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Lighting a Bar


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#1 Joseph Boyd

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Posted 30 December 2006 - 10:32 PM

Somehow I got roped into lighting for a No-Budget, Indie flick being filmed locally (I must stop answering Craigslist ads), despite my claims of knowing very little about lighting-apparently that was more than anyone else on the project. The scene they want me to light for is in a bar/club, my concern is that the natural enviroment will be too dark.
The director/DP has no lights, and I'm not about to go buy them for someone elses project. I do have a number of halogen lights, ranging from small 60 Watt spotlights up to 1000 Watt Construction lights (with improvised barn doors). The big limitation here is that not only will the bar be open, there's a concert that night as well.
My thought is to use a china ball above the actress and the 60 Watt halogen spotlight, run through a improvised bounce box, on the ground pointed up for a backlight.
I'm not positive of the scenes yet (still waiting on the script), but do know that most will be filmed with her sitting at the bar.

Any suggestions? Am I totally over my head here?

Thanks
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 31 December 2006 - 01:38 AM

Well, for safety reasons, you need to prelight the bar in advance so you can secure any lights and cables so that patrons don't trip on them. But it's pretty hard to light a bar scene attractively and not ruin the ambience for the general audience if the place will be open for business.

I had to light a goth nightclub where the owner didn't want me to use too much light. By the time I knocked the levels down to what the owner deemed acceptable for her goth crowd, I was shooting on 800 ASA film at T/1.4 (wide-open) and everything was nearly two stops underexposed. I used small units like Dedolights with party gels on them, and a few well-scrimmed tweenies (650w), also gelled. Nightclubs are often lit with small spotlights, not soft lighting. But a dim Chinese Lantern right next to an actor would be an attractive way to key them.

The trick is to use the lowest levels you can to still get a decent image so that you don't overpower the natural ambience of the place.
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