Monday, September 5, 2011

20 Lights

Over at Blood Sweat and Tedium they talk of many things. Specifically they talk of using upwards of 20 lights on a standard 3-wall swing set in TV.
20? Really?
Yeah.
Now, my background as a DP is without any doubt pretty weird. I mean, I started as a sound guy for crying out loud. And although I've done TV with some excellent Lighting Directors, I've never really done TV except as a sound mixer.
But this I know, and know quite well: television engineers are conservative. I don't mean politically. Politically the EIC's I've known have been all-the-freak over the place. But lighting-wise they're mighty conservative.
And either as a consequence of, or resulting from, people who make TV really like some brightly-lit, no shadows anywhere-type lighting.
That's arguably what makes sit-coms look like sit-coms. They're lit up the wazoo. With, like, you know, 20 lights on a 3-wall swing-set.
Robin Kurtz in Earthkiller.
I'm not entirely sure, but I'd be surprised if we ever had as many as a dozen lights on a set. Including practicals and lighting a blue screen. I do enjoy lighting entirely with practical lights -- but doing the kind of sci-fi we do that usually means we have these florescent tubes we've bought at Home Depot and are hanging them at eye level. That kind of lighting is gratuitous and amusing and ultimately vastly easier to do than lighting everything "flat" the way they tend to do in TV.
And you know when they talk about 20 instruments they're talking big, boss instruments. 1K's are considered "small" around those parts.
I forget whether we had a 1K in this shot of Robin Kurtz in Earthkiller. Whatever is whumping her face is an incandescent -- probably Brian's 1K but it could be a 500-watt we borrowed. That rim lighting on her is all practical florescents.
This is the kind of thing that drives many TV people insane. The luminance values on her face go from tippity-top over 100% clipping down to no-detail-blacks (in her hair.) There's a light source in the shot. There's a flare!
But hey, I like the way it looks. You may too.
The point is. Oh heck, I don't know what the point is. The point is I wish I had 20 big lights. ;-)

7 comments:

psa said...

while i await delivery of my new cheapo used lights i shall amuse myself by imagining a gritty sci-fi action flick shot sit-com style.

Andrew Bellware said...

It's all about the haze machine, really. Le Maitre http://www.lemaitre.co.uk/ baby!

DAVID FREY said...

I want 20 lights. I want 50 lights. I would use all 50 at once, but never wide open, just 50 little slivers of light to paint the perfect ridley-ish, film noire heaven.
P.S. that cheapo set of Arri knock offs I bought stink. They kind of work like they're supposed to, but they are not even close to the real thing.

Andrew Bellware said...

How about one of those big incandescent 9-bangers with a huge gobo instead? ;-)

DAVID FREY said...

oh yeah! have you seen the LEDs Arri is coming out with. I almost lost it, they are soooooo cool.

Andrew Bellware said...

Don't you want to buy them and then bring them to our set to light for us? ;-)

DAVID FREY said...

I hope some day I have it like that. oooooooh man, the color temp control, with tint control, as well as color gel control. You would never have to cut a gel again with those things.