Faking movie projector lights and lighting large spaces with few lights (10 replies and 8 comments)
Hello Roger and everyone else.
For a film we are making as a schoolproject we are shooting in a large abandoned building with an old movie theatre in it. The location is very nice but being an old movie theatre there are obviously no windows and it is very dark.
Our problem is we only have access to one 5k, one 2k and two 1k arri fresnels. We want to create a moody atmosphere but still make it visually interesting. I basically have three questions:
- How would you go about faking a movie projector light? Like a blueish streak of light going across the room towards the stage.
- What could create visual interest in a large space while still maintaining a dark and moody atmosphere?
- How do I key an actor with soft lights without filling the whole room with light?
I think that it is better for you to explain the scene here and what you are trying to achieve. Assume you intend to run a film or fake running a movie with the actor but you have not mentioned if the actor is watching the movie or he appears on stage standing in the “Lime light” using the projectors beam of light.
As you know the cinema screen is made of a reflective material usually of tiny glass beads which reflect the projectors light back over the audience. This light is sufficient to light up the audience alone without using other lights. You could get the 1K with difusion at the side of the audience to provide a fill light. It all depends really on the scene. I cannot see why you cannot use a projector but the domestic types available do not have a powerful beam to cover a long distant so you mayh have to get hold of a BH or Eiki etc 16mm projector to throw the beam of light to the actor. Naturally, a 35mm would be much better but impracticable in this situation. You will need a ofcourse, a loaded ‘colour’ film spool to make the scene authentic. To get the beam of light to “dance” you will need some smoke and an electric fan to disperse it. Make sure the smoke is evenly spread as you do not need patches of smoke but only a suggestion to highlight the projectors beam showing images. You will have to practice this to get it right. You could try using your other lamps with difusion at strategic points in the theatre to give it atmosphere but you make not need it. It all depends on your camera and your skill at getting the best out of it. You can fake the whole thing by using your larger lamp and masking it off except for a hole and then using an old lens to focus the narrow beam of light but it would not look right, it will look ‘fake’.
It is best to explain the whole scene rather than ‘snippets’ as it is hard to gauge what is required without knowing the full storyline. I have attached a few photos of what I think you are trying to achieve.
Perhaps you will let us know how you got on.
Hey Mike thanks for taking your time!
I realize I should have given some more info on the actual scene.
The scene is about a young woman being stuck inside an old movie theatre inside her dreams. She sits there and can't move and moments from her life are projected onto the movie screen. It's not a pleasant dream for her and the mood and atmosphere is supposed to be eerie. We want the actress lit so we can see her face expressions but still give some feeling of her being isolated in the dark.
The two last images you provided are not far off from what we are after, just something more dark. Maybe the second last picture you got there mixed with more dark and some haze.
We could not get our hands on a real projector and we are short on time so as it is now we probably have to fake it. It does not have to look super-real as long as you get the idea that it is projecting something onto the screen. The screen itself will not be seen in any of the shots.
We do have a haze machine and now we also got a profile spotlight so I think we might use the spotlight.
As a newcomer to the world of cinematography this will be a challenge but I'm really looking forward to trying some things out and seeing the end result.
Again, thank you for taking the time!
I think that you will have to borrow a digital projector at some point to show moving images to indicate she is in a cinema. You can as an alternative use one of those new type large LED CREE bulb torches (flashlight) shining through the haze or smoke to fake the projector using film projector Sound effects to bolster the images. Put a negative film in front of the flashlight and rotate it to make it authentic looking but you will need a lens or magnifying glass to energise the light beam. May I suggest using a kaleidoscope or distorted filter view of the images on the screen to indicate her POV after all it’s her imagination you are trying to capture here.
I have attached a few photos to guide you for lighting purposes.
Perhaps you could send a photo when you have completed the project.
You can also throw in some of Rogers ‘dust’ for good measure.
Sounds line a good idea! Thanks Mike and sure I will post some stills soon!
I did something similar for an episode of "Mad Men" -- I used a digital projector in a hazed room to get the shifting beam. If I really wanted to get fancy, I could have used a second digital projector going through a diffusion frame, playing the same source, to get the interactive lighting effect on the actor's face -- but instead I bounced some lights into a big frame. I flagged some of the light off of the deep background but the thing is that if your soft key (whether bounced or diffused) is going to be underexposed to feel like you are in a dim theater, then it will naturally fall-off in the background anyway, you don't need to flag it off completely back there.
