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Jeffrey Gould
Muslin Background
on Apr 12, 2008 at 3:59:50 am

Hi, This question has more to do with how to make the Muslin look interesting, than actually lighting it, and since the result is that the Muslin gets lit, I thought I should post here. So my question is; are there any sites, tutorials on how to set up the Muslin to make those interesting backgrounds you see on Network TV, with pleat, fans or folds if you will.

I did happen to see a camera crew do this years ago and they used clamps, but can't recall exactly what they did. Once I have the background set, I'll light it using gels. Thanks for any direction with this.

Jeffrey S. Gould
Action Media Productions


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Dennis Size
Re: Muslin Background
on Apr 14, 2008 at 5:45:26 am

Have you ever seen the process in which a model spends 5 hours getting her hair and make-up meticulously done for a shoot? Then 30 executives come in to sign off on her "look", and delicately adjust a wisp of hair here and there as though it were nitroglycerin. On her way into the studio she then bends over, shakes her head like a hose gone wild spraying water all over -- while running her hands madly through her hair -- creating that unique hairdoo that looks like she just parachuted in from 25,000 feet!
This process is similar to the one you should use when adjusting your muslin backdrop prior to lighting it.

DS



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Jeffrey Gould
Re: Muslin Background
on Apr 14, 2008 at 1:43:09 pm

I assume the analogy you are trying to get across is that each one is unique and I should just experiment. I agree, but there is a certain style that I saw and liked and wondered if anyone knew how to get there quickly. I realize there is no right and wrong. Thanks.

Jeffrey S. Gould
Action Media Productions


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Dennis Size
Re: Muslin Background
on Apr 15, 2008 at 12:16:03 am

The point of my little analogy is that you shouldn't belabor it. Take your muslin, bunch it up into a little ball so that it's loaded with wrinkles, throw it up into the air and rely on the wonderful quality of random pockets of shadow, darkness, and highlights that will be created to make their magic. If you plan it too much, you will ruin the "spontaneity" of the look.
Remember also: a little light goes a lonnng way, and use MINIMAL front light.

DS



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Dan Brockett
Re: Muslin Background
on Apr 15, 2008 at 3:04:27 pm

Hi:

Another thing to consider is that muslin BGs are kind of out of style as far as interviews are concerned. Usually these days when I see a muslin BG, I think, "older show" or "low budget corporate"

I have shot thousands of them but honestly, I think that the look is quite passe' these days.

The main mistake that people make is not enough distance between the muslin and the subject. You need a minimum of 10' and better yet would be 20' between the muslin and the talent so that the muslin does not receive the spill from your talent lighting, you must light the muslin separately. I tend to use a lot of uplighting to accentuate the valleys and canyons. Or I rake across at an angle with a larger instrument shot through a celo cucloris to throw some breakup patterns onto it.

As far as "the look", three C-stands. The ones on the left and right, fasten the muslin and raise it on either end about 8', Fasten the muslin to the grip head in the center. Leave a lot of slack between the left and right so that when you raise the middle C-stand higher, you will get some nice canyons and valleys vertically. You can enhance these by clipping the pleats with a C-47 or small grip clip where needed to get the pleated drape effect.

Seriously though, no matter how well you light it and set it up, muslins look kind of cheesy these days IMHO. How many do you see on television? Not very many these days.

Best,

Dan

Providing value added material to all of your favorite DVDs


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Jeffrey Gould
Re: Muslin Background
on Apr 15, 2008 at 3:14:43 pm

Thank you for the replies. Since the new ID channel, which is mostly crime solving shows has come on the "air", I've seen them a lot. Whenever possible, I always try to use "real" backgrounds that represent the on camera persons position or career, but that's not always possible and not every location you go on is camera ready. So it's nice to have an alternate and I prefer the pleated look to the wrinkled look. A photographer friend of mine saw an online study that showed that most clients do not like the Muslin wrinkled.

I did a photo shoot last week and steamed out the wrinkles, as the background had a beautiful soft pattern and the camera really picked it up. When I do use backdrops, I use egg crates on my talent to keep the light off the background and light it separately. Thanks for the setup tutorial. So what does everyone else use when the only location you have is the back of a warehouse?

