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Need Lighting Help for Student 16MM Short Film!

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Trevor Fernando
Need Lighting Help for Student 16MM Short Film!
on Oct 9, 2006 at 10:37:10 am

Hey Guys,

Need some lighting advice from some pros who ideally have extensive experience in film lighting as opposed to just video. I'm shooting a student film in a small pool hall/sports bar, and the movie centers around two pool players. We have to shoot on 16MM reversal film and I want to shoot color reversal. The only 16MM color reversal film that exists by Kodak is 100 ISO.

The Canon Scoopic 16MM cameras we're using open up to a F2.5. I have 2 - 2K Mole fresnels, 3 - 1K Mole open faced, and a couple .650Ks. I also could get extra of these or Kino-Flos, but we are limited to a max of 2K per light. I've made a diagram of the overhead layout of the bar and inserted camera symbols to show angles we're shooting. Most of the light inside is given off by florescents hanging over the 5 pool tables. There's also neon signs lining the walls. Its a dark comedy so we can go for a somewhat darker look. How should I generally approach lighting this bar, given the slow stock we have to use? I've heard I should shoot the 2K's into the ceiling to get the overall levels of the room up at least 3 to 4 stops brighter than they already are. Then light the subjects. But I need some more details if possible. I know its difficult without knowing the framing of all the shots - but I guess anything anyone can tell me as to how to generally approach lighting the bar...which lights i probably generally want to use where, etc. I'm not attached to any specific look right now, and I know lighting can be very subjective, I just need some general practical guidance and I can take it from there. I can also probably rent some more lights if need be, but most likely not HMIs.

Here's a link to the diagram: http://www.syncpicture.com/lightinglayout1.pdf

The action will be going on pretty much all on the side near the bar.

Here's some links to some images inside the bar:
http://i45.photobucket.com/albums/f70/kyrz0/PICT0201.jpg
http://i45.photobucket.com/albums/f70/kyrz0/PICT0200.jpg
http://i45.photobucket.com/albums/f70/kyrz0/PICT0199.jpg
http://i45.photobucket.com/albums/f70/kyrz0/PICT0198.jpg
http://i45.photobucket.com/albums/f70/kyrz0/PICT0197.jpg

Thanks a lot in advance!

Trevor


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Tim Kolb
Re: Need Lighting Help for Student 16MM Short Film!
on Oct 10, 2006 at 2:05:25 am

From the photos, the place looks very evenly lit for a bar. Too evenly lit for a dark story I would think.

If it's a dark comedy, is the bar a dark place?

I might test shoot a bit using your lights to put light into key areas. The place looks like someone's top dresser drawer exploded onto the walls...I think I'd like it if the walls weren't all that well illuminated. It will keep the focus on your subjects.

The other thing about bars is that there are all sorts of light colors. Tungsten balanced (or at least close) fluorescent tubes can be used above the pool tables to bring the room into more uniform color temperature, but then sometimes the different temps work. Maybe the wattage could simply be reduced so they aren't pushing quite as hard...

The lighting scheme looks really crowded. I hope you have some generators as finding enough power for all that will be a challenge, even in a commercial building.

My personal advice would be to do some tests with the filmstock and use one light to light a scene, then two...but try to be minimalist and bring in some big sheets of white styrofoam (the 4'x8' kind made for insulating houses work great, and you can cut them up to be different sizes and throw them out when you're done..) and a couple of sheets of Celotex or something more reflective than just the white styrofoam and start using bounce as fill where you might need it as oppose to so many sources.

For lighting the wide shots, yes, you will probably need more sources as bouncing light from great distances is rarely possible and even less often practical, however in a dramatic film, the bulk of your shots shouldn't be wide shots, so this gives you freedom to tightly manage only what's within the lense view for the bulk of your shots.

Keep in mind that in a bar, or in life, the key light is rarely in front of you.

I'm sure there are lots of people here with more 16m film experience than me, but those are my thoughts on the general lighting scheme.





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Trevor Fernando
Re: Need Lighting Help for Student 16MM Short Film!
on Oct 10, 2006 at 3:04:24 am

Thanks a lot Tim!

As far as the lighting schematic, actually to clarify, the symbols that look like lights are all symbols for the camera and where it will be at different shots (to show the angles). I haven't planned the placement of any of the lights yet.

I like your idea of starting out minimal and gradually adding as needed, that makes a lot of sense. As far as the fluorescent fixtures above the pool tables, to save on cost, we're thinking of using some Rosco Cinegel #3310 Fluorofilter Gels which are supposed to balance fluorescent tubes to tungsten. We can't afford the tube gels so we're thinking of using the 20X24 inch sheets and wrapping them under the bottom of the fixtures (out of sight). Do you think this is a good alternative to replacing the fixtures with tungsten tubes?

The wide shot is one that I think will be the toughest. One of the pictures I posted shows roughly the angle we'll be shooting for the first establishing shot. Practically speaking, what would be a rough setup for the lights for a wider shot like this? I want some light in the back of the room to show some detail there - I was thinking of getting a couple 1Ks as close as possible to the back of the room and bouncing them off the ceiling. Maybe splashing something on the walls with more shape for effect, and maybe a couple Kinos for the bar patrons. Any thoughts/ideas?

