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Chroma Key lighting in tiny rooms

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Bob Cole
Chroma Key lighting in tiny rooms
on Mar 4, 2012 at 5:53:28 pm

More and more, I'm getting called upon to shoot a location chroma key in a tiny space. I usually use Mole Nooklites, which are great with their permanently-attached barndoors, both for evenness of pattern (left to right) and for preventing spill.

But in tight spaces, the Nooklites are not very even top to bottom, so I'm wondering whether there is some inexpensive, quick and easy alternative.

What do you use for this situation? I don't want to spend a ton of money on 4' Kino's, but I suspect that is the way to go.

Bob C


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Mark Suszko
Re: Chroma Key lighting in tiny rooms
on Mar 4, 2012 at 9:43:37 pm

What about the Chroma ring system with the retro-reflective back cloth?

Alternatively, what about a butterfly frame, green translucent cloth, back-lit by flo tubes?


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Todd Terry
Re: Chroma Key lighting in tiny rooms
on Mar 4, 2012 at 9:55:33 pm

The ring-right systems that Mark mentioned work well in small spaces like you described. But... you said you weren't looking to spend a lot, and those are pretty wildly expensive.

If you don't mind looking a little bit like a do-it-yourselfer (or being one), there's an easy cheap solution that works like a charm.

We once needed to wall-wash a much bigger area than our usual instruments would cover. I headed over to the local Home Depot and bought two 4' $15 fluorescent shop lights.

I did dress them up a bit and make them more functional. First, I added switches (they had regular Edison-plug cords, but no switches). Then, I added a post. I drilled a hole though the back of each and from the outside inserted about a 6" long 5/8" bolt. Nuts and big washers on the inside and outside sandwich it together against the sheet metal of the fixture... then I cut off the bolt head. Then voilĂ !, you have a standard 5/8" post that will fit in any grip head.

I also painted them flat black on the outside, both to kill reflections and to make myself look slightly less like a rube using shop lights. Because I was feeling frisky that day, I created a fake logo (I called them "CineFlo") and stuck it on them.

They actually work great, with perfect even lighting. I'll often break these out instead of "real" instruments just because they are so handy and easy to use.

We keep on hand both tungsten and daylight balanced tubes for them. You could spring for real Kino tubes for them, but we never have as the color balance was fine and I didn't notice any green spikes at all.

Now, once when I was shooting 35mm I did notice a tiny bit of "phasing" in the footage (which was the project these were first made for)... and figured I would have to combat that by shooting in clearscan mode with video... but actually I've never been able to detect any phasing when shooting video. To kill the chance of that happening again with film, I'd probably upgrade the ballasts since our 35mm camera sadly does not have a variable shutter, but I haven't needed to yet.

If you're not a cine-equipment snob (which I will freely admit to being on occasion), these work well for something as simple as wall-washing or greenscreening... and will save you several several hundred bucks over Kinos.

T2

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



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Steve Kownacki
Re: Chroma Key lighting in tiny rooms
on Mar 4, 2012 at 10:32:15 pm

Here's a shot we did in a 6' wide hallway. Simply shot some Tota's against the white wall on the right and against white foamcore on the left; provided plenty of even light - see monitor on floor.



I do find Kino's nice when I have the rental budget, but most of the time I'll shoot 650w open face at foamcore bouncing back to the screen in larger rooms. When it's not full body.

Steve






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Bob Cole
Re: Chroma Key lighting in tiny rooms
on Mar 5, 2012 at 1:19:03 am

Thanks. Great suggestions all around.

Bob C


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Ken Maxwell
Re: Chroma Key lighting in tiny rooms
on Mar 5, 2012 at 4:06:29 pm

I find it incredible that we in the production community are allowing ourselves to be put into the position of shooting a complicated process, such as chroma-keying, in a limited space such as a hallway or small location room.
Chroma-key, and/or green-screen processes are wonderful techniques for placing subjects into unusual backgrounds that allow us to apply controlled lighting to the subject. Surely we should insist upon adequate space to satisfactorily perform this marvelous technique. After all, our reputations are at stake, aren't they.


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Todd Terry
Re: Chroma Key lighting in tiny rooms
on Mar 5, 2012 at 4:21:08 pm

[Ken Maxwell] "Surely we should insist upon adequate space to satisfactorily perform this marvelous technique."

