The American Society of Cinematographers has been doing something rather unique of late. They’ve been giving control of the ASC Instagram account to an individual member for a set period of time and allowing them to post up images they believe the world of cinematography wants to see. When cinematographer David Klein, ASC was given the reins this past fall, he took us behind the scenes for a look at season six of SHOWTIME’s hit show Homeland. Several of his posts focused on his evaluation of Rosco’s SoftDrop and, in particular, how he lit the large backdrops to create the views of New York seen through the windows on set.
David first learned about SoftDrop from production designer John Kretschmer when they worked together on Homeland Season 5 in Berlin. Anticipating the switch to the dense urban setting of New York for season six, we arranged for David and John to use a 10’x20′ SoftDrop of Manhattan so they could test LED vs tungsten fixtures in order to achieve the right effect for day and night lighting. “It’s always a challenge lighting a new drop, but uniting the old school with new school tools and finding our capacity for this is what made it exciting,” said David. He found that front lighting the SoftDrop with Quasar Science tubes was just as bright as tungsten, but allowed him additional color-correction control for his day scenes. For backlighting the drops, David created optimal lighting by bouncing Sky Pans off the gray stage walls and by aiming ETC Source Fours at specific windows.
The final lighting equation was a mix of tungsten and LED lights. This included the sunlight David created to enter the set. David and his set lighting team used the Quasar Science LED Tubes inside soft boxes to generate soft daylight coming in through the windows, and Mole Richardson Big Eye Teners when direct sunlight was needed. David notes how the soft boxes were mounted above the SoftDrop for top-down lighting, while the Big Eye Teners were hung at a more direct angle to streak through the windows.
In the end, Homeland had five SoftDrops to work with on their sixth season, which allowed John Kretschmer’s art department to create settings in a variety of New York locations – all of which were actually shot on their soundstage in Brooklyn. One of the more pivotal sets included a 22’x163’ Day/Night SoftDrop of Central Manhattan.
One of our temporary sets which didn't justify a large backdrop. It gets 2 20×20 on rollers but what I'd like to point out is the set painted black on the outside so light sent in through the windows doesn't contaminate the backing. This has been done on all sets. Wasn't my idea which just goes to prove there's always someone cleverer than yourself. @cigrubbs and @kevinwlowry are those clever men. Thanks, guys. It beats several hundred square meters of duvetine backing set walls. #homeland6 @davidkleinasc
Thanks to David Klein, ASC for sharing his SoftDrop lighting tips on the ASC Instagram account while filming the upcoming season. David is back posting on his own Instagram account now – be sure to follow him there: @davidkleinasc. You can learn more about the sheen-free, fabric SoftDrop technology David and his fellow filmmakers used on Homeland by visiting our Custom Backdrop web page. Be sure to watch season 6 of Homeland on SHOWTIME to see how well the SoftDrops perform at creating Manhattan outside the windows of the set.