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Hey there everyone! I am a colombian film student and wannabe cinematographer and I am looking for some advise for an upcoming short film me and some classmates are preparing. So I am going to be the DP for this short and in terms of lightning I am looking to have an aesthetic close to the images I attached below for the interior daylight scenes. Logic tells me that to achieve this I should have some strong key lights motivated from the windows on the characters and expose to those bright areas of the face, so everything else will be darker to achieve that high contrast ratio. We´ll probably have like 2 or 3 arri 1000 and maybe like 6 arri 650, it really depends on what the faculty will have available at the time and the budget that production will give us (which will be very, very low). So really I want to have a realistic view of our lightning capabilities with such few lights, can I achieve this look with the lights that are available? If so, what tips can you guys give me to achieve it on an extremely low budget? One of our likely sets is a house with really big windows, so one of the strategies I came up with is partially blocking some windows to control and limit the entrance of light (because it may be too much and spreading everywhere). Am I thinking about this the right way or am I completely off? Thanks in advance! aaaa.thumb.JPG.fba6fd65565314435b2a9775b4eb3670.JPG1752737051_saintmaud3.thumb.jpg.109b469c5543ef22b4db9314ba3114f1.jpg1706458017_itcomesatnight.thumb.jpg.d2a8b97fc82280ada5a506852cafa31f.jpg

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Posted (edited)

I think it's doable, though this kind of look is highly dependent on finding the right locations and art direction. You don't need much light to shoot shots like that, as long as everything in front of the camera looks good to begin with. It's important to find locations with large rooms, high ceilings and dark wood walls and dark wallpaper. It can also help to have a camera with high dynamic range so you can expose for the interiors and not blow out the bright windows. Take lots of location scout photos to plan ahead with your lighting team.

Wide shots will be the most tricky to frame up, but can sometimes be simple to light. For example, I shot this scene in a historic house with just existing light for the wide shot. There would be no way to fill these huge windows with movie lights on a student budget.

GBHavana_57.thumb.jpg.5a233fce1ed2b6ee41d51aa2f08a8d47.jpg

I intentionally let the windows blow out here to hide the non-period correct house next door - it would have looked a lot better if we shot on an Alexa or film that clips highlights more gently, but it was necessary to get this shot. For the rest of the coverage, I just used a 4x4 Kino Flo for a key light, a bounce board, and a few 150w tungsten Dedolights for accent lights.

In general, I would consider approaching the tighter coverage by picking the backgrounds you want and bringing in a key light to shape and augment the existing light. Or bringing in a diffusion frame to soften the window light if the actor is in the light.

For lighting units, I would see if you can get a hold of daylight sources like: 

- 4' 4Bank Kino Flo with 5600K tubes for Key Light

- Litepanel Astra 1x1 LED for Key Light

- LED Dedolights for accent lights

- Joker 800 HMI for Sunlight effects

- Joker 400 HMI (or Joleko) for Sunlight effects

Not sure how common these lights are in your area, but they shouldn't be too expensive to rent and you should be able to plug them into a normal household wall outlet. Your tungsten lights could work, but you would have to gel them with Blue gel to convert them to daylight color, which lowers the light output by 2 stops. For scenes where you don't see the windows, you can set the camera to 3200K white balance and take the gel off of your tungsten sources. In that case, large paper lanterns with 250w halogen bulbs make a cheap and really nice key light. It will help to have a fair bit of grip equipment like large rags of diffusion to soften the light from the windows and lighting units, and large flags and solid rags to create negative fill.

 

 

 

 

Edited by Satsuki Murashige
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On 8/1/2020 at 1:04 AM, Satsuki Murashige said:

I think it's doable, though this kind of look is highly dependent on finding the right locations and art direction. You don't need much light to shoot shots like that, as long as everything in front of the camera looks good to begin with. It's important to find locations with large rooms, high ceilings and dark wood walls and dark wallpaper. It can also help to have a camera with high dynamic range so you can expose for the interiors and not blow out the bright windows. Take lots of location scout photos to plan ahead with your lighting team.

Wide shots will be the most tricky to frame up, but can sometimes be simple to light. For example, I shot this scene in a historic house with just existing light for the wide shot. There would be no way to fill these huge windows with movie lights on a student budget.

