What you need to know to pass the Final for Cinematography and Lighting course at the New School, taught by John Budde.
The circular rotating shutters spins open and closed one time per each frame of film. Each frame is pulled into position (along the raceway behind the camera aperture) by the pull-down claw while the shutter is closed. Then a registration pin engages a perforation in the film to hold the film in place while the shutter spins open to make the exposure. This sequence is repeated for each frame of film.
The amount of exposure time for each frame is a consequence of both the frame rate (frames per second or f.p.s.) and the angle of the shutter opening. With a normal opening of 180 degrees, and a normal frame rate of 24 f.p.s., our shutter speed is 1/48 second per frame, according to the following equation.
The convention is to have all similar items arranged, like military columns in rows extending from a wall out onto the floor. These usually include Century Stands, light standes with lamps heads attached (separate rows for each instrument type), and other items necessary.
Barn doors should be attached to the fron of the lamp heads. Scrims should be placed in pouches which are hung from a wing-nut on each instrument.
The purpose of this procedure is for reasons of efficiency, so that specific items can be accessed instantly as needed and so they are generally prepared and readied for application.
All lamphead power cables should be coiled and attached to the lamphead to the lamphead yolks until the lights are placed for lighting specific scenes.
All Stands should have their telescoping sections fully collapsed and locked until they are set up for shooting. This helps prevent the stand sections from slipping while being handled. the purpose is to prevent serious hand injuries.
Electrical cables, by their nature, have a tendency to coil. As lights are placed for actual shooting, the lamphead power cables should be uncoiled in such a way as to keep them as flat to the floor as possible. Extensions cables should also be treated. This is to prevent accidental tripping on unflattened coils.
Once a light is decidedly placed for the shot, the telescoping stand sections may be raised and locked into place by tightening the wing nuts on the stand sections. A sandbag should then be hung or placed on the stand near the bottom to prevent the stand from being accidentally knowcked over by a bump or by someone catching a foot or some hardware item in an un-flattened coil. Lamphead power cables should never be allowed to hang diagonally downward from an extended light stand. they should, rather, be hanging straight down to the floor. This prevents accidental tripping of snagging and consequential overturning of lights.
Leather work gloves prevent serious burns, and hand injuries (severe pinching and tearing of the skin) from a slipping stand section which is carrying the weight of a lamphead. They also help keep the hands clean,which can be so some importance when handling props, costumes, and other items which may be placed within the scenes.
Century Stands should be handled in the same manner, with one very serious addition consideration. Because Century Stands are used for holding mental-framed flags, nets, silks, cuckalorises, and open frames, oftentimes extended an an outward angle from the vertical stand, the potential for an upset is greatly increased.
It is therefore essential that C stands be properly sandbagged and …most importantly..that wing nuts on the knuckles of the head and gobo arms be orientated in such a way that they will only tighten if the extended weight they hold should cause the knuckles to begin slipping.
If this is done incorrectly, they extended weight can cause the knuckles to open, in which case the item being held, along with the extended gobo arm may come crashing down. Because these stands and arms are made of steel, there is a potential for serious or even fatal injury.
The correct procedure is to place your body behind the stand and to adjust all wing nuts on the head and knuckles so that they are on your right side (from you perspective as you are working with the stand). This will insure they are holding, that same weight will serve to tighten the knuckles rather then lossen them. This is a most serious safety issue and one which must be understood and implemented for the well-being of all.
A C-Stand is one of the most versatile stands on set, used to position scrims and small light fixtures.
A 20″ C-Stand and a 40″ C-stand. 20″ C-stands are sometimes called “Gary Coleman’s,” although the term has been deemed inappropriate since Gary’s passing and is rarely used.
C-stands are seen on almost every film or video shoot and are most often used to position flags, nets or silks in front of the a light source. They are also used to position small light fixtures (generally 650watt or smaller) using the extended grip arm. A great example is placing a small hairlight behind and actor – the C-stand is set up off frame and the grip arm is extended horizontally, just above the frame line. These are some of the vitually limitless uses for this versatile stand.
You can see C-stands being used to position a cutter, 4×4 floppy and a 24″x36″ silk
in the left part of the frame.
Standard Base – Standard base C-Stands are permanently attached to the riser and are opened by loosening the locking knuckle and rotating the stand counterclockwise. Gravity will pull the legs into their locking pins. Tighten the locking knuckle to secure the legs. These bases are the most stable.
- Rocky Mountain Leg – Some C-Stands feature one leg that can slide up the riser so the stand can be leveled on uneven terrain. A great example of using a rocky mountain leg is when setting a c-stand on steps – place two legs on the lower step and the rocky mountain leg on a higher step.
Turtle Base – Some C-Stands feature removable, spring-loaded bases. To open, always start with the smallest of the three legs and work your way to the largest, ensuring each leg locks in place. One benefit of turtle-base C-stands is that the riser can be removed from the junior female receiver so you can rig a light or grip rig close to the ground. This is especially beneficial if you need so set-up a Kino-Flow under the camera lens to create an eye-light.