Jeffrey S. Gould
Action Media Productions


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Dennis Size
Re: Muslin Background
on Apr 16, 2008 at 4:38:38 am

Invest in a few Source 4 Ellipsoidals (lekos) and a variety of metal template break-ups. They will be your best friends.I would recommend the Source 4 Jr. Zoom (wide angle).

DS



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Jeffrey Gould
Re: Muslin Background
on Apr 16, 2008 at 12:20:34 pm

Actually I have a great product, might be called "light breaks", they are acetate with black printed patterns on them such as trees, window pane, random... you attach with the included frame to a C stand and shine a light through it. It's great, as long as you have a decent background to start with. Thanks.

Jeffrey S. Gould
Action Media Productions


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Dennis Size
Re: Muslin Background
on Apr 16, 2008 at 3:22:11 pm

Hmmm? two stands, limited acetate cuks mounted on a frame, plus a lighting instrument, more gak, more space with a limited throw distance --- versus one light, one stand, hundreds of pocket sized templates to choose from that can be projected from further distances (even onto a warehouse wall).
Your choice.

DS



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Jeffrey Gould
Re: Muslin Background
on Apr 16, 2008 at 3:27:10 pm

Was just telling you what I had and making conversation...not that it was the better way.

Jeffrey S. Gould
Action Media Productions


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Dennis Size
Re: Muslin Background
on Apr 16, 2008 at 3:34:21 pm

In this crazy business, often the better way is not "the best" way for a particular job. One of the things I love most is the spontaneity and freshness each lighting job brings. What I enjoy most is how I can light the same exact dumb thing hundreds of times -- but in a different way .....using different equipment and design process.
The main point I'd like to leave you with is that you should not lock yourself into any one particular method -- be it duplcating the precise way SOMEONE ELSE creates their ripples on a backdrop, or the use of one gimmick, instrument, technique over another. Disocver, play and learn your own methods. Ultimately it's the end product and how it pleases the client -- AND YOU -- tha's most important (and lately I find I am more interested in pleases myself -- which almost always results in a happy client).

DS



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Dan Brockett
Re: Muslin Background
on Apr 17, 2008 at 2:21:29 am

Jeez, too much Testosterone in here? Mellow out guys, it's all just talk.

If a real Source 4 is too much for you, if you shoot in mostly darkened rooms/stages, Ikea had a tiny little 50 watt ellipsoidal that they sold for quite a while, not sure if they still are. They are great for interviews and I believe they sold a whole kit for $100.00 with colored glass filters, several cutouts, an iris, focusing lenses, the works. I bought two of them about a year ago and I do periodically use them. I did have to go to FilmTools to get a 5/8" Matthews receiver to put it on a lightstand.

If memory serves, it was called "Isobryte" or something like that, you know their crazy made-up Swedish names there? I thought so much of them, I bought two. So far, they have held up well. It's just with 50 watts, you can only use them effectively in fairly dark situations, they lack the horsepower for brightly lit environments.

Killer find though.

Dan

Providing value added material to all of your favorite DVDs


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Jay Curtis
Re: light breaks
on Apr 18, 2008 at 11:25:43 pm

Had a friend some time ago who had some Light Breaks -- he loved them because they rolled up to pack easily. Where can you find them now?

Also, I agree the Source 4 ellipsoidal is a great idea, if you have a heavy-duty stand to travel with you.

Jay Curtis

Blue Vase Productions


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Peter Rummel
Re: Muslin Background
on Apr 19, 2008 at 12:57:00 am

Hoo boy. This topic brings back memories....

For this project, the producer wanted the same look for all interviews - a medium grey background, draped artfully, with a primary color party gel raked across the fold. Heavy backlight on the subject. The background was some synthetic that didn't wrinkle much.

We did a trip to Las Vegas. From the time our plane touched down we were late. It was rush, rush. I didn't see my hotel room until midnight the first night. The second night was later. The third night later still. At each location we had little time to set up and light. Little time to safety the cables, block out ambiant light, and shut down noise making machinery. No time to sit the interview down and tweak the lights so it looked as good as could be. But in a former life the director had been.... a draper! So there was ENDLESS time to get the folds in the background "just right". Sheesh.

