On Lighting: An Ongoing Discussion.

Photo Courtesy: thefilmbook 

My discussion with a seasoned lighting director has been continuing, and I gotta say - I have been learning A TON. I write this at the risk of sounding like a complete amateur, which… I am… but I am so hungry to improve, grow, take more and more educated risks, and (hopefully) advance the art. The latest round of exchanges revolved around me seeking advice as I continue to built our light shaping inventory:

Hey Duane,

Finally have a weekend!  I am going begin with your light shaping:
C-stands… the more the merrier…but you need vehicle space… and having to carry through office locations and etc is no fun.  Do you work out of a little truck, a van, or a car?  That will determine what extra you can carry.  For location, some guys have taken 2 wheel dollies…hand trucks with large soft wheels, and rigged them so that they can strap on several c-stands and wheel them around.   Must have truck or van for that.  In the studio, of course, you want several c-stands, 4 minimum, 6-8 better.  On small studio commercials, we generally ordered 12.  On the big ones, we ordered 20.  You rig bounce cards (show card, foam core, or bead board) on them, sometimes using 2 on the 4x8 cards.  You rig diffusion frames, flags and nets. You can double arm the C-arms for running up small backlights.  You also can turn a c-stand into a boom arm by placing a 4 1/2” gobo head on a combo stand and then clamping a c-stand boom arm clamp (I think Mathews sells them) to the c-stand, mount it to the combo stand and run the c-stand out horizonally.  Then hang a small backlight from it.
Should have a couple of 18”x 24” flags and one or two of the 24x36” flags.  One or two 4x4’ floppy flags are always great for creating negative and taking out large chunks of unwanted light.
I don’t recommend wooden cookaloris any more. You have to rig them from c-stands or from the grid and they break and are cumbersome.  I prefer to get Source Four lekos and place a stainless steel pattern in them for background texture.
Flat aluminum frames for diffusion:  they come in different sizes, 4x4, 3x3, 2x3, and 2x2.  There are frames on the market that break down that are as good for stretching tight, but are more portable.  I remember you said you don’t have much in the way of diffusion.  I think you said tough spun was what you used.  We should have a discussion on diffusions.
Any broad soft source light fixture you have would be better for light control if it had some form of eggcrate or louver.

ME: “This is great! I think the Source Four leko’s with the cookies are a really powerful option to add texture. Currently I blast light through a piece of foam core that I cut random shapes in lol. 

The S4 Lekos cost about $325.  You would need a pipe clamp, a pattern (gobo holder), a TVMP adapter (stand adapter)(you remove the pipe clamp and bolt this onto the yoke so you can put it on a baby stand).  You would also need to buy a good baby stand to hold the weight and then shop for pattern.  I’m really digging on LED lights lately, and I’ve been noticing that they are making more and more powerful options.  I like them a lot too, only they are quite expensive.  But if one considers long range, then…
ME: Can you tell me more about egg-crate and louvers? What’s the advantage to these over diffusion frames or bouncing? 
Any big soft source is a better and more useful soft source if you can control the light spill. Unlike a hard light source, like a fresnel, where you can extend the barndoor with black cards or rig flags, big soft sources can’t be contained by the method.  If you’ve seen a case of glasses be unpacked, you’ve seen a form of eggcrate.  If you watch the national CBS morning news, as camera zooms out, you see above the anchor people 2K zip softlights in the grid that have black eggcrates mounted on the front of them.  The nature of a soft source is to spread in all directions.  The black aluminan eggcrates are about 8 or 9” deep and allow soft light to be channeled in the direction of focus without spread a lot on other talent.  I usually like to add a snoot to the eggcrate.  The snoot is a black foam core box 1ft to 18” long mounted to the outside of the eggcrate.  Remind me and I’ll send a picture.  Kinoflos come with louvers, the same idea, made of plastic, but only about 1/2” thick and attach over the set of flo tubes to keep the spill down.  Go to a site called “Filmtools” and you will see flexible black nylon eggcrates that are attached to the front of chimeras.
ME: Do you ever use 1x1 Lite panel-style lights for interviews?Yes If so… how do you deploy them artistically? 
You would place them in the same way as a regular light source.  I like them when space is a problem, weight, power, etc.  The better ones you can dial in the color temperature withthe Bi-Color panels or you can dial between flood and spot LEDs with the Bi-Focus panel.  Both are more expensive.  Otherwise, you choose a 1x1 panel with tungsten colored LEDs that is a spot panel or one that is a flood panel.  Or choose a daylight LED panel that is a spot panel or a flood panel.  We have 2.  I chose a daylight panel ($1069) with spot LED’s and ordered a full CTO resin correction, a 1/2 CTO resin correction,  an Opal resin diffusion and a 1/2 Frost (250) resin Diffusion.  There is a slot on the front of the panels where you can slip up to 2 of the resin 1x1 gels or diffusion.  The dimmer on the back makes for easy focus.
ME: Can you share a little of your general workflow with gelling lights? There are so many colors and situations… I was wondering what a good rule of thumb is for applying gels. Currently I usually cool my hair lights down, but I see tutorial videos where people use CTO and CTS and other gels to warm them up… is this mainly for daylight LEDs and such?
If you are getting artistic, almost anything goes.  If you are correcting for dimming, use 1/8 CTB.  If going for a warm feeling, use CTO’s 1/8, 1/4, or 1/2.  If wanting to emmulate the sun, I use CTS… color temperature straw…generally 1/4.  There was a movie years ago, that a young Madonna co-starred in where the DP used strong straws and yellows as backs and rims to set a certain mood.
Great stuff right?! I can’t wait to start exploring… trying out some new ideas and interesting tools, and experimenting with some different techniques.


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  • 2 days ago

Let there be light!

I am in the midst of what I hope is the beginning of a new season of growth regarding my lighting ability. I have linked up with a gentleman with a lifetime of experience and I am so excited to start applying his lessons. Long have I searched for someone as passionate about lighting design as I - who was also willing to help me grow as a lighting designer. His first lesson came in the way of a recipe: 

Use a soft source key with a tiny dash of eye light and a hot splash of a harder patterned light across some of the background…slightly out of focus.  Add some richness of shadow with a 4x4 floppy mounted on a sparkling C-stand walked in out of frame on the shadow side. Sizzle your subject with an appropriate amount of heat in your backlight, somewhat softened, and slightly to one side. Finish off with a small measure of very soft 3/4 cheek glow on the down side from a white card just out of frame.

I think I came pretty close: 

My effort this week is to build a frame to soften my key, and make it larger. I am also making it a point to collect compelling, interesting, and creative stills from ads I see on the web and in print with the purpose of eventually trying to break down the lighting design that went into exposing that certain setup. Super excited! ~ Duane

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  • 1 month ago

…more BTS

…more BTS

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  • 1 month ago

Dappled Light http://www.thefreedictionary.com/dappled

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  • 2 months ago

Production BTS pics

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  • 5 months ago
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  • 5 months ago