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Bill Evelyn
Silk for exterior interview
on Oct 27, 2011 at 2:45:09 pm

Hey, all

I am requesting some advice on a silk grip equipment purchase. I am shooting more and more "noon" exterior sit-down 2 camera interviews, and have been using my Matthews 30" by 36" open-ended white silks on overhead booms to help control the harsh sunlight. I've had these silks for over 20 years and they've been wonderful.

Now I'm seeking to get something a bit larger, perhaps 48" by 48," that can also be boom mounted, to serve the same role. On Matthews' site, I see several choices, but for the life of me, I can't recall what I now have in order to match the new purchase. So, my question: what's the difference between China silk, artificial silk, and 1/4 stop silk? And while I got ya, are there better ways to handle this type of set-up?

I'm a one-man band, so I can't really look at larger silks or butterfly rigs, etc.

Thanks, as always, for your help. -- Bill


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Bill Davis
Re: Silk for exterior interview
on Oct 27, 2011 at 4:21:07 pm

"Silk" is a pretty broad term in the industry.

While the lighting guys mostly consider it diffusion material and use it for lighting control (hence the 1/4 stop reference which relates to how much light it transmits) it's actually used in theatrical se dressing as well as in lighting, and comes an a bewildering array of colors, weights, and textures.

A good basic education can be had hanging around the Rose Brand web site.

Most "silk" these days is actually artificially created, (Polysilk) rather than the output of silkworms as you would have expected long ago.

Typically the folk at ROSE have swatch books available cheap, so that might be your best bet for matching the fabric you have with what's available today.

Good luck.

"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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john sharaf
Re: Silk for exterior interview
on Oct 27, 2011 at 4:53:04 pm

Bill,

Because as you say, you're a "one man band" you are severely limited in the application of overheads to control the sun. This is a because as you well know, there are gigantic issues of safety and liability involved in using this type of equipment, not to mention that it takes at least two people to erect and a large truck to transport.

The same issues of course exists with the use of the silk flags that you mention; they are prone to falling and flying away, even with heavy sandbags. Large silks (like 12x12) are always secured by ropes to trees, poles, buildings, vehicles or bull pricks hammered into the ground, and it is a given that as soon as you erect an overhead set the wind always starts to pick up.

What then is a one-man-band to do? I'm hard pressed to advise you! I suppose the first thing is to use the gamma controls in your camera to invoke the most aggressive highlight control. In the Sony's that's HG2 and 4. In standard gamma knee and slope adjustment, but be careful not to add color to the highlights or change the skin tone.

In addition (and I'm probably not telling you anything you don't know and already do), but if you can find some shade with shaded or broken light in the background, this is good! I know that it cannot always be done. Setting the subject in backlight (without the sun coming over their head and onto their noses) is another cheat; watch out for bald or blond subjects though. In this case a reflector, white card, grifflin or "microwave" can clean up the dark side without having to rig an overhead. Often the same 4x4 or 6x6 frames that you'd use for an overhead can be skinned with a reflector instead and because they are on the ground instead of overhead are inherently safer (although they still can fly!).

I think the best thing you could do when you know in advance that you'll be shooting formal interviews outside is to bring an extra guy! Often the reason of "safety" is enough to convince the client that the extra expense is justified.

Good luck and be safe!

JS



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Mark Suszko
Re: Silk for exterior interview
on Oct 27, 2011 at 7:28:07 pm

Here's a cheapskate's opinion. It's the end of the lawn and garden season in the Midwest. I would go find an offset patio umbrella on deep discount. By offset, I mean that the vertical supporting part is off on one side, instead of in the center. Next, I would replace the fabric of the umbrella with diffusion cloth from a sewing supplies outlet store. Now you have a self-standing, one-man-deploying device that does what the butterfly frame and pair of stands and sadbags, etc. do. And it will collapse down to fit in a van.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Silk for exterior interview
on Oct 27, 2011 at 9:23:33 pm

A casual google for prices comes up with a 10-foot model of the offset type going for about $50. I didn't think about whether or not the umbrella ribs will make significant shadows, I rather think not though. Depends on if you use sunbrella or organza or some other type of diffusion instead of the original patio umbrella fabric. For that matter, the stock patio umbrella may work out okay on it's own.


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john sharaf
Re: Silk for exterior interview
on Oct 27, 2011 at 9:28:00 pm

Mark,

The ribs will definitely make shadows, just think about how close they are to the subject and how far the light source is away. The seams in a large silk make shadows so care must be taken to avoid placement directly over the subject and sometimes as the sun moves you get a shadow in the middle of the take (especially a long interview)

JS



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Bill Evelyn
Re: Silk for exterior interview
on Oct 27, 2011 at 11:30:50 pm

I appreciate all the input here, fellas. Always do.

I inherited an old Lowel kit which is a 5' by 7' silk on a frame held by 2 KS stands and 4 poles that form a frame. It's probably, no kidding, 40 years old. It works well still, but it takes off like a kite in not much of a breeze, and so it's used mostly in the studio these days. That told me to think small, so I've been using the silk frames already mentioned. I did another interview yesterday afternoon, and the small silks worked okay, just barely big enough to handle a medium shot...but there was no wind, and therefore minimal risk.
I did have to adjust it once when the sun tracked off of it.

