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Shooting Infinite Black

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Facundo Campos
Shooting Infinite Black
on Sep 9, 2009 at 4:37:00 pm

Hey there,

I'm working with a band for an upcoming music video and they keep mentioning they want this particular "look". It's like infinite white (a la Mac vs. PC commercials) but it's infinite black, like this







Now, I can find several tutorials on how to make your own infinite white setup, but that's for just a static cam shot and I'm pretty sure it's not just hanging a black tarp behind the band.

Do you shoot the band in a big space but use only one light? I have no idea how to do this. Any help would be appreciated. Thx

Facundo


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Todd Terry
Re: Shooting Infinite Black
on Sep 9, 2009 at 5:02:01 pm

Looks relatively straightforward, black studio (including floor). Lighting was mostly the practical flos that are seen overhead in the shots, with some supplemental lighting (probably some fairly directional instruments to control spill).

Obviously, the bigger the studio space the better, to allow light to fall off and not illuminate the walls. Even black-draped (or painted matte black) walls will "read" if they are too close, so by putting them as far away as possible the light will have fallen off enough so that they are not seen. Basically, as big a (black) space as you can get with the band in the center of the room.

Post effects such as cranking up the contrast (this piece was very contrasty) will also help eliminate any of the walls being seen as well, should any light spill onto them.

We did a limbo-black commercial once that featured a runner. We didn't use a black soundstage, but were in a big windowless gymnasium. The room was large enough that even though the walls were actually light beige in color the space appeared completely black on camera. The talent ran in place on an out-of-frame treadmill as the camera dollied around him in an arc. Since every wall around us was about 75 feet away, there was no light spill and the space read as entirely black limbo.




T2

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






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Richard Herd
Re: Shooting Infinite Black
on Sep 9, 2009 at 5:02:42 pm

Much easier than you think. Easy question: what is black? The absence of light. This is REALLY easy to do. Here's an experiment: open all your curtains in your house and expose for them, then notice how the room goes black. Basically, that's all you're going to do on a larger scale.

I like to use big space for black, because you want the throw of the lights to light nothing. I like a warehouse or an empty stage, like at a theatre.

Contrast ratio is another important concept, here. Let's suppose you really light this set up, to an f/11, really bright exposure, and you expose at an f/11 (640 fcs). The following stops would be perceivable on a decent camera: 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22.

In other words, everything below 5.6 (160 fcs) is black. Which is very bright to the naked eye. Hard to believe it'll register as black on camera, so, as a client service, you might want to have something prepared in advance, so the band and producers gain confidence in your work because what they see with their eye isn't what the camera sees. The reason you can't light to the naked eye is many cameras won't even register persistence of vision until the luminance reaches 10 fcs, which also is relatively bright.

I love this kind of chiaroscuro lighting because it presents an excellent opportunity to shoot some interesting and beautiful figure studies: say, a single light on a dancing figure (a James Bond type thing), only her side is lit, might look very compelling for a guitar player too, a guitar having a nice shape to it.

The art here, as I see it, will be getting nice rich blacks and also maintaining the highlights from the chrome on the drums, guitar tuner knobs and polish.


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Facundo Campos
Re: Shooting Infinite Black
on Sep 9, 2009 at 7:16:18 pm

Thanks for the help guys. So if I understand correctly I should be looking for the biggest available space so that when the set is lit, the light can travel far enough to die out and not light anything like walls or ceilings. Then with the camera you would play around with the exposure (?) so that the blackest areas (the rest of the venue) appears as black.

Ideally, the set should be all black, but what are the chances of finding a venue that has that big of a space that is painted all black? If the floors are another colour, or have a design on them, could I cheat and put a floor covering? How noticeable would that be? To properly light the set, how many lights are we looking at? A few Kino's ?

I'm also guessing that the size of the venue depends on how strong your lights are? So I would need to find a space that is large enough to be able to light the band properly and have the light properly die out? An airplane hangar would be useful... :)


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Richard Herd
Re: Shooting Infinite Black
on Sep 10, 2009 at 4:31:56 pm

Your chances of finding a space that big painted all black are 100%. These spaces are called studios! :-)

Somewhere below Mr. Size has recommended some floor coverings.

To properly light the set? Depends what you mean by "properly." I would say at least 3-point lighting for each member of the band. Doesn't mean you have to set it up that way, but it is a flattering kind of lighting design and for a music video that's the goal...flattering the band!

Not sure about the kino's, depends how much head room you have to work with and what kind of shot design you're looking for. I'm a big believer in Chinese Lanterns.


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