I used multiple lights for the big soft light so I could have grips wave things randomly in front of some of them for an interactive effect, or maybe I had one on a big dimmer fading up and down a little and the other one I had a flag moving around to get it to flicker. The key is to be random because you are creating the subtle effect of bright and dark areas shifting around across the frame (side to side) during a moving shot combined with the occasional overall jump in brightness when the movie cuts to a new angle.
If you can get a digital projector, I suggest putting a Source-4 Leko with a 19 degree lens in the projector booth to create the beam. You could have someone wiggle their fingers in front of the light to create some effect of a movie playing while someone else slightly fades it up and down randomly on a dimmer.
Thanks for the tips! Sounds like a good idea to have one guy fading the light up and down on a dimmer and one guy wiggling his fingers in front of the light. We have access to the projector booth but the projector in there is from the 50’s and does not operate so we are going with a profile spotlight to create the beam. We went to the location yesterday to try it out and it looked ok. The only thing missing was the flickering so we will try that today. Will also try add some dust to the air to see what that looks like. Thanks guys!
You need to haze the theater, dust would only work for an insert of the beam coming out of the projector lens.
Don’t forget the sleeping actor to make it authentic. Perhaps your teacher could volunteer.
Okay so this is what we've got so far.. The key light on the medium shot still looks a bit sourcy but with some flickering added and shifting the levels of it I think it might work. We do have some troubles getting the beam of light in the frame on the tighter shots because the projector booth is located pretty high up.
Shooting a bit from the side, far away and with the subject on almost the last row we do get both the subject and the beam in frame, even though the beam is not very sharp.
As someone who has worked in a movie theater before (sadly and regretfully), that does not look right. Movie theaters aren’t kept all dark, because people may fall and injure themselves, so it becomes a liability. What’s missing is ambient lighting that’s kept in theaters to prevent anyone from falling. And that beam is way too small.
I think if you’re trying to make this look like a bad dream, you should consider making the film in Black & White. I think the best films are the ones Val Lawton produced for RKO, particularly: Curse of the Cat People. The use of light and shadow were meaningful. It’s become something of a cliche to have the actor sit somewhere near the beam of the projector, it’s been done to death in practically every movie that has a movie theater scene in it.
instead of trying to copy that, maybe try something different? I would maybe try having the actor sit in the back row. Though, how do you intend to show her life on the movie theater screen if you have no working projector in the theater?
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
I can agree on it not looking realistic but with the amount of time and resources we have we have I think this is as close we can get and it’s more important for to get the right atmosphere. The movie screen itself will never be seen in frame, you will just hear the sound of the main characters memorys being projected on to it.
The main character will be seated in the back of the theatre first and then move closer to the first row as the story progress.
I like your idea of showing it in black and white and I might propose that to the director and see what he says.
With respect, the cinematic medium is terribly outdated. It’s not like the 1930s, where it was the only form of entertainment. Movie theaters have become a neuisance, more often than not people have to overpay for lousy movies and concession food 4x the price of its normal retail price. Plus the threat of mass shootings have made people unsettled. (At least here in the states, not in Texas, I myself carry a concealed Walther PPK sl .22).
Plus oculous headsets will become inexpensive, and if anyone has worn one, it’s as if you’re sitting before an actual theater screen.
There was a scene in Christopher Nolan’s ‘Inception’, where people chose to live in a dream world, “the dream has become their reality”. I believe is the direct film quote.
Woops! Wrong thread ^^^ no way to delete now.
You will certainly need to beef up the “projector” light to make it convincing. As I said before, a cinema screen reflects back quite a bit of light so the actor will need to be seen, especially, if she has to walk from the rear to the front of the auditorium. Don’t forget, the light has to ‘flicker’ as she walks down the aisle and the density increases towards the front.
Try placing a lens in front of your light source to magnify the intensity and increase the smoke a little. You really need a pulsating light beam which you get when showing moving images. You can use a couple of glass prisms to split the light up or a couple of laser pointers to add to the mix but the lasers have to rotate or at least move. Be curious and you will win through, but perseverence is what is needed here.
Attached is how I would light it.