Be careful when using spring-loaded bases. If the weight is not properly distributed, the stand can collapse the legs.
Always postion the base so the largest of the three legs is positioned directly below the weight.
One trick to determining whether a C-stand base is permanent or spring loaded is to look under the center of the base. If there’s a large bolt, it’s a spring-loaded base. If the center shaft is hollow, it’s a gravity-lock base.
This is the turtlebase removed from the C-stand riser. Notice the collaped legs on the base, allowing for easy transport.
A removable, opened turtlebase.
The turtlebase features a standard junior receiver, so you can mount larger light sources, or use a junior-to-baby pin adapter to mount lights and grip gear with 5/8″ baby receivers.
A rocky mountain leg
- Always make sure the weight is positioned so that the knuckle tightens itself When facing the knuckle, always position the weight at 12-6 o’clock.
- Always place a sandbag on the legs of a C-Stand to ensure stability. As a general rule of thumb, add one sandbag for ever riser you use. For example, if you use one riser, use one sand bag. Use two sandbags for two risers, and three sandbags for three risers.
- When using a grip arm, never position the arm at face level as the pointy end can cause injury on set.
- If necessary, place a tennis ball or an empty water bottle on the end of the arm to protect the crew from injury.
- When working on a high-quality floor, cut an X-shaped slit in a tennis ball and slide it onto each of the C-Stand’s feet as protection.
- When handing a C-Stand to another person, always grasp the riser AND the grip arm. If your hand is only around the riser and the other person grabs the riser and grip arm, your fingers will be crushed like a nut in a nutcracker.
- Always position the weight over the largest leg to ensure the greatest stability.
Let’s look at how these lighting angles come together to light a scene with several actors interacting. The scene shown in Figure 5.6 shows Andy standing opposite Babette and Camile. Babette and Camile are lit with a strong soft key light from the left. The first shot is a master that holds all three actors in a three-shot with camera positioned as illustrated. With Babette looking left to Andy, the key light hits Babette’s face as a nice far-side key. Camile faces more toward the key light. It illuminates most of her face. The key light does not light Andy’s face at all, his back is to it, but we carve out his profile with the three-quarter backlight from the right. This backlight is also creating an edge around the camera-right side of Babette’s and Camile’s heads and clothing.
A small amount of fill light is required to keep the side of the faces visible to the camera from going totally black; however, the fill light’s intensity must be very carefully controlled to get detail in the faces without overfilling. The fill light is drawn as a soft light; the fill light for a large night exterior is often made by bouncing light into a 12 x 12-ft white griff or provided by ambient light from an overhead light such as a balloon light. Similarly, the key lights might actually be large lights placed far from the action, often mounted in an aerial lift platform to light a larger area. In any case, the back cross-light is created with more or less the angle of light drawn here.
In addition to lighting the acting positions, we want to consider the lighting in the overall composition: the furniture and surfaces, the walls and architecture, the wall art and set dressing, and the exterior visible through windows buildings, trees, or backdrops. In a small set, the key lights may illuminate the set and very little further treatment may be needed. If you are trying to preserve nice contrast in the shot, it is often best to be selective when adding light to the background. Light tends to build up on backgrounds and can start to flatten everything out. The gaffer looks for ways to break up the background or create variation, gradation, or specific highlights. If a scene takes place in a set with lots of windows, it is natural to scrape a slash of sunlight across the far wall, and across the furnishings. Large Fresnels or PARs are commonly placed outside windows for this purpose. Alternatively, the light from the windows might be made to emulate soft skylight, using large diffusion frames or bounces. At night, window light might be amber sodium vapor streetlight, or blue moonlight.Another treatment of the background is to create pools of light throughout a set. The background may be lit with practicals. In a set with lots of desks or a restaurant full of tables, each table might get its own top light (from an ellipsoidal spotlighthung overhead for example). If there is art on the walls, the gaffer might highlight each piece with a “special.” If the walls are painted a dark color, the gaffer might wash light either upward from the bottom or down from above to create pools or scallops of light.Ambience
Ambience is general fill throughout the set (as opposed to the fill specifically for the actors’ faces). All the light aimed into the set bounces around to some extent to create a level of ambient light. But sometimes the setting requires a higher, more even level of ambient light. This is commonly accomplished with overhead soft lights such as coops, space lights, or large fluorescent fixtures hung above set. For a living room set, one overhead fixture is more than enough; for larger sets, it is common to hang rows of spacelights. Any large public space, like a courtroom, corporate office, or a classroom might need to be treated in this way. Exterior portions of sets (that are built on a sound stage) often require a significant amount of ambient light to emulate skylight. Wherever it is used, it is important to be able to adjust the brightness of the ambient light, so these lights are typically controlled remotely either on dimmer, or by having separate control of the circuits each light fixture. On smaller sets, it may be helpful to fit the fixtures with lower wattage lamps (500 W instead of 1000 W, for example) to get an appropriate range of output for the small space. Ambiance for a small set can also be created using china balls or by simply bouncing light into the ceiling, or into a large frame of white griffolyn.Backdrops
A translight is essentially a gigantic photograph. On a sound stage, the scene outside the windows is very often a translight or scenic backing (painted backdrop). Day and night translights are commonly used depicting a backyard, the view from a high-rise office building, or what have you. The backing is usually backlit or frontlit with sky pans on 8-ft. centers. The main objective when lighting backings is to make the light even from one side to another. Backings are often hung from track, so the backing can be moved back and forth depending on the camera angle. The lights have to extend the length of the track. Often the gaffer will set some special lights on the backing to help bring it to life. For example, a night backing often shows buildings with lit windows. These can be made to look like an undulating television glow by isolating the window and hitting it with a blue-gelled light connected to a flicker generator. A translight that shows a body of water can be made to shimmer using rotating gobos or moving lights effects.
