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Lighting set-up for Geico-style Commercial

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Kyle Smolic
Lighting set-up for Geico-style Commercial
on Sep 17, 2014 at 7:11:21 pm

I'm shooting a 30-sec commercial similar in style of this



.

I think I have a good starting point for lighting, but maybe someone with some experience can steer me in the right direction.

We're shooting outdoors so I'm trying to emulate that lighting style. Not sure what weather will be like, either sunny or bright but overcast, 11am to 3pm shoot. I have a 12ft x 12ft silk rented to diffuse sunlight over the actors. However, I'm concerned that I will then need to compensate my exposure for the actors faces which will blow out my background.

I thought maybe renting a Kino Flo light to bounce off a white board to increase exposure on their faces so I can stop down to keep the background from blowing out. I definitely don't want any blown highlights but a nice, bright soft exposure on my subjects.

Unfortunately I won't be able to test anything till I actually get on set so I want to be as prepared as possible. If anyone has any insight that would be very helpful.


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Rick Wise
Re: Lighting set-up for Geico-style Commercial
on Sep 17, 2014 at 8:30:50 pm

That Kino will do you next to nothing in all that bright light. Better to rent a shiny board plus either some foamcore to bounce the light from the shiny board, or another 8x8 silk to diffuse the board. The reflector can work if it's not windy. If it is, it'll move around and likely mess up the shots. A better but more costly solution is to rent an 1800 HMI that you can plug into a wall socket (if there is one....) plus the 8x8 silk.

A second shiny board (4' x 4' reflector) could serve to give a bit of 3/4 back edge, though the original version is all soft light.

Best of all, hire an experienced gaffer/key-grip and consult with him about gear.

Rick Wise
Cinematographer
MFA/BFA Lighting and Camera Instructor Academy of Art University
San Francisco Bay Area
http://www.RickWiseDP.com


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Kyle Smolic
Re: Lighting set-up for Geico-style Commercial
on Sep 17, 2014 at 8:48:59 pm

Thanks for the insight Rick. I might swap the Kino Flo for an HMI or scrap that idea. I have at my disposal 2 large 5-in-1 reflector panels (the kind that you unzip and flip for different reflections) as well as the 12 x 12 silk overhead. I would love to hire a DP or gaffer but alas I don't have the budget for that for this project.

I don't know if there is a way to estimate this, but how many stops of light would a 1/4 silk cut on an bright, overcast day on the talents faces?


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Rick Wise
Re: Lighting set-up for Geico-style Commercial
on Sep 17, 2014 at 9:34:50 pm

You will need a person to hold each reflector, or else a way to grip and lock it in place. Again, wind is you enemy. The 5-in-one probably has a white surface which may work best without any separate diffusion.

I believe the 1/4 silk cuts the light intensity by about 1/2 stop, but I'm not sure. A thicker diffusion, such as 1/2 grid cloth, would cut it more and really spread out direct sun.

Think lots of sand bags for the 12 x 12 stands. Again, won't work well if at all if it's windy.

If you can afford it, and if there's power, having at least one 1800 HMI will give you far more control and options. Think a 6x6 or 8x8 silk in front of that unit.

Rick Wise
Cinematographer
MFA/BFA Lighting and Camera Instructor Academy of Art University
San Francisco Bay Area
http://www.RickWiseDP.com


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Todd Terry
Re: Lighting set-up for Geico-style Commercial
on Sep 17, 2014 at 10:01:51 pm

Rick's advice is excellent, as it most always is.

At least one HMI would be a great thing to have, if you can swing it. Even a 1200w would be helpful, and easier to power. You might run into some snags juicing an 1800w unless you have very trustworthy power with a big enough breaker.

Camera blocking and paying very close attention to your backgrounds can make or break a scene, too.

In an extremely similar vein, I directed this scene at a downtown hot dog cart this morning for a commercial...





Not gorgeous, but more than pretty enough. I had a pretty good arsenal of lighting gear with me, but ended up using only one white 4x4 bounce card and absolutely nothing else (well, a C-stand and quacker clamp to hold the card, but that's all). We pulled it off to the "good enough" level by paying very close attention to the background. This was on our city's courthouse square... we had planned to be on the complete other (east) side, but at the last minute we switched to the west side as I had a lot more background control. I faced south so all of my talent (and the hot dog cart) would be backlit, and more importantly, that the backgrounds would be backlit, even though it was in full sun.

We positioned the cart in the shade from trees, but just inside the shade so that we would have plenty of direct sunlight just a few feet away to bounce into the scene.

There are some hotspots and the streets in deep background are blown out, but not too blown out and I think it's ok. I learned from one of my favorite DPs Alan Caso ("Six Feet Under," "Dexter," and a ton of other things), that some hotspots are just fine, and that your talent doesn't always have to be the brightest spot of a frame.

Again, not perfect, but "good enough." So if you pay very close attention to your backgrounds, you can sometimes get lucky and leave a ton of gear on the truck.

But yeah, I did have HMIs standing by, if needed.

T2

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



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Rick Wise
Re: Lighting set-up for Geico-style Commercial
on Sep 17, 2014 at 10:22:52 pm

Advice excellent "...almost always" .... hmmmmmm

Of course, your "good-enough" shoot is very good, as it is... always. Myself, I would have scrimmed down the hand with the hot dog, though... Love the hot pavement behind them.

