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How to light subject (interior shot) and expose for background through window (exterior)?

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Steven BelcherHow to light subject (interior shot) and expose for background through window (exterior)?
by on Mar 27, 2012 at 7:36:46 pm

We're shooting a series of interviews inside a building but want to expose for the city exterior through the window. I was going to cover the window with ND... but is there a better way to do this? We're working with a Lowel Super Ambi Kit so our options are limited.

Thanks


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Mark SuszkoRe: How to light subject (interior shot) and expose for background through window (exterior)?
by on Mar 27, 2012 at 8:09:00 pm

You can gel the window or light using HMI's, (rentals, perhaps).
Picking the time of day may help as well.

Unconventional approaches:


One other trick I've used is to lock down the camera, and shoot the space without the guy's chair in it but otherwise composed the way you'd use it for the video, and expose for the exterior view. Now bring back the chair and the talent, and without changing the shot, shoot the talent with the exposure set for a good interior and talent exposure. Composite the two sources in post.

Variation:
Shoot an HDRI still or high def motion shot of the room and window, then insert a green paper on the wall for shooting the interview, which blocks the excess daylight, and chromakey the window in during post.


This plan becomes harder to use if the interview requires changing camera angles. But OTOH, it becomes easier, if you shoot with a 2-lens 3-D camera and set each imager's exposure to suit the window and the talent/room separately


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Steven BelcherRe: How to light subject (interior shot) and expose for background through window (exterior)?
by on Mar 27, 2012 at 8:47:27 pm

I considered the double exposure trick. But I have the strong feeling our framing will change often. What I think I'm going to do is just expose for the subject, cover the window in ND-9, and key him with at least one 1k filtered with some half or full blue and go from there. I'd love to have some HMI's handy but yeah... budget never fits my wishes...


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Todd TerryRe: How to light subject (interior shot) and expose for background through window (exterior)?
by on Mar 27, 2012 at 9:01:11 pm

[Steven Belcher] "at least one 1k filtered with some half or full blue"

That much gel is absolutely going to KILL your output. Full blue will turn that 1K into a nightlight. Probably about quarter blue would be all you want want, at most. If you are going to gel the windows though, you'd be far better off color correcting the windows as well... then your 1K output might be ok.

The ND gel is an ok idea... one way to do that one the cheap is get the smoky window film that they sell at our local Hancock Fabrics store (or online at hancockfabrics.com)....

http://www.hancockfabrics.com/UV-Rated-Window-Tinting-Film-Front-Page_stcVV...

It's absolutely dirt cheap (compared to the real stuff) and works just as well. I've used it tons of times. You might also want to go to a Lowes or Home Depot and pick up a roll of black screen door mesh... and use that with the gel as well if it needs knocking down more (although you can always double up the gel if needed, which you can't with mesh).

Yes, HMIs are the way to do it right, but if you don't have that resource these other ways will work.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Steven BelcherRe: How to light subject (interior shot) and expose for background through window (exterior)?
by on Mar 27, 2012 at 9:16:30 pm

Gotcha. But if I were to color correct the window as well, wouldn't that defeat the purpose of color correcting the key if the camera's color temperature is set to daylight?


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Todd TerryRe: How to light subject (interior shot) and expose for background through window (exterior)?
by on Mar 27, 2012 at 9:50:43 pm

Yes, you do one or the other, of course... not both. Sorry, I realize I didn't make that clear.

My theory on that is that since color correcting a tungsten instrument down to daylight cuts such a horribly high degree of the output, I'd forgo correcting them at all and correct the window instead... which would perform the double duty of lowering the window level and correcting its color temperature. You'd still need ND on the window, too, though.

Sorry for any confusion.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Bill DavisRe: How to light subject (interior shot) and expose for background through window (exterior)?
by on Mar 28, 2012 at 3:54:28 am

Another approach is to buy a roll of Lee 207.

It combines a full stop of ND with full CTO in a single gel roll.

Applied to the windows, it'll usually give you an interior you can light with a tungsten kit and make work if the windows aren't southern facing to direct sunlight - and your talent can tolerate hot lights put close.

If you've got southern facing windows, or the sun is direct, you can keep adding layers of ND, but it's a hassle and takes a lot of time.

YMMV.

"Before speaking out ask yourself whether your words are true, whether they are respectful and whether they are needed in our civil discussions."-Justice O'Connor


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Mark SuszkoRe: How to light subject (interior shot) and expose for background through window (exterior)?
by on Mar 28, 2012 at 2:14:31 pm

Bill, that's the route we've taken, and the combo cc/nd gel worked well Ours was the Rosco brand. Stuff is pricy, so we carefully re-roll and re-use it, have for years.


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Steven BelcherRe: How to light subject (interior shot) and expose for background through window (exterior)?
by on Mar 28, 2012 at 2:19:40 pm

Unfortunately I think I'm stuck with correcting the tungsten. The room we're shooting in is basically surrounded by windows so correcting them would be an extremely time-consuming pricy feat, especially with the 207.


