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Lighting a Tablet Demo Video

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Tim Ryan
Lighting a Tablet Demo Video
on Sep 4, 2011 at 8:03:36 pm

I'm attempting to light a tablet (iPad) for a demo video and would love to see if anyone on the forum could speculate on how Apple lights the subjects fingers and iPad at the beginning of one of their videos. Here's a link to Apple's demo videos (see second sample titled "Watch the TV ad "We Believe"): http://www.apple.com/ipad/

My tools are limited to a Canon Mark II, tripod and some basic tungsten lights but I'm willing to invest in more lights if it makes sense. For example, in the Apple video, the subject's fingers are warmly lit from above and below and you're able to see the details of his fingers even though it's a pitch black room. The lights also don't blow out the tablet and seem very strategic. I'm wondering if there's a type of directional light that is as soft and bright as a candle but without the flicker of a candle.

I did a couple of tests myself in a pitch black room first without light and then with a cheap LED flashlight to fill in the subjects hands (me). Both of my tests have very poor details because I boosted the ISO to 6400 and the f-stop to 2.8 (wide open for my lens). I also struggle with the color balance. The LED no doubt throws the colors off but I'm confused how Apple balances the color coming from the iPad and subject's fingers. Usually monitors give off a blue tone.

Thanks for any advice.


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Bill Davis
Re: Lighting a Tablet Demo Video
on Sep 5, 2011 at 4:48:35 pm

Look, lighting a self- illuminated product with a live picture like an operating iPad is not trivial.

It's best done in a proper studio where the ambient light is totally controlled, the space potentially reflected by the screen can be properly managed and the physical mounting oh the hero product can be adjusted.

Finally, you need to get everything set up, look at and judge the shot on a completely reliable monitor, and have the proper tools such as flags, reflectors and additional product lighting at hand in order to refine the look of the shot.

This is how it's done for high budget productions like what you see from Apple product ads.

It it was possible to do it by simply buying a few lights and having someone with scant lighting experience set them up -every product shot on the web would look like an Apple ad - but they don't.

Simple as that.

"Before speaking out ask yourself whether your words are true, whether they are respectful and whether they are needed in our civil discussions."-Justice O'Connor


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Tim Ryan
Re: Lighting a Tablet Demo Video
on Sep 5, 2011 at 6:02:26 pm

TBWA/Media Arts Lab produced this ad and I'm sure Apple spent some coin.

I'll asks a more specific question that might be easier to answer. Assuming you've got this type of experience, what type of lighting would YOU use to at least try to light the subject's fingers in such a dark environment? Notice how they're nicely lit from above (or the side) as well as under lighting from the tablet? The fingers maintain their detail and focus so I'm sure a high resolution camera that works well in low-light is a given.

I should probably post the same question about the overall ad on a CGI forum as I'm guessing they had to do some compositing and CGI work.

Here's my first stab at creating an iPad demo video. I'm just trying to take my work to the next level and like to experiment and try out new techniques on a low budget:

http://www.vimeo.com/26785797


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Scott Sheriff
Re: Lighting a Tablet Demo Video
on Sep 6, 2011 at 9:55:16 pm

[Tim Ryan] "I'll asks a more specific question that might be easier to answer. Assuming you've got this type of experience, what type of lighting would YOU use to at least try to light the subject's fingers in such a dark environment?"

That would depend on the exposure latitude of the camera and/or how the scene file is set up, and how much detail I want to see in the dark areas. It would also depend on what the post production color correction workflow is.

I general terms, maybe a large butterfly/overhead, and a few small Fresnels, and some flags/fingers.

Scott Sheriff
Director
http://www.sstdigitalmedia.com


"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur." ---Red Adair

Where were you on 6/21?


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Tim Ryan
Re: Lighting a Tablet Demo Video
on Sep 6, 2011 at 10:29:26 pm

going to test large soft box overhead as well as directional lights with more flags next per your and Robin's advice. Here's a low res screen grab of compressed H.264 edit from last night's test. I used a diffused direct light flagged so the source only touched the fingers. It was too bright but a good experiment. I closed the f stop a touch to f/5.0 and lowered the ISO to 5000 which helped a tad with the details.

