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Lighting a School classroom

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Daniel Schultz
Lighting a School classroom
on Dec 25, 2009 at 4:34:20 pm

I'm going to be shooting and educational video in a classroom soon. I assume there will be a wall of windows and then banks of fluorescents on the ceiling. Part of the shoot will involve going around to groups of kids working and talking at their desks in small groups. In other words, I'll need to capture on the fly when the moment is right. I'm somewhat new to lighting, having just finished a flim lighting class. I would love to hear freedback from more experienced people in regards to lighting this large room.

Here are a couple of options I was considering.

1. Turn off the flourescents, and bounce a few Arri 650s Fresnels and/or arri lite open-faced lamps into the ceiling to get as much ambient light as possible. Perhaps I would put CTBs on the lights to balance with the daylight coming in from the windows.

2. Use China lights to give ambient light for the whole room. Never used them. Not sure how hard it is to hang them, and how much clearance I need from the ceiling. Also, would they need to be balanced for daylight, and is that possible with that type of lamp?

3. Turn the flourescents on, keep the windows open, go for a mixed lighting situation.

One consideration. Since this is more of an instructional video, rather than a documentary, I'm thinking the mixed lighting look may not be as desirable. It would be great to not have to intrude on the classroom with lots of lighting equipment, however, which could make the kids more self conscious, and also run the risk of getting in frame, depending on the camera angle. As I mentioned, I'm going to want to roam around the room, getting kids in action, and I won't be able to predict camera angles.

I'll be shooting with either a Sony EX1 or a Panny HVX170 or 200.

I'd love to hear anyone's advice on this.

Thanks, Dan

Dan S.


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john sharaf
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Dec 25, 2009 at 5:52:16 pm

Dan,

You can make this very hard or very easy and you'll still have limitations with both scenarios, but that is not to say it cannot be done.

A lot depends on the direction of the windows; ideally they would be facing north, so you get what we call "North Light", meaning consistent (unchanging) indirect daylight with no streaks of direct sunlight blasting in to muck things up. If this is the case turn the flos on and white balance in the mixed light. A daylight balanced on camera light to fill faces would be a big plus. The limitations here are still going to be bright areas out the window, so you'll need to avoid them if possible in the backgrounds by moving the camera and/or re-framing.

If it were a big-time show, with budget and crew, we'd relamp the existing overheads with daylight balanced globes.

If you go the other route of hanging or placing your own lights, it's also a big job, both resource-wise and time consuming, both putting up and taking down and you'll still have to keep your lights (and the brightness out the window) out of the shot(s), you might have very little background left; assuming you want the freedom to shoot in every direction as opposed to composing fixed frames where you can move and adjust lighting to taste.

In sum, keep it simple; on-camera daylight balanced light, use the window light as key and practical flos as fill, maybe add one big HMI in Chimera like 800 joker from opposite side as window towards the front action area if you can afford a $150 rental and concentrate on the action and composing pretty pictures.

Happy Holidays!

JS






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Dennis Size
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Dec 26, 2009 at 3:52:47 am

John has given you the best advice you could ask for (as always).
The only thing I would add -- if it were easy, and the windows were accessable from the outside -- would be to net the windows to "take down" the instensity of the exterior.
You could either rent a cheap black net or scrim from a theatrical company and tie it off at the roof, hanging outside the windows, or (if you're on the first floor) tape simple black bobbinette from your local fabric store over the outside of the windows.

DS



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Daniel Schultz
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Dec 27, 2009 at 3:26:05 pm

John, thanks so much for taking the time for your response. A couple follow-up questions:

I think I'll go for the "easy" route, which will also be less invasive for kids and classroom. For the onboard light, are you thinking of something like a micro litepanel? Are there other options you'd recommend more? And since we'd be using it as fill, I'm assuming adding diffusion would be good? (I think I can request a classroom with north-facing windows, so that'd be my key.) And having never used them before, how bright/bothersome would they be for kids--likely 4th grade or so? And do I have to change the dimmer on the light, or be concerned with changing exposures I move from medium distance to close up?

I'm thinking of not using the Joker, since I will not have gaffer help on this shoot. The idea of a kid tripping over the chord, knocking over the light, etc...yikes!

Appreciate your advice!

Dan S.


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john sharaf
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Dec 27, 2009 at 3:46:53 pm

Dan,

Yes, a LED Lightpanel is a good choice; Daylight balanced and wide pattern. I'd use the one bigger than the mini, it's about 3x6" and has a dimmer which adjusts the light output without changing the color. Just dim it to taste based on front lit/back lit direction towards window.

JS





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Craig Alan
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Dec 28, 2009 at 9:26:36 pm

These are just some random thoughts because I've done a lot of shooting in classrooms.

