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David Pritchard

Optimal size for overhead softbox for boxing ring scene

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Hello guys! I'm busy designing the most complicated lighting sequence of my career. The atmosphere is post apocolyptic, think mad max, the setting is a factory where they fight in a leather boxing ring. The key lights will be warm, the crowd will be silloutte with a red rim and the back walls dark blue. So my question! For the key light, i'm intending to hang 2x 2k tungsten open faced lights and have them shine through 2 layers of diffusion, i'll then skirt this off to avoid spill into the dark crowd area. So my question is, if the ring I want to light is 12 inches, how wide should my square softbox be, keeping in mind the rim will have about skirt to prevent light hitting the crowds faces. I may even attempt to make a kind of grid for this reason. I'm hoping 8x8 feet will be enough with slightly less brightness on the edges of the ring?

 

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8x8' skirted softbox might work out fine for lighting a 12x12' ring will sharp falloff outside the ring.  The 2K open probably won't provide even illumination, but you may have to work with what you can get.  A more linear lamp like  4' Kino would be a better choice.

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If the ring is square (that's an odd sentence...) and so is the overhead diffusion frame, then you might be better off with a grid of 4 1K's rather than 2 2K's to fill it.

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Thanks guys for your great feedback, you have re-affirmed my decision to light with side lighting instead. The overhead softbox idea was going to make getting wide shots pretty difficult and actually I prefer the more dramatic side lighting with negative fill if needed for 3 stops or so difference on the fill side. Just worried about keeping consistent lighting if I have to move to accommodate angles during an action sequence. So I think... I'm going to stick with the 2x2k cause its what I have, through 2 layers of diffusion (bout a foot apart ) but now,  no need to be square. That, lots of haze and negative fill on the opposite side. Hoping the 2x2k allows me to make a nice soft light but still high contrast and that much power lets me get very low iso for a dark scene.

 

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David, for your top light, have you considered a narrow degree Honeycrate?

Also, the higher you raise the source from the stage, the more curtain you can add to narrow the beam spread.

Just some food for thought.

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Hi Stephen, I did indeed think about making something to help with the spread. I've since come up with this, I think its going to be easier and get a more dramatic image with the expense of slightly limited angles. Means id need to remove it all and do something different for the wide angles but I was going to have to anyway with the overhead softbox as it's difficult to make it match a post apocolyptic feel on a budget. Any feed back on that diagram would be great though 😄My first time trying to shoot something this big. The boxing ring is made out of leather and brass, all finely engraved like something out of Game Of Thrones, the factory setting is amazing also. Its an artistic collaboration. 

lightingunderwood.jpg

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I think a lot will depend on the choreography of the fight scene and what you want to see clearly. If the focus of the story is one of the two fighters, then you may want to consider going back to your soft top-lit approach. It’ll make it easier to see the faces and choreography, while not limiting the actors to staying on one side of the ring to be in the right lighting. 

Also, if you’re planning on having the audience in complete silhouette the whole time, then it might be better for the ring to be brighter so you have some contrast. Otherwise, you risk layering dark on top of dark.

Boxing ring scenes are tough. There’s never enough extras and maintaining the continuity of the fight as it progresses is a challenge. I’d say, don’t make it harder by not lighting the ring to at least 180 degrees (ideally more), unless the fight in just happening in the background and not the focus of the story. 

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I think if you side-light the ring, it would have to be established in the wide as a source coming from one direction, whether a window or a spotlight, etc. and then it would be hard to keep moving it around to maintain a side-light no matter where the camera was.  At best, if you did a 180 degree flip, you might get away with flipping the key. So I could see a dramatic side light in a post-apocalyptic stadium... but I can't see it moving around to always stay a side light, you'd have to shoot your angles around that source rather keep moving it.
The final fencing match in the Mel Gibson "Hamlet" was all side-lit by David Watkin from high from a bank of windows in the castle and then as the camera moved around, sometimes things were front-lit, etc. but the position of the source never changed.

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Sometimes it’s best to keep things simple on a low budget. About 8 years ago, I pulled focus for Mike Gioulakis on a small no-budget doc called ‘King’s Gym’ about a local boxing gym in Oakland. Basically no crew, other than a sound person. 

Mike just rigged a single chimera pancake lantern above the middle of the ring and underexposed the green fluorescent ambience of the existing practicals outside the ring to keep the background from going black. He got some bounce fill from the mat and also from the gloves as they got close to the face.

Brutal for me to keep in focus, but it looked fantastic in the monitor. He was inside the ring close to the fighters on an Easyrig, and he could turn with them pretty much in any direction and stay on their hip, or step in front of the hero fighter and have him punch toward the lens.

So there’s a pretty good low budget option if you can keep the fighters closer to the middle of the ring. Once you need to light parts of the scene on the ropes and in the corners, then that wouldn’t be enough light. 

