area cold light that way but that is relatively expensive and may not be practical compared to using large bounces or a diffusion frames rigged above and then doing the direct sunlight with smaller units.

the same works outdoors btw if you need to shoot the last shots of the day for daylight look and the sun already set an hour ago. you just need to fake the sky ambience and the direct sunlight and it sells the daylight illusion perfectly. If you take the sky ambience away then the audience thinks it is supposed to be a night scene. Simple as that.

Edited by aapo lettinen

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2 hours ago, Phil Connolly said:

Maybe dig through the archive and read David Mullens excellent thread on Manure. Lots of discussion around studio based EXT sets. 

Thanks, I definitely will read through it!

23 minutes ago, aapo lettinen said:

you just need to fake the sky ambience and the direct sunlight and it sells the daylight illusion perfectly. If you take the sky ambience away then the audience thinks it is supposed to be a night scene. Simple as that.

Yes, thanks, that makes a lot of sense. I'm planning to use film, super 8, so for daylight my only choice is 50D, or should I balance for tungsten?

 

31 minutes ago, Phil Rhodes said:

The thing is, I don't find that Trek shot in the slightest bit believable.

Believable was the wrong choice of word 😄

I meant that the tones are balanced right so that they look like outdoors, the example was maybe not the best either, I'm not going for that cheesy look that much, maybe a better example would have been Heart Shaped Box.

 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Tibor Hencz said:

 I'm planning to use film, super 8, so for daylight my only choice is 50D, or should I balance for tungsten?

 

Believable was the wrong choice of word 😄

I meant that the tones are balanced right so that they look like outdoors, the example was maybe not the best either, I'm not going for that cheesy look that much, maybe a better example would have been Heart Shaped Box.

 

Color temperature difference is the key for the look, not the actual colour temperature. You may want to try something around 120 mired difference for starters and test how you like it. If using tungsten stock that could be roughly made for example by gelling the sky ambience to around 4200K and the key "direct sunlight" to around 2800K which would be pretty usable gelling transmission wise if using only tungsten units (only losing around one stop of light when gelling up and losing maybe 1/3 stop or something like that when gelling down) and the look would be approximately right out of the box for slightly warm sunlight appearance (sunlight around 45 mired on the warm side compared to the base colour balance of the stock which would be pretty ok look for my taste I think).

the next issue is how you would get the 4200K sky ambience light big enough so that it wraps the whole set nicely. that can be done in about million different ways and one needs to know how big a set you are actually using and what kind of light levels needed and what type of units are available (if they have the required output in the first place and how much they can be diffused before losing the needed output)

Edited by aapo lettinen
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Well Heart Shaped Box is pretty stylised as well, def feels like its a studio. Which is fine if thats the look your going for.

There are other films that have built exterior sets indoors and made them look like day light more convincingly. e.g Sleepy Hollow, Labyrinth etc...

I would stick to tungsten film. The result of using tungsten lights on tungsten films vs daylight lights on daylight film  - should be roughly similar colour wise (thats the point). 200T or 500T are much more workable lightingwise. It would be very hard to get the light level bright enough for 50D. When you look at period films shot on slow speed stocks (wizzard of oz etc...) the lighting looks really fake because they are having to punch in so much hard light to get exposure

 

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32 minutes ago, aapo lettinen said:

Color temperature difference is the key for the look, not the actual colour temperature. You may want to try something around 120 mired difference for starters and test how you like it. If using tungsten stock that could be roughly made for example by gelling the sky ambience to around 4200K and the key "direct sunlight" to around 2800K which would be pretty usable gelling transmission wise if using only tungsten units (only losing around one stop of light when gelling up and losing maybe 1/3 stop or something like that when gelling down) and the look would be approximately right out of the box for slightly warm sunlight appearance (sunlight around 45 mired on the warm side compared to the base colour balance of the stock which would be pretty ok look for my taste I think).

the next issue is how you would get the 4200K sky ambience light big enough so that it wraps the whole set nicely. that can be done in about million different ways and one needs to know how big a set you are actually using and what kind of light levels needed and what type of units are available (if they have the required output in the first place and how much they can be diffused before losing the needed output)

Is it possible to gel an HMI down to 4200K?

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Posted (edited)
28 minutes ago, Tibor Hencz said:

Is it possible to gel an HMI down to 4200K?

of course but if you are doing the skylight with an hmi and you key "sunlight" is tungsten you may want to leave the tungstens to 3200K so that you don't need to gel the HMI down so much. if wanting that 120mired difference you would want to aim the hmi to around 5195K . getting familiar with Mireds helps a lot, it is 1 000 000 divided by the kelvins. If you would think that a real sky ambience would be around 10 000K and the direct sunlight would be around 4500K (sounds about right for a direct sunlight, it tends to be around 4500 to 5000K, a good approximate would be something like 4700K or so) then the difference between the 10 000K and 4500K would be again that around 120 mireds which I suggested as a starting point for your tests for daytime studio look. it is a matter of taste how much you would want to tweak the colour temp difference and it also depends on what time of day and lighting conditions (clouds, dusty air, etc) there is. being a noon scene or dusk scene etc. 

The ambience is always there though unless it is a night scene so you will want some type of ambience to begin with to sell it as a daytime scene.

You may want to do some tests with a digital camera first preferably with a colour temperature meter on hand to get a better grasp on the colour temp differences you would like to have on the final scene

Edited by aapo lettinen
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For realism, just think about how our creator lights day exteriors.  A large bluish soft light that covers the entire ceiling, plus one big hard source that just a little bit less blue (the sun).  Recreate this on stage and you'll have it!

The challenging thing here is the very large, broad skylight emulation.  This either requires many many smaller units of soft light, or a very large white textile to either bounce off of, or light through.

I was once on a stage a few years ago where they used about 150 large kino flow units (4x8) to create the sky light, and then they had various "sun" sources pre rigged to create the sunlight.  It was very effective and realistic.

Tungsten or daylight fixtures, it doesn't matter.

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Cool soft skylight and warm hard sunlight.  You could go with 5600K soft light for the sky and 3200K light for the sun and then color-correct your tungsten stock in post for something in between, basically warm up the shot.  If you want less extreme of a difference, more midday than late afternoon, use something more like 4300K-to-4700K for the sky and 3200K for the sun.

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