Very important to have some time in this room before the shoot. Check out what happens at that time of day with the light and your camera settings. Get some test shots. Since it's an instructional video rather than a doc, you might be able to set up the seating so you are not shooting directly into the windows and design your "run and gun" path with the camera.

I would imagine the biggest challenge will be sound. How will you mike all those kids?

What I have found in classroom settings is that students will get comfortable with the camera if the camera just becomes part of the event. 15 minutes in, they get relaxed with it. But if you start needing to make major adjustments to the room or worse telling subjects to move here or there in order to be captured properly then the filming becomes the focus.

I’d seriously consider mounting the cam on a tripod. If you can plant your mikes close to each source, you can zoom to frame your shots if the room is set up properly.

If the teacher will be your main source of sound, then do a rehearsal with the teacher, even if it’s just to train them on the proper use of whatever mike you are going to use. An ear mounted cordless mike is best for inexperienced performer. It moves with the head as opposed to a tie clip lav, which inexperienced performers will turn away from causing a sharp drop in sound levels. Also make sure the AC/heater is off and check the sound for interference before the shoot.


OSX 10.5.7; MAC Book PRO (EARLY 2008); Camcorders: Sony Z7U, Canon HV30, Sony vx2000/PD170, Canon xl2; Pana, Sony, and Canon consumer cams; FCP certified; write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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Daniel Schultz
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Dec 30, 2009 at 4:55:49 am

Hi Craig,

Your comments most appreciated.
Good idea with the setting up of kids in chairs/desks not facing the windows. Good point, also, about making sure ahead of time kids are where I want them to be to avoid moving them...and the bit of allowing 15 minutes of pre-shooting to allow everyone to get comfortable.

Sound: I was thinking of giving the teacher a wireless lav, and then either using a shotgun mounted on the camera or a boom (if I can get an operator) to move in for the kids to go into the second channel. I always prefer tripod when I can, but with the kids, I'm thinking if I get in close with wide angles, I'll avoid camera shake, and also if I'm using a cam-mounted shotgun, I'll get okay sound? That was my strategy I had in mind. I like getting very close in for the kids, and my cam's better at wide angles than zooming.

What're your thoughts, and appreciate your comments.

Out of curiosity, what types of classroom shoots have you done?

Dan S.


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Daniel Schultz
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Dec 30, 2009 at 4:57:43 am

I forgot to mention that I won't be needing to film the "whole" class much. It will most likely be kids in groups of 3 at desks working things out by themselves...that's where I'd be wanting to roam and get the closeups.

Dan S.


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Dennis Size
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Dec 30, 2009 at 5:59:08 am

I believe you've misinterpreted what Craig was telling you.
You DO want the children facing the windows. You'll be using nature's available light to your advantage. You do NOT want to shoot into the exterior.
You have better control shooting into the walls of the classroom.
You must survey the site, determine what the daylight conditions are during the time you'll be shooting. THEN plan accordingly.
DS



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Daniel Schultz
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Dec 30, 2009 at 6:39:25 pm

Yes...I mixed it up when writing, but, believe it or not, did actually have it right in my mind. I want to avoid shooting into the windows. None-the-less, thanks for the clarification.

Dan S.


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Craig Alan
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Jan 1, 2010 at 4:08:25 pm

Hi,

My students and I have shot lectures, teacher directed lessons, power point presentations, unedited lessons for teacher certification, student projects, clips of students activities, group meetings, etc. I have also assigned students to film their own instructional videos after producing one with them. We have also shot many assemblies, many of which were instructional.

I have a better idea now of what you will be shooting, though much more detail would help. If the teacher is facing the class and students are in groups of three facing the teacher, then you can’t have both these subjects facing the window light. If the entire teacher presentation is given first, the class could then move into their groups after an “intermission.” This would give you time to change your set up. Or you could figure out the best location at a tech rehearsal with just the teacher to set up both subjects.

You could re-post your further thought out classroom set up and ask the pros at the audio forum how to mike groups of threes. I will say if you need every student who talks to have clear well recorded sound, it’s a complex expensive set up that would require an audio tech and lots of gear.

I believe if you want student responses that are as unaffected by the camera as possible it would be better to zoom in to frame your shots from a fixed location. But if you dolly in it does look more natural than zooming so I would edit around the zooms. And yes sound then would be a problem. If you plant an omni mike within the semi-circle of three it won’t be as clear as a lav on each student. Ask on the audio forum. If you dolly in to the group of three the cam will need to be within three feet of the students to get ok sound. Not great just ok. A boom-mounted mike could work but is hardly unobtrusive. Plus the operator needs to be skilled. Make sure you get the right mike since many booms need high ceilings to avoid echoes. Many are for outdoor use.

