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charles g clark

Dining room scene

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Hi all,

I’m going to be shooting a dining room scene with three people for a short film next month. I was inspired years ago by the dining scenes in American Beauty (as attached)

I will be shooting on location, there are bookcases I can clamp small lights onto, probably can use some boom arms and c stands.

In the attached photo, how did Conrad Hall achieve such control on the keys for Kevin Spacey and Annette Benning in this wide shot? It seems to be incredibly precise Reverse keys- could it be fairly hard lights?

obviously I don’t have Conrad Halls experience, talent, crew, budget or resources, but if you had to attempt something similar using small fresnels how would you do it? Or would you go for a different style?

thanks in advance and please excuse any naïveté 

 

 

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I'm only guessing but judging by the table shadow on the floor, I suspect a soft box above the table, the same shape and size more or less, with a skirt... but somehow a 650w or 300w tungsten fresnel mounted in the center under the box to spot the table.  Of course, that's hard to do without raising the soft box higher to make room for the hanging fresnel and keep it all above the frame line.

Another possibility is three lights with Chimeras, one for each person, and the center top light hard for the table. The Chimeras would all be in a semi-circle around the center down light. Or instead of Chimeras, three skirted paper lanterns.  

But that neat shadow behind the table on the floor suggests a skirt around a big soft box to me.

If you couldn't rig to the ceiling and had to use long menace arms from the foreground to reach over the table, then I'd suggest the three keys for the three people be something like a 2'x2' Litemat with snap grids to save weight.  But you'd still need that hard center top light, something with barn doors or black wrap to keep it off of the people.

Or put some white up there on the ceiling and skirt the sides and back edge with some lightweight black material (that nylon-like ripstock or plastic tablecloth material you can get at restaurant supply stores) that can be taped, and then use a Source-4 Leko or two to hit the white ceiling bounce material.  Then menace arm the little downlight (if you are shooting on a sensitive digital camera, it could be more like a 200w or 150w Dedo, etc.)

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Thank you David for that incredibly generous, detailed and informative reply.

The table we’re using is smaller and I have an Aputure light dome and led light more or less the same size as the table, I’ll have a go at booming it over as a top light. 

The hotspot in the centre of the table might not be doable with the height of the room to get it under the soft box, but thankfully I have time to experiment (and the location is a friends house so I’ll be able to try it al out first)

I did read somewhere whilst researching that there is a light hidden behind the flowers in the centre to add a bit to Thora Birch.

Anyway thanks again for that awesome answer! I really appreciate it.

I’ll post back with how it went!

 

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Ok so in the end I didn’t quite go for the same look, I wanted it a bit warmer and softer and had to lose the idea of the hot spot in the centre. I had an aputure light dome with a Cto’d 120d hanging just slightly upstage of the two parents in the scene and had 2 arri 300w on super clamps on the bookcases blackwrapped to the nines to get a little bit of backlight on the actors. There’s another aputure 120d bounced off of a the white ceiling and really dimmed down to get a bit of fill. I really wanted to get some moonlight behind the blinds but with limited resources, crew and money we had to cover it in black paper and curtains and just shoot! Didn’t quite succeed with cutting the daylight out but we can drop that down in the grade. Black pro mist 1/4.

Ive also attached the morning after breakfast scene just because I’m really proud of how it came out! It was an available light shot- every available light I could grab! I wanted hot misty highlights with a hard backlight and I’m stoked with the final image. It was a usual British cloudy day and the actors are backlit by a 2k arri studio just out of shot in the top left about 4 feet behind, a 4x8 silver reflector just to the right of camera with an arri 650 to add some fill. Outside in the garden are 2 aputure 300ds doing their best. Black promist 1/4 again and some haze

 

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Edited by charles g clark

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Great job!

If you ever want to try the overhead soft light look on a budget, I recommend using a cheap light weight china ball skirted with black trash bags and menace armed in. The unit itself is so low weight that it can be done with a c-stand and 6-8' speed rail or one of the parts of a 6-8' frame. 🙂

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4 hours ago, AJ Young said:

Great job!

If you ever want to try the overhead soft light look on a budget, I recommend using a cheap light weight china ball skirted with black trash bags and menace armed in. The unit itself is so low weight that it can be done with a c-stand and 6-8' speed rail or one of the parts of a 6-8' frame. 🙂

Thank you! I’ve often thought about using china balls but never actually got round to it, I had no idea how the electrics worked - but looking at it it’s definitely something I’m going to want to try in the future- I was pretty nervous with a light and soft box hanging over the table (well within the weight limit of a manfrotto 085b but nonetheless) and would have enjoyed it more with a lighter solution!

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47 minutes ago, charles g clark said:

Thank you! I’ve often thought about using china balls but never actually got round to it, I had no idea how the electrics worked - but looking at it it’s definitely something I’m going to want to try in the future- I was pretty nervous with a light and soft box hanging over the table (well within the weight limit of a manfrotto 085b but nonetheless) and would have enjoyed it more with a lighter solution!

Can't get any lighter than a china ball. 🙂

You'd be surprised how bright a 250W bulb in one of them is.

Edited by AJ Young

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16 hours ago, AJ Young said:

Great job!

If you ever want to try the overhead soft light look on a budget, I recommend using a cheap light weight china ball skirted with black trash bags and menace armed in. The unit itself is so low weight that it can be done with a c-stand and 6-8' speed rail or one of the parts of a 6-8' frame. 🙂

The french have what they call a 'luciole'. It's a rectangular aluminium frame, basically a rectangular china ball, with a 16mm stud on one edge and one or two 1kw bulbs inside depending on the size. Each side of the box comes with a choice of velcro pads (black or diffusion) so you can swap them out and either diffuse or mask the side you want. The velcro also makes it easy to skirt and some come with snapgrids.

They're cheap and the pads make them really easy to manage spill and shape.

I find them good for table scenes but haven't been able to find the english name. Any idea what they are called elsewhere ?

Edited by Barnaby Coote

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