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Mimicking Club Style Lighting


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#1 Zander Kroon

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 04:14 PM

In the next few weeks I will be gaffing a spec commercial. One of the locations is a mainstream looking club where the male character will be prowling for girls. The DP and I would like to have DMX controlled theatrical style heads however it is out of the budget. Initially my thoughts on creating moving sources and changing colors, maybe even some sharp patterns, would be to yank the lens out of fresnels and shoot them into mirrors. We could gel the mirrors and tape patterns on the glass, then rig the mirrors to rotate.

On paper this could work but would take a lot of time building before hand. Thoughts?

If you folks have any other tips or tricks for a set up like this I would love to hear.
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#2 Ari Davidson

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 06:25 PM

In the next few weeks I will be gaffing a spec commercial. One of the locations is a mainstream looking club where the male character will be prowling for girls. The DP and I would like to have DMX controlled theatrical style heads however it is out of the budget. Initially my thoughts on creating moving sources and changing colors, maybe even some sharp patterns, would be to yank the lens out of fresnels and shoot them into mirrors. We could gel the mirrors and tape patterns on the glass, then rig the mirrors to rotate.

On paper this could work but would take a lot of time building before hand. Thoughts?

If you folks have any other tips or tricks for a set up like this I would love to hear.


I would go with pars into mirrors, and smack on some party colors. I prefer to have movers in the background, and an on-camera key. What are you shooting on? Strobes are always a nice addition but they split that damn CMOS frame. I just did a spot for a club where we used strobes, but since we used the Ikonoskop Dii, which has a CCD chip, we didn't have any issues with split frames.

I think The Social Network executed this type of environment very well. Check it out.
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#3 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 10:17 PM

The first job for which I was ever paid was doing video graphics in a club, and such I am horribly aware of how badly feature films often do this.

Far from "party colours", decent clubs are often quite monochrome, at least considered over a short period of time. Dancefloor lighting is created using much the same thinking as other designed use of colour, and may pick just a couple of colours and build a state out of that which may last for many bars of a piece of music before switching to something else. Chaotic mixed colour is not generally used except with the specific intention of being colourful for a while. This of course all assumes you're trying to create a good-looking, classy club, as opposed to a nasty, cheap-looking club. If you're after the latter, then fine, do what you will. Most directors of photography have no more idea how to light a dancefloor than a club lighting guy would know how to shoot a movie. This thought has repeatedly occurred to me when movies try to depict clubs and often it is, well, bad. Are strobes really that common anymore?

The only other thing that occurs is that people expect clubs to look like music videos, but that really boils down to the same thing: pick a colourscheme, possibly one that plays to whatever else you're doing in the movie, and stick with it. The Matrix movies depicted clubs at least once and stayed with their greenish computer-world look quite effectively. A quick google image search for "intelligent lighting" quickly makes clear that simpler is better in terms of colourscheme.

Bouncing movie lights into mirrors is a good idea, but to be honest I'm shocked you couldn't get some real intelligent lighting for less money! Movie lights are so horribly, horribly expensive to rent that moving heads or mirrors should be quite achievable, even including DMX control gear and someone to run it.

Be aware of metal halide lamps in intelligent lighting which may have iron ballasts, though most modern ones will be flicker free (though not hot-restrikable).

Cool (red and white):
Posted Image


Cool (steel and amber):

Posted Image


Cool (red and blue):

Posted Image


Cheap (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and vomit):

Posted Image
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#4 Matt Harris

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Posted 20 March 2012 - 03:46 AM

I'm a musician. Its my main job. We carry around a large lighting rig and play in about 150 clubs per year. The club atmosphere varies depending on who did the install etc. The pictures posted look nice. You may want to contact a budget production company. Tell them you want 4-6 scanners (not moving heads, they cost more) and some LED washes. Wash the walls with a slick color and spray some fog to help the beams pop on the scans. Most of your shots won't even show the fixtures, just the beam source. In my area people would provide that set up for $400-$500.

I've used optical flares plugin in after effects to add some light sources in post before too :


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