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    ND roll for windows advice
    #1
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    Looking at getting some ND for trying to shoot an interview in front of windows.
    I am looking at this,
    https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produ...9_Neutral.html
    which is way more than I need right now but considering waste and future use it would be worth it.

    I haven't used this stuff before so I am not sure what else I need to consider.
    The windows on the 1st shoot have many thin metal frames/panes separating them into multiple long rectangular windows.
    So rather than try to cut and adhere several pieces I was thinking about trying to just hang one piece and let it go down across all of it, taping it on the top and sides out of frame. It wouldn't actually touch the glass then but rather the metal frames.
    I figure I had better be ready also to cut and adhere too, so I hear window cleaner helps it cling to glass and use a squeegee to smooth it out.

    I also can bounce some of the daylight back onto the talent with reflectors.
    I also have some daylight LED lights, but they probabaly are not powerful enough to overcome the sun without help (ND and/or reflector).
    I have some powerful tungsten lights but they will be hot and plus I would have mixed color.


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    Senior Member JPNola's Avatar
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    I've been there. I have successfully made it work, but it wasn't easy. One thing to consider is whether or not the sun strikes the windows directly at any point during the time you will be shooting. If the duration of your shoot which includes the windows is short in time, that is to your advantage. The ND reduces the light level but as the day goes on that light level still alters. If you are shooting interviews over several hours with the window as a backdrop you can end up with the window being blown out at times and at other times "under" the light level on your subject. Unless you add more ND, that is. And doubling ND.9 might be too much. Ideally you'd also want to have ND.3 & ND.6 so that you could add more ND without making such big jumps.

    That is what happened to me during one setup, the level of the light seen through the window was okay for one interview, but dreadful for an interview done later in the day:








    And of course the light was s*%ttier for the bigger star. Then there was the issue that the exterior of the glass was filthy and spotted. When the direct sun hit the glass it revealed just how dirty it was. It was not so bad when the glass exterior wasn't in direct sunlight. Those thin lines are some taught wires that were part of the louvered shades for these odd angled windows in an office building.

    Yes, you can sometimes just place the entire roll of ND on the floor at the base of the window and roll the ND up with window vertically, taping it to the window about the camera frame. Whether or not you will need to spray / squeegee it to the window depends on how much you are seeing reflections of your own lights or other windows in the ND. Flagging off as much as you can helps with that. But you'll need large flags. 4x floppy blacks.

    I did the squeegee thing once and that was a royal pain in the rear. Even after getting it perfectly smooth with no air bubbles, as the window heated up during the day bubbles began to form.

    As far as interviews go, the best thing to do is to make every effort to talk a client out of making you shoot interior interviews with an exterior for a backdrop! People walk into a space with a great view and think "oh, how cool it would be to have the city scape as a backdrop for the interview(s)!!". Even Producers and Directors with decades of experience in the biz can be wholly clueless as to how difficult that can be for a DP to successfully pull off.

    If the window you are wanting to ND is just a window way off the in background during a brief shot, you'll have a better fighting chance at dealing with it successfully. I've gotten away with netting the window and putting it all out of focus, but that sort of defeats the purpose of seeing out of the window / seeing the view presented by the window.
    Last edited by JPNola; 03-20-2017 at 10:23 PM.
    Big sources matter.


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    You can buy film by the foot in various ND strengths from your local plastics supply. Locally, I get it from TAP plastics. They have a 25% and 50% light transmission films. https://tapplastics.com/product/wind...ndow_films/315

    The film needs to hang such that it does not move around so that it is not 'seen'. I've used it on the outside of windows with the tapedown method, but even a gentle breeze will make it move and the change in density will be seen. Simple frames can be made to hold the film stiff.
    Last edited by Paul F; 03-20-2017 at 10:24 PM.


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    Senior Member JPNola's Avatar
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    A couple more things-

    You don't have much choice but to purchase it by the roll. The only other way to purchase it is in sheets that are likely too small. So you did right there.

    You can use 1" black paper tape for taping the ND along the edges of the metal frame of the window panels. The black tape will just look like part of the design of the frame, in all likelihood. Even if the metal frame is silver in color, the black tape will just look like some sort of architectural framing.

    Consider renting an HMI for this shoot. Even if it cuts into your profit. It just depends on how important this job / client is to you.

    In the examples above I used a Joker 400 HMI into a "stop sign" shaped piece of bead board. That "cost" me level on my key light. It would have been brighter had I gone direct. But hard lighting is difficult to pull off well. It is also not something done that often these days. Although this interview ( not my work ) used a hard key light:





    I don't know if that was shot in front of a green screen or an actual window, but the point of using it as an example is only as an example of hard key lighting. It is possible that the interview was attempting to mimic the other interviews that I shot at an earlier date.


    Look how much better the shot was when I talked the Producer into NOT shooting with the window as a backdrop:

    Big sources matter.


