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Minimum Ceiling Height For Proper Lighting

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Dan Pullit
Minimum Ceiling Height For Proper Lighting
on Mar 3, 2015 at 7:08:37 pm

Hello folks,

I'm in the process of acquiring a space for video work. I was wondering what is the minimum ceiling height requirements so as to be able to shoot video.

I know this is somewhat arbitrary, but I have a few more details below and any help would be much appreciated.

1) I would like to be able to shoot full standing people that might sometimes jump, so the lighting would have to allow for that and not look artificial or cause burnouts or any other problem caused by lighting too close.

2) There will be green screen work (a lot) and I'm planning to have one corner done into a cyclorama.

Of course the easy answer would be to get ceilings as high as possible etc... But please understand that I'm working with the constraints of the real world and my budget.

-- As such what is the MINIMUM ceiling height, in your opinion, that I can get away with?

-- And if you also have the time, feel free to tell me what lights work best to produce cinema type results in tight spots.

Thank you for any advice you can give.


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Bill Davis
Re: Minimum Ceiling Height For Proper Lighting
on Mar 3, 2015 at 10:55:00 pm

My studio space has 10' ceilings and honestly, Lots of times I'd kill for an extra 2-3 feet. Largely because I have a rails and pantograph system installed which makes light positioning MUCH easier, but means that with the hardware drop, if I want to set a backlight or backdrop wash, I often have to rig a spike directly into the ceiling to get some extra height. So I could REALLY use a few feet more clearance for those times.

That said, I've never failed to be able to light something on the set and get a solid result.

It's just alot more flexible if you have more headroom.

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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Todd Terry
Re: Minimum Ceiling Height For Proper Lighting
on Mar 3, 2015 at 11:05:12 pm

I don't know if it is considered quite the "industry standard," but you'll find lots of stages where the specs list 14' from the deck to the grid... so I think that's a pretty common height in medium or smaller size studios. It's also a very workable height, although you'll sometimes find some higher (some much higher).

Our stage is 11' to the grid, and while that is perfectly workable 95% of the time, like Bill there is that occasional job where I'd sure be loving an extra couple of feet. Really big studios tend to (obviously) have higher ceilings... so considering that our stage space is definitely on the small side, it's probably about the best we could expect in a space this size.

More us usually better... well, as long as you don't get too crazy about it.

T2

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



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Dan Pullit
Re: Minimum Ceiling Height For Proper Lighting
on Mar 4, 2015 at 9:07:14 pm

Thank you Todd. I'd love to get a 14' but unfortunately these kind of structures don't exist in my area. I'd have to rent a space that's too far and would cost too much. Like you, my most optimistic option (for price and somewhat close location) would probably be 11'. Good to see however that 11' can be made to work. :)


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Dan Pullit
Re: Minimum Ceiling Height For Proper Lighting
on Mar 4, 2015 at 8:56:08 pm
Last Edited By Dan Pullit on Mar 4, 2015 at 9:09:17 pm

Thank you for the info Bill. Actually it's very encouraging that you can even make the panto or rails work in 10', issues and all.


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Bill Davis
Re: Minimum Ceiling Height For Proper Lighting
on Mar 5, 2015 at 5:00:59 pm

Just a note, Dan. Most studios just do a pipe grid - which is fine.

For my studio, I went the extra distance on the rail system and I've REALLLY loved it.

It makes setup and adjustment so much faster and it keeps the studio floor virtually free of power cables (most of the time!)

I did two wide fixed parallel rails plus 3 movable crossbars on sliders -Then the lights (or light mounts) are on wheeled trucks from those, so (with some limitations) you can literally take a pole and move any light anywhere in 3d space in seconds.

It's been a HUGE timesaver over the years. (even with just 10' to work with.)

Heres a phone snap I just took of my configuration. (BTW, pay no attention to Amy in the corner - my wife, Linda lets me keep her in the studio after my 5,000th requests for Linda to "just stand here for me for a second so I can pre-set these lights, please?" Amy NEVER gets bored! Her full name is "Amy the lights at ME, not Linda, she's busy."

It's the little lessons that often make life easier. 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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Todd Terry
Re: Minimum Ceiling Height For Proper Lighting
on Mar 5, 2015 at 5:13:56 pm

Cool... I actually haven't seen pantographs in years. The TV station I worked for many many moons ago ditched a whole boatload of them quite a while back when they switched to poles and trombones instead. I've occasionally wished I had snatched a couple.