-Trevor


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Tim Kolb
Re: Need Lighting Help for Student 16MM Short Film!
on Oct 10, 2006 at 3:57:13 am

Kinos are tough for wide shots...not much kick, so unless they're recessed out of sight somewhere exceptionally close to what you're lighting up...

The bounce thing on the ceiling...I don't know. It's not a primary school classroom, it's a poolhall. It's an "eclectic" scheme of various posters, banners, pictures and memorabilia that make the place just look really trashy and distracting. Garish is OK in the shadows as all that bric-a-brak isn't pulling attention from your primary shot, but with big pools of flat fill...let's just say the measure of a beautiful shot isn't that you can see everything...it's that you can see important things.

After lighting your primary actors for each shot, then look at where you need isolated pools (or maybe shafts) of light. Think in terms of lighting "pockets" of activity or getting some sort of kicker on some detail of the room that communicates the layout of the space, but don't try to fill the place with light. Those aren't operating tables in there...

As far as converting the pool table lights with gels...as long as they aren't visible as a distratction in the shot, I don't see why that would be a problem. Just make sure that that homogenized video light temp look is what you want...






TimK,
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Kolb Productions,

Creative Cow Host,
Author/Trainer
http://www.focalpress.com
http://www.classondemand.net


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Trevor Fernando
Re: Need Lighting Help for Student 16MM Short Film!
on Oct 10, 2006 at 4:39:13 am

That makes a lot of sense to light the actors first and then use pools of light to highlight key objects in the background. This helps a lot, it gives me a process to lighting it so I can do it in stages as opposed to just looking at the room and wondering how I'm going to make it look good. Thanks Tim!

What exactly should I anticipate the fluorescents looking like with the gels? I thought if we balanced for tungsten, the pool table lights would match the rest of the lighting? Is that accurate? Or are you suggesting its better to go a bit mixed and make the pool tables a bit different. I suppose another possibility is to balance them for daylight...then when we do the conversion, the tables will be more orangish. Any suggestions on other gels to use for a bitter mix of light?

For the est. shot, instead of the Kinos on the bar patrons, maybe we can use a 2K off a bounce card or would we lose too much light on them? I think we can get the light pretty close to them out of the shot.

-Trevor


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dan brockett
Re: Need Lighting Help for Student 16MM Short Film!
on Oct 10, 2006 at 2:04:11 pm

Hi Trevor:

I am surprised that nobody mentioned this. Chances are good that you will get flicker from the fluros over the pool tables. What frame rate are you shooting at?

I shot a similar setup a few years ago in a store that had a lot of ugly overhead flurorescent banks. When I transfered the film, I noticed that I had flicker all over the place and worse, the flicker rates were different from each fixture. Some had no flicker, some had medium flicker and some were flickering really fast.

Since fluorescents are a ballasted discharge lamp, as the ballasts age, the flicker changes. Kinos, provided they are in good working order, avoid this by using a high speed ballast that scans at either 30kHz or 60kHz but many cheapo Home Depot types of fluorescent fixtures use cheap ballasts that will flicker.

No easy way to check for it short of shooting a test. I would. If you have mixed flicker rates, there is absolutely no easy way to fix it in post. Luckily my shoot was MOS b-roll and I did not have the fluros in every shot. By variable speeding the telecine, adding some strobe filter, etc. I was able to salvage that shoot and nobody was the wiser but if I would have had dialogue and had not been able to leave 24 or 30 fps or if the footage had been the main part of the show, I would have been so hosed.

Check the ASC Guidebook for a full section on film frame rates, shutter angles and flicker rates of discharge lamps. Hate to see you go through all of this trouble and then end up with unusable footage. There was a Green Day video from a few years ago that had flickering fluros in all of the (I think it might have been I Walk Alone?) shots and it looked pretty cool but that's slow motion stylized and art directed, not dialogue.

Best,

Dan

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Tim Kolb
Re: Need Lighting Help for Student 16MM Short Film!
on Oct 10, 2006 at 2:46:56 pm

Wow...got to thinking so much about space management I didn't even trip on the obvious. I'm not a cinematographer, but I had this exact issue the other day of a 24p shoot...

Sorry...but excellent advice, Dan.




TimK,
Director,
Kolb Productions,

Creative Cow Host,
Author/Trainer
http://www.focalpress.com
http://www.classondemand.net


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Trevor Fernando
Re: Need Lighting Help for Student 16MM Short Film!
on Oct 10, 2006 at 9:31:26 pm

Hey Guys,

I'm aware of the potential flicker issue. My 16MM teacher said he'd done tests with some kino bulbs on a regular fixture and didn't have any problems so I wasn't sure how often the flicker happens. I've decided to run some tests today per your recommendation. We're just going to see how much we can see without any lighting inside the bar and whether or not theres flicker.

-Trevor


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