I have at home a patio umbrella precisely as described here, but of course with the Home Depot fabric and not a silk-like cover. But, even on my deck with blocks holding the platform down, it blows over with enough regularity that my dog won't go near it.

So, barring getting help to stake down a good size silk, or digging further in my camera's set-up menu, I guess I simply need to take a more proactive position in the interview site selection process.

Thanks, -- Bill

Bill


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john sharaf
Re: Silk for exterior interview
on Oct 27, 2011 at 11:44:46 pm

Bill,

The one thing I didn't mention is a technique I often defer to; finding a setting where I can tie a 12x12 silk (usually a 1/4 silk) to a building and then some trees or other sturdy tie down. I've done this in windy situations where I would otherwise have needed four corner stands but they would have been in the shot.

Obviously this can not always be anticipated or planned for, but sometimes the karma is just right and it works. That's why it is good to carry a sack with 12x12 rags even if you don't have the rest of the gack to complete a conventional overhead set.

The 1/4 silk manages to just take the "curse" off the direct sun without darkening the set too much that you have to light it up again with HMI's or reflectors.

Just another trick up you sleeve.

JS



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Bill Evelyn
Re: Silk for exterior interview
on Oct 28, 2011 at 12:50:15 pm

Hi, again, John

You mentioned 1/4 stop silk, which may answer one of my original questions. Of the silks listed on Matthews' site, only one is called 1/4 stop silk. So I was wondering how much light the others (Chinese silk, artificial silk) might block out. I bet what I have is quarter-stop material, because it really simply takes the edge off the sun, which is what interests me.

I'd love to have a giant silk and set it up as you describe.

Take care,

-- Bill

Bill


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Mark Suszko
Re: Silk for exterior interview
on Oct 28, 2011 at 9:13:30 pm

John, what if the diffusion is hanging *under* the ribs instead of on top of them?


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john sharaf
Re: Silk for exterior interview
on Oct 28, 2011 at 9:16:59 pm

Mark,

Good thinking! Now the diffusion is softening the shadow of the ribs instead of making a shadow from the ribs. Good luck rigging it though!

JS



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Craig Alan
Re: Silk for exterior interview
on Oct 29, 2011 at 4:02:33 pm

How about something like this. I've used these and with some careful positioning of camera/talent you still get a natural look and talent is very comfortable. Fairly easy set up. safe and secure. You can use a reflector as a fill.

http://www.caravancanopy.com/classic.php

OSX 10.5.8; MacBookPro4,1 Intel Core 2 Duo 2.5 GHz MacPro4,1 2.66GHz 8 core 12gigs of ram. GPU: Nvidia Geoforce GT120 with Vram 512. OS X 10.6.x; Camcorders: Sony Z7U, Canon HV30/40, Sony vx2000/PD170; FCP 6 certified; write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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Bill Davis
Re: Silk for exterior interview
on Oct 29, 2011 at 11:22:25 pm

I own about 3 of these. (remnant of my work with non-profits where we raise money by hosting events.

These "pop-ups" are very useful for a lot of things. And there's no reason you couldn't use the frame and custom-sew a diffusion material substitute for the generally opaque canopy they come with. (A surplus white parachute would probably be perfect!) But of course that's also purpose-designed to catch WIND!

The biggest drawback with "pop-ups" is that they're universally HEAVY, especially the ones built to last. (there are cheap ones at every home store, but their legs and even more, their "scissor braces" are prone to buckling and breaking.

The more robust (and expensive ones) avoid that problem, but they're really too heavy for a one person operation. Two people who are experienced can do fine. And if you can get four people involved (one per leg) then they become really easy to deploy and strike.

So it's a useful tool. But not an ideal one, IMO.

FWIW.

"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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Craig Alan
Re: Silk for exterior interview
on Oct 30, 2011 at 1:10:55 am

I agree with everything you just said. I can set mine up with two people, pretty easy. It's fairly sturdy and not too heavy. It's survived a few set ups but I haven't used it extensively. Noon can have very harsh intense light and heat and I think talent will be more relaxed under shelter. That said you still need to throw diffused light on their faces .

OSX 10.5.8; MacBookPro4,1 Intel Core 2 Duo 2.5 GHz MacPro4,1 2.66GHz 8 core 12gigs of ram. GPU: Nvidia Geoforce GT120 with Vram 512. OS X 10.6.x; Camcorders: Sony Z7U, Canon HV30/40, Sony vx2000/PD170; FCP 6 certified; write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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david braman
Re: Silk for exterior interview
on Nov 16, 2011 at 8:25:45 pm

Here's an alternative to a silk. Try flying a double. It won't soften the shadows, but it will knock them down a stop...enough to open them up. You can probably even get away with a big bounce for fill. No it's not the same look, but it solves the contrast issue...AND the net is not subject to the same "fly-with-the-wind" dangers of a silk.


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