Sometimes you can’t appreciate how far you’ve come until you take a look at the road behind you. With the rapid advancements in film and video technology, it’s sometimes hard to believe that the motion picture industry is barely over 100 years old. I really enjoy studying history, including film history. One of the items in my collection is Edison – The Invention of the Movies (1891-1918), a DVD set of early short films. To me, it’s fascinating to watch these motion pictures to get a glimpse of people and places long since gone. Thanks to film, they are preserved forever, including the people in this 1922 Kodachrome film test. Kodachrome was Kodak’s long-standing brand of color reversal film, and (as the video’s opening title says) this footage is some of the earliest color film you will see.
Posts Tagged ‘color’
Twice this week I have been up all night working as the DP for Filament Artists’ latest short film, entitled “Love at the Grocery Store.” The screenplay was selected as the winner of the Production Prize at the 2008 Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival and will premiere at this year’s festival on September 26.
Shooting inside a grocery store has its particular set of challenges and so I wanted to pass along some things to remember if any of your projects take you inside the same environment.
LIGHTING & TONE
Most grocery stores are lit with fluorescents, meaning that everything will be washed with a flat, even, diffused light. If the tone of your piece calls for high-contrast lighting, you might want to see if the grocery store manager will allow you to turn off the overheads, giving you more freedom to light as you see fit. If this isn’t possible and you still want to create a surreal look with high-contrast, you can always light your subject with hard, direct light, that comes from the side, creating harsh shadows. The hard light will force you to stop down your f-stop. This should darken the background, while leaving your subject properly exposed.
Since fluorescent bulbs cast an even, diffused light, your subjects can come out looking drab, flat, and uninteresting. You will need some additional light to help create more natural skin tones and make colors that pop just a little more. However, reflectors alone won’t get the job done. They just won’t provide enough reflected light underneath fluorescent bulbs. And aiming a 1Kw or 650w tungsten at your actors will create an obvious difference in color and tone.
To give your shots a warmer look under fluorescent lighting, start by using your tungsten lamps and reflectors together. Mount a large piece of white foam core onto a c-stand and then bounce light from a 1Kw lamp onto your subject. The result is a soft, diffused light that isn’t overbearing, and yet one that warms up the scene a bit more. And I always recommend a little rim lighting to help your subjects stand out more from the background.
Bear in mind that the above solution assumes that you want a natural, warm tone for your project. If the mood of your film is a bit darker and somber, then you might like the sterile, flat, “blue” tone that the existing lights create.
LIGHTING & COLOR
Shooting under fluorescent lights can affect the white balance of your shot. If not properly monitored, the lights may cause the color of your shot to drift slowly from a cool tone to a warm tone, then back again.
However, I’d advise you to look back at our previous post for a more extensive look at shooting under fluorescents. To that article let me add that using a Kino light bank will be a big help. Kino’s do use fluorescent bulbs, but unlike the bulbs installed overhead in a grocery store, these bulbs burn at a constant color temperature. This will give your shots more accurate color representation while maintaining a consistent look with the rest of the lighting in the store.
Fluorescent lights might also appear green on camera. A green tone might work well for your project if the mood is more sinister and the location of your story more urban, decayed, or threatening.
Look for the comedy, “Love at a Grocery Store” at this year’s Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival. The screening is tentatively set for 9pm at the Alabama Power Building.
Color bars are a necessary reference tool for anyone in video production. They help technical directors, camera operators, and editors calibrate their equipment to ensure accurate color representation and consistency across cameras and monitors. Knowing how to use them is important. A few years ago, I found a great tutorial at Video University on how to adjust your video monitor using color bars. Be sure to bookmark the article for future reference.
Next, you will need to adjust the brightness and the contrast of the image by using the three narrow bars at the bottom right.
Notice the three narrow bars labeled 3.5, 7.5 and 11.5 on the bottom right. Adjust the brightness control until the middle (7.5 units) pluge bar is not quite visible. The lightest bar on the right (11.5 units) should be barely visible. If it’s not visible, turn the brightness up until it becomes visible.
Since 7.5 units is as dark as video gets, you should not see any difference between the left bar (3.5 units) and the middle bar (7.5 units). There should be no dividing line between these two bars. The only division you should see is between 11.5 and 7.5
The next step is to set the contrast control for a proper white level. To do so, turn the contrast all the way up. The white (100 unit) bar will bloom and flare. Now turn the contrast down until this white bar just begins to respond.
Adjust the hue of the monitor until the Yellow bar is a lemon yellow, with no shades of orange or green. Adjust the Magenta bar until you eliminate the red and the purple. If you aren’t confident in your ability to “eye-ball” these shades, consider the following:
Many professional monitors have a blue-only switch. If your monitor has one, switch it on. If your monitor does not have a blue-only switch, you can use a piece of blue lighting gel. Hold it to your eye like a viewing lens. If you see any of the red, green or yellow colors, double the blue gel over to increase the blue effect.
By using the blue-only switch or a piece of blue gel, you have removed the red and green elements of the picture. Only the blue remains. If the tint and color (also called “hue”) are correct, you should see alternating bars of equal intensity.
You should now have a properly adjusted video monitor. However, if flesh tones don’t look right, you may need to make further adjustments to the chroma and hue.
Shooting exteriors can be tricky, because you have less control over the light falling onto your scene. It would be nice to have access to a one-ton grip truck with shiny boards, silks, butterflies, and HMI’s. But most often you won’t have the budget to acquire all that extra gear. Even without all the fancy grip and electric toys, you can still get some fantastic exteriors. Here’s how:
3. Use Reflectors – Even if you can’t purchase large shiny boards or flex fills, sturdy foam core will do the trick. You can use the boards to reflect sunlight back toward your subject. Bear in mind that if you place your subject in the shade, you will have to contend with the contrast between the shaded foreground and sunlit background. If you expose for the background, your subject will be too dark. If you expose for your subject, the background will be over-exposed.
A shoot scheduled at the right time of day, coupled with a few well-placed reflectors and the utilization of lens filters will ensure great exterior footage, even with the smallest of crews.
Shooting under flourescent lights while on location can be a nightmare. First, the light emitted by the bulbs creates a very flat, even, and uninteresting scene. Second, each flourescent bulb gives off light at a different frequency, which can play nasty tricks on your camera’s CCD. For those of you who have been forced to shoot under flourescents, you may have noticed that the color of your footage will gradually shift from a cooler tone to a warmer tone, then back again. Ideally, it would be best to turn off all flourescents while on location and set up your own lights to ensure maximum control over the lighting situation. However, this isn’t always an option – especially if your shoot is more run-and-gun. So, how can you best control the lighting when using your own light kit isn’t always an option?
Those are a few tips for correcting in-camera. If you ARE able to use your own lights, here are a coupe of additional suggestions:
Following these suggestions will certainly help compensate for an unpleasant lighting situation. I would also suggest that you visit the forums at Cinematography.com for tons of useful information on camera techniques.