Lighting problem: shooting a switched on table lamp in a dark hallway

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snapper
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Joined: Dec 26 2008

Hi, I want to shoot a table lamp which is switched on in a dark hallway where there are no lights switched on.
I want the tassels on the table lamp to move as if by an unseen presence, as they say in the ghost stories.
This is pretty apt because I'm actually shooting a ghost story (I'm a newbie film maker)
I've tried shooting the table lamp using it as the only light source but the results are pretty terrible.
Here's a quick guess - would changing the conventional light bulb in the table lamp for a tungsten light bulb help?

Rob James
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Joined: Jun 26 2001

Depending on the camera I think you're going to need an overall wash of light as well as the table lamp. But to answer your question, if you increase the wattage in the table lamp and or use a halogen bulb then it might look better. Possibly a silly question but I assume you've white balanced the camera to suit the illumination?

Rob The picture is only there to keep the sound in sync

snapper
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Joined: Dec 26 2008

Thanks for responding Rob, yes I set the white balance in the cam, which is a PD170.
Re. 'I think you're going to need an overall wash of light as well as the table lamp' I kind of reluctantly half concluded that, but was hoping to avoid it as ideally I would like minimum light for the scene.
There's a glass door next to the table lamp, maybe I could shine a light through that.
I have to say that as a newbie film maker I'm really enjoying solving or trying to solve these practical problems.

DAVE M
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Joined: May 17 1999

I agree with Rob

most "practicals" (i.e. working table lights) are for show and won't give the correct illumination.

You can rig up something where they're all switched together as the classic old film/Tv striking a match for light, followed by the artificial light a beat late looks a bit cak.

It all depends on your setting but you could use a fresnel type light with barn doors to give a shaft type beam, or a small capacity flood that's bounced off the ceiling to up the overall level.

Shining through the door would create a film noir type effect with sections lit, and sections unlit - as in quite spooky.

You don't say whether there's any diagetic sound (live on screen)

Moving the tassles could be done by
1 - wind
2 - Someone under a table cloth shaking the table
3. a bass speaker under the table

Rob James
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Joined: Jun 26 2001

Good to hear you're enjoying the problem solving! With a PD170 you should be OK because the low light capabilities are very good if it's the camera I think it is.
I'm with Dave's suggestions, especially the bounce off the ceiling. If you can hook up a bigger monitor to the cam it will help you balance the lighting to the point where it works for you. Final thought, if there is no diagetic sound, a hairdryer will move the tassles for you at a distance. Otherwise, if you are shooting sync sound, you could try waving a largish sheet of card or similar to get some air moving without making a noise.

Rob The picture is only there to keep the sound in sync

snapper
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Joined: Dec 26 2008

Thanks Dave, I think I dimly (geddit?) perceived this: 'most "practicals" (i.e. working table lights) are for show and won't give the correct illumination.'
You've confirmed it for me.
I had to look up diagetic, you learn something every day.
Sound will be non-diagetic, it will be supplied by a sound track, probably created by LMMS, which I've now figured how to use.

Re. `It all depends on your setting but you could use a fresnel type light with barn doors to give a shaft type beam, or a small capacity flood that's bounced off the ceiling to up the overall level.'

I did try using a 100 watt Pag light with barn doors shafting onto the table lamp, but it seemed to make it too light. This was when I was at the stage where I was trying to avoid any light other than the table lamp light.

snapper
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Joined: Dec 26 2008

Thanks Rob, the PD170 is a standard Sony PD1d70.
I'll try to bounce the light off the ceiling, this is one thing that I haven't tried.
Maybe not a very spooky effect though, but maybe I'm asking the impossible, I won't know until I try it, probably this weekend..
I thought about using a hair drier, but got my wife to blow on the tassles out of shot instead.
She's very understanding about these things lol.

MAGLINK
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Joined: Mar 8 2007

Don't know if it helps but here is a screen grab from a film I was DOP on 18 months ago

It is lit with just two practical lights a 100w tungsten bulb in the standard lamp and a 60w tungsten bulb in the table lamp, the fire is real and it was shot on an HPX301 AVCIntra 100 1920x1080i 25np, the camera was set to tungsten balance 3,200k:

Rob James
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Joined: Jun 26 2001

Gary is, of course, quite right. But a lot depends on the camera and indeed the luminaire. If the table lamp shade takes out most of the light then it's going to need a bit of help.
In Gary's shot above, the table lamp is putting out a fair bit of light and is doing a good job on the table and the light hitting the actor from the standard lamp is pretty much direct from the white interior of the shade.
Your mention of tassels makes me think that the table lamp you're using may just be taking out too much light. Best answer is experiment with a big monitor attached to the camera. The ceiling bounce wouldn't need to be a lot, just enough to take the curse off the really dark areas and it is worth putting a halogen in the table lamp.

Rob The picture is only there to keep the sound in sync

branny
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Joined: Nov 6 2001

I'm confused - Why would you need to add a light to film a dark room with a light? Surely, on manual and coaxing the F stop open just enough to see the table lamp and its tassels shaking would be ok - or am I missing something?

Do not follow, I may not lead. Do not lead . . . I may not follow.

Rob James
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Joined: Jun 26 2001

I think the idea is to avoid the football sized grain that comes along when you up the gain though I hope the original poster will clarify what he was seeing that he didn't like with the original set up.

