Monday, 2 December 2013

Writing with light

Grab from John Water's comedy ... Cecil B. Demented.

A few tips and terms to be familiar with when shooting video is always a bonus from an amateur underground filmmaking blog like snuffboxfilms. I can't say that I'm the most technical person on the planet, but I try and make sense of what is needed in order to understand the processes to a degree but regularly often find myself corrected more often than not by those who really grasp this stuff, and sometimes by those who have a little too much time on their hands concerning the nitty gritty of the technical over the richness and originality of the content. But courses for horses, or is it horses for courses? Whichever horse or course it may be, I hope that a bit of a write up on the methods here would be beneficial. This link will take you to Cinemacuteo, a Spanish site run for Guerilla Filmmakers and Video Artists.

Basic three-point lighting is useful for any formal video capture. That is where you use a back light, a fill light, and a key light, but when shooting "out and about" or on the fly where lighting equipment may not be available, you may need to be a little more creative with your lighting methods.

Here are a couple of lighting tricks that may help you expose your images correctly.

Use a white board instead of side lighting to diffuse the glare.

Use a reflector (reflective surface) as fill light for the whole shot.

Open the blinds. Use light from outside to adjust the lighting you are stuck with inside.

Use a back light to balance the direct light. If you overcast your back light with the subject and set your exposure for the darker areas, you will smooth out any harsh glares.

Learn to wrap your light or shadows around your subjects. It will make the image more dynamic but be aware of why you are doing it; mood, highlight, atmosphere, practicality.

Use a "Snoot" as spotlight to brighten a particular part of the frame. Snoots can be made from cardboard and rolled up to form a tunnel of which can be attached to any light you are using.

Set your Gain and Iris controls accordingly and keep the camera on manual focus. 

Also keep in mind the relationship between light and colour in your images, think about whether or not your lighting decisions will reflect, absorb, or transmit. This will determine the intensity and effect that your colours take on.

Here are some good sites that explore aspects of artificial lighting on objects, transparencies, and coloured filters.

Science Animations.

Lighting Simulator

Three Point Lighting Simulator

Your depth of field is the relationship between the foreground, background and the sharpness of your subject. You can measure your depth of field by adjusting the aperture or changing the lens type on the camera (Focal Lengths). The more coalesced the lens iris the greater the depth of field (That's when you increase your f-stop - higher f-stops). There are other methods for calculating depth of field but most of you at this stage may just want to try out the basics, and that is how far away you are from the subject and adjusting your aperture.

To understand the properties of depth of field we need to know a little about what is know as the circle of confusion which is the radius of acuity within our viewing distance. The circle of confusion is relative to light and film sensitivity, it reveals how much focus we can have on the area that is beyond the depth of field due to light reflection coming into the camera lens. You might want to explore the circle of confusion further yourself and a COC calculator can be found here. When you are working with higher end video cameras (i.e. more expensive ones), you can adjust the COC accordingly.

Back to depth of field. To manually configure your depth of field options, you might like to try out the Depth of Field calculator. To understand better or in visual simple terms depth of field, here is a video tutorial by Snodart on the subject of DOF.

The hyperfocal distance is another element needing to be considered when examining the depth of field. It is determined by half the focal point to infinity.

A virtual depth of field simulator can be found on Liquid Sculpture.

Gray Card and White Card from ClubSNAP.

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