Thursday, December 24, 2009

A taste of things to come plus mini lighting tut

Last night I decided to put the new wall onto the set even though I have more work to do on it... I wanted to see it all together for a preview and mess around with lighting to try to find an approach to use for this film. This link should take you to Photobucket and from there you can download the full size image... it looks SO MUCH better than this little rinky-dink version!! (scroll over the picture to see the download option).

This is what the shot was looking like at first. Download this one here. Note the problems with the lighting.... very hard glaring light on the foreheads, and the faces in shadow. This is a result of the way they're sculpted. Note... I am NOT dissing Scott Radke's sculpting!!! I LOVE these heads... but because of the way they're done... eyes set so wide and facing different directions, bare foreheads with no hair covering them that face directly into the light plane, and somewhat glossy paint - it makes them very hard to light. It's a challenge (like everything about this project). And it's forcing me to dig deep and find a different way to work. Here's the solution that's working best so far...

These are my lights. I'm only using 2 for this shot, and note... they're both facing FORWARD.... rather than the more normal option of being aimed directly at the set. See the next image to understand WHY.

See the big white sheets of paper fastened to the front of the set? They're reflectors. The lights are both aimed at them, and then only reflected light is bounced back onto the set to light the puppets. {for this pic I actually had a light aimed directly at the set just to make things show up better} Reflected light has some very nice properties... it's very diffused, doesn't cast a clear shadow, and it has a lot less glare than direct light does. And because this is all fill light coming from the front, it fills in details like the eye sockets that were in deep shadow before. This kind of reflected lighting seems to be the only solution to the lighting problems posed by these heads.

But... if you compare the two shots above, even though the direct lighting causes glare and shadow problems, it has a much more dramatic look to it... creating great shadows that define the form of the heads... the fully reflected light doesn't do this. In fact, reflected light like this is often called cartoon lighting, because of the lack of drama and overall illuminated feel. I want to try to find a halfway solution... I think if I can aim a light or two directly at the set with plenty of neutral density gels (grey color filters) to dim them down while still keeping the reflected lighting I currently have, I should be able to get the best of both worlds. Time will tell.


Mike Letendre said...

The first pic looks wonderful. Wish I knew m0re about lighting...good luck!

UbaTuber said...

Ooooh, lighting, one of my favorite parts of the process....sometimes it takes me days to figure out the right lighting, longer even than animating the particular scene, lol...

emmyymme said...

Looking great - I think you're right, a cross between the two will give the best effect - details with drama. Love the girl's shirt :)

jriggity said...

looking great man!

thanks for he setup pics.


Yaz said...

Thanks for the detailed post about this kind of lighting. I will try reflected lighting and I did not know that it was often called cartoon lighting. Very helpful and bookmarked!

Darkstrider said...

Thanks everybody!!

One thing I notice about the first shot above that I really like... the lighting is kind of gritty nd low key... reminds me of a 70's movie like French Connection of Dirty Harry.

StopmoNick said...

Ulp... that harsh lighting with glare on the forehead and dark shadows looks a lot like mine...
But with these heads, they have really nice shading applied around the eyes, so do seem to want a soft lighting like a painting to bring that out. I think you will be able to keep most of that diffused light, with just a bit of a kicker to punch up the edges maybe.
What if you lowered the exposure slightly so the soft fill was there, but not quite as strong, then brought in a little side light for sculpting the forms, but not over bright? A tricky balance - when you've worked it out, I can learn from you!

Anonymous said...

The lights can be diffused and still pointed directly at the puppets using several layers of baking paper to soften the beams. Trying this before the gel will extend the gel's life.

Bounce lighting works, but then you have yet another thing to worry about bumping into while animating. If you put a softened light above and somewhere behind you, you can step out of the way for each frame and you wont' risk bumping into it.

Just dropping a couple of pennies in the suggestion box...Hopefully this will hit on the "somewhere inbetween" lighting solution you were getting at.

FleaCircusDirector said...

You could try different materials for your difuse reflector. Perhaps scrunched up alumium foil?

bRYEnd_of_the_schtick said...

(^ tsk. and another year ticks by.
(^ strange are the thINKgs I pick up on from sundry sorts, but while lighting thistle theatre Bunraku-style of puppetry shows, one rule of thumb became clear:

(^ it's seldom on either/or thing.
(^ usually , it's AND.

stark contrast lighting, THEN adding in filler:
usually with a hot and a cool light.
gelling the highlight bounce orangish to yellow to create a warm glow /and a soft bluish or violet cool into the shadows.

(^ tsk here let me demonstrate:

Frog lake was trhe one I sculpted puppets for, don't blame me for the lighting tho. someone else delt with it and flailed on this particular show.

(^ this stuff is a PAIN to light because you need slice the lights thin from the sides to avoid lighting the black suited puppeteers.

(^ dimmers switches and *gasp!* spot lights with a diffusion screen filter cut out and danggled in front of the hot spot on the light to bank that shine glare may help too.


Julie said...

looks awesome!

Shelley Noble said...

How'd I miss this one? I like the rich depth of the top shot. I copied Prosser's lightning formula too.

Anonymous said...

Prosser- was Frog Lake the one I shot archival video for up in Seattle?

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Ariella said...

woah! this is incredible stuff!

oh, the joy of making miniature people. and things.