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Overexposed windows, scrims, gels and tungsten lighting

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Tim Ryan
Overexposed windows, scrims, gels and tungsten lighting
on Dec 11, 2008 at 1:59:55 am

I'm attempted to light a kitchen for a cooking show video. I did a test shoot a couple of weeks ago to assess camera angle/location, lighting, and audio needs. I quickly discovered that the three windows provide great natural light but totally blow out my picture. When I attempt to adjust by adding an ND filter, I lose the details of the show host. I need to some how filter the light coming in from the windows.

My question has to do with recommendations for scrims and types of gels to use.

Can I use a Rosco scrim (i.e. Rosco E-Colour #270 Filter - Scrim - 48"x25' Roll from B&H) taped to the windows? Would it then make sense to use a Blue filter on the tungsten lights? One of my lights will have a Chimera to diffuse so I would use the gels on the fill and back lights.

I'm not very experienced with lighting and appreciate your advice.

Oh yeah, is there a good "starter" gel-kit you can recommend?

Thanks,

Tim

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Todd Terry
Re: Overexposed windows, scrims, gels and tungsten lighting
on Dec 11, 2008 at 4:44:57 am

Yep, the windows on that setup are the big factor... can be both a big asset (lending interest, and light) and a big hindrance as you have found... blowing out the scene.

One way to cut the "hottness" of the windows is an extremely cheap fix. Go to a home improvement store (Lowes, The Home Depot, etc.) and buy a big roll of black fiberglass screen door mesh. Then just cut big pieces of it and attach it (gaffer tape, or tack it, whatever will get it tight) onto the outside of the windows. That will cut the output without affecting the color temp.

For the interiors, if the budget will at all allow it, I would strongly suggest going with HMI lighting rather than tungsten. Their extremely high output and daylight color balance should do a nice job of combatting the windows. I don't know what you have available in your area, but here the local rental house has available 1200w PAR HMIs for $275/week, or very nice 800w Joker-Bug kits with nice Chimera boxes for about $300/week.

Barring that, you are definitely going to have a color discrepency that will have to be dealt with in one of two ways... you can either adjust the color of the windows or the color of your tungstens. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

The first way would be to gel the tungstens blue, as you suggested. Probably 1/4 (maybe 1/2) CTB gel would do it. The big advantage to that is that it is cheap and easy, and you don't need much gel. The big disadvantage of it is that your tungsten instruments are going to be very puny compared to the windows to start with, and the blue gel is only going to make matters worse by cutting their output... a lot. You are probably going to have to start with some pretty beefy tungstens and some pretty serious netting or mesh on the windows to get an adequate output balance.

The other way is to adjust the output (or is it input?) from the windows. You would gel them so that they are tungsten balanced, this time with 1/4 (or maybe 1/2) CTO gel... which is orangish in color. The advantages are that it doesn't cut your tungsten output and will make it easier to balance the output levels. The disadvantage is that (depending on the size of your windows) could take a substantial amount of gel... either big pieces or a lot of little ones. And they need to be affixed to the window so that they are very flat and tight with no wrinkles that will show.

HMIs will probably start looking more attractive. More expensive, yes... but if you weigh against that the time and effort needed to get a good lighting plot using just the tungstens, it might be worth it.

Let us know what you decide to do and how it works out.



T2

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






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Mark Suszko
Re: Overexposed windows, scrims, gels and tungsten lighting
on Dec 11, 2008 at 3:37:22 pm

I have faced this situation often and would prefer to go with ND and CTO gels on the outside of the windows, because all my lighting is tungsten and blue gels on tungsten just choke them into irrelevance.

HMI's work but they are expensive, make a LOT of heat, and draw a lot of power. Scrims can work but you want to be careful you don't get Moire' patterns showing up in it at various focal lengths, this is more of a possibility with the cheap hardware cloth than the real Rosco scrims which have a different shape to their hole patterns.

When attaching the gels outside, you want them snug so the wind can't make them ripple, which can make noise as well as distracting flickers outside the glass. You want the gel as close up against the glass as possible to reduce reflections. Some folks knock together a wooden frame with a staple gun, gel the frame, then attach the frame to the window with staples, nails, gaffer tape, whatever they can get away with. But what if you can't get at the windows outside?

