Shooting the dark bedroom

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rick.lang

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Shooting the dark bedroom

PostTue Aug 13, 2019 4:15 pm

In a few days I’ll be shooting a bedroom scene that is intended to be quite dark. Unfortunately I don’t get to do a site visit to know room dimensions, windows, doors etc. The actual room though I understand is on the dark side in an older home.

The real sunset will be before 8:30 pm. I asked to arrive on set at 7:30, but was told 8 pm. Leaves so little time to bring in equipment, set some light, determine angles etc.

All that is to let you know I’m under time pressure and must move quickly. The film has been ProRes so far but I’m considering using CinemaDNG on the URSA Mini 4.6K or BRAW Q0 on the BMPCC4K so I’ll be able to manipulate light levels with greater confidence in post. I think in cramped quarters the BMPCC4K is easier to manage since dynamic range in a dimly lit room is not an issue (the source of any light will not be in frame).

On the URSA I could use either the Tokina 11-20mm T2.9 or SLR Magic APO 25mm T2.1 shooting ISO 800. Using the BMPCC4K, due to the close quarters and the ‘crop’ factor, it’s pretty much using the Tokina 11-20mm shooting ISO 3200.

Looking for any recommendations or other advice. Need to decide by Friday.


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John Griffin

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Re: Shooting the dark bedroom

PostTue Aug 13, 2019 4:49 pm

In any low light situation the BMPCC4k is going to be a better choice than the URSA.
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Gabe Darvas

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Re: Shooting the dark bedroom

PostTue Aug 13, 2019 4:51 pm

I think it really depends on the scene and context :-)

You can shoot a horror/drama etc with 1 light only and lots of shadows... But for a light-hearted romantic comedy you need way more lights...
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javier forza

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Re: Shooting the dark bedroom

PostTue Aug 13, 2019 5:02 pm

After set the camera angle, add a general soft light before the specific ones to objects or talents.
A light to the roof/ ceiling it's enough. Or a " China ball", the cheap with paper.

Love scenes, night scenes, are better with more light and you could dark in post very easy.

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rick.lang

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Re: Shooting the dark bedroom

PostTue Aug 13, 2019 7:23 pm

John Griffin wrote:In any low light situation the BMPCC4k is going to be a better choice than the URSA.


This will be my first client shoot in BRAW then. Thanks, John.


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rick.lang

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Re: Shooting the dark bedroom

PostTue Aug 13, 2019 7:26 pm

Gabe Darvas wrote:... You can shoot a horror/drama etc with 1 light only and lots of shadows...


This is a drama and I think I’ll either bounce a light off the ceiling or a wall and perhaps both to get an slight edge of light. Thanks, Gabe.


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rick.lang

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Re: Shooting the dark bedroom

PostTue Aug 13, 2019 7:31 pm

javier forza wrote:... Love scenes, night scenes, are better with more light and you could dark in post very easy.

Regards!


Agreed, but there won’t be much light as I’ll likely have only one window letting in some twilight or the producer may want any window covered. I’ll argue to leave the light coming from the window which is necessary just to follow focus and assure her the scene in the film will be plenty dark in post. Thanks, Javier.


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David Hutchinson

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Re: Shooting the dark bedroom

PostTue Aug 13, 2019 7:41 pm

Arrive at 7.30 anyway....look through the window and try and come to some decisions. Get your lights ready outside if possible to move straight in.
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Re: Shooting the dark bedroom

PostTue Aug 13, 2019 8:55 pm

You've got no time to light. China balls can provide a very pleasing soft light. Put it on a pole and anybody can hold it up where it's needed.

If not that, maybe practicals with shades (lamps), with photofloods if necessary. Roger Deakins claims he routinely shoots Coen brother's night interiors with nothing but practicals, so maybe the unwashed can do it too.
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Re: Shooting the dark bedroom

PostTue Aug 13, 2019 10:50 pm

How dark we talking, are you supposed to simulate pitch black, or it supposed to feel like it’s night
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Re: Shooting the dark bedroom

PostTue Aug 13, 2019 10:59 pm

Hmmm I would work initially as if you will have no window light. And just just hope you can get a couple shots with that light before it all goes to practicals, as I’m sure it would look pretty. The pocket is incredible in low light, but even with a great low light lens like a Voigtlander you’ll have to mind tight focus on open aperture. Practicals should be enough.If you’re shooting Braw anyway, you might as well cheat the look on set in camera by sliding the color temperature cooler. Watch a couple night scenes from films you like. I personally like the kind of lighting that is Rembrandt style V light over the bridge of the nose for the subjects. I would shoot at a slightly open aperture/ or higher iso than what looks good, so that you can cut it out later in post by bringing the shadows more to black. Watch out for spill on white walls and other highlight areas like bedsheets- if you shoot on a tripod it can help in post to add vignetting to minimize spill but better to control it in scene.


