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How to light a basement


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#1 Vadim Joy

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Posted 07 November 2014 - 07:19 AM

I'll be shooting this film soon which takes place mostly in a basement. Four actors. I like the look of Reservoir Dogs, which I'd love to replicate for the first part but with richer skin tones.

reservoir+dogs.png

Closer to the end I'm after dramatic lighting with deep shadows and desaturated skin tones.  I don't want it to be too dark to the point where we can not see where we are. Any thoughts?  

 

Here is a picture so you have an idea of how it might look like, in the middle there will be a table and all the action happens around it. 

basement-of-doom.jpeg

 

 


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#2 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 07 November 2014 - 11:27 AM

Reservoir dogs was shot mostly on 50D stock, using a lot of hard light. Andrzej Sekula was known for using this approach, as you can see from his other work of the same period.

 

The main challenge seems to be that there don't appear to be any windows from which to motivate light, and the ceiling seems quite low, making it difficult to hide lamps overhead.

 

Are you intending to use the hole in the roof as a source of light?


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#3 Vadim Joy

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Posted 07 November 2014 - 11:39 AM

No, the hole in the roof will be covered. Script calls for a location deep underground. I was thinking to fix fluorescent tubes on the ceiling, and then light the rest. I might go with wides first to have more freedom later. 


Edited by Vadim Joy, 07 November 2014 - 11:41 AM.

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#4 Guy Holt

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Posted 07 November 2014 - 12:09 PM

The main challenge seems to be that ... the ceiling seems quite low, making it difficult to hide lamps overhead.

 

 

Even though the ceiling is fairly low, your fortunate to have open support beams.  With some Speedrail and Modern “Split-Cs” and Speedrail Wall-Busters you will be able to easily rig whatever you want wherever you need it as we did in this spot for Bose:

 

boseparty_sm_picframehor.jpg

 

boseparty_sm_gridwshor.jpg

 

boseparty_sm_pipebusteralthor.jpg

 

boseparty_sm_speedchor.jpg

 

However you decide to light the basement be sure to use GFCIs on all the cables supplying your lights – whatever size they happen to be. The basement looks to be pretty damp and GFCIs are a must when working around water in order to avoid someone taking a potentially lethal shock. If you stick with smaller quartz lights, you will be fine with the hardware store variety of GFCI cords. But, if you use  fluorescents you will need  film style GFCIs, like Shock Blocks, that are specifically designed for motion picture lights. To prevent the nuisance tripping that electronic Kino & HMI ballasts can cause with standard GFCIs, film style GFCIs sense on an "Inverse Time Curve." And, to deal with the harmonics that non-PFC Kino & HMI ballasts kick back into the power stream (that will cause other GFCIs to trip), film style GFCIs include a harmonic filter with a frequency response up to 120 hz. 3rd harmonics are attenuated by 50%, and by 500 Hz are down to 20%. Attenuated by the filter, the harmonics generated by dirty loads such as non-PFC Kino & HMI ballasts, pose less of a problem.

 

What Shock Block you use and how you use it depends on where your power is coming from.  It doesn’t look like there is much wiring in the basement, and even if there was, I don’t know I would trust it.  Where had you planned to get your power?

 

Guy Holt, Gaffer, ScreenLight & Grip, Lighting Rental & Sales in Boston.


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#5 Vadim Joy

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Posted 07 November 2014 - 12:18 PM

 

Even though the ceiling is fairly low, your fortunate to have open support beams.  With some Speedrail and Modern “Split-Cs” and Speedrail Wall-Busters you will be able to easily rig whatever you want wherever you need it as we did in this spot for Bose:

 

boseparty_sm_picframehor.jpg

 

boseparty_sm_gridwshor.jpg

 

boseparty_sm_pipebusteralthor.jpg

 

boseparty_sm_speedchor.jpg

 

However you decide to light the basement be sure to use GFCIs on all the cables supplying your lights – whatever size they happen to be. The basement looks to be pretty damp and GFCIs are a must when working around water in order to avoid someone taking a potentially lethal shock. If you stick with smaller quartz lights, you will be fine with the hardware store variety of GFCI cords. But, if you use  fluorescents you will need  film style GFCIs, like Shock Blocks, that are specifically designed for motion picture lights. To prevent the nuisance tripping that electronic Kino & HMI ballasts can cause with standard GFCIs, film style GFCIs sense on an "Inverse Time Curve." And, to deal with the harmonics that non-PFC Kino & HMI ballasts kick back into the power stream (that will cause other GFCIs to trip), film style GFCIs include a harmonic filter with a frequency response up to 120 hz. 3rd harmonics are attenuated by 50%, and by 500 Hz are down to 20%. Attenuated by the filter, the harmonics generated by dirty loads such as non-PFC Kino & HMI ballasts, pose less of a problem.

 

What Shock Block you use and how you use it depends on where your power is coming from.  It doesn’t look like there is much wiring in the basement, and even if there was, I don’t know I would trust it.  Where had you planned to get your power?

 

Guy Holt, Gaffer, ScreenLight & Grip, Lighting Rental & Sales in Boston.

Guy great information. The water everywhere is not from building itself. We shot a short last week which involved lots of water spraying :)

It will be completely dry by next week. So no need for GFCIs. However idea to mount lights directly to the rain is good, I don't know why I missed it. 


Edited by Vadim Joy, 07 November 2014 - 12:19 PM.