A lav on the teacher will work fine but an ear-mounted mike will work better. Less chance of clothing noise, less chance of the teacher facing away from the mike. Also since it is an instructional video, the audio quality is very important to the presenation. The lavs that come with lower/mid-priced cordless kits are just ok. It would be fairly cheap to rent a good one for the shoot. But again leave time to test it.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/294107-REG/Shure_WCE6T_E6_Omnidirecti... is one example of an ear-mounted mike. If you are going to rent ask the pros for the best.

You’ll need the one that works with your cordless kit; and as for color, tan is best for most skin tones. If the talent is very dark or very pale then match those colors.


Here’s one thought: You could shoot one group of kids that want to be in the video. They could each be miked into a 3-channel mixer. Again do a test with this to make sure the mixer is outputting at the right level for your cam. The special group of three could be lit and the camera placed well and tripod mounted after the intermission. You could set up another camera on full wide of the entire class to get some establishing shots. Or get a second cam operator to roam around.






OSX 10.5.7; MAC Book PRO (EARLY 2008); Camcorders: Sony Z7U, Canon HV30, Sony vx2000/PD170, Canon xl2; Pana, Sony, and Canon consumer cams; FCP certified; write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Jan 2, 2010 at 7:20:01 am

I just had to say this; I've always thought ear-mounted boom mics look ridiculous and distracting, I don't care how tiny they are. Ear booms are bad enough on broadway shows and sports and exercise training shows, for telephone operators and air traffic controllers, I feel they are inappropriate most other times, and take you right out of what you're watching. My suggestion would be a PZM type boundary mic at each table of three, or a wireless omni on a table stand, backed up by a quality shotgun, preferably hand-aimed by a grip, but on the camera is ok too. Wireless omni on the teacher, again, backed by the shotgun or a planted mic near their lecture spot. If they stand in just one place, planting a mic should be easy. Not lighting advice, but it was brought up. Or you can hang unobtrusive omni lavs from above, just out of shot, better yet, the lav-like concert recording mics used by choirs, but I've actually shot focus groups in classrooms hanging a lav as well as PZM's from the ceiling tiles above, it can work. Having the cables on the ceiling is safer than having kids tripping all over them, kicking or playing with them, or parking chair legs on them, this WILL happen, though you tape them down.

Back to lights: I agree with facing the kids into the window and putting the cameraman's back to it. You just can't affordably or unobtrusively make up for the lost daylight on an educator's budget, HMI's are expensive, LEDs are nice but have short throw. So you want to balance to that daylight. Maybe, just maybe, you could afford some correction gels for the overhead flouros and though that would reduce their output, if the color balance was closer to daylight from the window I think the trade-off may still be worth it. Gelling the overheads is likely easier than gelling the window. If the windows have full-coverage blinds, I might go a different way, and just use some 1k/s in the corners, bounced off the ceiling to raise the overall light level.

Shooting the teacher backlit by the window as they teach the kids facing the window is hard. Less hard if you have a second camera set to shoot just the teacher on iso, preferably from a somewhat side-profile shot that minimizes backlighting. This will give you cover to snap-zoom and snap-pan the kids camera to get what you need, while using the teacher shot, and the edit will be cake. The iso camera shot can be pretty tight and if you let the window blow out a bit it might not matter there. Shooting the teacher from a higher or lower angle will also take more of the window out of the shot, or perhaps you could arrange a portable blackboard or easel with some stuff on it to act as a flag, to block off most of the window in just that tight teacher shot. Even a banner or posters taped over the window in that spot will not look too badly out of place, considering the setting, but will cut down the outside backlighting on the teacher there.

This is a little devious, but what if the kids did an art project ahead of time, where they each made an 8.5 by 11 inch picture or cut-out shape and they were stuck all over that window in key spots along the lower third of the windows?


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Daniel Schultz
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Jan 5, 2010 at 12:32:31 am

I really appreciate all the posts here, representing lots of valuable experience. Mark, I'm glad to hear your comments about the ear mike--I was having the same feeling and really hoping to not go that direction. Also, I liked your idea of shooting some lights into the ceiling instead of trying to gel the flos, which is probably more trouble and expense than I'm ready to deal with.

So here's a thought.

1. North-facing windows
2. Turn off the flos, and shoot 3-4 totas into the ceiling with either full or 1/2 ctb.
3. Use litepanels for closeups of kids, thinking that there will be enough ambient, color-corrected light bouncing around--all in the daylight range.

Thoughts?

Dan S.


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john sharaf
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Jan 5, 2010 at 12:37:05 am

Daniel,

Totas into ceiling is useless, with gel on them even more useless. Only bounce light that would work is punchy HMI's like multiple 800's, 1200's or 2500's. I don't think you're ready for the cost of these. Return to original concept; keep it simple shoot away from windows and/or keep windows out of shots.

