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Backlighting for News set

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Larry Zapotocky
Backlighting for News set
on Jan 11, 2013 at 9:10:03 pm

We have a very small studio. I need to install backlighting for the talent (3 people) and I also need some lighting for the background itself. I don't have much room behind the talent. I have access to all the power I need.

I've attached some pics to show you the area.

The lights for the talent are from Alzo digital drum lights and they work really good. For news, they give a nice flat light.

http://www.alzovideo.com/alzo-drum-overhead-light.htm







Thanks for your help!

Larry


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Mark Suszko
Re: Backlighting for News set
on Jan 11, 2013 at 10:52:21 pm

I take it that the island with the desk and 2 chairs does not come forward away from the wall for the actual show? That's too bad. It's pretty, though. Then I guess cutting holes in that white ceiling-like section of the wall unit for some pin spots is all you can do.

Are those dura-trans on the wall behind the talent, and are they backlit or not?


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Todd Terry
Re: Backlighting for News set
on Jan 11, 2013 at 11:34:52 pm

I'm with Mark... hopefully that island is not in its actual shooting position and in reality it's a bit further from the backdrop.

It's a nice set piece, but I've never seen one so jammed back up against the wall. Not only is it so tight to prohibit proper backlighting... but the background that close to the talent is going to just be razor sharp since there's no separation for different depths of field, and it's so busy (pretty, but busy) that I'd bet the talent would really be fighting in on screen.

As for the backlighting, I would think a little frensel (like a Pepper 200 or 300) at each talent position would be more than enough. I'm not sure how you'd get them in there without seeing the set though... I'm not sure you can put them on trombones or the ceiling either. As Mark said, you might have to hack into the ceiling... but if that island is in it's shooting position it's going to be hard to get them far enough back to not be straight-down-on-top-of-the-head lights.

Those Alzo faux SpaceLites are kinda interesting... I haven't seen those from them before, and might consider those in our place because our stage ceiling isn't really tall enough for real SpaceLites. For a news set though I would have thought an instrument like that would be so flat and uncontrollable that they'd be terrible in a situation like that... but hey if they give great results, all the better.

Let us know what your solution is. Looks like you are the victim of a set designer who knows how to build really pretty furniture, but not knowing about lighting and depth-of-field needs.

T2

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



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Larry Zapotocky
Re: Backlighting for News set
on Jan 15, 2013 at 6:15:10 pm

Thanks for the info guys. The set is currently that close to the background because of space constrains. We are going to move it forward for more DOF.

If we had a higher ceiling, the drum lights would actually light the background quite well. The panels aren't duratrans. They are very thin pieces of sheet metal with a graphic on them. We created the graphics in-house and a car detailing shop created them. They are similar to the "wraps" that you see on U-haul trucks or tractor trailors.

On a side note, this studio will eventually be moved to a better part of the building, but for now, this is out situation.

Thanks,
Larry


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Todd Terry
Re: Backlighting for News set
on Jan 15, 2013 at 6:38:59 pm

Thanks for the update, Larry... yeah, I'd surely suggest you move that island out as far as space permits. I'd usually suggest at least 8-10 feet between the talent and backdrop, but I doubt that's possible with the space you have. Just buy as much real estate as you can, and then you might be able to get your backlights in there at least to some degree.

If you still can't get much visual separation and there's no way to actually get the talent and the background into separate focal planes, there's a couple of visual tricks you can do.

The first way is probably best, although it is more trouble and more expensive since it would require re-doing the background prints. The trick is to print them again, but purposely print them a bit blurry... just add a bit of a gaussian blur to the images. That tricks the brain into thinking they are not in focus because they are simply further back. You see all the time guys all the time worrying about whether they are starting with high-enough resolution images for printing big news set Duratrans... when in reality they often look better when they aren't so pin sharp.

The second way is to hang a piece of lightly frosted plexi a couple of inches in front of the background, to soften everything. I've seen this work well several times, although it was always with backlit backdrops or actual monitors with moving images. I'm not sure how well this would work with front lighting.

You'll have more fun when you move into those bigger quarters, for sure.

T2

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



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Mark Suszko
Re: Backlighting for News set
on Jan 15, 2013 at 8:35:37 pm

Todd Terry: The trick is to print them again, but purposely print them a bit blurry... just add a bit of a gaussian blur to the images. That tricks the brain into thinking they are not in focus because they are simply further back. You see all the time guys all the time worrying about whether they are starting with high-enough resolution images for printing big news set Duratrans... when in reality they often look better when they aren't so pin sharp.


We did exactly this on one of our sets, deliberately downgrading the sharpness of a perfectly sharp distant image. Works like a charm, but it may take a try or two to get the amount of blur just right.


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Bill Davis
Re: Backlighting for News set
on Jan 15, 2013 at 8:45:45 pm

Just to piggyback on Todd's analysis (with which I agree wholeheartedly, BTW) you're going to be limited on what you can do in this setup.