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#6 Vadim Joy

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Posted 07 November 2014 - 12:20 PM

Do you think fixing there 1Ks would be overkill for bouncing light off the walls for wide shots? 


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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 07 November 2014 - 12:24 PM

When you are in a room with a low ceiling like that you really need to dress it carefully with practicals that can be photographed that will provide the majority of the lighting so you are just tweaking the coverage. I would put in a couple of extra sources around the room; you can always leave some off. Fluorescent shop lights are a nice semi-soft source and with some eggcrates on the unit, will help reduce spill. Bare bulbs in hat lamps are another option. And desk lamps on benches. I've even used halogen work lamps as practicals for basement scenes if you want something harsh and lower.
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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 07 November 2014 - 12:26 PM

Little bare PAR bulbs in swivel sockets are also useful for spotlighting parts of the room.
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#9 Vadim Joy

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Posted 07 November 2014 - 12:45 PM

I've even used halogen work lamps as practicals for basement scenes if you want something harsh and lower.

I like that. The script calls for a computer station, which will be right in the  middle of the room. I think work lamps will actually underline the story. 


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#10 Vadim Joy

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Posted 07 November 2014 - 12:47 PM

I can use Fluorescent lights for the scenes when actors are near computers, should work just fine.


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#11 Vadim Joy

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Posted 07 November 2014 - 12:52 PM

This is quite interesting

 Basement_dreaming.jpg


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#12 Mark Kenfield

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Posted 07 November 2014 - 03:32 PM

Given how dingy the basement looks, I think you could quite easily get away with something like tungsten work lights as believable practical sources.

 

They give you a tonne of output to work with and you can place them wherever you like to create mood and depth.


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#13 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 07 November 2014 - 04:43 PM

Another option is little Lite Ribbon LEDs which you can hide just about anywhere. Also nice to put them on some computer monitors to give you an extra sense of glow off of them if you're not seeing the screen. (note I am not normally a fan of LEDs-- but if you want colors out of them, then the RGBs can be nice)

 

A lot, I think, will depend on what prod design can help you with in terms of built fixtures.


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#14 Miguel Angel

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Posted 07 November 2014 - 05:17 PM

I concur with David, practicals are always fantastic and if you can base your lighting on them, even better. 

 

Although that is a different approach. 

 

By the way, have you seen the series Arrow? they have parts shot in a warehouse, mixing practicals and hard sunlight :) 

 

Best. 


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#15 Vadim Joy

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Posted 07 November 2014 - 05:20 PM

I concur with David, practicals are always fantastic and if you can base your lighting on them, even better. 

 

Although that is a different approach. 

 

By the way, have you seen the series Arrow? they have parts shot in a warehouse, mixing practicals and hard sunlight :)

 

Best. 

I will check it out. Why you believe there is different approach to it?


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#16 Vadim Joy

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Posted 07 November 2014 - 05:24 PM

Another option is little Lite Ribbon LEDs which you can hide just about anywhere. Also nice to put them on some computer monitors to give you an extra sense of glow off of them if you're not seeing the screen. (note I am not normally a fan of LEDs-- but if you want colors out of them, then the RGBs can be nice)

 

A lot, I think, will depend on what prod design can help you with in terms of built fixtures.

I'm not a fan of those little REDs either. I'd rather prefer a panel of fluorescent tubes to light actors when they are near computers. 


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#17 Miguel Angel

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Posted 07 November 2014 - 05:50 PM

I don't remember Reservoir Dogs very well but I would say that that sequence doesn't have any practicals, or if it does they are not used as "main" sources, as opposed as in Arrow where the light in the "warehouse" is supposed to come from the practicals, sometimes they use sunlight too though, but in very specific moments. 

 

That sequence doesn't mix colours in the way that Arrow does either. 

 

And the use of really harsh light emphasized by smoke is not in the garage part of Reservoir Dogs, which shows very clean backgrounds if I'm right? 

 

Please, see some examples below from the series Arrow:

 

Stephen-Amell-in-Arrow-Series-Premiere-1

 

Stephen-Amell-in-Arrow-Series-Premiere-1

 

reg_1024Arrowmh021113.jpg

 

Ben_Arrow-400x225.jpg

 

Best.


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#18 Vadim Joy

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Posted 07 November 2014 - 06:47 PM

I don't remember Reservoir Dogs very well but I would say that that sequence doesn't have any practicals, or if it does they are not used as "main" sources, as opposed as in Arrow where the light in the "warehouse" is supposed to come from the practicals, sometimes they use sunlight too though, but in very specific moments. 

 

That sequence doesn't mix colours in the way that Arrow does either. 

 

And the use of really harsh light emphasized by smoke is not in the garage part of Reservoir Dogs, which shows very clean backgrounds if I'm right? 

 

Please, see some examples below from the series Arrow:

 

Stephen-Amell-in-Arrow-Series-Premiere-1

 

Stephen-Amell-in-Arrow-Series-Premiere-1

 

reg_1024Arrowmh021113.jpg

 

Ben_Arrow-400x225.jpg

 

Best.

Miguel I like it a lot. It might be exactly what I'm looking for here. Thanks for pointing it out.


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#19 Miguel Angel

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Posted 07 November 2014 - 06:53 PM

You're welcome. 

 

Bear in mind the height of the celings in Arrow, your basement doesn't have that height but I'm sure you'll figure something out! 

 

Glad you liked it. 

 

Best.


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#20 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 07 November 2014 - 07:30 PM

The low ceiling is why practical light sources have to be designed into the room.


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