With some care and good hand-eye coordination, you can use razor blades to trim gels and attach them to the inside glass panes of the windows with water or static or clear tape. If they fit tight and clean enough, it shouldn't read as anything but regular glass after you white balance.

I don't like to cut up window gels if I can help it because I prefer to re-use the stuff as much as possible. We can't afford to throw it away, I got rolls a decade old.


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Todd Terry
Re: Overexposed windows, scrims, gels and tungsten lighting
on Dec 11, 2008 at 3:54:38 pm

[Mark Suszko] "HMI's work but they are expensive, make a LOT of heat, and draw a lot of power."

Two-thirds correct. HMIs are very expensive, and draw a lot of power (make sure you have a lot of dedicated circuits). However until you get into the really really big instruments (say 12Ks or 18Ks) they are not nearly as hot as many people fear. Lumen-for-lumen they are not nearly as hot as tungsten instruments. An 800w Joker-Bug, for example, is going to run a fair bit cooler than the equivalent 3500 watts or so of tungsten. The 1200w fresnel and little 150w PAR HMIs that I use every day run almost cool enough to put your hand on the housing while they are on. Almost, but not quite.

[Mark Suszko] "you can use razor blades to trim gels and attach them to the inside glass panes of the windows"

That's probably the best idea yet.

Part of the logistics will have to do with the duration of the show. Is this a one-time thing? Or a setup you will be using again and again, say once a week for several weeks? That might determine the best way to go. If it is a one-time shot, something like Mark's suggestion of carefully gelling the inside of each pane might be best. If it's something to be repeated again and again, you'd probably be better off taking his other suggestion of building a frame that can be placed outside the windows so you don't spend tedious hours working on the glass before every shoot.

Or, if you want to get REALLY crazy.... shoot at night. Put tungsten instruments outside to illuminate the curtains or blinds or whatever is in the windows.

I also just recalled a shoot several years ago where we tacked up big black sound blankets outside windows, and put a C-stand between each window and the blanket so that it made a little sorta tent... with enough room in there to put a small tungsten instrument that created fake sunlight streaming through the blinds.


T2

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






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Richard Herd
Re: Overexposed windows, scrims, gels and tungsten lighting
on Dec 11, 2008 at 4:33:49 pm

[Todd Terry] "a little sorta tent"

Tents are awesome. I made mine out of fabric from the fabric store. The fabric is completely opaque (and next I'd like it dyed black), but it hardly matters because it's not very reflective. Nonetheless, the fabric was cheap. The best part about using tents is the sun doesn't move--what a miracle!



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john sharaf
Re: Overexposed windows, scrims, gels and tungsten lighting
on Dec 11, 2008 at 3:56:55 pm

HMI's make little or no heat and draw about 25% of the power of a comperable tungsten unit, not even considering the color temperature issue. It's true that they are more expensive, but in most cases are the best, most efficient and elegant solution to day interior shooting.

JS



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Michael Palmer
Re: Overexposed windows, scrims, gels and tungsten lighting
on Dec 11, 2008 at 4:29:10 pm

HMI's generally can produce double the amount of light output of tungsten units based on the wattage of the lamp. I would not say that HMI's have much less heat than tungsten units as the lamp head is in some cases is much hotter than tungsten units and then you have a ballast that creates heat as well. Older magnetic ballasts create a large amount of heat and need to be properly placed with sufficient ventilation so that the ballast circuit breaker doesn't fail.

You really get what you pay for in production and so many of these posts here are from people looking for miracles when they should be hiring experience crews to produce there shows.

Good Luck
Michael Palmer


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Tim Ryan
Re: Overexposed windows, scrims, gels and tungsten lighting
on Dec 11, 2008 at 8:48:00 pm

Re: Overexposed windows, scrims, gels and tungsten lighting by Michael Palmer on Dec 11, 2008 at 10:29:10 amYou really get what you pay for in production and so many of these posts here are from people looking for miracles when they should be hiring experience crews to produce there shows.

Sounds like you're not a fan of us low-budget DIYers that are both naive and trying to learn without always paying others to do it for us? How dare we post on Creative Cow in search of lighting miracles!

