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Lighting a Cave (5 replies and 9 comments)

sashamoric
7 years ago
sashamoric 7 years ago

Hi Roger 

I have to light a cave in an up coming project and I was wondering if I could get some tips.  Beside the torches I am not sure what else I should add.  Its a period film so no electric lights are allowed to play practical to help justify a source.

Nihal
7 years ago
Nihal 7 years ago

Hi,

I'm not an expert on lighting in any way, but you could probably have the characters hold up lanterns to see, thus illuminating their faces/body to some extent. Not sure how "period" the piece is, but I'm sure a candle light would work just fine in a lantern.

sashamoric
7 years ago

Thanks for the idea, I am going to have the main light be the torches but I also need to create some ambient light to get exposure in other parts of the cave and I was wondering how I can achieve an overall dim light in the room without it feeling sourcey

Roger Deakins
7 years ago
Roger Deakins 7 years ago

That is always a difficult kind of problem to solve and I can't say I ever have, not to my own satisfaction that is. 

sashamoric
7 years ago

Thanks for the reply its a tough one!

corby
7 years ago

You could do something similar to fake moonlight. Add some haze to the environment then backlight from way back around the corner with an HMI from the direction of the entrance of the cave to give just a general hint of daylight creeping in. Very "TV drama" but a viable option.

Connor Ryan
7 years ago
Connor Ryan 7 years ago

Depending on the cave, if you can fake there being water or a stream running through, you could bounce light off of a large basin of water (or shooting light up through a clear aquarium filled with water) to create ambient reflected/refracted light to bounce around the walls of the cave. You probably need someone to shake the water to get the reflections to bounce around. 

I'm not sure how big your cave is or what your conpositions are like, but I've seen this work well when needing to light tight shots of actors in a cave.

sashamoric
7 years ago

I like that idea. The Cave is suppose to be man made and the character gets to a cross road in the cave that splits three ways. I am not afraid of keeping it very dark there is something terrifying for the audience when they don't see whats ahead the problem is I don't want it to be totally dark I would love some exposure beyond what the torches will give me. Should I added some light to help the torches out? Giving the effect that the torches are stronger then they are? It won't be realistic but it may justify the light in the cave. If I add light what is the best light to emulate a torch light

Nihal
7 years ago

To emulate a torch light, I would slap some CTO on an LED, then fake the flicker of a torch light by using the dimmer on the back that most LED panels have.

Connor Ryan
7 years ago

Well a torch will generally throw light in all directions, so boosting the ambient light is very justifiable. Also, remember it isn't about making the scene realistic, but rather simply believable, to tell the story without drawing attention to the lighting (unless the story calls for something unbelievable).

Two things you want to consider in mimicing torchlight: Colour, and quality. I've had success geling a couple of cheap old theatre par-cans (I don't think there were even any lenses in them, practically any directional tungsten source would work) geling them with CTO, and bouncing them off of the silver side of a cheap 5 in 1 reflector. Because the silver is all wrinkly, I had someone shake it back and forth so the light bounced around, and I had dimmers on the par so I believe someone else flickered those. This was to emulate firelight, but a smilie technique could be use to throw ambient torchlight. Just be sure to match the colour to the fire and I would definitely reccomend a bounce.

A couple other thoights would be to bounce some light off of unbleached muslin just out of frame to boost overall ambient light levels, and then use the flickering reflector technique to add some subtle movement to the light.

A Chinese lantern could also be used for ambient light, though you'll have to try to gel the bulb inside or find an orange lantern. I've used these on a dimmer to mimic candlelight...for that circumstance they threw the light too far and too ambient, but for torches it might work.

You may want to experient. If you have big torches, you may be surprised how much light they give off. If you want a cleaner image and your camera gets noisy, you could boost light levels a lot and pull the image back down in post, but you'll want to test this to be sure you can get it looking natural.

sashamoric
7 years ago

Thanks Conner I will do a test on all those suggestion and see what works best for the setup on the day.

Roger Deakins
7 years ago
Roger Deakins 7 years ago

There is an interesting effect that you could use which is created by bouncing a lamp off a gold space blanket. Just crinkle up the space blanket and move it around in front of the lamp and you will get a pattern that looks as if flames are washing over the wall. You can do the same thing using a crumpled piece of Orange gel too. The lamp will need some colour on it, perhaps a full CTO, and you can soften the effect with diffusion. 

sashamoric
7 years ago

That is something I am going to try for sure I have never heard of that technic, what lamp would you suggest?

Jacob Sacks-Jones
7 years ago

Be aware though that this can cause problems for the sounds guys depending on the space and what they're trying to pick up

Roger Deakins
7 years ago
Roger Deakins 7 years ago

Any lamp would work but perhaps try a 2K fresnel.

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