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    JP's advise is all good. If your location is one that you might use often - without direct sunlight hitting it - then the squeegee thing might make more sense.
    http://www.gamonline.com/catalog/window/index.php
    But totally agree - it's a pain.


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    Quote Originally Posted by JPNola View Post
    That is what happened to me during one setup, the level of the light seen through the window was okay for one interview, but dreadful for an interview done later in the day:
    .
    I had a quick look and whilst the one with the blown out background isn't technically correct its actually easier to watch because as your eye wanders around the frame it keeps going back to the main character because there is nothing to see in the background.
    The first one has a "better" exposed background but I kept looking out the window.


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    Big thank you to all you guys for chiming in.
    I am going to try hard to talk them out of that. I'd rather shoot outdoors in the wind with a blimp than deal with the backlight window situation looking out the building.
    Nonetheless I may still have to do it so I want to be prepared.
    How much help would a daylight fixture like this be or is it too weak, in shoots framed liked those examples above?
    https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produ..._daylight.html


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    Senior Member JPNola's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by doubledark View Post
    I had a quick look and whilst the one with the blown out background isn't technically correct its actually easier to watch because as your eye wanders around the frame it keeps going back to the main character because there is nothing to see in the background.
    The first one has a "better" exposed background but I kept looking out the window.

    Yes, and if you watch the scenes from the film Big Short where they shot in that same location, DP Barry Ackroyd let the windows over-expose. And the production crew also had the same problem with the windows being so dirty on the outside. If one considers that a "problem", that is, and not simply "realism". Ackroyd didn't ND the windows. He had more powerful lighting units at his disposal. If I remember correctly he used a couple of 800w Joe-lekos into the ceiling and some sort of daylight-balanced front fill through a silk on a frame. I want to say it was a LiteMat but on second thought I don't remember Ackroyd as being much of a user of LED lights, at least not on that show.





    "How much help would a daylight fixture like this be or is it too weak, in shoots framed liked those examples above?"

    There is no one answer to that. If you are shooting very early in the morning or very late in the day, it might do the trick. Or, if you heavily ND the windows. It all depends. Part of the equation is the extent to which you want the light level, the view through the windows, to be exposed. You might be okay with it being close to white and with only minimal detail...or you might want it to have great detail. Another factor is your desired framing. If you are on a tight frame you can work the light in close to the subject and as a result get more light out of the unit. If, because of the camera frame, the light has to be placed 8ft from the subject you are going to get far less out of the light than when the unit is closer. And where you go "naked" with the light or soften it with diffusion or "milk jug" type panel is yet another factor.

    But as much as there is one answer to that question- no, it isn't powerful enough. It doesn't provide you with much leeway. It could be enough under the right circumstances. I'd feel more comfortable have at least two of those Dracast LED1000's on site if not four of them. But we don't always have at hand the tools that we need, now do we? Which is one of the interesting challenges of our craft.

    One last thing- you can help yourself and help the shot by using only part of the exterior window as a background. Don't make it the entire background, as I did in the examples above. The room I was in is a crazy room. The glass is floor to "ceiling", angled windows that cant, or slant , in towards the room starting at the bottom. The room was so tiny that I had little choice but to end up with the entire background for the head and shoulder shot being the exterior. The shots are anything I was happy with or am proud of. I just provided them to illustrate how difficult it can be and how it is less than ideal.

    Generally speaking, setups where you "see" out of any window are something to be avoided. I cringe when a client walks into a room and with the naked eye sees a great view out of a window. They don't understand that the human eye can deal with extreme contrast far better than any camera. I immediately make what I hope is a gentle and deft attempt to talk a client out of it. A trick I have used on scouts where there was no camera set up to show the client the difficulty is to tell the client to look at the proposed setting but to squint until they can barely see. The purpose being to simulate the lesser ability of video cameras to handle contrast, to show the client what the scene will look like on video. That is also a handy trick to use as a DP when wanting to simulate reduced latitude.
    Big sources matter.


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    Quote Originally Posted by JPNola View Post
    I cringe when a client walks into a room and with the naked eye sees a great view out of a window. They don't understand that the human eye can deal with extreme contrast far better than any camera. I immediately make what I hope is a gentle and deft attempt to talk a client out of it. A trick I have used on scouts where there was no camera set up to show the client the difficulty is to tell the client to look at the proposed setting but to squint until they can barely see. The purpose being to simulate the lesser ability of video cameras to handle contrast, to show the client what the scene will look like on video. .
    I'm wandering if a mirrorless camera would be be a great tool for this. Get someone to stand in front of the window, dial in f4 @ 1/50 sec to simulate the output from a LED light. The client will then see the background all washed out. Much easier to explain that is all the output you have from the LED lights. If the client wants that background then it's going to cost more $$$ because you need to hire BIG lights and another pair of hands to help.


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