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Michael Palmer
Re: Overexposed windows, scrims, gels and tungsten lighting
on Dec 12, 2008 at 6:47:29 am

Here's the long and short to your question, order some corrective gel (Nd6-9, full-1/2 CTO), use daylight balance lamps, HMI or Kino 5600k (adding 1/8-1/4 CTO to warm them if you like) or add 1/2 CTB on tungsten units you may already have, find a look by using a real monitor (again all of these were discussed by many professionals here) and decide for yourself as the person in charge what this look is going to be. This will give you the experience you need to be a DP, and the chills at night wondering if you will ever work again based on your choices for this project. You have been given the keys to success from the others here (including myself) so run with it.

And please accept my apologues as I find this forum the hardest for me to hold my emotions with concerns to those who stand at the camera without sufficient experience. Video has opened the door for too many who can afford a camcorder and what really pains me is the inexperienced people asking eliminatory questions.

I have given you my thoughts concerning your camera choice on another forum
http://forums.creativecow.net/thread/142/860852#860951
and here I find it very hard to be compassionate to those asking for advice for eliminatory DP decisions. Lighting is a timeless craft that you must work with to find the right look for every project.

Good luck with your new 170 and best of luck with the windows.



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Tim Ryan
Re: Overexposed windows, scrims, gels and tungsten lighting
on Dec 12, 2008 at 3:25:43 pm

Re: Overexposed windows, scrims, gels and tungsten lighting
by Michael Palmer on Dec 12, 2008 at 12:47:29 am

"And please accept my apologues as I find this forum the hardest for me to hold my emotions with concerns to those who stand at the camera without sufficient experience. Video has opened the door for too many who can afford a camcorder and what really pains me is the inexperienced people asking eliminatory questions."

--------------

Michael, I'm so confused by your mixed messages and the pain my eliminatory questions appear to be causing. You provide what comes off as sincere advice (albeit redundant, as it was answered earlier by others - without insult). Then, you offer an apology followed by some additional jabs for requesting "eliminatory DP" advice.

Please don't reply to my posts if they are causing you so much pain and frustration. Life's too short for such drama!





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Tim Ryan
Re: Overexposed windows, scrims, gels and tungsten lighting
on Dec 11, 2008 at 8:02:03 pm

Hey Mark,
You and the other posts have provided some amazing advice. Thank you for providing suggestions based on the tools I have on hand (i.e. Tungsten lights). I'd love to use HMI's, Kino Flos or whatever else makes sense but need to stick to what's already available.

I like the idea of creating a wooden frame with CTO's stapled and then posting/taping it to the exterior window frame. This is a weekend type of project and I hope to continue shooting over several weeks. This means the kitchen goes back to a residental kitchen when I'm not shooting. So, a quick gel frame on the windows makes the most sense. I can then WB my camera to the Tungsten lights and call it a day.

Can you recommend a vendor and a basic Gel kit that will give me the various CTO's as well as other staple gels all in one kit?

Thanks again,

Tim

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Richard Herd
Re: Overexposed windows, scrims, gels and tungsten lighting
on Dec 11, 2008 at 4:28:19 pm

My $0.02: If the entire lighting setup is keyed only by the exterior light coming in, I find it looks flat and boring. Instead, use it as "fill." That is, expose for the exterior light (so you can see outside), but raise the luminance inside the room and shape it properly so the subject is perfectly lit. How you go about raising the ambient light can take many forms. How you shape the light on your subject can also take many forms.




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Rick Wise
Re: Overexposed windows, scrims, gels and tungsten lighting
on Dec 11, 2008 at 7:03:49 pm

One little detail: do not try to balance inside levels to outside levels completely. The results will look false. The outside should look hotter, up to two stops hotter (for film -- less difference for most video, but it depends on which video camera you are using and how good your techie is, if you have one. Best to judge with a very good monitor.)

Rick Wise
director of photography
Oakland, CA
http://www.RickWiseDP.com
email: Rick@RickWiseDP.com


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John Fishback
Re: Overexposed windows, scrims, gels and tungsten lighting
on Dec 14, 2008 at 7:45:25 pm

Your outside light will change thru the day, and day-to-day as was alluded to by an earlier post. You might want to have different frames of different nd that could be easily changed out when a cloud covers the sun or you have a rainy day, etc. The tent suggestion helps eliminate this issue. Also, be sure to budget some time during the day to make these changes. The "real world" always slows down a shoot.