Good luck!

JS






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Dennis Size
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Jan 5, 2010 at 4:12:18 am

I missed something in this thread..... but you should defintely not bounce tota lights off the ceiling. You shouldn't even use them.
I will refrain from saying what I really think of totas. Suffice it to say all they will do is mess up your color temperature, needlessly raise the room temperature (they're stupidly hot); and waste money.
Use your overhead fluoros -- but turn off half of them if you can. Keep your cameras positioned at the windows (with the operators backs to daylight). Shoot into the room with everyone facing the windows. Fill, as needed, with Lite Panels.

DS



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Daniel Schultz
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Jan 6, 2010 at 2:40:29 am

I get the message loud and clear about the totas. If I have a north facing window and do as everyone says, shoot with my back to the window and faces towards the window...that all sounds good. But what if it's a really cloudy day? I know some clouds are good for diffused natural light, but if it's dark and rainy. Don't I need a backup plan to get ambient light in the room?

Mabe I should consider renting HMIs. How many and how big would I need? I've never used them, but I'm assuming they work like Fresnels, only daylight balanced? (I've used fresnels, and I'm somewhat comfortable with them).

I think, for many reasons, going simple is wise--with as few mics and lights as possible to make the kids feel self-conscious. But for a backup...I'm confused all over again. I guess it's not easy!

Dan S.


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john sharaf
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Jan 6, 2010 at 2:47:07 am

Dan,

Even an overcast day will be fine, in terms of having enough "north light" for both the quality and quantity of light desired.

If you do want to add artificial daylight balanced illumination (either bounced off the ceiling) or direct through a Chimera box, you best bet is a couple of 800w Jokers. With this wattage, it's unlikely you'll blow a fuse even if you plug them both into the same circuit. But do try to split them into different circuits. I would think that a modern classroom would have two circuits. Best to check with the custodian, and look at the fuse box. It is important to at least know where it is in case!

These lights rent anywhere from $100-300/day each.

JS






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Daniel Schultz
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Jan 12, 2010 at 12:36:12 am

Is there anything in particular I need to know about operating HMIs? Do they all need to have a ballast? And will and HMI fresnel work basically the same as a tungsten?

I'm assuming bounced light off the ceiling would give a softer overall ambient light than chimeras pointed at the kids.

I'll be scouting the classrooms at the end of next week, and maybe I'll check back when I have more info.

Thanks,

Dan S.


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Todd Terry
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Jan 12, 2010 at 2:25:29 am

Yes, an HMI will have a ballast... either a magnetic ballast, or a more modern electronic ballast. They are easy to differentiate... the magnetic ballast will create a cracking sound from your spine when you pick it up, and the subsequent hernia pain. The electronic ballasts are much lighter. They can still be a big and fairly heavy piece of equipment though.

The exception to the rule are the Joker-Bugs. For some reason the Jokers, even the 800, still have pretty lightweight and easily managable ballasts.

The couple of things of note with HMIs, they put out daylight-balanced light (although some instruments do have tungsten balanced globes, but they are the exception). Secondly they put out a lot more light per watt compared to tungsten... anywhere from three to five times as much, depending on the instrument. Also a plus, they tend to run a bit cooler than same-wattage tungsten instruments.

Some HMIs aren't "hot restrike," which means once you shut them off there is a cooling down period before you can restrike them. Most modern instruments are hot restrike, and can be re-ignited immediately... though I do have one that isn't... and unfortunately seem to keep forgetting that.

As for comparing it to other lighting instruments... a light is a light is a light... it's pretty much like any other, just a lot more of it and of perhaps a different color temperature. You can do anything with it that you would any other instrument... use it directly, flag it with barn doors, bounce it, shoot it through a silk or scrim, etc.

Most HMIs will be either fresnels or PARs. The frensel is made and works like any tungsten fresnel. The PAR has a parabolic reflector, it's focused by a mechanism that slides the globe in and out of the reflector a bit.

My favorite workhouses are our 1200w fresnel HMIs. They are big, but not too big, have good output... and they are about the biggest HMI that you can relatively confidently power by ordinary home or office electrical outlets without tripping breakers (although you still will, if much is already on the circuit).

My most frequent use of an HMI is as a key light, shooting it into a white 4x4 bounce card. That gives really beautiful soft, natural looking light.

That's what I'd probably do in a classroom, too. If fact, we just did that. If you pop over to the business forum, just today I posted a little thing about some video storyboards that we did, and there is a sample video that has a classroom scene (http://forums.creativecow.net/readpost/17/868835). That scene was lit with a single 1200w HMI and a white 4x4 bounce. Incidentally, the other HMI scenes in that piece are the opening glass-hallway scene, the stairwell scene, the "grandparents" scene, and the end hospital room scene. Pretty much any scene that would otherwise have bright blown-out windows.

