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Shooting an Interview with a Window in the Background

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Anthony Ragusin
Shooting an Interview with a Window in the Background
on Aug 28, 2012 at 2:28:49 pm

I am producing a corporate video. I was asked to film the company's CEO for an "address the troops" type segment. I met with the CEO, and he is hellbent on shooting the segment in his office. We can either shoot him behind his desk, or on his couch. The problem is the background behind both of these is a huge window overlooking the city. Is there a way to shoot this interview without him being blown out by the backlight? Any suggestions on how I should handle this?

I will be shooting this with a JVC GY-DV5000U

Thanks


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Todd Terry
Re: Shooting an Interview with a Window in the Background
on Aug 28, 2012 at 3:14:48 pm

This has been discussed here many many times... do a search and I'm sure you'll get tons of good ideas.


In short, you have to bring the light levels inside up to nearer the light level coming through the window (but not completely, you still want the windows to be a stop or so brighter for it to look realistic).

You need to add enough light inside, or to cut the light from outside, or both (likely both).

For lighting, this means more powerful instruments. This is the ideal scenario for HMI lighting, which is what I would always use in a situation like this.

For the windows, that means darkening them. That could mean neutral density gel, or black screen, or both.

OR, you could put gel on the windows that is a combination of both neutral-density and color correcting, and you could still use tungsten instruments.

OR, as has been suggested here in the past you could do two different exposures, one for the window and one for the CEO, and composite them together. This isn't a very elegant solution though and is somewhat limiting (camera moves, etc).

If you are not used to doing this or it's new to you, the best options might be to hire an experienced gaffer for the shoot... or to beg the CEO to move the location until he finally relents.

Again, run a search of both this Lighting forum and the Cinematography forum (I'd think "window" would be a good search term)... it's been discussed many times in the past.

T2

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



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Bill Davis
Re: Shooting an Interview with a Window in the Background
on Aug 29, 2012 at 1:54:06 am

Todd's nailed most of this.

There is one more possible solutions, but it's chancy particularly when dealing with non-pro talent.

For a very brief time period near sunrise and sunset - (known as "magic hour" in production circles) exterior light evens out with interior light. It's NOT actually an hour - more like 15 -20 minutes. And it's obviously inconvienient to require the exec to be right there and ready to go with such a short window of time. And if you miss the magic hour and don't have the tools to do it without them, you're screwed.

But it DOES work.

So just another part of production reality to keep in your pocket for the few times when you can't solve the problem any other way and HAVE to pull off this kind of backlit shot.

"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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Mark Suszko
Re: Shooting an Interview with a Window in the Background
on Aug 29, 2012 at 3:04:52 pm

What Todd and Bill said covers everything.

I'm a fan of the combo color correction and ND window gel, since you can find time to prep in the office while the guy is out, and if carefully removed, the gel is re-usable many times, but it is very expensive to noodle around not shooting when the big guy is in the office, he's worth/costing thousands an hour.

Bean counters often balk at the cost of HMI lighting for these setups. You can make the client a comparison chart showing:

1 Cost to rent HMI lights and do this right, plus have the flexibility of shooting at any time the CEO wants.

2 Cost to gel the window plus set-up time to apply it

3 Cost in extra editing/compositing time to do the plate shot of the empty desk/window with one exposure, and add the CEO in a separate pass. Add an asterisk to this one, because if you find it doesn't work, or the client thinks it looks fake, you'll have to budget a re-shoot using method 1 or 2.

Geting a CEO to arrive early morning for sunrise magic hour is expensive of his his time and also hard to schedule. Plus, there is little time to re-do blown takes.


Is it one large piece of glass, or does it have mullions or bars across it? Ideally, the glass is the same width as the roll of CC/ND gel, and you can apply that quickly with tape and spritzer bottle and squeegee. it takes as long to take down as it does to put up, and you'll need to have complete access to all of the window, before and after. This also makes getting the HMI's more appealing.


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Todd Terry
Re: Shooting an Interview with a Window in the Background
on Aug 29, 2012 at 4:03:32 pm

[Mark Suszko] "This also makes getting the HMI's more appealing."

HMIs are definitely the way that I would go. I'd add though that they might not be enough... I mean, you can put enough lighting in there to combat the exterior, but you don't necessarily want to cook the talent with 4K worth of direct HMI light blasting on him. So it's probably a case where both HMI lighting and knocking down the windows some would be in order. Maybe cheap black hardware cloth would be enough (black fiberglass window screening), and you could forgo expensive and cumbersome-to-apply gels.

A lot, too, depends on the view out the window. If it's a cityscape of large light-colored buildings that are in full direct sun that's one thing... if it's a high office that looks downward a bit and there's quite a bit of a tree canopy over that part of the city and it's backlit by the sun, that's entirely different. There could be a several stop difference.

At minimum I think I'd budget for at least one 1200w HMI (probably use it with a white bounce, or diffuse it with Lee 250), or a couple of Joker-Bug 800s. The Jokers can be used with Chimera kits which work well. A small HMI as a backlight (maybe a 150w) would be nice too, although you could probably use a tungsten backlight... either color corrected, or not. Often an uncorrected tungsten backlight looks just fine in an otherwise-daylight-balanced situation, the golden color can be very pleasant.

T2

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



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Mark Suszko
Re: Shooting an Interview with a Window in the Background
on Aug 29, 2012 at 4:45:32 pm

The HMI's pull a lot of power. And, they generate heat, meaning the audio may be affected when the air conditioning for the room goes into overdrive to compensate.


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Todd Terry
Re: Shooting an Interview with a Window in the Background
on Aug 29, 2012 at 5:16:01 pm

[Mark Suszko] "The HMI's pull a lot of power."

Very very true, have to be careful where you juice them, and spread them out to multiple circuits if you are using more than one.




[Mark Suszko] "And, they generate heat, meaning the audio may be affected when the air conditioning for the room goes into overdrive"

Also true. Although comparing output-to-output tungsten instruments run a lot hotter than HMIs. A lot.

What I sometimes do is crank the air WAAAY down during setup and for as long before the shoot as I can. Try to get it down in "meat locker" range. Get the lighting the way I like it, then kill the instruments as soon as possible. Then wait til talent is in place and almost ready to go before re-striking the instruments and killing the air conditioning. Usually it stays comfortable enough.

Another thing about sound and HMIs though is that many of the ballasts (especially more modern electronic ballasts, not so much the older magnetic ones) do make some noise... many have fans in them. It's a good idea to locate them as far away from the location as possible. Fortunately most HMIs though have at least a 25' head cable (and some a lot more) so you can put it far enough away.

T2

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



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