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Lighting an office dialogue scene for a 1970s look

office lighting 1970s

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#1 Peter Rzazewski

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Posted 06 November 2015 - 03:36 PM

We need to to light an office dialogue scene set in the 70s. Will keep desks and stage the rest with 70s era supplies/equipment. Ceilings are 8ft and fluorescent lit. Any suggestions? Stills of two offices that will be used below.

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#2 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 06 November 2015 - 04:28 PM

I don't think that offices were lit very differently in the 1970's than they are now, so really your look is going to come from Art dept and Wardrobe. You might try skirting the existing overheads with duvetyne to create more localized pools of light, and keeping the blinds closed to control the spill of daylight.


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#3 Lance Soltys

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Posted 06 November 2015 - 06:17 PM

It depends on what you're going for.

 

My first thought was exactly what Stuart said.  Though, of course they were using the old style ballast, but I'm too young to have really thought too much about the look of fluorescents back then, though maybe a very slight buzz would be cool.

 

That being said, if they were LIGHTING A MOVIE back in the 70's, it would look a lot different.  Probably a lot more hard lights.  1K's fresnels through diffusion maybe.  If you're trying to create the look of films from the 70's you could certainly scale back from the total wattage, but you may want to go with something harder.


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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 06 November 2015 - 06:47 PM

The look of fluorescent office light hasn't really changed, the ballast isn't going to contribute to the period look. Perhaps the diffuser grates have changed style over time, I think some of the eggcrate grids date more to the 1980's and older offices tended to have more fixtures for more of a broadly-lit look rather than pools.

Buzz can be added in post, no need to have noisy fixtures on set.

It's a different thing if you are trying to emulate 1970's Hollywood lighting practices in fluorescent locations, some were more realistic about sticking to that look ("All The President's Men" is a good example) and others would mix harder tungsten lighting into their close-ups, or use a tungsten eye light / fill that didn't quite match the color of the fluorescents. But my impression from the original post was that this was set in the 1970's, not that it was supposed to look like it was shot in the 1970's.
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#5 Dennis Hingsberg

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Posted 06 November 2015 - 07:20 PM

Judging from the trailer mentioned by David, I'd say get those overhead flo's in the shot and make sure they have a slight magenta cast, and make anything that's suppose to be white, tinted teal.

 

https://www.youtube....h?v=vLt6djxhNe8


Edited by Dennis Hingsberg, 06 November 2015 - 07:21 PM.

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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 06 November 2015 - 07:32 PM

The magenta in that set is coming from the tungsten lights used in the small offices with desk lamps and the backing lamps outside the windows because the image was timed to get the green out of the overhead warm white fluorescents.
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#7 JD Hartman

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Posted 07 November 2015 - 07:37 AM

Overhead light from that era and until fairly recently would have been T12 cool white flouro tubes.  Nothing special.


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#8 Peter Rzazewski

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Posted 11 November 2015 - 04:49 PM

I don't think that offices were lit very differently in the 1970's than they are now, so really your look is going to come from Art dept and Wardrobe. You might try skirting the existing overheads with duvetyne to create more localized pools of light, and keeping the blinds closed to control the spill of daylight.

I like the idea of creating localized pools of light but not sure what exactly skirting means.

 

It depends on what you're going for.

 

My first thought was exactly what Stuart said.  Though, of course they were using the old style ballast, but I'm too young to have really thought too much about the look of fluorescents back then, though maybe a very slight buzz would be cool.

 

That being said, if they were LIGHTING A MOVIE back in the 70's, it would look a lot different.  Probably a lot more hard lights.  1K's fresnels through diffusion maybe.  If you're trying to create the look of films from the 70's you could certainly scale back from the total wattage, but you may want to go with something harder.

I'm not necessarily trying to create the look of film from the 70s, just trying to convey that it's a 70s scene, because we will be jumping back and forth in time between current and 70s... so I want that to be evident from the look. From what I can see in Argo, a 70s period movie film recently, they rely heavily on yellow and browns (walls, clothing,etc) to give that 70s sepia look while keeping a contemporary quality. Hm...

 

The look of fluorescent office light hasn't really changed, the ballast isn't going to contribute to the period look. Perhaps the diffuser grates have changed style over time, I think some of the eggcrate grids date more to the 1980's and older offices tended to have more fixtures for more of a broadly-lit look rather than pools.

Buzz can be added in post, no need to have noisy fixtures on set.

It's a different thing if you are trying to emulate 1970's Hollywood lighting practices in fluorescent locations, some were more realistic about sticking to that look ("All The President's Men" is a good example) and others would mix harder tungsten lighting into their close-ups, or use a tungsten eye light / fill that didn't quite match the color of the fluorescents. But my impression from the original post was that this was set in the 1970's, not that it was supposed to look like it was shot in the 1970's.

You're right. It's set in the 70s but not to look like it was filmed in the 70s. See my reply above this one.    But I am interested in hearing more about mixing tungsten eye/fill light with overhead fluorescent. I'm curious how this looks... Do you have an example of this I can reference?

 

Judging from the trailer mentioned by David, I'd say get those overhead flo's in the shot and make sure they have a slight magenta cast, and make anything that's suppose to be white, tinted teal.

 

https://www.youtube....h?v=vLt6djxhNe8

Im not crazy about the office lighting in All The President's Men. It's too flat and boring. Since the film Im DP'ing is about a woman going through multiple interviews in a man's world in the 70s (men who primarily want to pick her up), in my mind it's kind of a darkish time for her so I would think the mood should have shadow with pools of light... but without it looking like a horror movie. Would I bring in fresnels and possibly snoot some pools of light? Maybe cookies to add textured light pattern to the office?

 

 

Overhead light from that era and until fairly recently would have been T12 cool white flouro tubes.  Nothing special.

Ok, fair. But in order to balance the strong exterior light, would I artificially light from the ceiling? If so, how so that it's diffused?

 

 

My other thought that to close the blinds and place my own light outside the window to control spill/direction and consistence (don't want to assume the weather is going to provide a consistent light on day of shoot). 


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#9 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 11 November 2015 - 08:06 PM

I like the idea of creating localized pools of light but not sure what exactly skirting means. 

Skirting a fluorescent is usually done with strips of Duvetyne, which is a thick, black cotton material.  You would cut a strip anywhere from 6" to 18" wide and fix it around the edges of the fluorescent fixture, hanging downwards. The exact depth of the skirt would depend on how much light you wanted to cut off the walls, and where the top of your frame was. Sometimes, individual fixtures are skirted, or often, groups of fixtures. Duvetyne is commonly used, but other materials will work. In the past, I have used disposable black table cloths as a cheap alternative.


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