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Lighting for small interiors

lighting interiors house small location shooting

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#1 Bradley Stearn

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Posted 26 April 2015 - 06:53 PM

I'm DOPing a short film this week, just got back from the first shooting day of 4. It's a drama/thriller short film set in one house, for the duration of one night in the world of the narrative. The main rooms we are shooting in are small bedrooms, and a tiny bathroom. 

 

Today I had one of those days where I wasn't happy with any of the shots, I knew why I wasn't happy, but I just couldn't figure out 'how' to fix the shot and make it the standard I am always going for. I'm guessing I'm not alone with this, like anything in the world, you have good and bad days.

 

For example, one of the scenes was a tiny 8x8foot (if not smaller) bedroom, of our main actress on her laptop whilst laying on the bed. With the kit I have available, I was able to raise a 2kw blonde just high enough from the exterior to light the room, which is on the first floor. This usually works for me for larger rooms, however with the room being so small, the light was just thrown and bounced all over the place. It would be interesting to figure out how you would light a similar scene? If you could have any lighting kit what would you chose to do this?

 

Another scene I struggled with a lot was a day for night scene in the small bathroom. We had to tin foil all of the windows to cheat that it was night time, which meant I could only light from the interior. There isn't even a way of getting a light into the bathroom from the exterior even if we were shooting at night. The bathroom was fully tiled with white shiny tiles, so whatever light I had in the room just bounced everywhere once again. I went for a blue gelled LED to give the bathroom a blue tint, and the 2kw with CTO 1/2 on the landing outside the bathroom, to create some colour depth when the bathroom door is opened by the character. Once the character was in the bathroom, her close-up was just flat/boring in terms of lighting. I tried adding a warmer LED to add some contrast, however even at the lowest intensity, this was bouncing everywhere and creating even flatter light on the subject. Absolute mayhem! 

 

I guess it would be interesting to hear about similar experiences, and maybe how you solved them. 


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#2 Miguel Angel

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Posted 26 April 2015 - 07:54 PM

Hi, 

 

Quick answers after working and before I go to bed! 

 

1) Did you try to bounce the 2K off a frame or a polyboard? and then maybe diffusing the light again and flag it? 

Or even use the 2K laterally with depron on it to give a little edge light just to the window and light the interior with one practical or even with the person playing in front of the practical so you could have a silhouette?

 

Regarding the lighting setup for that particular shoot, it depends a lot on what is what you want to achieve so there is no right or wrong answer. 

Let's imagine for a second that you want to create the light coming from a streetlamp though.

 

You could use a Jem Ball so you have a soft source spreading through the street and hitting the window but still a little bit hard.

You could use something harder like a fresnel lamp with loads of diffusion. 
Or even you could go an use a Vistabeam from outside! either bounced or direct or with diffusion on it. 

 

There are so many options and all of them could work. 

 

On the other hand amateur filmmakers usually forget that 95% of what a cinematographer will shoot comes from the art department and finding the right locations is key to be able to create the perfect mood. 

Students and some amateur directors alike forget that the right location raises the production values by 1000% and it helps get a better look for the product. 

 

Sometimes they don't want to spend the time finding it, some others they are just anxious to shoot something and I feel that is the cinematographer's job to let them know what kind of locations will work for the project and which ones will not. 

 

Have fun though! and try as many things as you can! :) 

 

Have a good day!


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#3 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 27 April 2015 - 12:06 AM

You also of course want to cover as much of white rooms as you can with black duev to kill all the bounceback-- if you're looking to raise the contrast.

Also I tend to do much more back-lighting in small rooms than other-rooms, and then use a passive fill to light up the face, but w/o seeing the location, knowing the feeling, look, and what kit you have, it's hard to tell for sure. hell we don't even know what camera, lens, and stop you're on and would like to be at.

 

And sometimes, sometimes, we just have to accept that the shot will be flat, and boring, and yes you need production design on your side to make things work.


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#4 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 27 April 2015 - 12:05 PM

For a night interior, the light doesn't necessarily have to come thru the window. If you wanted a warm yet moody look, you could just put a practical lamp in the corner behind her for depth and created a soft low key tungsten source in the near corner for ambience. I'll sometimes drape colored fabric over the lampshade if it's motivated to make it a softer source and add color. Or for a more dramatic look, you could make the laptop the main source and place a few daylight Kino tubes around the room to augment and create separation. Another thought would be to frame an open doorway in the shot, either to the hall or the bathroom, and bring a light through the door for depth.
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#5 JD Hartman

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Posted 27 April 2015 - 02:39 PM


For example, one of the scenes was a tiny 8x8foot (if not smaller) bedroom, of our main actress on her laptop whilst laying on the bed. With the kit I have available, I was able to raise a 2kw blonde just high enough from the exterior to light the room, which is on the first floor. This usually works for me for larger rooms, however with the room being so small, the light was just thrown and bounced all over the place. It would be interesting to figure out how you would light a similar scene? If you could have any lighting kit what would you chose to do this?

 

 

 

I guess it would be interesting to hear about similar experiences, and maybe how you solved them. 

 

Do you have enough crew to stage the bedroom in another larger area?  If the camera is only seeing the bed, nightstand, lamp,  window and room corner, can you re-create the bedroom in the corner of a larger room with a window in the appropriate place?  That would eliminate most of the light reflecting back.

 

Sometimes doing a little more physical work translates into less effort to make an available location work for the scene.


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#6 Miguel Angel

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Posted 27 April 2015 - 06:21 PM

Regarding the bedroom. 

 

As they said, you don't even need to see a window or it can be anywhere. It can be shot even in daylight if you can block the window.

 

Staccato006.jpeg

 

I did this (and I am quite unhappy with it) in a room which was a little bigger than yours but we had to shoot at daytime. 
I am a big fan of seeing windows (even if they are just super over exposed) but I also love colour contrast.

 

Hence by knowing that I was not going to be able to see the window I created the "window light" myself with 1 kinoflo (with cyan and 1 tube) bounced off a polyboard and framed with diffusion if I remember correctly. 

I closed the windows in the room and put a heavy black silk over them too, just in case. 

And then the colour contrast came from the fireplace which you might not have, however you could put a practical on a table all dimmered (is that even a word?) down with maybe a bit of yellow and play with them. 

 

Or you could have chosen to make the laptop light the key (as Satsuki suggested) and play with it and the character in silhouette with a couple of practicals in the background or in the foreground. 

 

So many options! :)

 

Looking forward to seeing your result! 

 

Have a good day. 


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