GBHavana_57.thumb.jpg.5a233fce1ed2b6ee41d51aa2f08a8d47.jpg

I intentionally let the windows blow out here to hide the non-period correct house next door - it would have looked a lot better if we shot on an Alexa or film that clips highlights more gently, but it was necessary to get this shot. For the rest of the coverage, I just used a 4x4 Kino Flo for a key light, a bounce board, and a few 150w tungsten Dedolights for accent lights.

In general, I would consider approaching the tighter coverage by picking the backgrounds you want and bringing in a key light to shape and augment the existing light. Or bringing in a diffusion frame to soften the window light if the actor is in the light.

For lighting units, I would see if you can get a hold of daylight sources like: 

- 4' 4Bank Kino Flo with 5600K tubes for Key Light

- Litepanel Astra 1x1 LED for Key Light

- LED Dedolights for accent lights

- Joker 800 HMI for Sunlight effects

- Joker 400 HMI (or Joleko) for Sunlight effects

Not sure how common these lights are in your area, but they shouldn't be too expensive to rent and you should be able to plug them into a normal household wall outlet. Your tungsten lights could work, but you would have to gel them with Blue gel to convert them to daylight color, which lowers the light output by 2 stops. For scenes where you don't see the windows, you can set the camera to 3200K white balance and take the gel off of your tungsten sources. 

 

 

 

 

Hey thank you for the detailed response! So a few things about this: 

-Are the dark wood walls to prevent light bouncing?

-I will be using a Sony F5

-Yes so even though I have never used them I also thought about the Hmi and Kino but you know, I study in a public college in a third world country so our budget is really, really low. However I will try to get at least 1 kino maybe with my own money, to have at least 1 good strong key, since the ctbs and the diffusion will reduce greatly the output from the tungstens.

-I also thought about playing with the camera´s white balance to avoid having to gel the tungstens, but wouldn´t that be a problem since I would be mixing 2 different color temperatures (tungsten from the lights and daylight in the ambience)? So I would end up with 2 different color temperatures?

-Is there any type of cheap diffusion material you recommend? All I see in my faculty are paper-like diffusers hanging in front of the lights with tweezers but I don´t really like the difussion produced by those..

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Tomas Gomez said:

Hey thank you for the detailed response! So a few things about this: 

-Are the dark wood walls to prevent light bouncing?

-I will be using a Sony F5

-Yes so even though I have never used them I also thought about the Hmi and Kino but you know, I study in a public college in a third world country so our budget is really, really low. However I will try to get at least 1 kino maybe with my own money, to have at least 1 good strong key, since the ctbs and the diffusion will reduce greatly the output from the tungstens.

-I also thought about playing with the camera´s white balance to avoid having to gel the tungstens, but wouldn´t that be a problem since I would be mixing 2 different color temperatures (tungsten from the lights and daylight in the ambience)? So I would end up with 2 different color temperatures?

-Is there any type of cheap diffusion material you recommend? All I see in my faculty are paper-like diffusers hanging in front of the lights with tweezers but I don´t really like the difussion produced by those..

Re: Dark walls

Yes, you got it. If you look at your own reference photos, imagine those same shots in small rooms with white walls, like many modern houses and apartments have. I think you can see how much it changes the image. Not only that, but it changes how you light. Some other examples from the same film I shot, apologies in advance to those who have seen them before: 

GBHavana_08.thumb.jpg.7af7eff2ac0ba9a96aca47c63350cd2f.jpg

Location scout still:

Cohen-Bray-House-15.thumb.jpg.a2bfb638c902f5681471c35ed92524b5.jpg

I blacked out the windows behind the wooden shutters with scraps of duvytene (thick black cloth) and only added small lights here, one 2' paper lantern (China ball) with a 250w halogen bulb on camera left, one tungsten Dedolight bouncing into a 2x4 foamcore on the floor on camera right, and one more Dedolight bouncing off another foamcore on the floor just under the man's chair. There was no room to hide anything else.

Lighting diagram:

GB_Havana_Diagram.thumb.jpg.14cf75c512ede3538a923a68129549c0.jpg

For the tighter shots, I moved the 2' China Ball into the room and armed out on a c-stand over the table and turned off the overhead chandelier fixture. In a white walled room, the China Ball would have to be skirted with black cloth to keep it from spilling onto the walls. But because of the dark walls, it wasn't necessary. I just moved the China Ball around slightly for the other close ups and added a Dedolight edge light for the woman.