HMIs aren't scary, they're pretty great. I couldn't live without them.


T2

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






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Dennis Size
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Jan 12, 2010 at 4:49:05 am

Aren't there fluorescent fixtures overhead in this classroom?
Then why would you want to bounce light off the ceiling? ..... where there are already existing soft light sources?

You're obsessing WAAAYYYYY too much about this project. Stop beating yourself up and start to visualize it withOUT using any additional fixtures. Then supplement where you need to. You'll find you won't need much -- as long as you use the "Key" lighting that God is giving you through the windows.

DS



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Todd Terry
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Jan 12, 2010 at 5:19:07 am

I have to agree with Dennis, my long-winded treatse about HMIs notwithstanding... in my defense I had not read the thread, was just responding to the "tell me about HMIs" question...

Upon reading it all now, I do think this sounds like a relatively easy gig that you are working very hard at to try to make difficult. It's probably not.

I get the feeling this doesn't exactly have to look like a feature film that Roger Deakins might have shot... it just has to look good, and that shouldn't be too hard. Get a classroom with good windows facing the right direction, and this could be a pretty darn easy shoot with just available light (or nearly so).


T2

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






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Daniel Schultz
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Jan 12, 2010 at 6:51:59 am

Hi Todd and Dennis.

Appreciate the responses (and allowing me to indulge in my obsession).
I've done a classroom shoot with natural and fluorescents before, and although it wasn't terrible, I'd love to take it up a notch.

Dennis, the reason I wanted to bounce the HMIs of the ceiling was I wanted to turn off the flos. I was hoping to not have the mixed lighting. And, yes I want to use the natural light and supplement with the lights.

Todd, just viewed your ad spot, and I love the look you got. That was with natural and HMIs, right?

Appreciate all the info and advice--even the Keep-it-simple-stupid advice, which for me, might be the most important! (But, alas, I know I will continue to obsess. I hope you understand it comes from wanting to be as good as I can.)

Thanks all.

Dan S.


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Todd Terry
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Jan 12, 2010 at 3:33:58 pm

[Daniel Schultz] "Todd, just viewed your ad spot, and I love the look you got. That was with natural and HMIs, right?"

If you mean just the classroom scene... that was mostly HMI. We turned off all the overhead flos and darkened all the windows (they had good light-blocking blinds) except one at the rear of the talent that was left partially open to give a bit of spill onto the back wall. Talent was lit with a single 1200w daylight HMI shot into a white 4x4 bounce card. A little 150w watt HMI was used as fill and to give the non-principal children a bit of backlighting.

As for the other scnenes, it was a mix. In order of scenes they were:

1) Glass hallway... mostly available sunlight, a little bit of HMI
2) Nurse... tungsten
3) Premature baby... tungsten
4) Orthopaedist... tungsten
5) Exterior kite.. available sunlight and reflected
6) Surgeon... tungsten
7) Classroom... HMIs and a bit of available light
8) Radiologist... tungsten
9) Grandparents... HMIs for key and backlight, available light, one tungsten special
10) Stairwell... HMIs and a bit of available light
11) Hospital room... HMIs, a couple of tungsten specials, and available light



T2

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






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Daniel Schultz
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Jan 13, 2010 at 1:08:19 pm

Hi Todd,

Thanks for the detailed info. I can look at each shot from the ad spot and understand better how the look was achieved.

Dan S.


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Craig Alan
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Jan 16, 2010 at 9:56:51 pm

Daniel,

Whatever equipment you rent, make sure you have time to experiment before the shoot. Different camcorders, different settings, different amount and quality of light = different results. And keep in mind, poor audio ruins more productions of this type than so so lighting.

OSX 10.5.7; MAC Book PRO (EARLY 2008); Camcorders: Sony Z7U, Canon HV30, Sony vx2000/PD170, Canon xl2; Pana, Sony, and Canon consumer cams; FCP certified; write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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Daniel Schultz
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Jan 17, 2010 at 5:49:06 pm

Thanks, Craig.
This is why I'm considering using my own camera, an HMC150, just because I'm already familiar and comfortable with it.

Dan S.


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Daniel Schultz
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Jan 26, 2010 at 12:25:26 pm

Here is some test footage of the classroom I'm planning to shoot, both with flos on and off. I really don't like the look with the flos on. I don't like the colors, the fact that there is no shape or shadow--everything illuminated and flat. Makes me want to consider turning off the flos and using HMI's and onboard litepanel to support the window light.

