Hi Cameron, Hi Sam,
You sure answer many questions! Not sure if I asked them, but please keep those personal messages public Cameron, this is interesting;) Reading between the lines of your messages it seems the 1200W HMI can handle a lower ASA than a 1200W tungsten? Not that I would be ably to use HMI much, but it's interesting. The gap between 650W and 2000W tungsten is smaller than you expect when you take the lightmeter out, and it makes you wonder how these photographers shoot ASA 100 films with their fresnels.
Het Licht! It sure is a small world, only a week ago I checked if they had 2 1200W HMI for rent, but it looks like they mainly focus on big productions. Did you work on films in the Netherlands Sam? It almost is a shame you don't use all of your lighting experience with lights in photography. Light is so fascinating, I started experimenting with mirrors and then discovered their light is very similar to the fresnel light, parallel beams, a character you can't get from most flash deflectors. The attached image for instance has no light sources other than the sun, I just used some mirrors and cloth and then bounced the window light to make the scene interesting. Like you said, less can be more! Actually it is a bit harder to create the right light with fresnels only, but as you probably know we don't always have the sun available in A'dam. (I suddenly realize why you don't need lights: Australia;) )
Maybe the fresnel got out of fashion with color photography? HMI being expensive and tungsten being the wrong temperature for most films and different than daylight?
Still there are some of today's top photographers who use the open fresnel, Peter Lindbergh and Vincent Peters for instance. The last guy also uses a lot of wierd materials to deflect light, I've seen him work with big crystals etc. but his fresnels are always at the basis. And isn't it still the main light source in moving pictures? Sounds like a stunning job you have Sam! I've watched films like pride&prejudice (2005) without sound (not so great story, stunning light) just for the light and in their 'making of' it looks like many open fresnels.
Thanks for the post. I really really love the photograph and it is a perfect expression of what I meant about "less is more" and sculpting with light. So often in my working life I have had to deal with cameramen who light themselves into a corner so to speak by adding more and more lights to illuminate away ugly multiple shadows when really all they had needed to do was to use less and less lamps with more cutting to shape the light into an interesting pattern.
I remember a guy I worked with who is one of my favourite cameramen here who came up with the idea to have only one brute arc as a light source pointing AWAY from the subject and use dozens of mirrors to reflect light back onto the set. In my eyes this looked great. If you do not know what a brute is try this:
Today the arcs are long gone because of the electricity and man power required but they were the staple of film lighting long ago.
Just for you information light illumination works on what is called the "inverse square law" which simply states that the foot-candles on a subject is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the source. In human language this roughly translates to mean that the amount of light hitting a subject will double if you halve the distance from the source to the subject. It also means that you lose half your light each time you double the distance. It also means that each time you double the wattage of a similar type (fresnel, or open eye, or bounce etc. etc.) you double the foot-candles. It also means the same in reverse - half the wattage and half the foot-candles. But the kicker is that all these "halves" and "doubles" are equivalent to f stops. So if you need 1 more f stop you drag the lamp half way in to the subject or you double the wattage. Therefore the difference between the 650w and the 2k lamps are: 650w. x 2 = 1300w. - that is 1 stop; add 2/3 of a stop for the last 700w. and the difference you get 1 and 2/3 stop more light with a 2k than a 650w. This IS ONLY theoretical "back of the envelope" type calculation but it is a good place to start from. Obviously you cannot compare apples to oranges i.e. a tungsten lamp to an HMI (unless you know the scale of the value of the output differential, but that is a whole 'nother story!). Likewise if you bring a 650w. about 66% closer to the subject you will get about the same illumination as a 2k. and so on and so forth.......hope this is understandable.
For many years my Best Boy was a man from A'dam who started out in stills in fashion in Nederlands and moved onto London and finally Sydney. After awhile he got into the film industry to work with me. Today he is back in Holland and has started a technician booking agency called Crew Call. He and Het Licht produced a yearly directory of all film technicians in Holland and the cover of the books were a modern rendition of very famous Dutch paintings i.e. Rembrandt etc. etc. The book was published under the name of Five Star Crew but each year that it came out it had a different photographic rendition of a different famous painting shot using Het Lichts equipment. They are worth looking at if you can find the book or if you are at the studios and can ask....the one I am referring to at the moment is the 2010 book. Anyway thru this guy I have met many Dutch lighting guys but, no I have not worked in Holland - I just have drinks with the crew every few years when I visit.