John

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Dennis Size
Re: Overexposed windows, scrims, gels and tungsten lighting
on Dec 15, 2008 at 3:44:52 am

Congratulations Tim. You've created a hell of a lot of banter with your simple little post (which I suppose is the purpose of COW and these FORUMS).
You'll have to forgive those of us who sometimes tire of the same old elementary questions (especially when they've been asnwered more than once over the past few years this LIGHTING FORUM has been in existance).
Although a lot of great advise was shared -- much of it obviously beyond your experience level -- no one really answered your question.
Regarding the ROSCO SCRIM #270, the answer is yes. I've used it extensively for a number of light reduction aplications, and it will definitely solve the problem of your light intensity -- but not your color temperature difference of daylight exterior to your interior tungsten fixtures (which you apparently are locked into using).
You never said if you had access to the outside of these windows which would be the ideal place to put the ROSCO scrim against. You also never said what the background scenery was -- and if it was worth even seeing -- otherwise appropriately designed kitchen curtains on the windows would be an obviously suggestion.
Buy a color correction gel that solves both your problems. GAM and ROSCO (and I believe LEE) make a combination CTO/.6ND color media that will be your best solution. It comes in large rolls. There's also a CTO/.3ND. Follow Mark Suszko's excellent instructions for applying it to the windows. If you have exterior access you can save time and just tape it tightly to the window frame.
The use of the CTO would negate the need to color correct your lights -- which should still be diffused.
I would still recommend curtains (perhaps even shears) just for a more realistic design sensibility (not to mention reflection control).
If the sun intensity is way too bright use your ROSCO SCRIM in addition to the CTO/.6ND.
Have fun....enjoy the food.
DS



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john sharaf
Re: Overexposed windows, scrims, gels and tungsten lighting
on Dec 15, 2008 at 4:47:17 am

Everyone (including Mr. Size) is being very blasee about the application of the ND (or combination 85Nd gel) on the outside of the windows. Obviously you want to do it on the outside to minimize reflections of you lighting instruments, but depending on the type of window, it might be difficult or even impossible to attach the gel so that it doesn't wrinkle and/or blow in the wind. Sometimes it takes cutting it to fit the panes (like on a window with many small panes in frames) and still this might require black paper tape to fix leaks. I've usually found ND9 (three stops) to be the correct amount (using daylight HMI's inside) but that's another issue. The ultimate solution is Plexi panels (either ND or 85 combinations) which cost about $200 for a 4x8' piece and this solves all the problems, and with careful handling and storage are the ideal solution for reuse (as you mentioned on successive weekends). It's unlikely you'll be able to reuse or store the gel without destroying it, so I believe, even though the initial cost might be significant, in the long run this might be the best and most elegant solution.

JS





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Tim Ryan
Re: Overexposed windows, scrims, gels and tungsten lighting
on Dec 15, 2008 at 2:34:41 pm

thanks Dennis and everyone for the amazing advice. This is what makes Creative Cow such a great resource for both seasoned veterans as well as newbies.

I do have access to the exterior windows. Sheer curtains and gels seem like the easiest (and most affordable) way to go. Thanks for addressing the specific question with
advice on the correct scrim & gels to purchase.




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Bob Cole
Re: Overexposed windows, scrims, gels and tungsten lighting
on Jan 17, 2009 at 5:22:18 pm

Great advice all through this thread. I appreciate the newbies asking the questions I'm sometimes a little reluctant to ask myself -- and the veterans who take their time to answer.

On balance, I think the best course is to frame out all but one window, and tent-light that one carefully.

fwiw: The cooking show my wife likes SEEMS to be set in a home kitchen, but if you look closely you'll see that the shadows and light in the window never changes.

Authentic window light could change at any time, possibly causing continuity problems. You'll have so much to keep track of during production that you should try to reduce the variables as much as possible. With cooking, you can't really do all the wide shots with the window first, then all the cu's.

Look at, and record for careful scrutiny, every cooking show you can. Then imitate the ones you admire.

Bob C



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