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Help - concert lighting - what color spotlight is best

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Jan OzerHelp - concert lighting - what color spotlight is best
by on Nov 22, 2006 at 1:58:59 am

Hey:

I'm shooting a concert in a couple of weeks in a dimly lit theatre where two spotlights make up the bulk of the lighting. I shot at a rehearsal last night using the spotlights with no color filters. There's plenty of light, but the band looks washed out in the video I shot.

The spotlights have several colored filters including red, blue, yellow and perhaps green. I shot a concert there previously with a red filter on one of the lights, and spent hours in post color correcting the image as the singer moved in and out of the light.

So, what's the best color filter to select for the spotlights?
When i white balance within the spots, won't that negate the color?
If I don't white balance, do i have to spend more hours in post color correcting this video?

Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks.

Jan Ozer




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ThaxRe: Help - concert lighting - what color spotlight is best
by on Nov 22, 2006 at 5:25:37 am

If the lighting is truly the style you describe, you are in for a terrible situation, regardless.

Spotlights on stage make for badly over-exposed and under-exposed video.
Anywhere the lights hit will be BLAZING and anywhere they are not pointed will be in DARK shadows.

No gels are likely the best, if the spots have "quartz" bulbs in them.
But, if they are true "arc-lights" the unfiltered light will be very BLUE, so an amber-tinted gel will help balance that back a bit.

I shoot many times under stage conditions where I have ZERO control of the lighting.
I just constantly manually ride the iris and then correct as best I can in post.

It can be a real problem.

I've talked here about this over the years and some flatly tell me I need to "tell the lighting designer what I need."

That would be fine, if I (video shoot) was the "reason" the performance was being given, but I am documenting a live-audience performance for which the lighting was specifically designed.
I can't any more tell them how I want it lit, that I can tell them which actors to cast.


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Doug GrahamRe: Help - concert lighting - what color spotlight is best
by on Nov 22, 2006 at 3:20:17 pm

It's not the color, it's the intensity.

Video doesn't have a wide dynamic range. You'll either need to set your exposure for the stage as a whole, and let the spotlit person be totally washed out, or (more likely) set the exposure for the spotlit person, and let everything else go dark.

Or, better yet, leave the spot off. If the rest of the stage lighting is too dim, rent a couple of 1K floods and light stands and set them up on either side of the stage.

Some spots have an adjustable spread. If yours do, and can be set wide enough, maybe they can be used to illuminate the whole stage, not just a "spot".

Regards,
Doug Graham


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Mark SuszkoRe: Help - concert lighting - what color spotlight is best
by on Nov 22, 2006 at 3:53:11 pm

Situations like this are why we get paid those "big bucks" to ride the manual iris controls apropriately while shooting. I have shot numerous stage plays and the point is well made that they are not usually going to change a thing about the show just to make your life easier, it is you that has to accomodate them.

Balance on the white light only, let the colored lights do their coloring, that's their reason for being there.

Manual iris control has been the way I deal with the contrast problems, and mostly it works. Remember that with digital tape formats you can bring up detail in slightly under-exposed shots in post but anything blown out to 100 percent white is gone forever and can never be recovered, so if anything, err on the side of slightly under-exposing. Some folks use a special net or grid type lens filter to spread out contrast a little, I have never had the cash for one of those and the stage situation is such an extreme one that this con or diffusion filter may hurt rather than help in that case.

One other consideration is that where exactly you place the cameras; high, low, close or far, will have a large influence on how good or bad the contrast situation is, as you gather in more or less of the scenes and include or exclude set walls or props that catch more or less light spilled from the beams of those spots. Go to as many rehearsals as you can and try different camera positions to see if one works best. Best of luck, do report back after the shoot and tell us what worked and what didn't.



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Jan OzerRe: Help - concert lighting - what color spotlight is best
by on Nov 22, 2006 at 4:26:13 pm

Very good feedback all, thanks. To clarify:

- the spots are spreadable, and I have them spread across the stage already (sorry I didn't make this clear).

- I need to noodle on the suggestions. I may try the flood light idea and lose the spots, but the lead singer is (as usual) in the middle of the stage where the side floods would be weakest.

Not sure that this is relevant, but i'll be shooting with at least three cameras, including two HDV (the HDR-FX1 and new Canon XHG1). The FX1 has worked well in other stage productions in HDV mode, so i don't think that's a factor.

Great reminder that it's better to be too dark than too bright. Riding the iris gets wearing, but it may be the only way.

So: One more question - should I shoot with zebra striping enabled (I guess that's the only way to ride the iris)? If yes, should I set them at 70 (for skin tones), 100 (to show clipping) or 95 (to warn of clipping)? Any other thoughts? I usually run them at 100, but recently heard some recommendations to try at 70.

Jan



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ThaxRe: Help - concert lighting - what color spotlight is best
by on Nov 22, 2006 at 8:29:38 pm

A good way to ride the iris is to ignore the LCD screens and shoot while framing on a GOOD CRT video monitor connected to the camera's output.
A CRT monitor will reveal the subtile differences in iris levels on the overall image.

LCD's can make very poorly exposed scenes look just fine... that is, UNTIL you start the edit. ;-(




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Mark SuszkoRe: Help - concert lighting - what color spotlight is best
by on Nov 22, 2006 at 10:07:32 pm

Set the zebras lower to avoid clipping. Zebras telling you you're exceeding 100 is too late. Set at maybe 90 IRE is what I'd do. This will help with the LCD, but I would always use the eyepiece for critical focus work and monitoring exposure, or a dedicated viewfinder on a studio pedestal type setup.


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Doug GrahamRe: Help - concert lighting - what color spotlight is best
by on Nov 28, 2006 at 6:48:18 pm

On the other hand, I'm used to using 100 IRE zebras (since my first prosumer camera only had the one option). Any setting will work OK, if you understand what the zebras are telling you. For example, if using 100 IRE as your zebra setting, only allow a few zebras to show, on the very brightest areas...such as lights, or reflections off a bald head, etc. On the other hand, if you have strong backlight, there will be a LOT of zebras showing if you expose your subject properly.

70 IRE is generally considered a good exposure level for skintones, so if you're using that setting, you should set exposure so about 60-80% of the talent's face shows zebras.



Regards,
Doug Graham


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Peter RalphRe: Help - concert lighting - what color spotlight is best
by on Nov 25, 2006 at 1:57:49 pm

leave the white balance at 3200K for all the cameras - this will simplify the color grading. Use whatever gels work best for the band.


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Jan OzerRe: Help - concert lighting - what color spotlight is best
by on Dec 1, 2006 at 7:45:03 pm

Thanks for all of your input. Shoot is tonight; last night i went down and played with the spots. looks like blue or red really cut the glare nicely letting alot more detail through. i'm going to white balance all cameras in the spots and hope i don't spend the next three weeks color correcting.

Thanks again for all of your help; i'll let you know how it goes.

Jan Ozer



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Peter RalphRe: Help - concert lighting - what color spotlight is best
by on Dec 11, 2006 at 5:40:52 pm

Jan - how did it go?


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