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Todd TerryRe: How to light subject (interior shot) and expose for background through window (exterior)?
by on Mar 28, 2012 at 3:04:28 pm

Well it's still going to be time consuming, as you'll still have to gel ALL the windows that are in view... with at least one layer of ND, maybe two. I'd re-suggest using that fabric store stuff if you have large areas to cover, since it's so cheap.

The more details we learn, we can see this really IS an HMI job... I'd say at least a 1200w fresnel or PAR (personal preference is fresnel) and a big white bounce card.... or at minimum a Joker-Bug800 with a Chimera kit. Color correcting tungsten lamps to daylight just cuts their output by well over half or more... sometimes a lot more than by half, if you use much gel.

If you only need these for a one day shoot, HMI rental wouldn't be too bad... couple or three hundred bucks. Probably less than the cost of gelling the windows, unless you already have the stuff (although you'd probably still want to knock down the windows quite a bit with either ND or hardware cloth).

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Steven BelcherRe: How to light subject (interior shot) and expose for background through window (exterior)?
by on Mar 28, 2012 at 3:12:57 pm

I definitely agree this would be much easier with HMI's. But I seriously doubt that will happen. Only one window will be in frame throughout the whole shoot, as they are rather large. That's why I say I'd rather correct the tungsten... even though it will severely affect the output. The shoot is still a good month or so off so there's time to consider options. As always budget is an issue.


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Mark D'AgostinoRe: How to light subject (interior shot) and expose for background through window (exterior)?
by on Mar 28, 2012 at 4:34:16 pm

If you only see one window, can you just gel that and hang black cloth/duv to block the light from the other windows from spilling onto your scene? If the remaining window is large but you never see all of it then you can flag off the parts you don't see and reduce the amount of correction you need even more.

Mark D'Agostino
http://www.synergeticproductions.com


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john sharafRe: How to light subject (interior shot) and expose for background through window (exterior)?
by on Mar 28, 2012 at 4:41:14 pm

Now that more information has been forthcoming, I'd consider using the off camera windows as the key source and 4x8' B&W Foam core to control the negative or positive fill and other unwanted spill. Maybe use the one tungsten light with daylight correction and diffusion for eye lite or scratch lite. Just a thought.

You'll still need the proper amount of ND window gel (likely ND.9) to see out the on screen window. Mount it on the outside to eliminate reflections.

In some cases, available light is the best and most elegant solution.

JS



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Steven BelcherRe: How to light subject (interior shot) and expose for background through window (exterior)?
by on Mar 28, 2012 at 6:11:07 pm

Yeah I think there will be plenty of available nat light... I just want to be ready for any and all possibilities. Between using flags and one or 2 gelled/chimera 1k's and NDing the window, I don't think it will be that much of a hassle.


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Bill DavisRe: How to light subject (interior shot) and expose for background through window (exterior)?
by on Mar 28, 2012 at 6:01:56 pm

[Steven Belcher] "Unfortunately I think I'm stuck with correcting the tungsten."

THis is trivial and minor, but might be useful as you approach this.

Don't think in terms of "correcting" the light when you're using gels. Always think in terms of "filtering" it.

The subtle distinction is that all gelling is subtractive by nature. You're removing light at specific frequencies. There is no correction possible using gels without loss so the term filtering helps you keep that in mind.

The more you filter, the more light output you lose. Period.

Again, it's just terminology - but our words define our thinking - and the only "correction" you can do with light that doesn't involve loss is when you're mixing active sources. So a light that mixes daylight and tungsten LEDs in a single unit can, in fact, "correct" the light as to color temp. But gels work differently. They are always first and foremost, filters.

FWIW.

"Before speaking out ask yourself whether your words are true, whether they are respectful and whether they are needed in our civil discussions."-Justice O'Connor


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Ken MaxwellRe: How to light subject (interior shot) and expose for background through window (exterior)?
by on Mar 28, 2012 at 5:20:57 pm

ND the windows and light the subject to match. If you don't have sufficient equipment rent what you need and be done with it. OR . . . light your subject with what you have and then ND, or double-ND the windows to match. . . and be done with it.


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Mark SuszkoRe: How to light subject (interior shot) and expose for background through window (exterior)?
by on Mar 28, 2012 at 7:08:12 pm

My friend Lou used to have a saying: "Stepping over dollars, to pick up dimes." What you "save" by not renting the HMI lights, you will "spend" in the post-production hell, burning long hours of trying to color-correct the blue daylight from the orange tungsten and salvage some detail out of the over-exposed exterior view the client seems to think is super-important.


The day I got my phone interview for the job I have now, over 20 years ago, the boss asked me a qualifying question:

"Pop quiz, hotshot: Large office with bigwig behind a desk, and there's a huge picture window with an impressive view behind him. How do you light that?"