Thoughts

http://reels.creativecow.net/film/classroom-test-footage


Dan S.


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Daniel Schultz
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Jan 26, 2010 at 12:31:03 pm

Also, because the classroom is so busy everywhere, I was considering using a Letus Extreme 35mm adaptor to help soften the background clutter.

Dan S.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Jan 26, 2010 at 1:07:51 pm

Too dark with the overheads off. Window not as big a factor as I had imagined, if that is typical amount of light. Looks okay with the daylight balance and overheads on. "Okay" meaning it looks like what people would naturally expect to see on TV news. You have to weigh how pretty you make the lighting versus how disruptive and expensive you want to get, for the result you want.

Letus DOF gadget will make individuals easier to look at by blurring busy backgrounds. But is it going to create a problem shooting 2 and 3-shots and wide shots? If you shoot from far in a corner, you may already get enough DOF blur action on all but the closest rows.


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Daniel Schultz
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Jan 26, 2010 at 3:41:13 pm

Thanks for your response, Mark.
Windows are fairly typical.
I realize the flos give the news look.
I'm trying to create a different atmosphere than news for these. They're modeled after webcast cooking shows, like for instance the ones on NYtimes.com. We're creating a series for Scholastic, where I work, to go on the web, hopefully attract sponsors and become a popular series. This is why I'm hoping to bump up the visual quality a bit.

Here's what we're going to be shooting:
• Teacher in front of kids gather around him sitting on the rug in a "clump"
• Kids working in small groups (see the way they desks are clustered). These will be closueups.
• Then there will be some scripted, teacher-into the camera footage, which will serve as the intro and ending, as well as voice over for many of the closeups when the kids are working at their desks.

Let me know what you think , with that in mind. And again, thanks to all for your great advice.

Dan S.


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Daniel Schultz
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Jan 26, 2010 at 3:42:48 pm

i'd just add that overall I'm probably going to be bringing the camera in close for the closeups, rather than zooming from a distance.

Dan S.


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Craig Alan
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Jan 27, 2010 at 5:50:49 am

Hi Daniel,

To my eyes, not enough light using just window light. Not sure why you'd white balance to daylight with the overhead flos on. The color looks off and parts of the scene looks blown out to me. Did you try manual white balancing and stopping down? Granted I'm viewing on a computer. What did your zebras show? Wish the old sony pd150/170 was 16x9. I think it would have looked good with that amount of natural light. Looks very crowded even without the kids. If you change the bulbs to daylight temp you might not need to use all of them.

OSX 10.5.7; MAC Book PRO (EARLY 2008); Camcorders: Sony Z7U, Canon HV30, Sony vx2000/PD170, Canon xl2; Pana, Sony, and Canon consumer cams; FCP certified; write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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john sharaf
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Jan 26, 2010 at 3:50:08 pm

Dan,

Looking at your test footage on my Apple computer screen (so not completely accurate as to gamma and color) the non-overhead looks dingy and dark. and with the overheads on way too warm but quality of light much better. I don't believe you took a proper white balance. Try use a chip chart not just a piece of white paper. Proper solution gere is to change out the tubes for photo quality daylight balance. Count the number of tubes and calculate the cost, it probably will not be too much, and then you'll have the resource to use again in another classroom.

JS





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Daniel Schultz
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Jan 26, 2010 at 5:28:25 pm

Interesting idea with the flo tubes. I'm thinking it might be tough because we're going to try to squeeze two classrooms in one day (separate videos of the same series). So the schedule's going to be tight. How long would you estimate we'd need to swap the tubes in and out? Or, potentially, if it's not too expensive, outfit both classrooms with the daylight tubes at the start of the day.

Is that a setup for disaster, given the tight schedule (& budget)?

Dan S.


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john sharaf
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Jan 26, 2010 at 5:41:48 pm

Dan,

Here's link to full spectrum 5600K 40w 4' tubes for $4:

http://www.bulbtronics.com/Search-The-WareHouse/ProductDetail.aspx?sid=0057...

I've relamped entire auditoriums for ABC/Nightline and the labor to take then down was more than the globes were worth, so we just left them up. I'd recommend you come in the day before for install. It'll take a couple of hours.

If you want to add floor lighting, use Kino Flo 4'Fourbanks with these same globes, just white balance and shoot. The white balance will remove whatever green spike is left over.

JS





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Daniel Schultz
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Jan 26, 2010 at 6:54:51 pm

Wow. That's a really interesting idea.
And if I wanted to add some shape, how about I stop the iris down so that the overheads expose as a slightly shadowy fill, then use the floors as key (using the windows as the source/directino)?

Dan S.


