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Justin Hayward

Wally Phister's sunlight

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I stop and watch "The Dark Knight" pretty much every time it pops up on TV (it's one of those movies for me) and it popped up today while I was cleaning the kid's play-do off the floor.  These screen grabs were pulled off youtube, so they're not a good representation of the actual shots, but I feel like Wally Phister has a fantastic take on how to light and expose for simulated sunlight in my opinion.  I've been simulating sunlight on many shoots for the better part of 20 years (and just recently on another commercial), but I've never felt I've gotten it to feel this authentic.  Again, these stills are misleading, because the movie is not this contrasty (the ratios aren't this drastic), but I think you can imagine what Wally Phister does with sunlight in general with these frames.  What are some of the ways you all have simulated sunlight and what do you feel are the most effective overall?  Thanks!

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I would say every window has at least 1-18k fresnel through it on a lift. If Janusz shot it there would be at least  2-18ks fresnels i each window.

I do like Phisters work. in the dark night movies, usually one backlight and a fill light that acts as an eyelight. that's it. very simple and beautiful.

 

Tim

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52 minutes ago, timHealy said:

usually one backlight and a fill light that acts as an eyelight. that's it. very simple and beautiful.

Yes, that's a great way to put it.  It is, of course, not simple in execution, but so simple in authenticity.  

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I think a big part of the ‘realness’ comes from using large sources backed off from the windows. It’s a lot harder to make convincing sunlight when you are forced to use smaller lamps in close proximity. The fall off never looks right, and the shadows aren’t parallel.

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Another thing which I think helps greatly to sell a sunlight effect is making sure that whatever fill you use is coming from an appropriate angle. If the sun is hitting the floor, or low down on a wall, having the fill come from a similar angle will look a lot more realistic than filling from a perfect 45º angle.

In terms of exposure, in real sun there is usually about 3 stops difference between metering towards the sun and away from the sun. With a backlit actor, I would usually split the difference so that their face is 1.5 stops under, and the sun on the back of their head is 1.5 over. That's roughly where I would choose to expose simulated sun as well, as long as it's not a front lit scene.

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All good points.  Big lamps, far away are a must, but I never thought of the angle of the fill in the room.  Interesting.  After looking back at this I think what strikes me about the sun lighting in this movie is it's often almost coming from the angle of a key light, which is so rare.  In that last frame, the sun is hitting Heath Ledger's face directly.  Interior sunlight in movies (and exterior for that matter) is almost always a backlight or raking walls or whatever.  If it ever hits someone directly, it's usually flagged off their head and shoulders, so hard light is only hitting their body.  Obviously I understand why this is done, but I wonder if that's why the sun lighting in this movie feels more real to me... because it's unusual to see in a film?

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The sun effect is hitting Health ledgers face but it is more of a side light, slightly back lit. Not quite a 3/4 back. I think that is usually just fine. I think where you see the sun flagged off someones face is when it more frontal. Like any typical episode of Law and Order with Sam Waterston

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@Justin Hayward

I think that it is a pretty common effect in either movies, commercials or tv series in Europe. 
From the top of my head I can remember Penny Dreadful, Game Of Thrones, Vikings and many others which do that to recreate sun light. 

There is a movie that I love and I always use as a reference called "Cafe De Fiore" that uses simulated sunlight really well. 

And here are some commercials that use it really well, especially the first one.

For the Velux one all the simulated sunlight are 24Ks far away. 

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A lot of this is about CONTRAST.

Imagine if you were lucky and the real sun was shining through a small window in a dark room. How intense would it be relative to the shadowed areas of the room? Usually it’s pretty hot, hard to balance against. An 18K HMI several feet outside a window at full flood (in order to get the sharpness of sunlight) is not as bright as real sunlight, and maybe you’re trying to create this effect with an even smaller unit, so it’s about trying to give the impression that your “sunlight” is hard to compete with — you let it go overexposed to some degree and you let the surrounding space fall off quite a bit. If you balance things too well, it starts to feel artificial.

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I'm reminded of this sunlight simulating interior lighting product.

CoeLux.jpg?14147571853199997518

This is not sunlight; it's a combination of a hard warm or neutral light, collimated to appear at almost optical infinity, and a soft blue fill.

