I set aside a few hours to edit the “Behind the Scenes” photos of a shoot….but I liked one of the photos so much I started playing in Photoshop, and I accidentally ended up with a poster.  

I set aside a few hours to edit the “Behind the Scenes” photos of a shoot….but I liked one of the photos so much I started playing in Photoshop, and I accidentally ended up with a poster.  

Rampage Storyboards

I shot a short film called “Rampage”.  I’ve bogged about some of the lighting before (see some of my earlier posts), but now I’d like to share my storyboards…

If you haven’t seen the movie, perhaps you’d best watch that first:  


Whenever there are blank panels, that means that there’s a scene or a setup change.  It allows me to keep the storyboards, shotlists and scripts for one scene together.  

Occasionally, I’ll put the storyboard out of order if there’s only a shot or two needed for a later scene, like above.  

From here, we started giving nicknames to the scenes.  This allowed us to clearly reference “the so and so scene”.  

Short Films with Chinese Lanterns

Here’s an uber short called “Stew”:


A friend asked “How could I easily light a scene with a lot of actors sitting around a table?  Oh, and it all needs to be shot in one day” 

 - @josephdunstan

I answered that a Chinese Lantern in the middle of the table would be a convenient key light for all the characters.  It would mean that less lights would need to move between setups.  

I went to Bunnings warehouse and purchased the materials to make a Chinese lantern.   The build cost about $25 total, and consisted of the following ingredients:

- 2x70watt household bulbs

- Bayonet mounts

- a few meters of 240v power lead

- 2x 240v plugs

- Chinese lantern

I shot the above dialogue scene, called “Stew” to test the application of this light.

From this experiment I discovered:

200w bulbs are no longer made, or are very hard to come by.  However, 70w bulbs, which have the equivalent output of 100watts, are available at all supermarkets.  By creating two bulb fixtures, and dangling them both in one Lantern I got the necessary light output. 

The incident light produced at the actor’s position (approx 1.5meters from the lantern’s perimeter) was f3.2 at ISO 640. 

This allowed me to shoot at f4 or f4 and a half, which gave the actor’s a little room to move and also rendered the Actor’s PALE PALE PALE skin a little more accurately). 

When Joseph came to shoot his film, he was using a Sony Z7, which is rated at about ISO320.  This is half as sensitive as my ISO640, and as such, he opened up to f2.8, resulting in the same exposure.   

In order to get a little contrast between the Broad and Short sides of the face (the near and far side respectively) I cheated the Lantern’s position slightly.  In the wide shots, the lantern is positioned directly between the two boys, and in front of their noses. 

The Lantern actually needed to be in shot, so I removed it in Post.  Here’s what the raw footage of the wide shot actually looks like: 


If I shot the CUs with this same positioning the lighting on the faces of the boys would be very flat.  So, in the CUs the position of the Lantern was cheated a little further away, towards the actor’s far cheek.  This results in the drop off on the short side.

However, for Joseph’s shoot this above technique proved difficult due to the size/shape of the room.  Thus, we needed to leave the Chinese lantern in the middle of the table.  In order to give the actor’s a bit of contrast in their face we augmented the light hitting the Actor’s Far side with a Dedo.  The Dedo had diff gel, and was dimmed down to such a weak intensity that it was only adding 1/3 – ½ of a stop of light.

Here’s a photo I stole on set of Joseph’s lead actor, which demonstrates the desired falloff on the broad side of the face….

Finally, here’s us using the Chinese Lantern, whilst filming Jo’s short film “Death at the Dining Table”:

Here’s a Timelapse Video demonstrating my second attempt at lighting a white backdrop.

This technique uses 6 redheads, 2 C stands, 2 reflectors, and an available off-white wall.  

Lighting with Too much Available Light

The problem: 

We were shooting in an office that structurally was great, and had great colors for the walls, but there was way too much Available light.  

The office was surrounded by windows 15 feet off the ground, and flouros from the ceiling that wouldn’t turn off.  At our location scout we’d overestimated how much of it we could block out.  

Thus, on the day of shooting I:

1. Setup a low ISO (from memory 160)

2. Start to setup my overly complex three point lighting design

I fiddled, and tweaked trying to get the right balance of enough fill light, whilst still suggesting a “Dark” side to the film.  But eventually I decided it was all too much. Thus I…

3.  Turned off all the lights

4.  Upped my ISO to a spot where the ambient light was underexposing the image by approximately 1 stop

5. Used a Dedo as an eyelight.

PRESTO!  That’s kindof the look I want!  There’s some blacks in the image, his eye pops, you can feel a KEYLIGHT coming from Screen Right (if you look at the nose shadow).  

