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class="style8" Raising The Overall Light Level

>Published : 5th February 2005

>I have an upcoming documentary shoot in a nightclub. It involves a stage performance with audience participation, therefore I need to be able to capture both adequately. Early tests show the overall light level in the club to be way too low to get any kind of useful exposure anywhere except on stage, and even that is barely within the window. Were this anything other than a documentary I'd have no problem using whatever lighting I need. This particular job, however, requires that I consider the experience of the club audience -- it's a stage show first, documentary shoot second.

>I'm curious to know what suggestions people might have for raising the overall light level in the scene without upsetting the general ambiance of a stage show. I'm still waiting for the exact dimensions of the space from the club owners, but my best guess is about 25'x20' with 15'-20' ceilings.

>One thought that has already been suggested is to fly some heavy diffusion over the entire audience area and fire a few moderately-sized lights through it. I don't know -- what does everyone think?

>Thanks in advance.

>Milo Hyson
Chief Mad Scientist
CyberLife Labs/CyberLife Pictures


>Milo Hyson wrote:

class="style9">>One thought that has already been suggested is to fly some heavy >diffusion over the entire audience area and fire a few moderately-sized >lights through it. I don't know -- what does everyone think?

>Backlight the audience, so the light isn't in their eyes, and then put an Obi on the camera for close shots.

>I've also found a MagLite invaluable for this kind of thing.

>This will keep the feeling of the nightclub, and bother the audience as little as possible.

>Steven Gladstone
New York Based D.P.
www.gladstonefilms.com
East Coast CML List administrator


>Hey there Milo.

>For me a lot of what helps make the "nightclub experience" visual is when I can put spots of light behind people so that you create contrast, yet maintain the illusion of darkness.

>Then as Steven said - a small obie-ish, fluorescent, or even MagLite to fill things in here and there and see some eyeballs. If you have any control of the club lights and you can get some spot-lights or party lights to spill into the audience - intermittent lights give you glimpses of people without feeling like an overall bright ambience.

>Good luck and have FUN!

>Roderick E. Stevens II
Director -o- Photography
www.restevens.com


>Steven Gladstone writes:

class="style9">>I've also found a MagLite invaluable for this kind of thing.

>How do you mount it?

>Another option might be one of Sony's on-camera lights that has two independently switchable 20W lamps and uses a camcorder battery. You might add some weak diffusion to cut the glare a bit.

>Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA


>Something I did recently was to rig vinyl (actually vinyl shower curtain liners from Target, $2 each) over a set and aim lights down through it. The vinyl diffused the light nicely but still offered some control. The glowing section of the vinyl would give a little bit of spread but by and large if you doored the source off of an area then that area went pretty dark. The light that came through the vinyl was quite beautiful.

>You could aim lights at certain areas and get brighter spots while letting others go dark, and underexpose the whole thing a bunch. It'd probably work fairly well.

>There's an example of this on my web site at :

http://www.artadams.net/info/photos/

>It's not linked to my site right now because I realized that all the shots are of fairly small projects... which is all I've been getting since I acquired my new cell phone-with-camera. (Maybe it's time to get a new cell phone.) You can see the idea and consider whether it's applicable and adaptable to your case. That setup is the second one down, starting at picture #4.

>Can you rig dimmed-down backlights on the stage that are ostensibly for the band but actually end up giving the audience eyelights? A lot of dimmed-down par cans with warm gels probably aren't too hard to look into.

>Art Adams, DP [film|hidef|video]
San Francisco Bay Area - "Silicon Valley"
http://www.artadams.net/


>Dan Drasin wrote:

class="style10">>I've also found a MagLite invaluable for this kind of thing.

class="style10">> How do you mount it?

>I have found that the readily available articulated carpal-digital mount to be extremely flexible. In spite of the "Digital" buzzword usage, it is a great tool. Depending on the size and weight of the MagLite there is some fatiguing after a bit, but quickly articulating the mount through its entire range of motion seems to restore complete functionality. Truly an amazing piece of gear.

>The Flexible surface of the mount is pretty resistant to water penetration so it can be used in wet environments, although when wet, slippage may occur.

>Steven Gladstone
New York Based D.P.
www.gladstonefilms.com
East Coast CML List administrator


class="style10">>The light that came through the vinyl was quite beautiful.

>Although I have done this a few times myself, it may be best to stick with the professional products because of the low heat limitations of vinyl. The professional lines of diffusion are much more heat and fire resistant and there are similar products to vinyl.

>My 2 cents.

>Jim Sofranko
NY/DP


>Art Adams writes:

class="style10">>vinyl shower curtain liners from Target, $2 each

>Great idea, Art. Do they skew your color vis-a-vis grid cloth?

>Re: Jim S's concern about heat: I imagine that vinyl will first sag, then melt, then burn, so it's probably got a decent safety margin. But I'd suggest letting new vinyl outgas in the sun for a while before using it under hot lights or in small rooms -- that stuff's pretty nasty.

>>the shots are of fairly small projects... which is all I've been >getting since I acquired my new cell phone-with-camera.

>Better trade it on the new Panavision cell phone...

>Bounce lighting dept :

>Recently I had to do a couple of one-man-band shoots in Tucson because my co-producer Tim Coleman was over in London. (We shot a real-time transatlantic split screen phone call, which was pretty neat). Anyway, I couldn't deal with a lot of complex lighting under the circumstances and had to shoot this thing in a very cramped research-lab office. So I set up one 250W Rifa light (without its front diffuser) and aimed it at the ceiling corner just behind the camera and a bit to one side. The result was very clean and uniform, and looked like normal office lighting but without eye shadows and with better skin tones.