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rick.lang

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Shooting the dark bedroom

PostWed Aug 14, 2019 4:44 am

All good ideas. It’s well after midnight so night but not pitch black in the city. The year is 1919 so trying to keep practicals to a minimum. Perhaps none visible in frame.

Edit
Shoot has been delayed one time week. Better to prepare and test somethings. But I have several things to finish next week... no rest for the wicked.

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Re: Shooting the dark bedroom

PostWed Aug 14, 2019 5:08 am

Good you have time to test - prep will be everything! Main thing to remember is it doesn't have to be dark to look dark i.e you are better off making it look dark in the grade with a full tonal range to play with than bouncing off the noise floor at high ISO in a dark room that looks dark to your eyes. I do a lot of night shooting and one thing to be very aware of is how digital and our eyes diverge in perception in low light levels. So what may look nice and atmospheric on set with your eyes could end up looking just the opposite in the footage. Of critical importance also is that underexposed skin tones look pretty horrible.
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Re: Shooting the dark bedroom

PostWed Aug 14, 2019 3:14 pm

Great news that you’l be able to light! I’d definitely try to shoot exposed properly then, as if you are doing day. And I’d check the what the effect might look like using with monitor brightness and color temperature before rolling Looked over some other details from past day for night bedroom shoots. And I noticed something else I’ll be paying more attention to in the future.... In a recent shoot we used evening light through a diffused curtain, my subjects face got a little oily/sweaty. It was hard to catch on the monitor. But in post it caused a slight highlights gleam that reads inconsistent with the night look.



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Denny Smith

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Re: Shooting the dark bedroom

PostWed Aug 14, 2019 5:17 pm

Unless they just had a good time (sex)... :roll:
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Re: Shooting the dark bedroom

PostThu Aug 15, 2019 12:04 am

FWIW, just shot some test footage on location for a very dark UV photoshoot. Used the P4K at 3200ISO, dropped to 1250 in DR, no regrets whatsoever. 0.71x focal reducer, 24mm Rokinon @ T1.5. Just a tad of NR was all that was needed.
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Re: Shooting the dark bedroom

PostThu Aug 15, 2019 5:45 am

Thanks for all the wise words. I’m the one constantly reminding the producer I need light and can make it look like night. Faces don’t do well with very low light.

Well my challenge is shooting without a focal reducer using a T2.9 lens. So I am capturing about 3 stops less light that the UV shoot. Glad it went well for you, but I need 3 stops more light in the room to match those results. I’ve been watching light levels around sunset here and I believe I need to be shooting earlier than 8:30 pm if only using something from a window as general fill. I’ll do a test though and work on the producer to start the shoot earlier.


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Re: Shooting the dark bedroom

PostThu Aug 15, 2019 5:47 am

mwalker1000 wrote:FWIW, just shot some test footage on location for a very dark UV photoshoot. Used the P4K at 3200ISO, dropped to 1250 in DR, no regrets whatsoever. 0.71x focal reducer, 24mm Rokinon @ T1.5. Just a tad of NR was all that was needed.


Did you shoot BRAW Q0 or a fixed bitrate?


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Re: Shooting the dark bedroom

PostThu Aug 15, 2019 8:48 am

Q0 this time. You're in a pickle for sure at T2.9 in the dark. I wish you luck.
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rick.lang

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Shooting the dark bedroom

PostThu Aug 15, 2019 6:13 pm

Agreed, makes me think I’ll use the T2.1 APO 25mm and fake the widescreen with a crop of the 4K frames or use the 32mm with my 1.33x-65 Anamorphot for a legitimate widescreen like the rest of the movie. I’ll test that shortly using my bedroom with falling light levels.

But at least using the BMPCC4K will help. And good you were using Q0 as I think that is called for this time.

The advantage of using the Tokina is that it has more witness marks and they’re accurate so I can focus with the side of a measuring tape. With the APO, it’s best to confirm visually. Not an issue with lots of light as the focus peaking ‘sees’ well, but in low light that is less reliable. I think I’ll shine a bright light when I want to focus and then kill the light when shooting.


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Re: Shooting the dark bedroom

PostThu Aug 15, 2019 6:33 pm

Denny, I don't see you mentioning any lights. Don't you have lights? Are you only using available light?