My advice - experiment with a background to see what you like. But don't obsess over it.



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Jeffrey Gould
Re: Muslin Background
on Apr 19, 2008 at 1:36:01 am

I'm glad my question opened some helpful dialogue. The lightbreaks are found at: http://www.lightbreak.com/ Had a shoot a few weeks ago out of state where had to get 25 shots in 5 different buildings in two days, including testimonials. My client's client wouldn't increase the budget so that we could do it right...so there wasn't time to experiment with lighting and in some cases, we settled...but that's a different topic.

Jeffrey S. Gould
Action Media Productions


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Todd Terry
Re: Muslin Background
on Apr 19, 2008 at 4:41:57 am

I've actually never used LightBreaks, but I've been making my own smaller homemade versions of them for years.

Go to an office supply store (Office Depot, Staples, etc.) and you can find packs of clear 8 1/2 x 11" printable acetate. They are made for printing transparencies for overhead projectors.

Then just draw a black-on-white (or white-on-black) pattern (in Photoshop, or whatever) and print it out on the sheets (you use one side of the sheet for ink jet printers, the other side for laser printers).

We've used these with random patterns to break up lighting, and even sometimes printed clients' logos on them to lightly ghost over a wall or other surface.

It's super easy and super cheap to do.


T2

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






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Dennis Size
Re: Muslin Background
on Apr 19, 2008 at 2:54:17 pm

When the Source 4 leko first came out, well over a a decade ago, I started doing the same thing --- making gobos to use in them.

DS



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Joe DuPont
Re: Muslin Background
on Apr 21, 2008 at 2:21:59 pm

Dan,
I've never seen the Ikea but I've run across two architectural instruments that might be similar.

The "micro-ellipse" from Altman:

http://mail.altmanltg.com/publicsynergy/docs/BLCatalogue.asp?Catalog=DEFAUL...

and something called a "Gecko" from DHA:
http://www.dhalighting.com/support/literature/projcat.pdf

The Gecko may not be available in the US since I've never seen it's price listed in Dollars.

I've seen the altman used and it will work well if, as you say, the the light level is low and well controlled.

-joe



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Dan Brockett
Re: Muslin Background
on Apr 21, 2008 at 4:17:34 pm

I will check those out, they look interesting. I did a little more research and unfortunately it looks as if Ikea has discontinued their little ellipsoidal, at least in the U.S.

Here is a little more about it http://qhib.blogspot.com/2005/08/isbrytare-spotlight-from-ikea.html

Dan

Providing value added material to all of your favorite DVDs


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Dennis Size
Re: Muslin Background
on Apr 23, 2008 at 3:59:20 am

The Altman Micro-Ellipse is a great, energy efficient CDM ellipsoidal fixture. I use them a lot. But for those on the "IKEA/HOME DEPOT" budget, the $500.00 price tag may seem a bit high ...especially when the Source 4 Junior provides more opions for less money.

DS



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Bob Cole
Re: Muslin Background
on Apr 29, 2008 at 1:28:58 pm

[Jeffrey Gould] "So what does everyone else use when the only location you have is the back of a warehouse?"

Answer: the back of a warehouse. Sounds pretty interesting.

Center Stage in Baltimore, a quite decent regional theater, often makes an interesting set by putting minimal elements in front of their weird, oft-patched back brick wall.

Bob C


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Jeffrey Gould
Re: Muslin Background
on May 2, 2008 at 3:00:16 pm

Bob, the warehouse was just a for instance and yes brick/textured walls could give a lot of possibilities with colored gels.

Jeffrey S. Gould
Action Media Productions


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Ray Miles
Re: Muslin Background
on Jun 2, 2008 at 6:50:38 pm

Hey..Nice info on Muslin Backdrops. I am a professional phtographer and I do use several types of backdrps for my Studio and Photographic needs and I may try out your service sometimes in future:) Currently I use Muslin Backdrops from http://www.aurabackdrops.com. Thanks, Ray!



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