Rick Wise
Cinematographer
MFA/BFA Lighting and Camera Instructor Academy of Art University
San Francisco Bay Area
http://www.RickWiseDP.com


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Todd Terry
Re: Lighting set-up for Geico-style Commercial
on Sep 17, 2014 at 10:34:31 pm

Ooops... did I say "almost"?? That was a huge disservice... I've yet to know Rick to give anything other than spot-on advice. Yet. :)

And not to be Mr. Show-n-Tell, but here's another scene from the same campaign, I shot this yesterday morning, a scene at a sidewalk café...




It was almost the same setup... full sun, backlit. I added a tiny bit more gear this time, but not much. Very high and to the rear of the scene is a 4x4 Hollywood frame with diffuse silk to cut some of the backlight. The main actor is quite bald and the full sun was just way too much on him. In front and to an angle is just another white 4x4. The angle on the 4x4 was just a little too low for my taste, but we were really cramped by the physical space and that was the best I could do with where I was constrained to put it.

This is the same case where backlit backgrounds made all the difference and still allowed for a full-sun scene.

It was also one of those "good enough in the time allotted" deals... we were only allowed to close the café for one hour to get the scene, so speed trumped artistry.

Again, there are a lot of hot spots, but I don't mind them as long as they aren't ugly or distracting.

Glad to know Rick likes hot spots too... that's Rick "Invaluable Advice" Wise.

T2

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



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Rick Wise
Re: Lighting set-up for Geico-style Commercial
on Sep 17, 2014 at 11:03:57 pm

OK, OK, and thanks! By the way, a trick I'm sure Todd knows but didn't have time to use: if the pavement is too, too hot, water it down. You'll have to keep at it as on a sunny day that wetness will evaporate quickly. Nothing like a good PA.... But here the hot pavement works beautifully. Some video cameras could not handle that extreme well, but his C300 does.

Rick Wise
Cinematographer
MFA/BFA Lighting and Camera Instructor Academy of Art University
San Francisco Bay Area
http://www.RickWiseDP.com


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Todd Terry
Re: Lighting set-up for Geico-style Commercial
on Sep 18, 2014 at 12:10:09 am

Wet the pavement.... wow, brilliant idea. And no, I've never heard of that trick.

I've of course wet streets at night before, for reflections... but never during the day to tone it down. It wouldn't have occurred to me that would work, but yep, now it makes perfect sense.

That's definitely a trick to add to the arsenal.

Live and learn!

T2

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



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Kyle Smolic
Re: Lighting set-up for Geico-style Commercial
on Sep 18, 2014 at 7:00:07 pm

Thank you very much for these examples, the photo examples really help illustrate. How far away from a subject can a bounce board be to be effective at adding in fill light?


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Bill Davis
Re: Lighting set-up for Geico-style Commercial
on Sep 19, 2014 at 7:26:14 pm

It's a variable. A mirror bounces nearly all the light - but the aggregate distance into and out of the bounce follows the inverse square principal like anything else. As the bouncing surfacing absorbs light, that absorption ALSO affects the same inverse square as to distance.

So you're dealing with variables of surface absorption AND distance whenever you bounce anything.

So there's no "rule" about how far away the bounce can be - other than the unbreakable rule that says it can't be any farther away than the distance that will provide the amount of light you need to have hitting the subject for the exposure you can live with!

Ain't lighting fun!

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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john sharaf
Re: Lighting set-up for Geico-style Commercial
on Jan 17, 2015 at 10:16:12 pm

Late to the party here, but a very good and practical chain.

Two things to add to the conversation is the Dynamic Range of the camera you're using and the feasibility and skill in Color Correction.

The best of the new modern cameras really excel in conditions like these; namely sunny day exteriors where inevitable "hot" zones (like the sky or the street or the sunlight screaming off a white building, etc) impinge on your otherwise beautiful back-lit actor. Shooting in Log (or better in RAW) will preserve the greatest dynamic range (DR) which in the case of an Alexa is 14 stops (at nominal 800 ASA), I believe the C300 that Todd uses come close.

You have to be careful to shoot at the camera's "native" speed, which is actually determined by an equal number of stops above and below middle gray (in the case of a 14 stop range, that's seven above and seven below). If you go to 400ASA on the Alexa for example you now only have 6 stops above and eight below, and so forth; so to get the lens wide open for pretty, soft backgrounds and bokeh, you must use other techniques like ND filters and/or shutter speed. These filters can be pretty deep (like 1.8 or 2.1) in full sun conditions, so you must be aware of infra red (IR) pollution and use IRND's or Hot Mirrors as required by the particular camera system.

Then of course you take your Log images into color correction and giggle everything around. One of the most powerful things you can do is raise the gamma, which essentially is the same as putting light into the shadow side of the face. The caution here is that as you do that, the overall color becomes de-saturated, so now you have to boost the saturation. If you're inter-cutting to front-lit scenes now you have to "match" the color sat shot to shot. Kind of a house of cards!

None of this precludes the advantage of lighting the scene to the preferred ratio from the start, but as the chain so clearly points out, you might not have the budget for the proper kit and manpower, or even if you do, you might not have the time to work it all.

JS



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