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Thanks for all your great advice guys. Went today to plan, we're building an 9x9 overhead frame, double layer with skirting. I'll post the finished result in a couple weeks!

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Posted (edited)

Here is the ring btw, made from leather and brass. It's being moved into the factory setting tomorrow. I'm hoping as it's quite dark I get a nice dramatic fall off in light from the overhead light.

117293671_304425950888764_8459165390887069153_n.jpg

Edited by David Pritchard

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That’s great, please do share when you’re done. Would like to see it. 

One more thing, I would consider putting the overhead lights on dimmers, so that you can quickly control the light level from the floor. I guess you’ll need a 2K Variac for each unit. If you can dim them down enough, you may not need the 1/4 CTO. 

This is one area where LEDs would give you more control over the intensity without a color shift. But at least tungsten is dimmable.

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Oh wow more great ideas! So glad I posted here this has been some invaluable help thanks. I'll look into the dimmers! I was going to have the lights on their own pully to adjust the height for power with a marker for lowest safe setting. I also forgot that yellowing my keys will make my incandescent and flame practicals less orange/red when I shift wb in cam so I may try to add more blue to the background lights instead and keep my wb at 3000 or so. I'm a little worried it won't be bright enough for such a large softbox but as long as I can adjust the distance I can effectively pull the spread tighter if I have to is what I'm thinking as well as lowering the whole unit at times. 

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When in doubt, go with more power. You can always cut light or turn off a fixture. But it's harder to add light once it's all built. I was told this by a fellow DP.

You can do a little test at home (or back yard) with the rag and a light. You're lights will probably be flooded, so set one up with your double layers of cotton in front of it and mimic its planned distance to the cloth, then meter at the distance where the actors would be. If it meters at, lets say an f2, then remember account for the missing light and add a stop. So that brings you to f2.8 for both lights. 

From that point, double the wattage to gain a stop until you have a number you're comfortable working with on set.

This is a rough estimate but it'll put you in the area of how many watts you're looking for, then order enough fixtures to deliver that or even a bit more, especially if you're dimming for warming effect.

 

An example with me, my last big setup had a 6x12 half-grid 25ft away from talent. Four 2k fresnels (8,000 watts) gave me an f7.1. I ended up scrimming two lights and dimming the total until I reached 5.6. This was the level that appeared appropriate for the backlight I had set.

I hope this helps. Happy shooting my friend!

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Thanks thanks 🙂 I only have the 2x 2k unfortunately so will have to see what I can do! But I mean adjusting distances should help for power.

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6 hours ago, David Pritchard said:

Thanks thanks 🙂 I only have the 2x 2k unfortunately so will have to see what I can do! But I mean adjusting distances should help for power.

Yes, you can lower the lights to get “more power”, but at a potential compromise in a desired aesthetic. You can only push it too far before it enters the frame, fall off is unnatural, too “toppy”, etc

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Yes, its the only option i have unfortunately! actually I do have a few more lights such as 650s i could maybe include but i think it will be ok. I'll use less or more diffusion etc accordingly. 4k should be more than enough. I was doing some tests today and will be able to get the diffusion surprisingly close to their heads, while still allowing me to get low angles pointing up from outside the ring so I think i should be able to get enough power out of the 4k. 

 

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Test shot for my wide. Unfortunately, I couldn't get the overhead softbox I got this. So I'll be using this for the wide and turning off those top lights and using a massive side light for the closeups. Tomorrow there will be 4 small tiki torches on the corners of the ring and i'll probably move the back big spotlight to point on the right side corner where there will be dancers on that boat. One more red rim light also. If anyones got any other ideas would be great 😄 Hope you guys think its good so far! P.s I added some grain already but its actually very clean. 400 iso in this shot. 

dasdasdsadas.jpg

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Not a bad idea Stephen! I don't know what bulbs are inside those pars though, whether they're good quality or not, also they seem quite cool and I think lacking the power I need for my low iso high speed shots. Shooting tomorrow so sort of out of time, that actually surprised me I was planning to hang an 800 w overhead for the wides for 1 solid beam down.

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I don't understand why it was easier to rig eight Parcans in a circle but not a softbox... I agree with Stephen, perhaps leave some chain hanging so you can quickly add a frame of Half Soft Frost or 1/4 Grid to keep the top light look in the coverage. Eight Parcans are usually 8000W total... surely that's more light than the two 2K's you were originally going to hang behind a diffusion frame.

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I arrived there today and they did it without asking lol 😞 The owner had his own idea. I just dont know if they have enough power and maybe are cheap bulbs. They surprised me today and nobody could say what was inside of them. Just halogen is the only answer I got. Also, at the very best now I look at them, it's 8x 70w tungsten at best... vs my 4000w key the other day. Diffused it isnt going to do much.

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Well, looks like you’ve got enough output now anyway. Agreed with Stephen and David, just diffuse the top light for CUs. Would look nice I think. Are the parcans on dimmers? 

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