The key light is the most important light on set. It’s purpose isn’t just to illuminate the actor, but to help accentuate the emotion of the character in each and every scene. When looking at the key light, there are two major factors to consider: What direction does the key light come from, and how much does it wrap around the face?
- Direction – The direction of the key light is often guided by the direction of the ambient light on set, although the key light can be placed practically anywhere. As a general rule of thumb, try to avoid placing the light close to the axis of the lens. This will fully illuminate the front of the actor, wiping out the natural shadows that contour and shape the face. The result is neither flattering nor glamorous. The general guide is to position the key light roughly 45 degrees to the left or right of the axis of the camera lens… but how far?
- Wraparound – Sometimes a key light can be the harsh, untreated fixture, or it is heavily diffused. The degree of diffusion and wraparound depends heavily on the type of actor being lit and the overall cinematic look.
- Women (beauty/glamorous look) – Position a large key light such as a 2,000 watt tungsten, or a 1.2k HMI slightly more frontal than usual about 6-8 feet away from the actor, and raise the key light roughly 12″ above her eye line. Clip light diffusion like opal or 250 and 1/4 CTO (to warm up the light) to the barndoors. Then place a 6×6 heavy diffusion like gridcloth or bleached muslin 3-4 feet from the actor. This lighting tends to accentuate the cheek bones , lips and chin while filling in wrinkles around the eyes. Combined with a light pro-mist filter in front of the lens, this lighting is very flattering to women.
- Women (Standard look) – Try using a Kino-Flo wrapped with opal, and place 45 degrees from the lens axis. Then, place a 4’x4′ frame of 250 diffusion to further soften the light. This light, while slightly harsher than the beauty lighting tends to bring out more of the texture of the face, and creates a large eyelight.
- Men – (Standard look) – Use a 1k tungsten light through a 4’x4′ frame of 250 diffusion just off the lens axis as the main key light, then, add another 1k tungsten light through 4×4′ 250 frame focusing on the same side, but closer. This “stacked” key light approach creates a realistic look that both sculpts the face without accentuating wrinkles or skin imperfections.
- Men and Women (Sculpted) – An outstanding technique, especially when the actor’s eyeline is far from the lens access it to illuminate the far side of the actor’s face with a high, focused key. Assuming the actor is looking frame right, set up a 1,000w tungsten light through a frame of 250 diffusion just to the right of the camera. Then place a 650w tungsten light with 250 clipped to the barndoors focusing on the left side of the actor’s face. Raise the light so it is 2-3 feet above the actor’s eyeline. Notice how the key almost serves as a rim light, bringing out the contours and shape of the actors face. This lighting setup also creates an outstanding eyelight.
- Bouncing the Key – The key light doesn’t always need to be directly focused onto the subject. Some of the most beautiful light is reflected, and one of the most common ways to do this is by using a piece of 4’x4′ bead board, available at your local hardware store. The soft beaded texture of this styrofoam creates a soft diffused light without a lot of specularity.
- Low Ambience – For creating a key in low light situations, set-up a 1,000w or 2,000w light on a turtlebase with a 5/8″ baby pin adapter and focus it straight up into a 4×4 beadboard mounted at a 45 degree angle. Control the softness of the light by spotting or flooding the light source, and by walking the bead board closer or farther from the subject.
- High Ambience – For environments with high ambience, place the light fixture on a baby stand at eye level and aim it across the axis of the camera lens into a beadboard placed at a 45 degree angle. The light can be positioned as close as the outside edge of the frame, although a lenser may be necessary to reduce any reflection of the light source onto the camera lens.
- UltraBounce – To create an even softer key light, focus a large light source into a 6’x6′ UltraBounce. Although the light output won’t be as great as if the light were directly focused onto the subject, the reflected light will be softly wrapped around the subject, especially if the 6×6 is walked closely to the subject. Combine this tech with an additional key light coming from the side to add a little more edge to the look.