Today we are shooting at the YouTube Space for the first time. It’s a wonderful facility with great equipment and helpful people. I have been looking forward to shooting here for some time and today is the day! We are going to shoot a film noir shot using grids on strobe heads and mix that with a similar looking light from the film world called a Source 4. I want to show how grids work and how you can light with them while at the same time mixing them with tungsten light.
As we have covered in past lessons, grids are a honeycomb metal insert that go into the reflector. They restrict the area of coverage for the strobe. I love them because they help give you more control of the light.
First, let’s take a look at how the different sizes of grid look with our subject against a white wall. The light is six feet from the wall and the camera is set to f6.3 aperture with a 1/60sec shutter. With a 10 degree grid, you get a very small area of coverage. The light does not fill the area outside of the area of coverage. You get about a three foot area of coverage. Each time we step up the grid, we get a larger area of coverage and gain about two-thirds of a stop in exposure.
The area of coverage with a 20 degree grid is about five feet.
It increases to six feet with the 30 degree grid. Less restriction of the light allows more light to pass through and gives us a brighter exposure.
The last grid is the 40 degree. It covers about eight feet and is bleeding into the shadow area more than the other grids did.
Grid light is very directional and not soft. The spill in the shadow areas of the image increases as you go to larger grids. Grids are perfect for a film noir shoot with hard light and deeper shadows. Let’s take a look at our shoot and how we set it up.
This is a simple set: a black curtain in the background, and black plastic on the floor with some water puddles to make it look like it just rained. We will now use two DIY street light poles made out of ABS pipes with carriage lights on top. To make the light poles, I took a four inch ABS pipe and stepped it down to two inches using a step down collar. This will give the light some shape. I then bolted an end cap to a piece of 3/4 inch plywood and then just shoved the pole in. The carriage lights came with screws that simply tightened to the top of the pole. There you go for $60 each, we have two DIY street lights.
We are going to use the Rosco V-hazer to fill the room with haze and create the mood. It is not an exact science but once you get it balanced, it will give you constant haze all day long on a gallon bottle of fluid. I love this machine! I also used the Rosco Vapour Plus Fog Machine to add smoke at times and give the image depth.
I wanted a car, but it canceled on me at the last minute so instead we took two Arri 650s and put them on a cross bar and used this as our car lights. For our street lights, we will use a Source 4 light on a stand aimed down toward the floor. Source 4 lights are a very pinpoint light source and can focus so that the light shaft will be sharp. We are going to shape the smoke with the shutters so it looks like the light is coming off the street lights we created. We will set our white balance on tungsten and gel the strobes with CTO.
The first strobe is a PhotoFlex FlexFlash in the background. I am not going to put a gel on this light because I want it to go blue and add depth.
The second strobe is a FlexFlash on camera right with a 20 degree grid spot. This will light our dead guy and imitate the light coming off the car. We will add a full CTO or orange to correct the strobe, which is daylight, to tungsten.
Now we will add our key light on her face. This is a FlexFlash 400 watt second light with a 10 degree grid. I will have an assistant hand hold this light and keep it pointed at her nose. That is the downside to grids, they are very narrow in the area of coverage so you have to babysit them.
Next, I will add a Dynalite RoadMax head with ND as a fill from the front and shoot it through a full net.
The last light is a rim light from camera left. It has a 40 degree grid and will rim her hair and cover his face. We can pan it right or left to increase or decrease the light on his face.
I am shooting on the Canon 5D Mark III with a 24 to 70mm Tamron lens. Using grids for this shoot was the perfect choice. They are directional and hard looking and look more like fresnel hit lights. The different degree grids allowed us to light only the area that we wanted to. A small grid for her face and a broader grid for the rim light that will cover both her and him. This is an effective way to work and can produce some amazing images.
Here are four retouched images from the shoot:
Now the real test of a good film noir image is how does it look in B&W. I took the four final images into Silver Efex in Nik Software and converted them there:
Some very cool vintage looks but I still want to see a little bit of color, so I went back to the colored images and used the Bleached Bypass filter in Color Efex:
I love this type of stuff and look forward to doing it again soon. Keep those cameras rollin’ and keep on clickin’.
-Jay P Morgan