I would never expect to get something as good as the Apple version but would be excited to get as close as possible with a limited budget.

Here's the screen grab from last night's test:

http://www.tumblr.com/tumblelog/photosbytimryan


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Robin Probyn
Re: Lighting a Tablet Demo Video
on Sep 7, 2011 at 12:43:40 am

Hi Tim

Ive not used DSLR,s much.. but last time the camera assistant dont want to go over 2000 ISO,or even 1600.. so I think 5000 will give you trouble.. could you not shoot at 2.8 and bring the ISO down..?

Iam no expert with those camera,s.. just what Ive heard from others who know more than me..

Good luck..



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Bill Davis
Re: Lighting a Tablet Demo Video
on Sep 7, 2011 at 4:50:22 pm

Tim,

Sorry I wasn't able to respond quicker, but I've had family in town.

In any case, when I got a chance to look at the Apple ad you referenced, I can tell you with some confidence that you've not looking at an actual camera shot in any of the frames I saw in that ad.

Those are composites. The hand model was acting in virtual space. That allowed the light hitting the fingers to come from wherever it needed to to illuminate the fingers properly. The clue is that when the solid surface of the ipad slides under the hand, there's absolutely NO shadow cast up on the hand even tho the angle of incidence on the fingers clearly shows light hitting the underside of the same hand. That simply defies the laws of physics. The very experienced people creating thsi including the creative director, art director, cinematographer, etc all understood that "reality" wasn't nearly as important as conveying "tactile siimpicty" in the presentation. So they eliminated everything from the frame except the experience of "the touch" - leaving that as the ONLY impression out of a negative space.

The pad surface might have been shot, or might have simply been rrendered in CG, but it's trivial to composite the two, then to geometrically "deform" the fingertip and reflect it into the virtual pad surface to "sell" the idea of the touch.

At this level, everything is on the table as to resources, talent, and the quest for perfection in making every pixel look as near "perfect" as is humanly possible.

So it's the key to results like this is never about the camera, the type of lights used, nor the technical stuff. At this level you use whatever you need, whoever you need, and pay whatever it takes to create the spot you need. And if anything doesn't work exactly as you wanted it to - you toss out what didn't work and do it differently until it DOES work.

Effective marketing to support such a product is budgeted in millions of dollars, because it supports a product generating billions of dollars. So no corner is cut, no production element is left unexamined and no "would it be better if we..." possibility is left unexplored.

It looks simple in the viewing. But it is anything but simple in the execution.

I understand it's tempting to simply think, "If I got the same lights and a good camera, I could do that." but that's not how it works. That would perhaps be a little like trying to build a scene in the physical world that you see in a modern video game. It's impossible because a world that can be designed, composited and rendered in computer space can be totally different that one that has to exist in the real world.

Such is advertising.

"Before speaking out ask yourself whether your words are true, whether they are respectful and whether they are needed in our civil discussions."-Justice O'Connor


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Scott Sheriff
Re: Lighting a Tablet Demo Video
on Sep 5, 2011 at 5:41:26 pm

I agree with what Bill said. Self illuminating, and reflective items makes it more of a challenge. One of the key things is to control dark reflections and specular highlights in reflective objects. While on any one of the ipad spots on the apple web site there may have not been a lot of instruments used, but probably a lot of controls. So having a grip truck full of choices makes this type of thing easier.
And with the budget apple has, you can bet this was color graded by a high end shop. And you need to use a camera that you lets you make custom scene files.
Based on what you said about your gear, you probably don't have everything you need to even come close to this type of look. You can always rent. Getting the look of the ipad spots on a limited budget is going to be tough, because it's not just the lighting, but the entire production process is high end from start to finish, which is how they get the richness in the images.

Scott Sheriff
Director
http://www.sstdigitalmedia.com


"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur." ---Red Adair

Where were you on 6/21?


