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Lighting in a small concrete room

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Paul Trunkfield
Lighting in a small concrete room
on Jan 17, 2011 at 11:53:43 am

Hi all,
We will soon be filming a short conversation between 2 people in a small concrete room, approximately 10 feet by 4 feet. The 2 subjects will be sitting close to each other. One will have their back against the far wall and the other will be sitting to the side wall, again sitting against the wall.
We will be using 2 sony HVR-HD 1000E camcorders.

Can you please recommend a good way of lighting the room and subjects? There will be shots with each subject talking on their own and some with both in shot. We will be hiring the lighting so any recommendation will be appreciated.

I was thinking some softboxes and as the wall is concrete (imagine a prison cell)will it be best to bounce light of the ceiling etc

Due to the limited space would on camera lighting be a better option?
Thanks in advance for any help


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Todd Terry
Re: Lighting in a small concrete room
on Jan 17, 2011 at 3:30:22 pm

Well part of it depends on the kind of aesthetic "look" you are going for. If you can describe the project a little more and tell us what your ideal look would be that would be helpful. Are you going for dark and dramatic with lots of shadows? Bright and flat and shadowless? Somewhere in between? Or something completely different?

One of the challenges will be to light the set but keep the gear out of the way. You're already going to have a minimum of three people in this tiny space (if the crew is only the camera operator), plus the gear associated with two camera setups. It's going to be tight tight tight, so we'd want to keep the lighting rigs as out of the way as possible.

In such a tiny space a couple of options would be to take a single fairly bright instrument (say, a 1200w HMI) and put it at the rear of the room and blast the ceiling (using the barndoors to flag it off from most everything else). That might be a good starting point. Or you could one or more China balls above and in front of the talent. You could also add a little bit of kick to either or both of these setups with an on-camera light... but I'd do something unobtrusive such as a ring-light on the camera... although if you have any extreme closeups or if either of your talent is wearing glasses that could cause ring-reflection problems.

T2

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



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Paul Trunkfield
Re: Lighting in a small concrete room
on Jan 17, 2011 at 4:01:13 pm

Hi Todd, thanks for your helpful response.

The scene is going to be a conversation between two prisoners about a certain topic and the room we have to film it will be made up to look like a prison cell with a bed on the left. One person will be sitting on the bottom bunk of the bed to the left (with back to wall) and the other person sitting against the back wall.

We would like the mood for the scene to be naturally lit and there will be some close ups on each person. Neither of the two wear glasses luckily.

I like your idea of using a 1200w HMI bouncing off the ceiling and maybe coupled with a soft on-camera light.

I haven't used China balls before, can you let me know a little bit about how they work please?

Thanks


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Paul Trunkfield
Re: Lighting in a small concrete room
on Jan 17, 2011 at 4:11:25 pm

Just to follow up - we were going to have a bunk bed in the room but now have decided to just have a single bed as this will cause less lighting problems than with a person sitting on the bottom of a bunk bed.



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john sharaf
Re: Lighting in a small concrete room
on Jan 17, 2011 at 4:13:33 pm

Paul,

If I were lighting this scene I'd consider what the practical lighting in the jail cells was and try to show it early in the scene on a wide shot to establish to the audience what the light source is. Then try to keep subsequent shots "honest" to the direction and quality of the "natural" lighting.

It seems to me that the practical source would be a small fluorescent or maybe a hanging bare bulb enclosed in a protected housing. I think I'd look a little further into what type of lighting fixtures would be most common to the type and era of the prison in your story.

I definitely would not take a large 1200 and pound it into the ceiling, this will only create an uncontrollable overlit scene and will not put the portraiture lighting you'd want in the peoples faces. If indeed you decide to source light from the ceiling a Chimera Pancake or even a specially constructed box light using photofloods would be appropriate, as the most important thing in maintaining a dramatic and ominous look is to control the light off the walls. I'd then use a tiny light like a Dedo, Pepper or Mole Mini, controlled on a dimmer to cleanup and fill the faces in closeups as they will also provide the eye light that shows the character's inner self.

JS



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Todd Terry
Re: Lighting in a small concrete room
on Jan 17, 2011 at 4:23:50 pm

Yes, on hearing a bit more about what you're looking for, I agree with John and rescind my previous advice about the HMI into the ceiling... it'd be too much and give an inappropriate look.

John's "bare bulb" idea is a really good one. It could be a nice visual element as well. You could also use a cookie to give a splash of "jail bars" pattern on a wall, as long as it didn't look too cheesy.

I have to dash to a shoot so can't write more about them now, but for a couple of threads that discussed China balls, read these...

http://forums.creativecow.net/readpost/47/858156

http://forums.creativecow.net/thread/47/858334#858334


The "real" ones are made by companies like Chimera... the "cheap route" is to go to your nearest Pier One Imports and pick up a paper version for about ten bucks. They are paper though, so don't too too hot of an instrument in it... we only use flos in ours... usually these bigass 200w flo tubes which you can get either in tungsten or daylight balance.

T2

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



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Mark Suszko
Re: Lighting in a small concrete room
on Jan 17, 2011 at 8:32:33 pm

For a prison cell, you'd likely want a harsh chiaroscuro effect anyway, so a single hard light on the ceiling, then a reflector board under the camera lens for a little fill, is what I'd first try. For bonus points, from the arbitrary out-of-shot direction of the door or bars of the room, I'd gel with a slightly different color, probably a pale blue or green, depending on how the overall color grading look is going to be. This will get you a subtle duotone look on the left and right sides of the actor's faces.


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Paul Trunkfield
Re: Lighting in a small concrete room
on Jan 17, 2011 at 9:25:40 pm

Thank you all very much for your help and guidance. We shall be having some test time at the end of the week so i will try some of your recommendations and report back how i get on. Your help has been very valuable.


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