Rob The picture is only there to keep the sound in sync

MAGLINK
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Joined: Mar 8 2007

I have some 150 watt bulbs in my cupboard that were here when we bought the pub if you need a stronger tungsten source, the problem is the larger the light the more chance of it bursting into flames!:eek:

branny
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Joined: Nov 6 2001
Rob James wrote:
I think the idea is to avoid the football sized grain that comes along when you up the gain though I hope the original poster will clarify what he was seeing that he didn't like with the original set up.

I agree . . If it was on auto it would. The cam on manual should cope reasonably well though for what he's describing.

Do not follow, I may not lead. Do not lead . . . I may not follow.

snapper
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Joined: Dec 26 2008

Thanks for responding Branny, you aren't missing anything, I have to admit that I haven't tried that. The reason being, I've shot other scenes like this although on a different cam and on auto setting and the result was very 'grainy', as I would call it.
I'll try it again with the PD170 tomorrow night, I have to admit that I haven't used the manual exposure on it yet.

snapper
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Joined: Dec 26 2008

Thanks Gary, but I have a Strand 800 watt light and a couple of worklights, Pag light etc. so am just about ok for lighting, for now.
A tungsten light bursting into flames if that's what they do sounds interesting, maybe it could feature in the film as a case of spontaneous combustion.
I'll put the cam on manual exposure tomorrow night and see how it looks, you guys have given me quite a few ideas to try out.

snapper
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Joined: Dec 26 2008

Thanks for the screen grab Gary, I kind of suspected that I needed to use tungsten light bulbs,
I'll try to get some tomorrow.
'It is lit with just two practical lights a 100w tungsten bulb in the standard lamp and a 60w tungsten bulb in the table lamp, the fire is real and it was shot on an HPX301 AVCIntra 100 1920x1080i 25np, the camera was set to tungsten balance 3,200k:'

Alan Roberts
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Joined: May 3 1999

It's no secret that, to get a dim look you need lots of light and lights. What you need to do is to light the scene such that the practical looks right on-screen, not in real life. This means putting a sensible-sized bulb in it, and then lighting the rest of the scene such that the lamp doesn't wash out when it's in shot and the rest of the scene is correctly exposed.

It's hard. I've seen experienced DoPs take a couple of hours over getting a shot like this right. You're using lights to paint the scene rather than illuminate it. Don't expect to get it right first time, the learning curve is long and steep.

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
My book, 'Circles of Confusion' is available here.
Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.

Rob James
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Joined: Jun 26 2001

I agree! The dimmest set I've ever been on used more luminaires and power than I've seen before or since. In fact, so much power there was a small fire!!

Rob The picture is only there to keep the sound in sync

snapper
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Joined: Dec 26 2008

'lighting the rest of the scene such that the lamp doesn't wash out when it's in shot and the rest of the scene is correctly exposed.'
Thanks, I bounced a 1000 watt light off the ceiling with the table lamp switched on and sure enough the light was washed out.
The idea of shining a studio light on the table lamp from behind an adjacent glass door doesn't work. Unless you are shooting directly at the table lamp, ie. masking the studio light with the studio light, you can see that it's a studio light supplying the light.
No worries, I'm enjoying the problem solving.
Next step is as Branny suggested use the cam on manual exposure and presumably put up with some grain\noise, which is to be closely followed by using a 10\20 watt light mounted on the cam. Then it's using a light in a soft box.
I think that I've created a problem for myself by shooting a ghost story, it would have been easier to shoot something more conventional, less atmospheric, that just required basic lighting.

Rob James
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Joined: Jun 26 2001

Did you try something a bit less hot that the 1K as a bounce? I wouldn't have thought you needed anywhere near that wattage and dimming the 1k won't work because the colour temperature will be too warm. (Although you could try sticking ND filters/scrim in front of it.) Object of excercise is to raise the overall lighting to the point where the shadows you want still look black on camera but you can see what you are supposed to see without using extra camera gain.
I still think bounce is your best bet along with a brighter halogen in the table lamp.
TBH I think that a soft light will have the same or worse problems than bouncing off the ceiling.

Rob The picture is only there to keep the sound in sync

snapper
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Joined: Dec 26 2008

'Object of excercise is to raise the overall lighting to the point where the shadows you want still look black on camera but you can see what you are supposed to see without using extra camera gain.'
Well summed up, Rob, thanks.
Will bounce a 500 watt light and a 100 watt Pag light off the ceiling tonight.
I'm like Dracular, I wait for the night..

branny
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Joined: Nov 6 2001

Nice to have lighting just the way you'd like, but in real time scenes I've filmed orchestras lit only by log fires and table lamps in very dim areas that turned out pretty damned good. Limited the gain to 9db cause I didn't want noise in there either. :)

Do not follow, I may not lead. Do not lead . . . I may not follow.

snapper
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Joined: Dec 26 2008

I probably should have posted this a while ago, but here's a quick update.
I abandoned the idea of shooting the table lamp in the hall with the surroundings in shot for another idea. I shot the tassels of the table lamp as a closeup, not perfect maybe from a lighting point of view but effective enough for my purposes.
For the scene that leads up to this, a new idea that I had, I placed the table lamp in the window ledge of the top floor window with it switched on and zoomed into it from the garden.
It was the front garden and I got some pretty interested looks from passers-by as I was zooming up into the top window.
Anyway it was great fun shooting the (very short) film, which was my first. I learned a lot about film making and enjoyed learning it.
Learning how to use - not master - Vegas was a major source of satisfaction, but there was also the satisfaction of learning how to use - again, not master, a semi pro camcorder.

andy121
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Joined: Jun 10 2012
Re: Lighting problem: shooting a switched on table lamp in a ...
It is depending on the Camera. and use halogen bulb for better shoot.
 
 

Thanks