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Deakins cove lighting: possible with LED?


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So I am trying to achieve that gorgeous highlight roll off Deakins does in his work.  From research he usually works with HMI type units. For testing I want to rent some lights but I am wondering if that look can be achieved from lighting LEDS through muslin as opposed to bouncing them with stronger lights? Since I don’t own HMIs I am unable to test both.

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I'm not sure what you mean by "cove lighting", but you'll get more output from LEDs by bouncing them off muslin than trying to shoot through it.

It really doesn't matter too much what lamp you use for a bounce source. It's common to use a high output lamps purely because bouncing is an inefficient way to use light, and you lose a lot of output, but any lamp can be bounced. There's also nothing particularly special about muslin as a bounce. It's non specular, but then, so are cotton bedsheets. Unbleached muslin lends a slight warmth to the light which is often pleasing to the eye, but that can also be done by gelling your lamps.

I wouldn't get too hung up on trying to duplicate Deakins' lighting equipment. There's more to his technique that what lamps he uses.

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The fixture itself is relatively interchangeable for the desired outcome. For example, if you desire more control you might want to use fresnel fixtures. If you don't mind spill you could get away with an LED panel. An example, Roger once suggested Skypanels.

You may want to consider using tungsten fixtures. They are easily dimmable which is quite important when trying to achieve the infamous Roger Deakins cove bounce. As far as im aware Deakins usually dims the fixtures as they go around the cove. The one closest to a 3/4 frontal of the subject dimmed the lowest also giving a slightly warmer tone. As the fixtures go around they gradually increase in intensity. Also tungsten fixtures are inexpensive. 

As said above fixtures, size, practically everything is a variable depending on practicality and look etc. The only constant of a cove bounce is that the bounce should well... be a cove. Preferably around your subject. 

 

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1 hour ago, Robin R Probyn said:

what is a cove light ? Ive never heard him mention them in any of the interviews / pod casts  Ive read /listened to ..

Deakins uses it quite often. From what I've seen mostly in cu's/mids sometimes to wides, mid wides etc. 

It's quite an elegant way of wrapping light around the subject. All it is, in theory, is a series of frames (or he recommends a curved piece of pipe etc) in a third or about semi-circle around the subject with multiple lights hitting the bounce or diffusion sometimes at different intensities.

The front frame or 'segment' acting as a 3/4 frontal, often at the lowest intensity wrapping light around the face. The next segment acting as a side light often a little more powerful, not by much. Then the final segment acting as a reverse key or incredibly soft edge often at the highest intensity. He often uses tungsten as he likes the fall-off to gradually get warmer and/or colder depending on the scene etc.

As said above unbleached muslin frames (or on a curved pipe) with fresnels of varying intensity (as stated above) bouncing into them is the technique I've seen used most. It's elegant, beautiful. Does require a fair bit of space to set-up but it's often worth it. 

 

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2 hours ago, Gabriel Devereux said:

Deakins uses it quite often. From what I've seen mostly in cu's/mids sometimes to wides, mid wides etc. 

It's quite an elegant way of wrapping light around the subject. All it is, in theory, is a series of frames (or he recommends a curved piece of pipe etc) in a third or about semi-circle around the subject with multiple lights hitting the bounce or diffusion sometimes at different intensities.

He frequently uses multiple bounces to wrap the light, rather than using fill, but I've never seen him use curved pipe or heard him refer to it as a "cove". It seems to be more of a description that other people use when referring to some of his setups. Cove just means a concave shape. It's not some magical lighting technique.

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Cove lighting and HMIs are separate issues -- he uses HMIs in daylight 5600K situations and tungsten the rest of the time. The color temp of the light source has nothing to do with wrapping the key around the face.

Deakins has also done this with a series of 4x4 (or larger) bounces or diffusions around a face in a semi-circle, you don't have to use curved pipe, etc.

Jordan Cronenweth used to do a simpler version of this idea, which was to have a side key and then another soft light from the same side that was 3/4 frontal but much dimmer for fill or wrap depending on how you want to think of it, leaving 1/4 of the face fall to darkness.

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7 minutes ago, David Mullen ASC said:

Jordan Cronenweth used to do a simpler version of this idea, which was to have a side key and then another soft light from the same side that was 3/4 frontal but much dimmer for fill or wrap depending on how you want to think of it, leaving 1/4 of the face fall to darkness.

I've heard Elswit I think does something similar. Hard key and soft "fill" from the same side.

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6 hours ago, Stuart Brereton said:

He frequently uses multiple bounces to wrap the light, rather than using fill, but I've never seen him use curved pipe or heard him refer to it as a "cove". It seems to be more of a description that other people use when referring to some of his setups. Cove just means a concave shape. It's not some magical lighting technique.