Look at the geometry concerning the distance between your light emitters and the back wall, compared to the emitters and the location of your talent. It's pretty close to 1 to 1. Yikes!

You're kinda STUCK right there. With the same levels hitting the background that are hitting the talent, you simply can't force any shallower depth of field, because the moment you lower the background light levels to provide a larger aperture option - you're simultaneously dimming your talent. Lose-lose.

If you HAVE to work in that space, I'd maybe try to turn off the overheads and try to light with more controllable instruments. But you've GOT to get more separation or even that's not going to work very well. Even if you moved to something like stand mounted fresnels that you could shoot down and barn door off the background - six feet from the light to the talent - and just a few feet more to the background will hardly give you ANY separation, and you'll be chasing hard shadows all day long.

IMO those big soft overheads are totally the wrong lighting approach for a small space like your stuck in. They'd be GREAT in a large stage setting where you can use distance to control spill - but in a small studio they're kinda a one-trick-pony - and sadly, someones' managed to shoehorn the poor pony into a sports car. Not an ideal situation.

Let us know how things go.

Good luck.

Know someone who teaches video editing in elementary school, high school or college? Tell them to check out http://www.StartEditingNow.com - video editing curriculum complete with licensed practice content.


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Larry Zapotocky
Re: Backlighting for News set
on Jan 15, 2013 at 9:16:42 pm

Hi Bill,

The lights will eventually be moving downstairs to a bigger room. I know they aren't ideal, but they do light up the anchors quite well and with our limited budget, we try to get the most from every purchase (I'm sure you understand).

Do you have any suggestion(s) on a small dimmable backlight for the anchors? We are going to move the desk up a few more feet.

Thanks,
Larry


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Todd Terry
Re: Backlighting for News set
on Jan 15, 2013 at 10:24:26 pm

[Larry Zapotocky] "...any suggestion(s) on a small dimmable backlight for the anchors?"

I'd think almost any small fresnel instrument would work just fine. I'm personally partial to "Pepper" fresnels from LTM, like this one...

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/125371-REG/LTM_PH_154B_Pepper_100W_Fr...

...although there are just as many people who prefer Arris.

That particular instrument will take either 100w or 200w globes. I'm guessing that might be enough punch for you.

If not, they are available in several different wattages as well...
300, 420, 650, and 500/1000. I have several of the 100/200 and 300 heads, and they are my favorite fresnels.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?Ntt=ltm+pepper&N=0&InitialSearch=yes&s...

They are cast metal heads, whereas Arris are mostly sheetmetal. I prefer the beefier cast housings, they are built like tanks. Arri lovers will tell you their sheetmetal heads won't break or crack like a Pepper might if you were to, say, drop it onto a concrete stage floor. They are both valid arguments, and they are both excellent instruments.

T2

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


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Bill Davis
Re: Backlighting for News set
on Jan 16, 2013 at 12:23:25 am

Once again Todd and I agree.

I'm an Arri guy at heart. I love the balance of durability and weight.

The Arri 150 fresnel is small, light and easy to mount. The big consideration is where you can mount it. If the ONLY place you can mount it is the very top of your set and so you have significant distance between the instrument and the talent - the physics will be a problem (remember the inverse square math is in play here so every doubling of the distance between the talent and the light cuts the light hitting them by 4 times - trippling the distance as in 2 feet to 6 feet will cut it by roughtly a factor of 9. So a 150 that works great at 4 feet - might be too weak to get the rim light level you want at 8 feet overhead since you're working with just one quarter of the lights output at that distance. So, the only solution might be to up lamp things with a 300 or even a 650 watt alternative (perhaps with a dimmer?) in order to get a strong separation light if that's what you're looking for. Part of that formula is also the tones in the background verses the talent - because obviously if you have a dark background and a blond talent in light toned clothing, that requires a lot less rim light than a talent with black hair in a dark suite against a dark background.

Thats the thing with lighting. It's hardly ever a fixed recipe. You really need to look at the ingredients and season it to taste.

One thing to consider is that most of the rental houses I've ever worked with tend to have 4-light Arri fresnel kits in their inventory. If you can find one of the typical ones with 2 300s and 2 650s - you can do an easy test. Just mount the 300 at the distance you have and using it without any filter on full - see if that's enough backlight at the distance you have and the set your stuck with. If it's at the bright side of what you want. Then buying a 150 fresnel for each talent will probably be OK, even if you need to uplamp them with a 200w globe- something that's usually fine if you're just using them for an hour or so at a time.

That's the first thing I'd do in your shoes. Rent a kit and play around some.

Nothing like actual experimentation on the actual set to encourage good decision making!

FWIW.

Know someone who teaches video editing in elementary school, high school or college? Tell them to check out http://www.StartEditingNow.com - video editing curriculum complete with licensed practice content.


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Larry Zapotocky
Re: Backlighting for News set
on Jan 17, 2013 at 2:15:31 pm

Thank you all for your help! It's time to experiment and see what looks the best. When I have is complete, I'll send you a pic.

Thanks,
Larry


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