>And of course the Rifa is VERY quick to set up, and super-efficient because the bulb is completely surrounded by the reflector so no light is wasted.

>BTW, since the bulb has no safety glass cover I always check it for any signs of blistering, especially when using it without the diffuser.

>Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA


class="style10">>Great idea, Art. Do they skew your color vis-a-vis grid cloth?

>Not as best I can tell. No noticeable color shift.

class="style10">>Re: Jim S's concern about heat: I imagine that vinyl will first sag, then >melt, then burn, so it's probably got a decent safety margin.

>If you use fresnels, and nothing very big, it all works out fine. A dimly lit club doesn't need to be lit very brightly.

>Art Adams, DP [film|hidef|video]
San Francisco Bay Area - "Silicon Valley


class="style10">>If you use fresnels, and nothing very big, it all works out fine. A dimly lit >club doesn't need to be lit very brightly.

>You're probably right. And I've done it myself. The light levels don't need to be that high so most likely you won't have any problems. .

>My concern comes from safety and liability issues especially after the tragic nightclub fire in Rhode Island a few years ago. The foam sound insulation wasn't fireproof and the fire spread quickly. My feeling is to use diffusion material that is at least meant for the purpose for which you are using it. I wouldn't have as much of a concern if you were shooting in a more controlled environment such as a studio. But in a nightclub there is much less control and, therefore, less ability to predict the circumstances which could lead to a problem.

>In addition, the CML has many lurkers, some less experienced, who may find the idea appealing and be tempted to use it in other far more precarious situations. I simply don't know the temperature/burn characteristics the shower curtain. So I'm uncomfortable to publicly to endorse it's use when there are similar products available from reputable gel manufactures who have tested their product.

>That's all. I'll stop preaching now.

>My three cents....

>Jim Sofranko
NY/DP


class="style10">>That's all. I'll stop preaching now.

>No no, keep preaching. I've only used actual shower curtain vinyl in big spaces with lots of ventilation and dim lights (not over 650w, and fresnels). You make very good points, several of which I hadn't thought of.

>Art Adams, DP [film|hidef|video]
San Francisco Bay Area - "Silicon Valley"


>Jim Sofranko wrote :

class="style10">> That's all. I'll stop preaching now.

>Hey Jim, when it comes to safety, don't ever stop preaching, we will listen.

>Steven Gladstone
New York Based D.P.
East Coast CML List administrator


>>I'm curious to know what suggestions people might have for Raising >the overall light level in the scene without upsetting the general >ambiance of a stage show.

>First plan would be to raise the stage level if possible. It will be less noticeable to the audience if the stage is significantly brighter than the house. You are hosed if the stage set needs to be real dim for a mood thing.

>Second use the stage lights to "light the audience" . The backlights can be focused a little high so that there is a large amount of spill into the house. Current concert type lighting results in a lot of spill that people are used to,

>The use of break-ups and color is also effective way to light the audience.

>Richard Bakos
President
Studio One Inc.
25833 State Road 2
South Bend, In 46619-4736
www.StudioOnesb.com


>Thanks to all who responded. However, I realized that I forgot to specify probably the most important aspect of the problem: the camera setup.

>The main cameras will be on sticks behind the audience, looking over their heads at the stage. If we can swing it financially, we'd also like to have a camera down in the audience either hand-held or on a Steadicam. This means that, if we're only lighting from the stage, the majority of the audience will register completely black to the cameras -- exactly what we saw in our tests.

>Since the majority of our problem is behind the audience, and since I've recently been given the green-light to augment things as necessary, I think I'll experiment with firing some 2Ks through 4x4 diffusion near the fixed cameras. The club owners have given us any advance access to the facility we need, so I'll take advantage of that and play around a bit.

>Thanks again.

>Milo Hyson
Chief Mad Scientist
CyberLife Labs/CyberLife Pictures


class="style10">>The main cameras will be on sticks behind the audience, looking over >their heads at the stage. If we can swing it financially, we'd also like to >have a camera down in the audience either hand-held or on a >Steadicam

>This seems much simpler than when you first proposed the problem. If you're shooting mostly from the backs of the audience, then it seems that you're just interested in lighting the stage. How much fill you add to the audience is really just a matter of taste, or what's needed to carry out the scene.

>In "The Natural", Caleb Deschanel lit the Italian restaurant scene with standard base photofloods mounted on a long 1x4 strip of lumber. If I remember right, 25 bulbs mounted on the camera left side of the wall lit the scene. It was a very narrow room (approx. 15'x30') with virtually no room for floor lights, flags, etc.

>I bring to mind this setup because if you're interested in raising the fill level on the audience without blasting light into the audience, you could rig a strip of screw base bulbs overhead...add a dimmer... your all set.

>I think Rick Bakos made a good point when he suggested that stage ParCans can be aimed into the audience with no problem.

>Jack Cummings
Buffalo NY


class="style10">>I bring to mind this setup because if you're interested in raising the fill >level on the audience without blasting light into the audience, you could >rig a strip of screw base bulbs overhead...add a dimmer...your all set.

>Chinese lanterns could be hung overhead as well on a dimmer.

>Jim Sofranko
NY/DP