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Daniel Schultz
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Jan 28, 2010 at 5:50:03 pm

Hi John,

I just checked with Bulbtronics, and the $4 flourescent tubes have to be back ordered (my shoot is a week from Friday, so it's not enough time to order). They suggested the MovieTone lights, but they're more like $13 each, which, with two classrooms, would put me over budget. Any other suggestions?

Thanks again!!!
-Dan

Dan S.


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john sharaf
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Jan 28, 2010 at 6:30:33 pm

Dan,

There are many vendors of photographic globes. I've an inquiry into Multi-Lite here in Burbank, Ca. for the globes you need, but just let your fingers do the walking on the phone and internet; you'll find wwhat you want at the right price.

JS





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Daniel Schultz
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Jan 29, 2010 at 2:29:06 pm

Thanks, John.
Should I be finding exactly the tubes you send me the link for (LTF40T12VS (ORDERING CODE: 0057679)

The price is right, and I can't afford the $13/per tube versions. I'm assuming the $4/tube ones you suggested have good color balance, though not as "perfect" as the MovieTones the guy at Bulbtronics suggested--but good enough?

-Dan

Dan S.


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john sharaf
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Jan 29, 2010 at 3:23:34 pm

Dan,

Multi-lite's respopnse:

In response to your request for quote on 5600K 4’ bi-pin fluorescent lamps:

We have them in T-8 and T-12 4’ bi-pin.

The T-8 is smaller in diameter than the T-12

Most new buildings use the T-8 however the T-12 is the most common.

These lamps are $19.00 ea 30 pcs in a case.

So the questions are: how many tubes do you need, what's the budget, can you amortize it over several shoots (as you'll likely need the same units to shoot in other classrooms), maybe you can rent from local lighting vendor (longshot!).

JS







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Daniel Schultz
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Jan 29, 2010 at 6:16:02 pm

Hi John,

Thanks so much for the info.
I'll be needing 72 for the two classrooms--so it's way over our budget.

Just got off the phone with someone from Rosco, and he was recommending using 3/4 minus green gels. I'd need to buy two rolls at about $150 each to cover the two classrooms. (I could lay them on top of the grate in the ceiling). I guess they have 65% transmission...so I'd lose some light with them.

Or I could try to find the cheap $4/each tubes somewhere else. The price is about the same if I could find them.

Ugh...
Thoughts?

Thanks again!
-Dan

Dan S.


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Daniel Schultz
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Jan 30, 2010 at 4:43:27 pm

Just found a place in NYC called Barbizon. They have GE 40's in stock. The guy there told me that they were 5200 (the bulbtronics were 5600) and that 5200 would likely be a better match for daylight. I think I'll go with those, unless anyone has any strong objections.

Dan S.


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john sharaf
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Jan 30, 2010 at 4:55:03 pm

Dan,

Now you're catching on; figure out what you need, find it, buy it, use it. Doesn't it feel good?

JS





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Daniel Schultz
Re: Lighting a School classroom
on Jan 30, 2010 at 11:58:26 pm

Yeah...thanks John.
(You helped me get here)

Dan S.


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Daniel Schultz
Just ONE more question
on Feb 1, 2010 at 9:10:13 am

John, can I trouble you for one more piece of advice, then I promise I'll shut up about this.

The flouro tubes that are presently in the classroom are 30 watt. The ones I'm about to order are 40 watt. There are 36 tubes in each room, so that changing them would mean an increase of 360 watts for each room. Judging by the test video I shared a few posts back, do you think that the extra wattage will over-power the room? I suppose I could always stop the camera down to a higher f-stop or use the internal ND filter in the camera. I'd also add that I think I will use a Letus adaptor with a 35mm lens, which eats up about 1/2 stop of light. And my gut says, "better too much than too little light."

But if it is thought to be too much overhead light, I could ask the custodian to only put in 2 out of 3 for each ceiling fixture. I guess that would take the overall wattage of the room down 90 watts from what it is now. The problem is that when I walk into the classroom on Friday for the shoot, it will be too late to mess with the ceiling flouros. So I have to give it my best shot beforehand. I will add that I'm also bringing one Kino Flo floor light (I believe it's the 3 lamp version) and I might bring the wide on-camera litepanel you suggested a while back.

Thanks again, and I PROMISE this is it!


Dan S.


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john sharaf
Re: Just ONE more question
on Feb 1, 2010 at 3:26:31 pm

Extra wattage will not overpower. With Letus, you'll need more light as you well know, so relamp all the globes with the daylite colored.

JS





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Daniel Schultz
Re: Just ONE more question
on Feb 1, 2010 at 4:28:44 pm

THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dan S.