I remember when Deakins talked about Revolutionary Road he talked about the curved pipe. Something along the lines of it giving a beautiful gradient. 

Exactly as said above it's a concave shape, cover, third of a semi-circle etc. That's about the only constant. 

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7 hours ago, David Mullen ASC said:

...

Jordan Cronenweth used to do a simpler version of this idea, which was to have a side key and then another soft light from the same side that was 3/4 frontal but much dimmer for fill or wrap depending on how you want to think of it, leaving 1/4 of the face fall to darkness.

Is this the same sort of thing?

 

https://www.provideocoalition.com/go_craaaaazy_fill_from_the_key_side/

 

 

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13 hours ago, Robin R Probyn said:

what is a cove light ? Ive never heard him mention them in any of the interviews / pod casts  Ive read /listened to .

 

 

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You can pretty much just do that with a couple of bits of polyboard and insert-light-here. If you're crafty you can mount it all up on c-stands, battery powered, and them a magical nice facial light just somehow follows your actors around.

P

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9 hours ago, Robin R Probyn said:

Ok thanks sir ! ..  seems like a bit over kill to me 🙂 ... but I think Roger will go far .. 

Lol! Well as Phil says, it’s very cheap and relatively quick to set up. Probably something Roger started using in his documentary days. If it ain’t broke...

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21 hours ago, Phil Rhodes said:

You can pretty much just do that with a couple of bits of polyboard and insert-light-here. If you're crafty you can mount it all up on c-stands, battery powered, and them a magical nice facial light just somehow follows your actors around.

P

Or a big light through 12x12 and bounce ..no ? .. seems simpler and quicker to me..  I'll have a chat with Roger ,help him get his act together and stop pushing the OT hours up on purpose .. 

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33 minutes ago, Robin R Probyn said:

Or a big light through 12x12 and bounce ..no ? .. seems simpler and quicker to me..  I'll have a chat with Roger ,help him get his act together and stop pushing the OT hours up on purpose .. 

If you have room for a 12x12 absolutely.

There's an argument about size. You want light approaching the subject from a variety of different angles simultaneously, which is all "soft light" really means. If the thing you're sourcing from (whether bounce or diffusion) is flat, it has to inevitably be physically larger in order to subtend the same angle as a curved object while retaining comparable clean lines of sight for framing. That becomes (non-linearly) more the case as the angles get larger, which is a function of how soft the light is, and this week the fashion is apparently for very very soft indeed so it may matter. In neither of the cases we see photographed above would there be anything like enough space for a massive enough bounce to fill the same angles as the curve of bounces.

Another issues is how close to any part of the bounce your subject is. I suspect (and I haven't done the sums) people like this because if you sit at the focus of a quarter circle of light, you are equidistant from all of it, whereas you are very significantly further from the ends of a flat source subtending the same angle. Thus, the light from the edges of that flat source is reduced significantly more than that in the centre by the inverse square law, creating a less graduated falloff of light.

I also think you could probably get to much the same place by flagging light off your diffusion or bounce, and that may be an interesting bit of learning from this. Flag down the middle of your 12x12 if your subject is sitting close to it and make the falloff less harsh.

I do think in general that a lot of the currently fashionable look is serviced mainly by having an infinitely large, infinitely dim soft source infinitely close to the subject, or as near that as is practically possible.

You could also take into account things like Aladdin Fabric Light which makes bounce or diffusion-style setups vastly faster and easier to set up and take far less space, for a price. You can make one by weaving LED strips into a big flexible mat if you have some space and a few spare evenings.

P

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This is related to the issue of using non-square soft lights, that the rectangular light is softer when long direction is facing a vertical subject (like a face).  Since we judge the softness of a light on a face by how the nose shadow looks mostly, a horizontal light will cause a blurrier nose shadow than a vertical one. So given that, even though a 12x12 might be softer overall than a 12x6, in terms of how it looks on the face, they may look similar, and you might have more space to go wider than both wider and taller on the set.

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7 hours ago, Robin R Probyn said:

Or a big light through 12x12 and bounce ..no ? .. seems simpler and quicker to me..  I'll have a chat with Roger ,help him get his act together and stop pushing the OT hours up on purpose .. 

Roger says in his podcast that he’s a light tweaker, constantly running around and adjusting lights himself. So it’s probably faster for him to get what he wants by working with smaller heads on baby stands, instead of large heads on combos and crank stands. That said, I’m sure he does plenty of both.

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5 hours ago, Satsuki Murashige said:

Roger says in his podcast that he’s a light tweaker, constantly running around and adjusting lights himself. So it’s probably faster for him to get what he wants by working with smaller heads on baby stands, instead of large heads on combos and crank stands. That said, I’m sure he does plenty of both.

Love his team Deakins pod casts.. my old mate Nosher  Ackroyd was on recently .. 

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