I've never seen anyone shoot a room at night with only practical lights (lamps) and have it turn out ok. If you have lights to add to the scene, you should be good to go.
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Re: Shooting the dark bedroom

PostThu Aug 15, 2019 6:49 pm

I’ll see, David. I can bring more practical lights that will not be in the frame and bounce light. I get your point though. I’ll see if I can bring a Cinema light.


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Re: Shooting the dark bedroom

PostThu Aug 15, 2019 6:56 pm

As contradictory as it sounds you need to create the sense of darkness with lighting.
Time is not on your side you say.
Those who have advocated for an overall illumination with e.g. china balls are on the right path. Add some steel colour gel to this.This will fill in the shadow areas.
To this you add accent lights. Hard warm light motivated from a source can add atmosphere. If there is no actual source in the room make one up off camera. As you suggested moonlight through imaginary window (if not established in shot).
If you light bright and work at a higher F stop your shadows will be deeper.

1919 is an interesting challenge. What imaginary light source existed at that time?
Don't get hung up on your hardware.
Just because you have a camera that can see in the dark does not mean that it will create atmosphere. It can work fine for documentaries and news but not for story telling.
This is movie making not real world. Let the imagination play.
I am sure that I do not need to tell you this but I will anyway, imagine what the shot should look like and then think on how to light it with what you have.
I hope that you enjoy the journey. Imagination is a wonderful thing.
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rick.lang

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Shooting the dark bedroom

PostThu Aug 15, 2019 7:32 pm

In 1919 in the city, electricity was likely not widespread. The producer wants lights to simulate (kerosene) oil or gas which would still prevalent. So strings of Christmas lights won’t help here.

My mother’s father was an electrician beginning about that time, but I was very young when he died and never really thought about these things as a young child. I have no relatives from that era to ask, so I’ll take the word of the director and producer that I shouldn’t be using electrical lights in frame. And at ‘night’ no lamp would be left burning anyway. So it is difficult with only suggestions of light. I think I’ll ask her to carry a candle into the room.

You know in this industry, they pretty much just throw you in the water at the deep end and you sink or you learn to swim!


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Re: Shooting the dark bedroom

PostThu Aug 15, 2019 7:50 pm

Hi Rick

Do you have a breakdown of the scene?
As you suggest, does a character enter? Bringing a light source with them.

Are you playing the scene in a wide shot?
How long is the scene?

If you can introduce/motivate a light source it will help you a whole lot.
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rick.lang

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Shooting the dark bedroom

PostThu Aug 15, 2019 8:32 pm

I’ll do a wide shot to begin with a closer shot to close. Or do a series of closer shots that might be more interesting. There will be time hopefully to do it twice. But if not it would be the wider angle first, then closeup(s). A wide sets the scene but the closeups show the emotion.

The husband is sleeping. The wife enters the room (where I think it’s reasonable she carries a light), disrobes, slips into the bed. She’s inebriated so it’s reasonable she would forget to blow out the candle or lamp. Of course it’s in a broader complicated context but that’s not important here.

Many years ago my family had an oil lamp that I wish I had now.


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Re: Shooting the dark bedroom

PostThu Aug 15, 2019 9:23 pm

You can use the convention of ambient moonlight coming through a window, even if you do not establish the window. That too can be your motivation for direction of light. We are talking about a world of make believe. You should be permitted to use creative license.

As a rule we have accepted in the world of make believe that steel blue represents night.
A gobo pattern of a window on the floor or across the bed in the wide shot.

I do not know what tools you have but you could make something out of card and put a Fresnel through it to create the pattern.
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Re: Shooting the dark bedroom

PostFri Aug 16, 2019 5:32 am

rick.lang wrote:I’ve been watching light levels around sunset here and I believe I need to be shooting earlier than 8:30 pm if only using something from a window as general fill. I’ll do a test though and work on the producer to start the shoot earlier.


Rick, in your area, sunset is close to 2 minutes earlier each day this month. You can use this site to check sunset on your shooting day.

https://www.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/eng/services ... index.html

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Re: Shooting the dark bedroom

PostFri Aug 16, 2019 5:54 am

David Chapman wrote:Denny, I don't see you mentioning any lights. Don't you have lights? Are you only using available light?

I've never seen anyone shoot a room at night with only practical lights (lamps) and have it turn out ok. If you have lights to add to the scene, you should be good to go.


Yes David, I have lights, including a 5K Spot, someone wants to shoot at night to simulate Day, I can do that, breakout the 25K lights! :lol:

But actually, I try to shoot available light as much as possible, augmenting the scene with just enough light to get a good exposure, and still get the natural, available light look.

