Lighting a two shot
Alright, here's a fun one for some of the old pro's here.
I am going to be shooting (HD) some one shots and two shots in a room and could use some help. Parameters are these:
Room - Rather deep, so I've got about 40-50ft total to work with. Room is full of warm colors. All windows in the room are above the eyeline, all on one wall, and all face due west. Given sun position in FL at the moment I am getting a nice cool light around 8-10AM and a nice warmer light in mid-afternoon.
Subject - Two women, late 40s, non-professionals. I'll have professional makeup person to do prep for camera tests and for the shoot. Subjects will be seated for the shoot. They will be next to each other about 3-4ft apart.
Lighting - At my disposal, I have 1 2k Tungsten Fresnel, 1 1k 36"x36" softbox either daylight or tungsten balanced, 2 1k open faced lights, 1 750w broad, a few clip-on lights that I typically use for eyelights or chin lights with CFLs. And the standard compliment of stands, foamcore, silks, etc.
What I would like to achieve is a very natural look to this. However, I want to light the subjects to as attractive as possible. I'm quite sure I can get the 1-shots to look lovely. It's the 2-shots I am more worried about. My thoughts at the moment are to front light it with a wide 8ft white board and the 2k bouncing off it. Or the 2 1ks bouncing off it. I'd place these flat in front of the talent. I'd probably add a kiss of hair light from the small clip on fixtures. And I'll be using very shallow depth of field to set them off from the background.
I'd be very interested in hearing what others have done to compliment shooting slightly older women in a 2-shot sit-down interview type setting. Because of the nature of this, I am NOT trying to make them look highly lit.
I also cannot filter the lens for this job unless something changes. So I am having to do all my smoothing with lighting and makeup.
Comments and suggestions welcome!
I believe it is an industry standard to handle aging women with soft light from one or both sides of the camera, even the best glamour DP's use tricks like umbrella bounce in search of the right texture of light for their models.
The a master shot you with need to rely on the makeup artist and some simple soft light and if you can control some hair lights that won't hit there faces then it would help.
As you move into tighter work it is then you can bring layers of framed diffusion as close the these ladies as possible creating a larger source to help smooth the skin. I would make up some 4x4 frames with 250, 251 and my favorite 252 diffusion that will complement the fresnel unit. I would make sure to keep the camera lens above the eye line and remove as much light from the neck area as you possibly can using a cutter. If you must use the clip light for an eye light make sure to put it on a squeezer and wrap it with diffusion.
If the production has limited resources you can only do so much.
All Mike's suggestions are good ones....
I'll add just one or two things, trying to stay completely within the hardware/equipment that you have....
While softboxes and unbrellas can look great (I use them every day), I have personally found that in my setups the most absolute natural "beautiful but doesn't look lit" setups come from bounced lighting... and my usual tool for that is a white 4x4 bounce card. Perhaps you have a big piece of foamcore that would work. I'd place it far enough back that it can be used to illuminate both subjects, and blast it at least with your 2K, and maybe more (adding some of your other instruments if needed). I'd put it at about a 30°' angle from the talent. Very similar to the setup with the 8' bounce that you mentioned... except one that size just might be too big and result in lighting just a bit too flat. I would also put it at the angle suggested rather than straight on to give it a little more interest. Straight on would be extremely flat and probably uninteresting.
Michael's diffusion suggestions of 250,251 and 252 are good ones... if you don't have any you can usually pick up frosted shower curtain by the yard (usually only a couple bucks)... the stuff I buy at a local fabric store is right in the middle of 250 and 251 and gives a great look. Just exercise some care with it when using it with hotlights (although I regularly put it in a frame about 1' from the face of a 1200w HMI with no ill effects, it doesn't even get warm). The advantages of this cheapo diffusion are of course its price, plus unlike 250/251/250 it is completely silent outdoors in a breeze and you can just wad it up and put it in a bag and reuse it again and again. If you don't have (or want to make) frames, you can always just "hollywood" it by hanging it from a grip arm on a C-stand.
Michael also suggested putting your clip-ons on a squeeze box which is a good idea... BUT, you said you use CFLs in those... and of course CFLs and rheostats don't work and play well together. You might want to opt for tungsten bulbs in those if they need dimming.
And, I don't know what the subject or topic of your project is... but remember that it "is what it is" and don't beat yourself up over trying to get unattainable results. You say these women are in their late 40s. Well, they can be beautiful and still look like they are in their late 40s. You'll never get them to look 20, and even if you could I'm sure that wouldn't be the desired result (well, for them it might be). I'm sure you can find beauty and interest in your subjects, no matter what their age.
You mentioned that you cannot filter... why's that? Is it because you have no filters, or something else? You might try stretching a piece of black silk or nylon stocking material (Liz Claiborne and Donna Karan hosiery are industry favorites among bigshot DPs) over the rear of the lens...
On that note, did anyone see Stephen's interview with Barbara Walters on "The Colbert Report" a few days ago? They really did something brilliant.... very glowing soft focus, very typical of the way you usually see Walters shot. Except it was only on Stephen's camera, not Barbara's. Hilarious.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
[Todd Terry] "On that note, did anyone see Stephen's interview with Barbara Walters on "The Colbert Report" a few days ago? They really did something brilliant.... very glowing soft focus, very typical of the way you usually see Walters shot. Except it was only on Stephen's camera, not Barbara's. Hilarious."
Yes - great point. I did see and notice it - very funny. Barbara was pin-sharp - they may have enhanced the detail! The Colbert Report really gets it.
It sounds like you are close to finding the classic, "Paramount" solution to faces with wrinkles, i.e. aging stars. (See http://www.studiolighting.net/paramount-butterfly-lighting-studio-lighting-...) Note the additional fill light, which I have found sometimes works best just under the lens.
director of photography
Let me answer a couple of questions.
1. Filters. Yes, I can't use any because I don't have any. Unfortunately, I don't have resources to go buy pro diffusion either but I have been using some fabrics in 4x4 screens that's been working nicely for me. The trouble of course is that in the 2-shot, if the light is off camera, then one person is going to be more lit than the other. This may work in the context of shot though because One will likely receive more key and the other more fill.
2. Panythose trick. Since I am shooting a video camera here and not film and not a 35mm adapter, I can't use anything behind the lens. I'll have to soften in post. Magic Bullet Looks offers a skin softening setting that I've tested and found works well.
3. Butterfly lighting. I'd seen this setup in the past and forgotten about it. Not sure I'll be going that direction but looks interesting nonetheless.
I guess the question at hand is do I key off-center or do I key flat from the front. If I use the 8ft board to key from the front, I can add a bit of lighting from one side or the other to add a bit of interest. I don't want to blast them with frontal lighting, but just use enough to get my exposure and fill in some lines.
I'll try to find a crafty way to take some shadow off the neck, but I think a reflector on a table out of frame will do the trick just fine.
In terms of the video, it's a training video. We have essentially three sources for this thing. One is the 1-up or 2-up interview, one is generated text over motion backgrounds, and the third will be short skits with voice over. The script is not mine, but I've had a bit of creative freedom with it, but it needs to be simple. I'm not making a movie, just a training video. :) So although I want to make these women look good, I don't have a Hollywood budget. I've built up my lighting, audio, and camera package at the office over time and simply have not accumulated everything yet.
I appreciate all the ideas. Let me know if you have more.
Do these women wear glasses? That could prove a problem with all the large-source/bounce card front-lighting being suggested, though that is the best way to hide wrinkles. Find out first so you have time to adapt. Remember angle of incidence=angle of reflection.
I know the women. They won't be wearing glasses for this. There is nothing for them to read or see.