GBHavana_09.thumb.jpg.095977c6eb5e5e818abfd62de76526ca.jpg

GBHavana_10.thumb.jpg.2d24458697f14136644e1389289a1f24.jpg

GBHavana_11.thumb.jpg.4e42a5e4f784c55bb99ea5607062f02f.jpg

Even the 'moonlight' on the curtains here is just a 150w Dedolight gelled with 1/2 Blue gel and raking the white curtains. I blacked out the actual windows, since it was daytime outside. Because the curtains were out of focus, there was no problem faking that the light was coming thru them.

GBHavana_12.thumb.jpg.6bc1bb33c9e3cf545eddcf31a58c889d.jpg

Here's another example where we were shooting a night scene during the daytime. I took a 150w Dedolight gelled with 1/2 Blue and grabbed a large vase of ostrich feathers that art department had brought and put it in front of the light. Then I had a crew member gentle move the feathers back and forth to suggest palm tree shadows. I think there may have been some natural ambient light coming in as well, we could close some window shutters behind the camera to have some control.

GBHavana_52.thumb.jpg.21a2794a02a359c27a0d5c08f3728c8f.jpg

Location scout stills, you can see the vase of ostrich feathers in the foreground:

30803928731_42b6b8dfc2_o.jpg

30256553923_b5f50bb50d_o.jpg

We also shot on an early firmware Sony F5, in HD and S-Log 2 at 800 ISO and T2.8. The F5 is still a great camera and you will get more dynamic range these days by shooting in 4K XAVC 480 and S-Log3 at a higher ISO.

A lot of this low-key look on a budget is made possible because of the locations and art direction. We had a fairly tiny budget as well; the director was a student at UC Berkeley, a good university but not a film school for production at all. Her background was in art direction and she did a lot of her own scouting and costume design, which helped tremendously.

 

Re: lights

What helped in my case was not having to fight the ambient light and natural sunlight in the examples above. When we shot day scenes, the HMIs and Kinos helped a lot:

GBHavana_16.thumb.jpg.4f37d2668be5158711272d158197fe39.jpg

Same room, daytime scene. Here, I put a Joker 800w HMI on the roof just outside the window that is the woman's key light, and also lighting the bed/wall behind her. On the lower half of the window, I taped a 4x4 rag of Half Soft Frost (basically shower curtain material) to the window frame to cover the woman, but leave the background with direct light. Then there is a Dedolight on her as a backlight. For the hallway, I have a Joleko 400w HMI in the hall to create a sunlight effect, again passing thru the vase of ostrich feathers on a chair. In the deep background, I taped some thin black tablecloth material behind the window shutters to make it darker and turned on a practical lamp. The bright highlight is from another open window in the deep background.

GBHavana_17.thumb.jpg.1d4837a699b5d973129c5e2f872e6eaa.jpg

Basically same lighting here. The light behind her in the blue bathroom is natural ambient daylight. I think you can see how much dark walls makes a huge difference versus white walls!

Here's a different location, but similar problem. Location scout still:

395991846_ChateauTivoli-1.thumb.jpg.b5419aa4852ca8ffcff22c4f2e01b4ef.jpg

What we ended up shooting, which goes toward your question of mixing color temperatures:

GBHavana_18.thumb.jpg.bb6e7e7d6d3896895cb05b937dce35da.jpg

First, we decided to actually push the color difference to get a romantic tone. Also, there were non-period buildings outside and we wanted to hide the view, so we closed the blinds. If I remember correctly, the key was a 2K open face tungsten with Full CTS (Straw) gel on it to make the light even more orange. We put it thru a homemade diffusion frame of bleached muslin, which is a thick cotton cloth like a bedsheet. The muslin was stapled to a 6' 2x4 wood plank and rolled onto it for ease of transportation. We just held it up with two c-stands and two cardellini clamps. I think we popped an electrical circuit in the hotel location due to the 2K, so we swapped it for two 4x4 Kino Flos with the CTS gel at some point.

Same room, different approach for a less romantic scene earlier in the story:

GBHavana_23.thumb.jpg.100a14b052aac722a09d4947ca3a666a.jpg

 

Re: Diffusion

I think the Muslin roll-out is a great idea for low budget. You can get it in most fabric stores by the yard/meter, and if not then white bedsheets do the same thing. You can do the same with Duvytene for a black roll-out as well. You can also get plastic shower curtain material or thick plastic sheeting at a home furnishing or hardware store, just don't put them directly onto hot lights or they will melt.

Edited by Satsuki Murashige
Corrected a few details from memory

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