Rick, gas lights burn even and bright, I have an Aladian Gas light that is as bright as a 75- watt electrical practical light. A character walking around would likely be carrying an oil burner or candle light (Sconce type in a glass shade. You could get an LED candle light and put in into a Sconce candle holder to get the effect. Once the Candle/Oil light is on the table, you can increase the light on the characters in the bed, simulating the light from walk in light, this would be a warm light in contrast to the cool moon light coming in the window.

A150459F-A9E9-425B-AF84-B51BB06E318D.jpeg
A150459F-A9E9-425B-AF84-B51BB06E318D.jpeg (736.09 KiB) Viewed 1197 times

Here is what a scene lit by a gas or oil light in a mantle burner would look like to a camera, exposing for the light. But we see this light and we can see the table and it’s contents under it, but the camera sees black. So we need to increase the light on the table to let the camera see what we see, to get a natural looking scene. This is the tricky bit. In this case I would bounce a light off the ceiling to fill in the table spilling down from above.

But I agree Rick, you need to add light, even some bounce light to increase the overall luminance level in the room, then add some key lights to reflect the light being added by the walk in character. One trick I used to use when I started out, was to take a sheet, and stretch it in a frame,,and add some photo flood lamps behind it to create a softbox, giving a soft Northern sky light type look. This could be rigged using PVC pipe and elbow fittings, and place some 150-watt lamps behind it, or better yet, some blue looking light source to get a moon light effect, then a warm light to add for the candle/oil light she brings in. My baby spot would work for this, I could ship it up to you for the shoot, list it as a rental for customs. :roll:
Cheers.
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rick.lang

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Re: Shooting the dark bedroom

PostFri Aug 16, 2019 2:28 pm

No time really but thanks for the offer, Denny. That’s a good idea. Wayfair has a sconce that can sit on a table (most are wall mounted that won’t work for me). I’ll try and find something like that locally. What is exactly depicted in your picture?
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Re: Shooting the dark bedroom

PostFri Aug 16, 2019 3:22 pm

Rick, the lamp is an Aladdin paraffin lamp (no longer made) that has an electrical lamp “burner” in place of the paraffin mantle, I have this on a dimmer, so it is turned down from what it would look like at full brightness (60 watts). It is at about 30 watts in the photo, exposed for the light fixture, to approximate how it looks to the eye. However, getting the lamp to look correct, makes the table under it too dark looking in a photo, so addition spill fill lights needed on the table to make them match in the camera exposure.
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rick.lang

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Re: Shooting the dark bedroom

PostFri Aug 16, 2019 4:52 pm

Good news, the producer has two real oil lamps, one can be in frame and the other nearby to add to the light. And the room has large windows that I can cover to simulate moonlight and may provide ambient light. The moon is very bright at night now but unfortunately the shoot was delayed a week.

I’m also bringing other lights to help focus if needed and add some other out of frame modeling light.


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Shooting the dark bedroom

PostMon Aug 26, 2019 2:33 pm

The lowlight shoot is in the can! The producer is driving me nuts demanding I shoot a dark scene in the dark. We had arranged for lots of soft ambient lighting but she insisted on shooting one angle with one candle and one oil lamp and the other angle with only the candle and one practical on the floor out of frame but casting tungsten light as it it was from the candle. I think I’ll post a small part of that scene when I can next week so you be the judge.

I shot with the BMPCC4K in BRAW Q0, 24 fps, 360 degree shutter angle, ISO 3200, 3200K, Tokina 11-20mm at T2.9. No problem getting a decent image but not much ‘modeling’ of the light with only those scant sources.

In post I changed the ISO to 1250, 2750K, reduced exposure -1 stop, dropped shadows (primary log) -7-10, dropped mids -15, set highlights 56 to 70, left the offset at 25. In other words I considerably reduced the exposure to get where I needed to be for the grade.

The candle does not clip with highlight recovery selected as I brought the flame to around 800-900 which made me smile. That just puts the nail in the coffin for shooting ProRes on this film. With only 13 stops dynamic range from the sensor, it’s pretty nice the actual range you can have in post with BRAW.

Shooting in UHD to Deliver 2K probably also helps the Colour rendition I’m getting.

I’d call this a lowlight camera that can be used in most lowlight situations with confidence. I suppose that BRAW can be pushed with even less light, but experience has taught me, it’s better in post to pull than to push. Pulling light with a clean image does some beautiful things that reveals a more dramatic image than you can get pushing an exposure. Of course the great masters of painting knew this hundreds of years before digital film was invented.
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