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stan welks
Background/Color/Texture Advice
on Dec 25, 2009 at 10:14:08 pm

i am looking at different types of backgrounds to purchase for a small set I want to make in my apartment. It will consist of me standing in front of a tall bar like piece of furniture with a counter.

I am looking at this site http://www.textureplus.com/
and considering everything from brick, rock, wood and metal for a background. They all could work for what I am visually trying to accomplish. I guess it comes down to what will work best with lighting and look best at 640x360 on the web. I will use Kinos to achieve soft lighting.

Any advice or opinions on this?

Thanks.



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Mark Suszko
Re: Background/Color/Texture Advice
on Dec 26, 2009 at 11:30:55 pm

It used to be vital to keep backgrounds of web videos very visually simple, to reduce the compression overhead, but nowadays this is less necessary.

Still, you don't want something so visually "busy" that it distracts from the subject. Then you have to tame it by vignetting the lighting that hits it, or by controlling depth of field of the camera so that backdrop is out of focus, things like that add work and need more physical room and tools/lights. If you print a custom background, you can fake depth of field control by deliberately blurring the backdrop in photoshop before it gets printed. for a straight-on bar scene shot only from one angle, you don't need much in the background but a shelf with some various bottles on it, and bars are usually dimly lit to be cozy, so tight little point lights at low power, washing down the front of that backdrop from directly above, out of camera shot, may be all you want. Some gobos or cucaloris patterns can throw shadow shapes to suggest items off screen, like pillars or beams, the reversed shadows of a lettered glass door or front window, trees breaking up daylight, that sort of thing. Casting a colored gel light on just the background plane can "darken" it by removing contrast and making it all one tone. For a bar, this might be a red or a blue color, depends on the mood you're trying to set.

Another way to go may be to put a large but soft focus version of your logo on that wall, using a projection. This could be done using a video projector, an old fashioned 35mm slide projector, an elliptical spotlight with a pattern holder, or even the $20 Halloween/Christmas garage door greeting projector from Walgreens. Or have a local sign shop take your photoshop file and print it on matte vinyl, and you can roll it up and store it between shoots.

You also want to pick colors that "read" well on camera, and harmonize with the other things on the set and the outfits the talent wears, without competing for attention. Consult a simple color wheel, looking for triadic complements, as one method. One trick I still use is to look at graphics and sets on a monochrome monitor: this not only shows if your shot reads well to people who are blue-green color-blind, but it helps you see that color and brightness values that look distinct in color can sometimes look too similar in monochrome. This may be why a certain shot or graphic just doesn't seem to "pop" quite right. Now you know why. I have seen color stills shot on the set of old black and white movies, where the sets and costumes had some really bizarre color combos. Now you know why; the weird colors were picked because they read best in monochrome, as the audience would see it.


I would suggest that you be careful of backgrounds that are too "line-y", in that certain line sizes create moire' patterns and aliasing. Not as much a problem if you're shooting progressive vs. interlaced.

I want to leave you with this idea from a low-budget project I did that needed multiple set locations, a basement/alley, a kitchen, and a den. I bought one 4 by 8 wall board in a brick pattern for $15 or so, and two single sample rolls of different wall papers, about $5 each. On the back of the fake brick panel, I did one end in each wallpaper pattern, a trim strip across the middle joint. Scene one was the brick, with a person in medium and close-up shots. Scene two, was the reverse of this panel, top end. Magnets let me hang a clock and a photo frame on the "wall" for a shot of someone on the "kitchen" phone. Shot three was another person with a different colored phone, using the up-ended rear panel in a manly teal colored pattern. This time we hung a ceramic wall decoration of flying ducks on it. Never changed the camera, only tweaked the lights. Held it all up with clamps and stepladder. To get a fourth, wider two-shot, you could mount the panel side-ways, and use more cheap wallpaper with spray-on glue in ten minutes.

Remember that what the camera does not show, but only hints at, the audience's imagination fills-in.


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stan welks
Re: Background/Color/Texture Advice
on Dec 27, 2009 at 3:06:23 am

Thanks so much for your reply! I will be shooting 720p DVCPRO HD and I will be working with a limited amount of space (in an apartment).

1.) What colors typically "read" well on camera? Which colors make a good background color that are not overwhelming or competing with colors that might be in the foreground?

2.) One of my background ideas involved wired mesh. I was afraid of moire pattens. What actually creates the moire pattern? Is there a way to minimize/eliminate the effect?

Thanks!



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Mark Suszko
Re: Background/Color/Texture Advice
on Dec 27, 2009 at 6:45:07 am

Others may have different opinions, but myself, I'd not use a whole lot of red for the background, at least, not bright red. Red is like shouting or typing in all caps. Muted, flat, pastel red, more like burgundy or maroon, or more brownish like brickwork can maybe work, but you know, color has a language all its own, psychologically; it's too deep to get into in this reply, and I'm not a dedicated artist/designer anyway, I can only talk around very superficial and broad concepts about color, in a semiotic sense. Enough, as they say, to get in trouble with it.

What you can communicate and project thru color is emotional states and subconscious things. My wife is a graphic designer, and she pointed out something to me about the film "Broadcast News" that I hadn't noticed until she remarked about it, then it became very noticeable; In every scene where there is great emotional/romantic conflict, the art director put something fairly large and red in there in the frame somewhere, and almost always close to the same shade of red. Watch that DVD again sometime and it will stick out, now that you know to look for it.

Restaurants spend a lot of time on the psychology of color: Fast food restaurants want you in and out fast, turn-over is important, so the "hot" colors of reds, yellows, oranges predominate; they activate appetite but also make you edgy and make you want to eat fast and get out. Places that make more money the longer you stay will try for a cooler palette in the decor, to slow you down and calm you. Jails find that Pepto-pink is a soothing color for the drunk tank and makes inmates less aggressive. Places where a lot of blood may spatter or spill may choose to counter it with green. Like I said, there's a whole world of stuff to learn about the applications of color, and much of it can be useful to shooters as well as art directors, as one more tool to advance the story we tell, just as well-planned musical scores and sound effects can make a scary movie much scarier.

But you can learn more about it yourself, for free, using google and wikipedia under the terms "color theory" and "color wheel". You can access free interactive color wheel pickers online, and learn what are complementary and analogous colors. You want to pick combinations that are complements, that are directly across the wheel from each other. Or you can go for "triadic complements", where you pick a main color, then draw an equilateral triangle with the apex on the main color, the two other corners fall on the secondary complements you want. In this way you pretty much guarantee color families that go together better, and "read" well next to each other.

As to Moire' patterns, it is a complicated, inter-dependent interaction of focal length, lens opening, size of the pattern, and the angles of that pattern, and if you encounter it, a small change in your zoom or camera distance to the subject can usually overcome a mild case of it. But you try to never create it in the first place, like with mesh in the shot. You can get Moire' from polka dots just as easily as from stripes. When we're talking about compression for the web and potential compression artifacts, Moire' is a serious item to avoid.

Maybe you could post a jpeg here of any sketch or photo of what you're thinking about doing, and the experts here I'm sure would be happy to comment. I'm just touching on some very basic stuff here myself, I'm still learning new things all the time after 21 years at this game.


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Dennis Size
Re: Background/Color/Texture Advice
on Dec 27, 2009 at 6:58:48 am

Determine what background makes the best "statement" about what your message is .... then use it.
If it doesn't look good, or you feel it's distracting, use something better.
Be advised -- before you waste a lot of money on textured background. You will need to light your background separately from your foreground, to accent the texture. The Kino-flos will wash out and flatten any texture your background has.

DS




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