Sure, in theory, but it doesn't work that way in the real world. Some times you just gotta do what you gotta do.

If, say, a corporate client needs a brief greenscreen shoot with Mr. Bigshot Executive and it must take place at their offices and he's only available at a specific limited time and sorry but this is the only room they can make available... well then, you just have to find a way to make it happen. If you start insisting on anything that is difficult for them to provide, or start complaining about the difficulties that they don't care about nor want to hear, then they will simply pay someone else to do it.

It's often not ideal, but making impossible situations work is pretty much what our industry is largely about. And it's the ones who are able to make that magic happen who keep busy and keep working.

T2

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



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Bob Cole
Re: Chroma Key lighting in tiny rooms
on Mar 5, 2012 at 4:27:56 pm

[Ken Maxwell] " allowing ourselves to be put into the position"

Well, it's like this...

I ask for adequate space, I arrive, I find it is not adequate, and there really, truly is no other space to do the shoot. So it's cancel the shoot, forget the fact that other people have traveled hundreds of miles to be there, or it's go ahead and do the shoot the best we can.

I agree with you, but that's the way it is, and I'd rather know how to pull a rabbit out of the hat, than curse the bunny.

Bob C


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Mark Suszko
Re: Chroma Key lighting in tiny rooms
on Mar 5, 2012 at 8:42:27 pm

What Bob and Todd said. Even bigshot directors don't always get to choose, and have to work with what's on hand. Kurosawa did a shot of a historic castle and was asked by some critic how he picked such exquisite framing in that shot. His answer, paraphrased, was that an inch more to the left was telephone poles and an inch to the right was modern builsings so he took what was left. JAWS was saved (and improved to greatness) in the edit with a shark that was seldom seen, because the prop sharks broke down and mostly looked bad.

Typically the clients I serve, (and sounds like Todd and Bob do too) don't wanna know how to build the clock: they just wanna know what time it is. They have zero interest in or patience for your technical challenges beyond a simple can/can't do it. If your answer is "can't", then good-bye, we're hiring someone else. Or just not doing the project. And "can't" people don't get called back later.

The money comes from situations where most people can't, but you know a way you CAN.

That's our actual job: communications problem-solving.


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Ken Maxwell
Re: Chroma Key lighting in tiny rooms
on Mar 6, 2012 at 1:17:47 am

Bob, Mark, Todd, Steve - I couldn't agree more than with your comments. My remarks were not intended to criticize, but to simply say that we all have a sophisticated technique that has revolutionized our industry and we have to compromise and innovate in order to deliver a quality product.
I, too, have shot greenscreen under undesirable conditions. . . over a desk in a secretary's office, in an isle between inventory racks in a warehouse. We've even rented a meeting room at a nearby hotel; and once shot greenscreen in an equipment trailer.
We would never turn a job down because all is not perfect, I just meant that it is a shame that we have to shoot under such a compromised situation when we bust our butts to do a good job for our clients.


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Bob Cole
Re: Chroma Key lighting in tiny rooms
on Mar 6, 2012 at 1:23:17 am

Okay, I'm about to talk out of the OTHER side of my mouth.

Ken had a good point. By being heroes all the time, "Making It Happen," and accommodating the worst behavior of clients, we are to some extent degrading the profession.

The long-standing discussion in the Business & Marketing Forum of "grinders" -- a.k.a. the clients you should discard for purely financial reasons -- could be expanded to include clients who should be abandoned for continually exhibiting poor planning or general disrespect for the process.

If only!

It would be fun to say "I won't work under these conditions," but so far, the pleasure and rewards of Working has overwhelmed any discomfort of Bad Conditions. If I get much busier, I may be able to have one of those moments - I'll keep you posted!


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Mark Suszko
Re: Chroma Key lighting in tiny rooms
on Mar 6, 2012 at 1:27:07 am

The bottom line might be: if they force you to perform heroic measures, you also, always, bill equally heroically. We can call it the Zelin rule.


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Dennis Size
Re: Chroma Key lighting in tiny rooms
on Mar 6, 2012 at 2:39:41 am

Like Julie Andrews sang in MARY POPPINS, "A little bit of sugar helps the medicine go down ....in the most delightful way!"

DS



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