Monthly Archives: April 2005

Just A List

It’s done. I’ve taken on another short film. This one is currently enjoying the title The Adventure Golf Guy and you can even read the script online. We’re planning to film it next weekend. Hopefully the snow will have cleared by then. And today we have auditions. And tonight I’m meeting with the writers of the feature film I’m developing. And last week, well that was very very busy…

The Word Of Spike

On Thursday, I went to a lighting workshop hosted by Anthony ‘Spike’ Simms at the Detroit Film Center. Here’s some bullet points of things he talked about which I thought were cool:

Shooting a feature film on a Panasonic DVX100 can look really great. Spike showed us some rushes he’d done using this miniDV camera with 35mm lenses attached through an adapter. These were snow scenes at night shot at 24P. He’d got great contrast by increasing the black levels, past normal broadcast standards. I think he said it was an increase of 10%.

Spike had also shot blue for daylight and used white for night on the same feature. This seemed counter-intuitive at first because blue light is often used to represent moonlight (except for Sacha Vierny, who apparently prefers pale green). However, blue daylight worked really well. Perhaps it’s because we’re all used to seeing blue daylight on camcorders and digital stills cameras that have been set up for tungsten. Spike got the blue daylight feel by white balancing for tungsten. He did this by holding an orange gel (CTO) in front of the lens then white balancing, then removing the gel.

Kinoflo supplies “super blue” tubes for creating an even light on blue screens.

Household domestic circuits are usually rated 15 amps in the US. As power (Wattage) equals Volts x Amps, that gives 1650W of power available on the 110V supply. 1500W to be on the safe side. Playing it even safer means aiming to plug in only up to around 1000W of light on a single circuit (if it’s being used for other things like computers, kettles, hair driers, etc). 15A seems pretty low to me coming from the UK. Now I know to split the load more even with my small light kit.

Backlight coming from different sides of the subject is sometimes refered to by different names. A “liner” refers to a lamp on the key light side, an “edge light” refers to a light on the fill side. They’re often confused and no one is expected to remember.

Bouncing light from low surfaces, including floors, can look really nice, particularly for fill light. The effect is like sunlight streaming through a window and hitting the floor then bouncing around a room.

Pegs can be used to break up light if you put them on a barn door. Black wrap works even better. I already use black wrap (or “cinefoil” as Spike said it’s also called) but I’ve never thought of using clothspins.

Warm colors advance, cool colors recede. Spike demonstrated this by pointing out that an unlit white wall appeared blue on the TV monitor. Then he lit someone in front of the wall, but kept the wall unlit. The subject was warmer in tone and “popped” out of the background. Then Spike took same half CT blue and put it on the light. The subject blended more with the background and the shot looked more natural. Then he showed us an orange gel on the same light. The subject popped out of the background even more. Useful effect.

I noticed that Spike never moved a key lamp around to reduce or increase intensity once he’d put it in place. Instead he added more diffusion and/or neutral density to them to control the light. This meant that he set his key light up to control the angle and position of the light first, then worked on the intensity second. Nice.

Michigan has two main lighting rental companies for film/video. These are Detroit Power and Light (DPL) and Midamerica Cinesupport. Both of these can supply gels, spare bulbs and other stuff.

Spike started off as a PA then became a boom operator (sound assistant). He said this is an ideal place to start on sets because you get to observe everyone else doing their job and you actually need to be informed about what’s going on (framing, blocking, lighting, etc).

Lighting dark skin tones against bright blue sky is much harder than it looks because of the extreme contrast. Bouncing light with reflector boards is a really good solution.

If you can’t afford a crane to place a large lamp up high for a moonlit night scene, then choose a location that’s in a valley with high sides. Works great.

Those were things I thought were the most interesting during the evening. Other people made a ton of notes and no doubt found out different things. I’ve also posted this over on the Cinema Slam Forums.