Anyway sorry to be so long winded but I would tell you of my fave film for lighting if you ever get a chance to watch - Road to Perdition. It was for me the best photographed film that I have ever seen followed by Oh Brother Where Art Thou.
For now goodbye and good luck,
Those cameramen lighting themselves into a corner sound very familiar. At art academy there was a studio with more lights than I could ever dream of, before you know it they are all burning..... Every first year student made the same mistake, most of them never returned to the studio to learn that only one light doesn't give 'multiple' shadows.
Are there clips or pictures of the project you did with the mirrors? I am really curious how that looked. Must have been fun days working with those arc lights, I heard stories (not sure if they are true) that you had to change bulbs in protective clothes and a helmet because of the pressure on that glass.
Still the challenges remain, specially when you want to create debt, setting your model appart from the background by backlighting, or bring out the shapes of the face and body with big angles on the key, creates blacked out parts you have to fill. I'll remember it though: even for the fill one lamp extra is enough;) Is this why the fresnel can be such a difficult light in big sets, the shadows are so sharp that everything becomes so much more apparent? Experienced guys probably love it because of the possibilities, but the guys making mistakes won't get away with them. The light becomes a character of it's own with the fresnels.
The inverse square law, it is so tempting to place a fresnel a bit further and further, and further to be able to light a big scene with one source but before you know it you're out of light and your buying 2kw lights and find them a little weak! haha.
Hopefully I am not to curious with asking if you can estimate how much lights this guy uses for these pictures, there is the open fresnel look with the sharp shadow lines but the contrast is a lot lower, it's almost as if these shadows are filled with big soft sources but the crispiness stays in the light, normally the soft light takes that crispiness out of the light. It's crazy, that's probably why I can't explain it very clear either;)
The typical fresnel hollywood portrait seems higher in contrast, the overexposed back lighting is almost soft in some of the pictures above yet very hard in the typical hollywood portrait but it seems to be the same source, the same seperation:confused:
Road to Perdition tonight! Sam, next time you are in Amsterdam I will buy one or more Belgium beers (They make nicer beers than we do;)
Road to Perdition is quite possibly one of the most beautifully lit films! Definitely a good recommendation... so is Oh Brother!
I know I've been on many sets, or even some of my own, where we start throwing up more and more lights to try and achieve the look we're aiming for. It's always good to remember that when you're getting close to that point, stop and start with a "blank canvas." Then start "painting" one stroke at a time! I'm sure with your experience, Sam, you don't get ahead of yourself like that anymore! Still gets me every once in awhile...
G'day Quinten and Cameron,
I hope that this finds you well in the bleak winter of Nederlands!!! :( I just got an email from my ex-assistant who has decided to hibernate.......I will try to go thru your queries one by one as I am in a slight rush so forgive the brevity. I does sound to me like the missing factor in teaching lighting is to limit the number of lamps one allows a student to use. I use to run lighting workshops for DOP's at the Australian Film & TV school and the first day of the hands on workshop I would say "you only have three lights to work with......figure it out". It is amazing just of economical people get when limited this way. They actually learn to "see" the light and not the hardware which was the biggest stumbling block. So many young people ate stymied by the hardware but do not look at the light. Pity. Gradually as the students gain confidence I would ad one more lamp and then one more and then one more...you get the picture. So they actually have to make it look good with next to nothing and then learn what "adjectives" they can add to make a scene look great.
Arcs never needed "radiation suits" to change the carbons. The arc has 2 carbon rods that are connected to a D.C. electrical source and are brought into contact briefly to spark up a plasma arc. They are then separated by about an inch and a half. As the rods "burn" they wear down and a mechanism drives them together continuously to keep the arc gap constant.
HMI are arcs too but they are A.C. powered and are self contained in inside a a quartz globe that has a vacuum in it. As a result the negative air pressure, no explosions ever occurred and the need for protective suits were obviated.
Movie projectors however used to have a xenon arc globe like the HMI but under several atmospheres of pressure and it is these lamps that one had to wear protective head/eye and body armour when changing the lamp.
The project that I lit with a brute arc and mirrors was a commercial many dozens of years ago but I have to apologise and say that it never occurred to me to take photographs of what we were doing....I probably would get yelled at by the producer for NOT doing my job :D!!!!!
