Practical lighting on small spaces and exposure

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  • This topic has 7 replies, 4 voices, and was last updated 1 month ago by Stip.
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  • #215917
    bernaveu
    Participant

      Hi everyone,

      Im doing a shortfilm in the next couple of weeks, it al happens in a small bedroom. After reading the script i came to the conclusion that since it is a very intimate and cozy story, i would like to light mostly with practicals (lamps, candles, stringlights, etc)

      Right now im figuring out how im gonna place the lights and im making my light diagrams, but im encountering a lot of doubts since im pretty new to this craft still.

      I would like to know if you have any advice on lighting on small spaces with practicals with out overflooding it with lights, since i wanna creat small pockets of lights and shadows across the room.

      My second question is, about exposure, since most of this practical are not designed for filmaking purposes, what kind of advice on bulbs, motivated lighning or DIY fixtures do you have for nailing exposure with practicals?

       

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    • #215918
      LucaM
      Participant

        I’m in the very same situation (working on a short movie with little experience, practical lights, etc) , so I can’t give you advices, but perhaps the things that I tried for myself could help you a little and save you some time (i hope so, at least) .

        – you want the audience think that the light is created by a bulb, a candle, etc, but this doesn’t mean that you actually use them to light all of your scenes. Example : in a  medium shot you show the practical light, so the audience know that there’s that source there. This create the motivation to know where the light is coming from. In the next close up of your talent you could use another source (of the same color and type of light but stronger) that you won’t show but that will help you achieving the right exposure. A bit of creativity and DIY will help you in creating the right look. You want to use a nice lamp for the scene? You can hide a second bulb behind it, for example, to have more light from the same practical source (if i remember correctly Roger did something like that for 1917, in the tent scene to increase the light from a lantern).

        – if you want to shape the lights you could use some (black) flag to reduce the bouncing on the wall and the ambient light, if you manage to avoid to make the flag visible in camera (in a small space may be tricky, be creative with camera angles!)

        – mind the inverse square law. It could be a powerful tool but I’m afraid it could also turn into the biggest enemy of people like us using a small set of practical lights. When you double the distance the light gets 4 times weaker, that means you’ll need 2 stops more to achieve the same exposure (please, correct me if i’m wrong on that). On the contrary, if you halve the distance you get a 4 times stronger light, with a bonus of 2 stops in exposure. The same practical light you used in a shot will be stronger or weaker in the next according to this law: for example, mind it when planning actors movement.

        – pay attention to the noise created by high ISO : a low key scene will probably mean that you’ll need to rely on high ISO to achieve the correct exposure. Use it as very last resource

        That’s what i’m doing for my short, perhaps it can give you some idea:  my short movie the character will have only a torch and a bit of blue backlight from a (fake) window. But this means that nothing will actually light his face: you put a torch in front of you, not on you… My possible solution: in some shots the torch will be visible (that’s the motivation), but in the close ups it won’t and i’ll give him 2 or 3 torches and place a bouncing surface at the right angle in front  of him.  Since it will create a lot bouncing lights i’ll place a black flag right behind him to make the room darker. My goal is creating the right contrast ratio between him and the background while keeping the ISO as low as i can. It should work, as long as i manage to keep all of this stuff out of camera in a really small space.

        I hope it helps somehow!

        #215920
        Stip
        Participant

          You may want to reduce the number of  ‘main lights’, that provide most of the luminance for exposure on the subjects.

          From there you could supplement small accents of light that do not really add brightness but solely mood – like a small lava lamp, tiny light chain, a computer tablet lying somewhere or get creative, e.g. a t-shirt hanging over a lamp shade if it’s a messy teenager’s room. You may also make use of color contrast and have the main light sources have vastly different color temperatures.

          You may also find a single lamp that’s design does something special to the room (see pic). You could place reflective items or mirrors in the room that provide isles of light when reflecting the main light.

          You may want to reduce the number of lights but add ‘detail’ to the room itself (textured wallpapers, pictures, blankets, pillows, magazines, clothes ect).

          #215927
          simon m
          Participant

            Just a tangent to the OP’s question – I find what separates amateurish looking scenes from professional ones is the set dressing.
            Stip – the examples you included are a perfect example. So much texture and personal items fill up the intimate space in frame. It seems many lower budget films skip this and the intimate scenes have bare walls in the background. The set dressing really sells it I feel. I realize this is not the DP’s job, but certainly there’s a discussion to be had there.

            #215928
            Stip
            Participant

              A close collaboration with the set designer and dressers makes so much sense and pays off. The easiest way to get an interesting shot is to point the camera at something interesting.

              #215929
              LucaM
              Participant

                Just a tangent to the OP’s question – I find what separates amateurish looking scenes from professional ones is the set dressing. Stip – the examples you included are a perfect example. So much texture and personal items fill up the intimate space in frame. It seems many lower budget films skip this and the intimate scenes have bare walls in the background. The set dressing really sells it I feel. I realize this is not the DP’s job, but certainly there’s a discussion to be had there.

                I agree with you on the importance of set dressing but I don’t think it’s the only element that makes a difference. I’m afraid that a blank wall shot by a great cinematographer will be more interesting than a stunning set shot by, let’s say, me. Consider Stalker by Tarkovsky: an immortal masterpiece, but to say that its sets are minimalistic it’s an understatement. Lights, set, camera movements, angles, blocking, etc etc. : every piece of the puzzle should be carefully planned to achieve the visual result. This is where i find the difference : a professional director know (well, at least he should know) exactly the result he wants to obtain and leads the production in that direction, an amateur usually does his best with what’s available, with limited knowledge and lack of a global vision.

                #215930
                simon m
                Participant

                  LucasM: Excellent point. Yes, having a clear intention, using minimalist or intricate set design serves the scene the best.

                  #215931
                  Stip
                  Participant

                    There may be few furniture but Stalker has stunning sets with incredibly rich texture.

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