….however, it’s still missing something.  

There’s no motivation for the light sources.  We can feel the light coming from the right side of the shot, but we can’t see any suggestions of where it is.  

That’s when I drew inspiration from something I saw one day in a hotel room….

If you ignore the beams of hard light, this is actually quite a dull image.  Remove those hotspots and this photo would be underexposed.  

So, with a bit of cardboard and a stanley knife, I rigged up a cutter, and thus, we have the shot as it appears in the film…

Now, we have a motivation for the Keylight (or the eyelight).  As an added bonus the image has a bit more contrast to it, and bit more tonal variation in an otherwise boring flat color.   

Sometimes “Doing it in Post” is better (but not often)

The sayings:

"A good cameraman never says We can fix it in post


"Don’t say we can fix it in post unless YOU will do it"

are sayings I stick to quite a bit.  Sometimes that means creating the color-tint in camera, or sometimes it means a little bit more work on set.  

However, whilst filming my most recent short film I stuck to that rule too closely.  


We had a cool idea for the opening shot of our short film “RAMPAGE” - to shoot through a magnifying lamp up into our lead actor’s eye, distorting it and implying he has a warped perspective on the world.  He would then push the lamp out of the way, and it would rest on the word “RAMPAGE”, similarly distorting some of the letters.  

Here is the storyboard for that opening sequence….

To get the shot we placed the tripod low to the ground, put the actor on a chair, and placed the magnifying lamp between the two.  

I shot virtually the entire short film at f4, however, for this shot we needed a different approach.  When the magnifying lamp was turned on, in order to get any sort of usable image I closed down to f22 at ISO 160.  I wanted to virtually see the lightbulb in it’s entirety and at these settings, I almost got the look I wanted.  

Next, I wanted to see the actor’s hand as he grabbed onto the stand of the magnifying lamp.  A dedo just out of frame dimmed to half power rendered the correct image.   


Here’s where we started to struggle.  I used a DEDO aimed into the actor’s eye, but it was nowhere near enough light!  He said it was okay to pump some more into his eye - because he’s an absolute champion!  Thus, I grabbed another Dedo and also pumped that into his eye.  

Here is where we should have done it in post-production!  As you can see from the storyboard the plan was to have him push the lamp out of frame.  However, that never made it into the final cut!  I realize now looking back that we should have done away with the movement of the magnifying lamp and taken two separate exposures:

1.  Expose for the Magnifying Lamp Bulb at ISO 160 and f22


2.  Expose for his Eye at ISO 160 and f4.  

In post-production we could have combined the two images simply by creating a mask from the inside of the magnifying lamp!

This would have put less strain on the actor, and would have pushed the camera less.  

Here is the shot as it appears in the film:


Here is the setup….

As you can see, poor Mark is resting his eyes for a moment.  Absolute Trooper.  

From now on, when there’s a natural mask within the shot, or when the actor’s are starting to burn up under the heat, I’m going to look for a way to do multiple exposures and comp them in post.  

Sometimes, it seems, it is better to do it in post.  

Wrapping Key Light

Over the Summer 2011 holidays I shot a Tropfest short Film - RAMPAGE.  Unfortunately, it didn’t make it in  :(  We’re now attempting to enter it into other festivals, and hopefully it has a nice festival run!  We’re holding off uploading it to the interwebs for the moment, in case it voids us from festivals!

This was the first project I DoP-ed (without doing any other jobs at the same time).  Here is the second scene of the Short film…

This scene: looks like a guy having breakfast casually, but on closer inspection the room is really sparse, and bare.  Sterile and creepy.  

The tricky element: It’s supposed to look like a warm morning sun, but the film is still a ‘dark’ film.  

Here was the lighting design for the shot…

We had already shot half the film in an office, and because there was too much ambient light coming through all the windows I resorted to only using Dedos as Eyelights.  Thus when we came to this shot, I continued the use of the Dedos.  

The Motivated Light Source:

I placed the Window & Venetians in frame so we can show the warm morning sunlight from outside.  We were shooting at night so I placed a Redhead outside, shone through a reflector so that it hits the Venetians evenly.  The diffusion is an important element that I missed once in the past (see my post on “Hollywood Keylight”).  This sets up the principal illumination level of the room and the motivation for the Keylight.  