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Robin Probyn
Re: Lighting a Tablet Demo Video
on Sep 6, 2011 at 1:52:40 am

When I shot laptops for Sony.. all the screen images were "put in" in post.. I think this is pretty standard procedure..

Other than that.. totally dark studio.. and large soft lights.. and a simple turn table.. you,ll always get reflections.. just make them work for you.. hence large soft light light source.. even just one can look good for small ipads..

Its the old joke.. whats the difference between highlight and flare... about $1,000 a day.. .. ie added to to your day rate.. :)



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Tim Ryan
Re: Lighting a Tablet Demo Video
on Sep 6, 2011 at 2:23:52 am

Robin - Thanks for the reply and for not belittling my effort. It's nice to get feedback from someone that actually has relevant experience.

I'm going to test out different setups with both a softbox as well as direct light with mostly closed barn doors and a flag.

A friend also said he was pretty certain the graphics are added in post. I couldn't figure out how they got such perfect color correction on both the fingers and the iPad. On the other hand, some of the Apple shots look like the don't add anything in during post as there's a reflection on the tip of the subject's fingers.

Thanks again!


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Robin Probyn
Re: Lighting a Tablet Demo Video
on Sep 6, 2011 at 2:41:41 am

They probably added the hand reflection in post too to fool everyone.. :)

There are no rules.. but as rule.. its easier and with much nicer results to light a shiny surface with a large soft light.. otherwise you,ll get traditionally non aesthetically hard little points of light reflecting off the subject.. and not really lighting it either..

Classic example of this is shooting cars in a studio.. you would use few ,but massive soft lights.. esp over head.. and the large white rectangular reflections are often used as "effect".. (night shots of cars outside usually dark in color to reflect all the nice neons etc.. )

Luckily ipad is very small.. your not shooting a big ad for apple so you may not get the results that they can.. might look easy/simple.. but many hours and lots of money spent on them..

If you get a dark room.. and maybe some kino flo lights.. Diva .. 400 or even a couple of 200,s.. and play around.. a turn table is a pretty cheap way to get a bit of extra production value.. very slow movements ofcourse..



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Mark Suszko
Re: Lighting a Tablet Demo Video
on Sep 6, 2011 at 2:42:18 pm

Big soft sources are one factor. I am sure a lot of color-correction was done for the Apple product using the high end systems like DaVinci, where you can confine the color correction to tightly-defined areas like just within the screen, for example. They might even have used motino controlled cameras and done one lighting pass just for the screen exposure, and a second one for everything else, then combined the footage in a compositor like AfterEffects. There isn;t really any way to know withotu asking the guys that shot and posted it.

But if you were trying to emulate their work, this is what you think about; what techniques they used, and how you can mimic them.


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Michael Brown
Re: Lighting a Tablet Demo Video
on Jun 20, 2012 at 9:46:58 pm

The iPad and the screen contents are entirely composited. The iPad is mostly a green screen prop with a green screen background. The iPad was 3d modeled (or done using animations in After Effects) and the hands were aligned to the actions on the screen.

This is how they achieve animating the iPad's freeform movement and perfect lighting since they only record the hands over green screen.


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Scott Sheriff
Re: Lighting a Tablet Demo Video
on Sep 8, 2011 at 8:28:31 pm

[Tim Ryan] "A friend also said he was pretty certain the graphics are added in post. I couldn't figure out how they got such perfect color correction on both the fingers and the iPad."

Not that hard if the raw footage has a decent exposure and the highlights are not completely blown out. You can CC selected areas with mattes/masks and CC selected colors and areas of illumination on an individual basis. Combining these techniques gives huge control over the post color process in the hands of someone that is good at Color, Resolve, etc.
Or they could have composited the shots. Or done all of the above.

[Tim Ryan] "On the other hand, some of the Apple shots look like the don't add anything in during post as there's a reflection on the tip of the subject's fingers."
Could have been added in post.

Scott Sheriff
Director
http://www.sstdigitalmedia.com


"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur." ---Red Adair

Where were you on 6/21?


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