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10 hours ago, Phil Rhodes said:

it's a combination of a hard warm or neutral light, collimated to appear at almost optical infinity, and a soft blue fill.

It's always nice to do a slightly cool bounce from above windows with warmer hard source coming in below it. Trouble is, it's a lot more work and expense, and although I can see the difference, the UPM generally can't 🙂

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57 minutes ago, David Mullen ASC said:

A lot of this is about CONTRAST.  it’s about trying to give the impression that your “sunlight” is hard to compete with — you let it go overexposed to some degree and you let the surrounding space fall off quite a bit. If you balance things too well, it starts to feel artificial.

No question about it.  I really like the contrast between sunlight and shadow in this movie.  Those stills are misleading, the "sunlight" doesn't clip like that and the ambient isn't that dark.  Obviously this is a taste thing, but almost every time I see a Wally Phister/ Christopher Nolan "sunlit" scene pop up on TV, it catches my eye. (I asked a friend of mine that actually worked on the movie and he recalls them using 100k soft suns for that bank robbery scene, which sounds about right.)

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1 hour ago, Stuart Brereton said:

It's always nice to do a slightly cool bounce from above a window with warmer hard source coming in below it. 

I did a job a little while ago where I had to light a day exterior of a miniature football field.  I bounced four 5k's gelled with full blue into a 20x ultra bounce that was about twice as big as the tiny football field.  Then I raked the whole thing with a 10k gelled with half CTS.  Now that I look back at these stills, I feel like I could have softened the "sunlight" just a little bit more to feel more like sunset.  I don't know.  What do you guys think?

IMG_3217_(1).jpg

IMG_3219 (1).JPG

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Justin, 

Looks great to me! If I saw it in motion and in context I'm sure it wouldn't interrupt my suspension of disbelief. 

I think if the intention was to make it look more like sunset, before I would soften the key, I'd try lowering the source in height and then introducing more blue/indigo into the fill.

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Sunset light can be hard or soft depending on the weather. It's just that at the tail end of sunset, the sunlight is dimmer so there is less contrast relative to the skylight.

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2 hours ago, Kevin Pham said:

I think if the intention was to make it look more like sunset, before I would soften the key, I'd try lowering the source in height and then introducing more blue/indigo into the fill.

Yeah, that would have done it.  It feels like mid-afternoon here.  Thanks

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1 hour ago, David Mullen ASC said:

Sunset light can be hard or soft depending on the weather. It's just that at the tail end of sunset, the sunlight is dimmer so there is less contrast relative to the skylight.

For some reason I always associate low sun with softer-around-the-edges shadows.  Not sure why.  Of course you're right, though.  Thanks

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1 hour ago, Justin Hayward said:

For some reason I always associate low sun with softer-around-the-edges shadows.  Not sure why.  Of course you're right, though.  Thanks

Sure, because often the horizon has more haze in it.  But some days are clear so the sun is still a point source. But the lower contrast as it dims will give the impression of softness.

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Because of variation of weather, you can do all sorts of versions of a sunset effect and still be naturalistic.  On a clear day, some sunsets are very red near the end, but dimmer so the blue skylight is very strong as well.  On a hazy day, the skylight is hardly blue and the sunset light is softer and spread out.

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.....for fun I measure the lux values of full on sun in summer out here and compare it with my brightest light an Arri 1000plus fresnel......then I laugh at myself for thinking taking the lights I own out on location would make any difference at all over 2m....the joys of ignorance

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So I did this commercial where sunlight was incorporated, but not the key light or anything.  Curious what you all think.  This set was built on a stage, so everything is artificial.  We used 2k xenons for the background and fairly simple big soft sources for the foreground (with a 5k at the top of set backlighting everything.)  I specifically had the windows built camera right to push all the lighting from that direction.

 

It's also the first comedy (ish) commercial I directed.  I've done some comedy in my short films, but never with commercials.  (note: I didn't shoot the food, just the live action, although I think the food looks fantastic).  

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Thanks Stephen, I really appreciate that.  It was actually a really great job for me all around.  Good on time and budget and a very cool agency to work with.  Only comes around every so often for me.  Thanks again.

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