"My choices would be: gel the window with ND and color-correction, get an expensive and power-hungry HMI daylight colored light, bring a bunch of tungstens and gel those to match daylight (hope the air conditioner and power are good), or I ask the bigwig if we can shoot from another angle without the window."

"How soon can you come down here?"


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Ken MaxwellRe: How to light subject (interior shot) and expose for background through window (exterior)?
by on Mar 29, 2012 at 12:01:29 am

What Mark said . . . GREAT, unless there is a window in every direction.


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Todd TerryRe: How to light subject (interior shot) and expose for background through window (exterior)?
by on Mar 29, 2012 at 1:53:22 am

Well, sometimes that "other angle" you suggest is in a different room. Or floor. Or building.

... or city.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Ken MaxwellRe: How to light subject (interior shot) and expose for background through window (exterior)?
by on Mar 29, 2012 at 3:26:45 am

OR, if you are on a limited budget you shoot where you can and light the subject as best you can then ND the window to match . . . after all it may be the clients own office and wants it shot there. . . and save it in post.
Whew!!!


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Ken MaxwellRe: How to light subject (interior shot) and expose for background through window (exterior)?
by on Mar 29, 2012 at 2:21:19 pm

P.S - Or shoot at dawn, or twilight, or night (if you have a pretty cityscape out the window), and forget the ND. Just watch out for reflections from the window glass.


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Bob ColeRe: How to light subject (interior shot) and expose for background through window (exterior)?
by on Apr 21, 2012 at 10:42:33 am

Ah, the window shot. There is brute force, and there is the high IQ solution, as in Mark, John, and Ken's approaches. (Move the executive, use natural light, or wait for a darker exterior.)

I love John Sharaf's idea about natural light. Really. The best lighting I ever did was when I sat a farmer down on a bale of hay near the big door in his barn and ... just shot! Clearly the way to go if you can. If it was good enough for Rembrandt...

[Ken Maxwell] "Or shoot at dawn, or twilight, or night"

Night - great idea. But dawn and twilight might only work if all the shooting can be accomplished within a few minutes; the lighting outside might change so fast that the background will be different from one ten-minute period to the next.

As for brute force: Putting gel on windows can be a real PITA. You can, of course, go to extremes and achieve perfection with polarized gel (RoscoView?) and a filter on the lens, but I can't imagine doing that, unless this is going to be a regular set.

In daylight: Unless the window view has to be pristine and beautiful (tropical beach) I wouldn't be so worried about color temperature; 1/4 blue on the tungstens is fine. Or, use a couple Kino Flos with daylight tubes! If you don't own a Joker, of course.

I've tried Todd Terry's Harbour Freight version of ND gel - it works. No color correction, of course.

I've never tried window screen, but I'd like to. One prep day at an NFL stadium I noticed in the tv announcer's booth how they must do that iconic first shot, where the two announcers look into the camera with the field behind them. There are a couple of small HMI lights mounted in the booth facing the field. Mounted above the big window is a large roll of black window screen. So I assume they unroll the window screen for the one opening shot; the window screen visually disappears but darkens the background. Looking at the set-up, I could swear it wouldn't work because the announcers are so close to the screening, but apparently it does. No worries about reflections as with ND gel, either. (One question for Todd: mounting the ND outside the window, you say, helps with reflections. But what about the wind shifting the gel - wouldn't that cause reflections or distraction of some kind?)


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Todd TerryRe: How to light subject (interior shot) and expose for background through window (exterior)?
by on Apr 22, 2012 at 4:23:30 am

[Bob Cole] "I've tried Todd Terry's Harbour Freight version of ND gel"

Well actually what I use is from Hancock Fabrics... but maybe they sell it there, too...



[Bob Cole] "One question for Todd: mounting the ND outside the window, you say, helps with reflections. But what about the wind shifting the gel - wouldn't that cause reflections or distraction of some kind?"

Did I say that, Bob? I didn't remember advising that (maybe I did, who knows...). Actually I've used it on both interior and exterior sides, just depending on which side was easier to access and apply. The fabric-store gel I use is actually window cling tinted gel, so it clings and sticks right flat to the glass... wind's not an issue.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Bob ColeRe: How to light subject (interior shot) and expose for background through window (exterior)?
by on Apr 22, 2012 at 3:10:05 pm

[Todd Terry] "actually what I use is from Hancock Fabrics"

Right! I'm so used to hearing about the wonders of Harbor Freight here that I transposed that. I got it from Hancock Fabrics too: "Window Tinting Film," $3.97/yd, 54" wide - the opposite end of the price spectrum from RoscoView ($700 for 56"x9')!

And there is also the camera itself. You can select a camera with wide dynamic range, adjust your camera's picture profile, and use a lower knee setting to bring that bright window into a better exposure. (Alister Chapman's video on XDCAM Gamma Curves and Knee, which I believe is on the COW as well as his website and YouTube, has a great before-and-after comparison of how dropping the knee to 85 by itself allows you to see detail in a blown-out window.)


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