Anyway I had a look at the clips you links that you attached and while I can say for sure that they are very nice and seductive (the models help there too) I can only take wild guesses at them to figure out what they used. The B & W shots that were head to waist and head to toe are obviously a fresnel to my eyes judging by the crisp shadows. The photog obviously used a series of cutters (shadow devices) to make the head-waist shot. This picture reminds me of a technique that I have used over time by illuminating a subject with one light thru a large tracing paper frame that creates a soft ambiance and then using a razor blade to cut holes in the trace to allow direct hard light thru onto particular parts of the set/body of the model. I would suggest on the head to toe shot that the model is lit with on fresnel going thru a kookaloris (look this up on google) or something similar to "cut" up the light. It looks to me that a separate source is putting the shadows of the window sill on the background.......in both the key seems to be coming from camera right at an angle greater than that of the models gaze to create those beautiful cheekbone shadows.
With any light modifiers like the ones I described above the closer they get to the model the sharper the shadow gets so in the colour shot it looks like there is a large soft source from inside the window casting light onto the girl with her key light (again a diffused or bounced source) coming in from camera left but cut so only her head is lit by this and her body is lit from inside the window. She has almost no shadows to speak of on her face so that the key is most likely close to the lens with perhaps a touch of fill lite to make her pretty from camera right. The background seems to take care of itself with the practical lights ringing the roofline.
The B & W two shot and the head and shoulder are in the similar vein as I am sure you can figure out but with very soft shadows. This look can be achieved numerous ways from diffusion to bounce...just remember the closer the diffusion gets to the model the softer the light will be.
Anyway I must dash - hope lighting 101 was not too boring. BTW I will hold you to that beer although having lived for a bit in Prague I am partial to Czech Republic refreshments!!!!!:munch:
Whow! It seems putting things between the source and subjects is a common practice in film, photographers should do much more with this. For them it usually is a bounce, a piece of cloth, an umbrella, a softbox, a reflector or sometimes a fresnel and nothing more... Reading your post while looking at the pictures makes a lot of things obvious and also very predictable, but I didn't always see it myself.... ouch!
It might be the high contrast with soft shadows that looks mysterious since it is such an uncommon combination. You mention the light source being soft with the duo shot, that indeed must be looking at the shadows, still I am put on the wrong foot with the high contrast. That high contrast is so easely mistaken with hard light. (Same happend with the head shot.)
Which I could see you work one day, would probably beat most education.
You guys sure gave a great tip in Road to Perdition, watched it yesterday night. The light is so simple, never over the top, yet it really gives the film a unique character. Even the colors are in harmony with the light, piece of art. Probably was quite a team doing the light, they must have worked on more movies... Not much open fresnels?;)
Prauge! Booze, sex and dance. You probably left when pornography took over in that city, in that respect it is the LA of Europe, not very exciting all that soft light, no open fresnels for sure! Still a city very much alive, don't know about their beers though....
Those kookaloris.... Always thought they found a great window and put a 15K fresnel in the street, so much for romantic illusions;)
"Cookies" can be fun and used for more than just the window illusion. I enjoy cutting odd shapes out of foam board to help shape the light. Kind of like this!
It's something you never think off with the normal flash reflectors. These fresnels become more diverse with everything you read/see about them. How is the smell of melting foam?;)
Originally Posted by cscurrier
The smell of melting foam isn't the best for sensitive noses :D but we used to use polystyrene ages ago which released cyanide gas when melted/burnt!!!! Although legend has it that cyanide "smells" like almonds you will forgive me if I never try to sample THAT one!!!!
When we had large areas of broad light that needed to be broken up I usually headed down to the local camping/army surplus shop near whatever studio we were shooting and buy a cheap "off-the-rack" camouflage net and stretch it on whatever frame would suit it's size and use that to get a more natural looking shadow too. Keeping in mind that a kookie look, if it remained sharp, would start to look obvious ...... as you move whatever light modifier towards the source and away from the set, the softer the shadow will look; subtlety being the operative word here although things like signs painted on windows, venetian blinds, window frames, "bad man" standing in the corner, creepy door opening slowly etc. etc. always look good with a hard shadow. Sometimes the shadows can tell the story – Hopper (the painter), Martin Lewis (etchings); also look up "chiaroscuro" in Wikipedia and check out the "Photography/Cinematography" section.
One last thought is what we use on stage – the profile spot. One can add gobo's to them to create patterns of light and shade on a surface ... the lamps can also be de-focussed to take the edge off them (http://www.rosco.com/gobos/). Cheers! :p Sam