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Daniel Schultz
It Worked!
on Feb 9, 2010 at 1:08:20 pm

Hi John,

Just wanted to let you know that the system worked--lamping the overheads with daylight flos, and letting the natural light mix from the windows. What a difference! Just set the white balance to daylight and all the colors and skin tones look so much better. And it worked pretty much anywhere in the room, even had a nice effect when the windows washed out the background.

537_threeframes.jpg.zip

Thanks again.

-Dan

Dan S.


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john sharaf
Re: It Worked!
on Feb 9, 2010 at 3:54:21 pm

Dan,

That's great to hear. I hope you come away with the understanding that lighting is not brain surgery and should not be over-thought. Your initial instincts are usually right and the difficulty inevitably comes from self-censoring because of cost (either of gear or labor). The challenge is therefore not to think of an alternate plan, but how to accomplish what you know you must do!

JS





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Dennis Size
Re: It Worked!
on Feb 10, 2010 at 12:21:54 am

YEA JOHN!!!!



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Daniel Schultz
Re: It Worked!
on Apr 29, 2010 at 5:37:16 am

Hi John,

It's been ages since you helped me with this classroom problem.
Thought I'd share the results with you. Thanks again for all your patience!

http://www.scholastic.com/administrator/education-videos/education-leaders/

Dan S.


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Dennis Size
Re: It Worked!
on May 1, 2010 at 6:05:12 am

Nicely done Dan --- visually and conceptually.
If you do another you should add a key light to Bob, the Math Man. His close-up lighting should be better.

DS




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Daniel Schultz
Re: It Worked!
on May 1, 2010 at 12:41:39 pm

Hi Dennis,

Appreciate the feedback.
I had a kino flo on Bob, the Math Man.
But for some reason, he doesn't appear to have a key light on him, now that you mention it.
Interesting.
Is that because everything--background, foreground, Bob--are about the same exposure?
Perhaps he needs something a little stronger and slightly less diffuse to make him stand out?

Dan S.


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Dennis Size
Re: It Worked!
on May 2, 2010 at 11:59:01 pm

Too much softlight eliminates all the delination and "edge". I always prefer to use a hard key, in conjuction with soft fill -- especially in this type of environment where you really want the host to "pop". I would have also taken Math Man at least a stop hotter. Your key light also wants to be lower to fill in his eyes (which appear "lifeless" in his close-ups).

DS



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Daniel Schultz
Re: It Worked!
on May 3, 2010 at 12:36:00 am

Dennis,

Your comments are really helpful and specific and useful.

Thanks!

Dan S.


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Craig Alan
Re: It Worked!
on May 1, 2010 at 5:24:39 pm

Very rare to see classroom footage of this quality. Nice job! Agree now that an ear mounted mike would have been the wrong choice since he is seated and interacting with the kids and not turning his head to a white board or different sides of the class.

Just my take: Could have used a higher quality lav or preamp or both. A couple of moments the hand held cam was too shaky. I think the teacher’s voice as V.O. narration rather than a picture-in-picture would have been a better choice a few times. But I do get that it was a style choice along with the whoosh exit. Not a fan of whoosh whoosh. This seemed in-between documentary and kid’s show style. The kids were adorable and well shot and I would have liked watching them more. A couple of the jump cuts were awkward. A different camera angle or cut in or kid’s reaction shot would smooth these edits. Get down to the kids’ height more and looking down at them less. Loved the moments where the kids seemed to imitate the teacher in praising each other. Would have liked some shots of the teacher from the kids’ P.O.V. and kids from teacher’s P.O.V.


OSX 10.5.7; MAC Book PRO (EARLY 2008); Camcorders: Sony Z7U, Canon HV30, Sony vx2000/PD170, Canon xl2; Pana, Sony, and Canon consumer cams; FCP certified; write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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Daniel Schultz
Re: It Worked!
on May 3, 2010 at 12:41:44 am

Thanks, Criag,

Helpful comments.
Thanks for taking the time.



Dan S.


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Tim Hall
Re: It Worked!
on Sep 1, 2010 at 11:55:54 am

Sorry to bump an oldish thread!

I also film a lot of classroom based lessons, and always looking for ways to improve lighting. Daniel, did you use an on-camera light in the end? Or go without?


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david braman
Re: It Worked!
on Sep 21, 2010 at 2:51:25 pm

Just joined the forum and have been reading this thread and thought I'd throw in my (belated) two cents worth.

I would contact the school in advance and have them supply you with 4 of the flo tubes in the class room ceiling. I'd then show up with a Kino; drop in the matching tubes; and close the window blinds. You can now shoot with the class room flos and use your matching Kino as a key. (I like to go verticle from the side...as opposed to top lighting them). You can now move quickly and (relatively) unobtrusively...and its natural and unlit. If you've got the extra money and want to go through the extra work, you can do the same thing with a second Kino and move that around for a kick


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