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lighting a classroom scene


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#1 David Schuurman

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Posted 09 April 2015 - 09:48 AM

Hi folks,

 

I just shot a project where we had a class full of kids studying and interacting within a classroom environment. We used the existing lighting within the room (panels of overhead flourescent tubes like every school i've ever been in) and blocked off the windows to cut the daylight temerature, we had a small budget,and a short timeframe.

 

I was talking to a pal about it who was on set but not the director on that project and he said he would have wanted it lit and shut off the overhead lights even within that budget. I said that probably the only thing I would've done is replace all the bulbs in the overhead fixtures with a brighter, colour balanced bulb, with maybe a thin diffusion on each one, and then had two kino's to add a faint bit of eyelight and backlight on the maybe 3 or 4 closeups we had, but that I would probably even do without the kino's and just leave the overhead lights as the main light and use a small reflector/icelight type eyelight on the closeups.

 

He seemed dissatisfied by that, and I've since talked to him twice about the same project and each time he talks about how it "should've been lit" (even though it looked great anyway, and everything that wasn't fully ideal could've been brought out in the grade).

 

My question is, how would you light a classroom scene if you have only a single school day (8-2:45 minus lunch and recess breaks) to shoot in the classroom?

 

 


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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 09 April 2015 - 11:24 AM

Depends entirely on what is the look you want for the scene.  Sometimes you want the overhead look and sometimes you want the window light look.

 

Also depends on if those windows are mainly to one side, side-lighting the room, or are mainly in the background, which creates a bigger problem of balancing the faces against that brightness.

 

But my general tendency would be to start with all the overheads off and see what the room looks like with window light, if there is enough of it.  I sometimes then only turn on one row of the fluorescents if they run parallel to the windows, sometimes the row closest to the windows so that the tubes seem to blend with the window light and carry more light into the room but from that side.  The tubes would be color-corrected to daylight.


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#3 David Schuurman

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Posted 09 April 2015 - 12:19 PM

Thanks for the reply David!

 

The intended look is to seem like a typical daytime class in full swing. Bright, colourful, soft.

 

There were only windows on one wall and we never showed them, so we drew the blinds  to avoid one row of students being much brighter than the last row.


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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 09 April 2015 - 01:46 PM

Yes, the thing with a big light source like a row of windows is that if you were going to use them, you'd arrange the scene / camera angles to favor that light, so if you weren't anyway, that sort of leaves overhead fluorescents as your source.


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#5 Guy Holt

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Posted 09 April 2015 - 04:29 PM

My question is, how would you light a classroom scene if you have only a single school day (8-2:45 minus lunch and recess breaks) to shoot in the classroom?

 

One of the biggest challenges in situations like this is getting light into the eyes of your talent – especially kids since they are so low to the ground. If you don't, their eyes will look dark and bruised because the very toppy light of the overhead fluorescents won't dig into their eye sockets.

 

samplethief1lg.jpeg

 

You also may want to consider using a combination of hard and soft light to create contrast in a situation where the overhead fluorescent lighting is usually very flat.

 

samplethief3lg.jpeg

 

The pictures attached are from short film I lit called "Act Your Age" that takes place in a senior center, but I have taken a similar approach to school classrooms whenever there was an opportunity to do rigging. To create contrast, we brought a 6k HMI par in the windows on one side of the room. But, with contrast comes the necessity to fill.

 

samplethief4lg.jpeg

 

If you are fortunate enough to have a drop ceiling in the classroom, you can take the approach we did in "Act Your Age", where we hung 4'-4 Bank kinos with Opal coved below the fixture to make a "Bay Light." Coving the Opal under the light, redirects it horizontally so that it will dig into the talents eyes.

 

samplethief8lg.jpeg

 

As you can see here, with the right rigging equipment, you can use drop ceilings like a studio grid. Use this link for

more pictures of productions that used drop ceilings on location as if they were a studio grid.

 

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


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#6 David Schuurman

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Posted 09 April 2015 - 07:37 PM

Very interesting Guy, thanks for sharing the BTS stills. In my case, I could take the tip of coving the diffusion off each of the overhead  fixtures even which could help put some light in the students eyes.


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