And... good cover story about Amy. It's almost believable :)

T2

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



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Craig Alan
Re: Minimum Ceiling Height For Proper Lighting
on Apr 1, 2015 at 2:57:37 pm

For dramatic lighting (at close distance) i like using small fresnels (300 watt) and a variety of diffusion and gels at hand. it will give modeling to the face and shadows on the CYC. I use multitool pliers to swap out the filter rings. Can't beat kino flos for even flattering light. LED banks with added diffusion are perfect to light the cyc with nice even light for green screen or any b.g. color.

The minimum height of the ceiling and CYC wall depends in part on how big a room you have. The further the camera is from the b.g. (CYC) and talent, the higher the ceiling and CYC would need to be. But really as tall and as big as you can afford is the practical answer. If you use any low angle shots you'll run out of height really quickly. If you use wide angle shots, you'll run out of all dimensions quickly. Talking heads, MS, and even two shots you can make it work. Sometimes you'll just have to crop and/or transform your shots in post.

For your full body shots you'll have to be level or high angle on your talent or you'll start seeing the lighting grid.

I was in on the planning of a new studio and read a bunch of stuff on this very question. For medium size studios, the minimum height recommended is 20'! Medium of course is relative. But if you are shooting in a 10' height room, you frame accordingly. CUs are the most common shot in video since they give us emotion and detail. Really just ask how much head room do you need above your tallest talent. A crane will help bring movement to your shots while using a variety of high angle and level lighting to your mix. You can pan across a group rather than using a VWS to establish their presence.

Mac Pro, macbook pro, Imacs (i7); Canon 5D Mark III/70D, Panasonic AG-HPX170/AG-HPX250P, Canon HV40, Sony Z7U/VX2000/PD170; FCP 6 certified; FCP X write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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Todd Terry
Re: Minimum Ceiling Height For Proper Lighting
on Apr 1, 2015 at 5:14:51 pm

[Craig Alan] "...really as tall and as big as you can afford is the practical answer."

Yep... and there's plenty of learning to "make do" if you don't have that luxury, too.

I enjoy perusing the specs for places like Silvercup Studios, etc., just to see what kind of room they have to play with. Recently I was looking at the specs for all the Television City stages at CBS in LA.

At least one of their stages has a 40'+ height, and several of them are in the 30' neighborhood, more or less. But TWO of them (stages 56 and 58) only have 15' heights. You might think that would seriously limit them to smaller productions (and shows like AMC's "The Talking Dead," on stage 58 are pretty small), but most recently stage 56 was/is the home for The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (and now with James Corden).

Even from extreme wide and crane shots you'd never guess 56 was such a low-ceiling stage with only 15 feet to play with... just depends on how you frame and use the space. I'm sure sometimes though they wish they had more room up top.

T2

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



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Craig Alan
Re: Minimum Ceiling Height For Proper Lighting
on Apr 1, 2015 at 6:05:05 pm

[Todd Terry] "Even from extreme wide and crane shots you'd never guess 56 was such a low-ceiling stage"

Yup. A crane will give you a high angle shots with motion and thus avoid looking up over the CYC or b.g. limit.

Each 5' gives you more options. Our current one is 12' and depending on the shoot we feel squeezed. The hardest one we shot was a film from a dog's pov. we kept the cam tethered to a monitor as a cam op handheld it and practiced each shot before shooting.
But really for independent films best to learn to hit the road and get shots in the field. But lighting on a no budget gets really hard out there.

Mac Pro, macbook pro, Imacs (i7); Canon 5D Mark III/70D, Panasonic AG-HPX170/AG-HPX250P, Canon HV40, Sony Z7U/VX2000/PD170; FCP 6 certified; FCP X write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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Dan Pullit
Re: Minimum Ceiling Height For Proper Lighting
on Apr 2, 2015 at 6:22:38 pm
Last Edited By Dan Pullit on Apr 3, 2015 at 1:29:34 pm

I've seen shots that required roto because they went outside the cyc wall. Especially low 'hero' shots. You usually end up having to bite the bullet and roto it out because if you put the subject too close to the green wall you get bleed.

My main concern with low ceilings is light inconsistency. For example a scene where the subject has to move around a bit and you can't cover the area from the top to make it look like a single distanced light source. Something like having to comp your subject onto an outside sunlit backplate.


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