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Cinematography Lighting

NOTES

On this page you will find a collection of lighting plans I have completed for various clients. I enjoy having time to prepare before larger shoots and I do this through lighting plans. I usually complete a lighting plan once I have done a recce of the location and have spoken at length with the director and producer about the scale of the project and the vision that needs to be created. 

Once I have a good idea of what we are trying to achieve I go back and start working out what certain key frames will look like and work out what equipment is needed and where I would need to place it to achieve that 'look'. This is all within a sliding scale of what the budget is for the project.

I find turning up with a lighting plan takes the pressure off the first setup (when there is usually the most to do in terms of getting kit in the right areas of where it needs to go). Once we are rolling it is usually quite a fluid process and the lighting plan becomes more of a rough guide I keep in the back of my mind rather than gospel. 

Cyber Crime Drama Interviews

The brief was to film dramatic interviews in the style of a fictional cyber crime series. Three setups were planned; police detective, private investigator and criminal. 

The decision to shoot the composition of having the actor to the outside of frame was made by the director and producer. I decided I was going to compliment this approach by doing an offside key. Meaning the key light was placed on the 'wrong' side of their face. The criminal however was placed centre frame. So to mix it up we had him facing the key.  

Cyber Interviews Police WS
Cyber Interviews Police WS

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Cyber Interviews Police CU
Cyber Interviews Police CU

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Book light setup
Book light setup

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Cyber Interviews Police WS
Cyber Interviews Police WS

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Plan to light and light the plan - My new motto. On the day it was just a case of lighting according to the plan I had made. It was a stress free and fairly easy going shoot as a result. The only drama happened on screen! Essentially the lighting consisted of a book light setup for the key, chimera as 3/4 backlight and a Source 4 light on the background. 

Scandinavian Drama

I was briefed to help create a film for a large business for their cyber crime department. They wanted something along the lines of a Scandinavian noir with elements of Blade Runner. Obviously we didn't quite have the budget of Blade Runner but that gave me enough to go on to start thinking about the colours and types of light and shadows within the frames. Lighting a warehouse at night with minimal lights was a challenge but a good kind of challenge. In the end we went with an Arri T5 (the max power the warehouse could handle) and supplemented that with 4x Astera Light Tubes, 1K Chimera with dimmer. I used an urban sodium filter on the 5K as well as an evening blue at one point. 

Scandi Noir Still
Scandi Noir Still

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Scandi Noir Lighting Plan 1
Scandi Noir Lighting Plan 1

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BTS
BTS

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Scandi Noir Still
Scandi Noir Still

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I wanted to add a moving light element to the scene where she walks through the orange door. So I asked my gaffer Andy Clarke to put something together for me. He came up with using 2x Par lights on a section of scaffold that could be swung on a stand. This created the moving light effect giving those lovely long shadows from the warehouse beams as she walked through. The most difficult camera move was on the tracks. I didn't have a focus puller so while being pulled back on the tracks, the actor turns to look over her shoulder as we move behind her. So focus point 1 was the orange door, 2 was her eyes whilst being pulled away from her. I'm glad we managed to get the shot quickly.

 

Final point on the lighting for the scene of the two of them sat; lit mostly with the 5K going through layers of (practical) plastic sheeting. I spent some time ripping and shredding the plastic to give it that textured light on their faces. I also wet the plastic and got it as used and dirty looking as possible. A pleasure to work on this one. 

Carpentry

A lot of the influences in this colour palette came from the recce. It was a cold winters night when we visited the workshop and they had a large portable heater on with a bright red glow coming from it. Warm colours always look good on wood so straight away I was drawn to using warmer colours. The window outside provided a good opportunity to light through which would enable a backlit scene. Warm colours, backlit. Silhouettes; already the 'look' was starting to develop. As I wanted a more red colour to the scene than just tungsten I decided to go with a sodium gel and make it as if a sodium street light was right outside the window. 

Red Bullet
Red Bullet

Still Frame

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Lighting Plan Main Room
Lighting Plan Main Room

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Lighting Plan Door
Lighting Plan Door

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Red Bullet
Red Bullet

Still Frame

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Another thing I noticed from the recce was that they had standard fluorescent tube lighting. These were too high in the ceiling to see so I brought in some Astera light tubes as practicals in the background. To contrast the sodium I set these to 7000degrees which gives the cool white / blue. Once the 'look' had been set it was just a case of adding in more lights to fill and compliment the scene in other areas. A 1x1 panel was used to lift the foreground just enough to stop him becoming a complete silhouette. 

Natural House

The scene took place in the hallway to a house. The only direct windows into the hallway were from the obscured window panes in the front door. Several rooms off the central hallway did have access to outside windows however, so I decided to light mostly from the outside of the house and open some doors to let light in.

I used 2x Arri D25 HMI lights. Essentially one was at the front of the house for key light and one at the side of the house giving a backlight. The key had to go through the front door window and I opened up the downstairs loo door to let some light in through the obscured glass there.

House scene
House scene

House Scene Screen Shot 1

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House Scene Notes
House Scene Notes

House Scene Lighting Notes

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House Recce
House Recce

Recce

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House scene
House scene

House Scene Screen Shot 1

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This had to be finely balanced as at the end of the scene she opens the door, so I couldn't have it blow out as soon as she did that. I used a Litepanels Gemini on low intensity behind the camera position to give some fill as well.

As there was some camera movement in this first wide shot which revealed a bit of the stairway I stuck an Arri 650 up there and bounced it very subtly off the wall giving the impression an upstairs light had been left on. This just created a bit of interest and warmer light in the background as they past in front and into the daylight hallway.

I'll also include some more BTS and a picture from the recce we did. It was taken from my phone but it does give an idea of the difference lighting makes to a location (just in case it wasn't already obvious!).

Day/Night Office

Office Still Frame 1
Office Still Frame 1

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Office Still Frame 2
Office Still Frame 2

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Office Notes
Office Notes

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Office Still Frame 1
Office Still Frame 1

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The interesting thing about this space was we were shooting one scene as a daytime office scene and one as a 'later that day' office where the office was closed. So it gave me the chance to take some light away and cool the temperatures.

It was important to keep the office space clear of lights so the actors and camera could move about the space. I had one 1x1 clamped to the ceiling and the rest were outside the glass partition. We were a few floors up so it wasn't an option to put any big lights outside the window so I controlled the natural daylight by putting up some black material.

The story is a laptop has been left out on the office. The cleaner enters later that day and steals it. I took away the warm colour temperature lights for the cleaner scene and introduced some cooler temps to give it a feeling of late in the day. Unfortunately as this was a low budget film we were limited on what we could do with setup and it was also a working office which meant we could not control the windows at the far side of the building which ideally would have been done to reduce the daylight spill.