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Flat Newsroom Lighting on a Budget

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Allen White
Flat Newsroom Lighting on a Budget
on Dec 30, 2010 at 9:15:06 am

I'm shooting a cheap web video series that's a pundit parody, basically a talking head anchorperson shot waist-to-head against a simple background.

I want this to look like, for example, Keith Olbermann or Anderson Cooper. To my untrained eye, these setups seem possibly require a fluorescent key, left and right fills, and a hair and/or side light, with additional lighting for the wall of the set behind. I'm planning on using 3200K lights.

After doing lots of reading on lighting (which may have confused me as much as helped), I'm thinking of using a dimmable 2x55 watt fluorescent for the key, but am hung up on what I should use for fills. I've read that a 2x55 is about equivalent to a 500w tungsten, so I'm thinking two 300w lamps for fills, and maybe a 150w for a hair light. For the set wall behind perhaps a few 300w softboxed tungstens.

Am I on the right track here? Will 6 lights do the job? I want the setup to be quick and dirty (and affordable), but to be an adequate (not perfect) simulation of a newsdesk set.

Any advice would be most appreciated!


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Mark Suszko
Re: Flat Newsroom Lighting on a Budget
on Jan 1, 2011 at 12:01:45 am

Nobody else has offered a suggestion yet, so I'll jump in. Looking at stills of the guy on a google image search, he looks relatively evenly lit from both sides, with a very mild key to fill ratio. Look at the shadows on Olberman's neck and under his nose for clues as to what angle the key and fill is set for. he wears glasses, so I would guess that the key and fill are set a little higher than normal to keep the reflections from hitting the camera axis. But they can also afford to use specially coated eyeglasses if they want.
If this is for a low-budget parody goof thing, I'd just lay down two soft boxes at 45 degree angles left and right, pointing down at a 45-degree elevation, check for eyeglass hotspots, then dim or add a little diffusion to one of the two softlights to make it more obviously the fill. A 250watt backlight/hair light to add some separation from the background, and that's about it, on a pinch-penny budget. The key and fill could alternately be done with flos and some diffusion.


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Allen White
Re: Flat Newsroom Lighting on a Budget
on Jan 1, 2011 at 2:53:05 am

Thanks much for the suggestions, Mark.

What wattage and kind of lights do you suggest for the key and fill? Since you say "alternately" flos, I assume your first idea was to use tungsten, yes?

This lighting is exactly what I'm talking about:

http://cache.gawker.com/assets/images/gawker/2009/05/Picture_13.png

Looks to me like maybe I could get such an effect like you say, with a soft key on the right, and a soft diffused or dimmed fill on the left (flos or softboxed tungsten), and a hair light.

It probably helps you to know that my studio is a 9x17 room, that the lights will be relatively close to the subject (+/- 8 ft.), and my shot will be framed like the Olbermann pic (slightly wider), with the camera about 10 feet back. Can I get away with lower wattage being so close?

Thanks again!


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Mark Suszko
Re: Flat Newsroom Lighting on a Budget
on Jan 1, 2011 at 6:05:49 am

I don't get a lot of choices myself. 99 percent of the time I don't have access to a full grip truck, I do everything I need with a Lowel Omni kit and some Lowel Rifalights, which are softboxes comparable to Chimeras. I typically have these lamped to 1K and they have metal screens on them, not so much for the diffusion they give, as for extra safety in case a bulb breaks in a bad way and wants to drop molten quartz somewhere (seen it happen). I can de-power these Omnis by changing out the bulbs to lower wattage, say, 250. The Rifas, I generally just use distance and the square/cube law to adjust their power, then I flag them off to control spill, because we were too cheap to buy the nifty but pricey eggcrate add-ons. So me, I'd just use two of the smallest Rifas on the front, and an omni on the back.


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Dennis Size
Re: Flat Newsroom Lighting on a Budget
on Jan 2, 2011 at 8:08:13 am

Although it may appear like the lighting is relatively simple our company designed both of those studios for CNN and MSNBC -- and the shows within them. There are no fluorescent fixtures used and there are far more lights (many hard sources such as lekos and fresnels) than you would guess. Cooper's show is lit with about 75 instruments!
For what you're doing however, as a parody, you should study the approach taken by shows such as "Saturday Night Live" ... who have mastered the art of stripping the look of other shows down to the bare essentials when they create their skits.

DS



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Allen White
Re: Flat Newsroom Lighting on a Budget
on Jan 2, 2011 at 10:01:41 am

Indeed, Dennis, I now realize that these sets actually have dozens of lights. As I said, my eye is untrained! So I really appreciate your insider perspective and knowledge. But as my lights will be much closer, I was hoping to get away with fewer. ^_^ So any advice on faking it helps.

Thanks!


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Dennis Size
Re: Flat Newsroom Lighting on a Budget
on Jan 3, 2011 at 5:19:48 am

Hang 3 or 4 scoops (or 2kw zip softlights) with Rosco 105 diffusion at 8'-0" (or mount them on stands) in an arch in front of your talent as a soft wash.
Put a 650w fresnel with Lee 188 diffusion 20" or so above your camera as a key light.
Hang a 150w or 300w fresnel (or cheap PAR) or two as shoulder lights perhaps with Rosco #02 color .....point camera, shoot (hopefully after you've balanced your camera).

DS



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Allen White
Re: Flat Newsroom Lighting on a Budget
on Jan 5, 2011 at 7:41:00 am

Thanks for the suggestions, Dennis. I have a lot to think about now as I look to purchase lights. I hadn't thought about scoops, but I'm checking them out now, as well as softboxes. I think I'm going to get a mixture of lights, which I will need anyway, and try out a few things. I'm trying to put together a good, versatile basic kit, and think that after long and careful consideration, I should be able to do what I need with what I'm going to buy.


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