The Key Light: 

Because the window is setup as the motivation for the light as Screen right of the actor, we can fake the Key light coming from screen right .  So I set up a Dedo, and pumped it into the actor’s eyes. 

The Wrapped Keylight: 

Here was the tricky element - I needed some form of fill light, to hide the “sourcyness” of the keylight.  However, when I used a fill light (such as a redhead or dedo bounced from Screenleft) there was no longer enough contrast to the image.  The solution was to WRAP a second Dedo.  By placing a second Dedo close to the KeyLight and bouncing it off the ceiling (to make it even softer) it made the KeyLight wrap around the actor’s face, giving a tad of illumination to the fill side, but still allowing his ScreenLeft ear to fall into blackness.  


The floor featured heavily in the shot, and I wanted it to be a stop or two darker than the actor, so I needed to use some cutters.  I ended up hanging some materials from some tripods.  

This is what the set looked like:

Dual Camera Shoot

Here is an image from an office scene, shot for Fergus in Hell (www.fergusinhell.com)….

The DoP was sick this day, so whilst the first unit shot a scene in the kitchen, I set up this simple setup.  

Now, I’m the first to admit that this is not going to win any awards for Cinematography - this is a very flatly lit scene, with nothing fancy about it.  However, that’s what I want to breakdown here: how simple this design really is.  

Here is the lighting design: 

As you can see, it was created with 2x Redheads and a Reflector.  

The KeyLight:

Unlike all of my other examples in this blog, thus far, The key light is not being shone through a reflector.  This time it’s bouncing off the reflector :)

There is a window in that spot between John and Andrew, however, we closed the blinds, and rested the Reflector against it.  By pumping it into the reflector it recreates the window - but means that it’s at a fixed intensity.  If we just opened the window we’d be battling clouds, and the time of day.  

The shadow from the lighting stand disappears because the bounced light is incredibly soft.   

The Fill Light: 

The fill light has to be softened even more than the incredibly soft Key Light.  To achieve this, the lamp was aimed at the ceiling at a 45 degree angle.  By moving it closer or further from the performers, the contrast for the scene changes.  For the purposes of this project, this amount of contrast was appropriate - it’s supposed to look like a flat boring office.  

So why, when lighting, would we aspire to have a flat looking simple scene?  Because it afforded us the luxury of shooting with two Cameras…

*Ignore the Redhead on the left there.  I was tempted to try to use it as a backlight, but then threw out the idea.  

This allowed us to knock out the couple of pages of dialogue incredibly quickly.  And By only using two lights, the rest of the crew were able to start pre-rigging the lights for the next setup.  

External Night Time

Here is another image from “A Burger Too Far” (see the last blog post for the details of the project)….

This was a twoshot master for the whole scene.  The two boys exited the restaurant (through the door in the middle of the frame there) and arced around to end in this 2Shot.  

This still demonstrates what I want to chat about - we matched the location lights so that the actors could move at night, and the lighting on them wouldn’t be obvious.  

This was the lighting design for the shot….

The integral element of the shot was that it’s the master twoshot.  

(sidenote: In the final cut, the film actually cuts into a CU of one of the boys then back out to the twoshot, but that was never really intended.  That CU was just shot as a “Get out of jail free” shot, in case the master sucked for a line or two)

So, the boys moving in the shot meant we didn’t want them coming into or out of the lights in any noticeable way.  If they were completely underexposed at the doorway then all of a sudden they were really well lit on their final mark, the audience would be aware of the lighting.  

Conversely though, it’s an amateur mistake to light them evenly across their path, because in reality when you move, the lighting on you changes.  Our solution: The intensity on the boys didn’t change, but the modeling did.  

I measured the ambient light.  Because the business lights were left on, there was actually quite a bit falling on the footpath - juts out of shot there were a series of floodlights, lighting the business in a “Come here and try our food!” way.  As such, there was f2 landing on boys at the midpoint between the door and their final position.  This would be adequate to render a nighttime look at f2.8.  However, the light on them was a very top down, soft light.  

I marked out their end position, where there wasn’t as much light falling on the boys, and lit them to match the intensity of the practical lights.  

Thus, when they reach their final mark, the light doesn’t change intensity, but just models them.