Studio Bar Look

Here’s a still from “A Burger Too Far”, a short film shot for Deakin Uni student’s final year projects….

The short film was about Rohan (above) having a jerk friend, who is a “sour winner” - ie. he wins at every game of everything ever, and rubs it in Rohan’s face.  Then one day Rohan finds something that his mate can’t do: a challenge to eat a 1 kg burger and 1kg of chips in 1 hour.  

This was originally designed to be a timelapse shot, where the other character ran around in the background winning every game of pool/darts that he played, and generally being a Jerk about it (However, in the edit it was changed to a split screen shot that achieved the same idea).  

It was an important shot in setting up the other dude’s character, whilst simultaneously being slightly romanticized - i mean, who stands still for that long?  

Everyone else went to lunch, so that meant I had 45 minutes to potter-around with the lighting.  This was the design I came up with: 

As you can see, we were battling the practical Flouros that hung over the Pool tables (of mixed color temperatures) and the very-yellow practical lights on the back walls.  

The Backlight:

Thank god there’s the practical floating in the background there!   If that wasn’t on the wall there’s no way I could’ve justified the light landing on Rohan’s shoulders.  That is way too unnatural, and separates him from the background so much that it almost looks green-screened.  

However, all that said, it is a “romanticized” shot - since this shot would never happen in real life, we can take liberties.  

There was nothing to clamp the light to from above, so to get the light from that spot we used a C-Stand with an arm.  The light is about 8 ft off the ground, and the stand is all the way out the right of the shot.  

The Fill Light:

Slightly unconventionally  in this shot we used a Dedo for the Fill Light.  It was aimed only as a spot on his face.  

Background light:

We were running out of equipment when it came to illuminating the background - we had no more lighting stands!  So someone came up with a genius rig: a pool cue, lent against a chair, holding the redhead.  

The light was aimed screen left, and into the corner, bouncing down onto the extras.  

In Future: 

I was brought on the night before to be the Gaffer.  I had a lot of free reign with the lighting - there were scarce lighting designs on set.  As we came to each shot we needed to spend a minute deciding on the style.  

Kindof by accident we ended up with what I’d describe as a studio look.  This doesn’t look like any bar I’ve ever been in - you always seem to be squinting in bars to see the person opposite you.  Instead, this feels like the bar in “How I Met your Mother”.  Very glossy, and very lit.  

In fact, if you look at Rohan’s screen-left cheek in this shot, he’s ever-so-slightly over exposed.  The skin tone on screen-right is probably closer to his real-life skin tone.  This shot would almost work if we closed down by a stop.  To prove the concept, here are some photoshop manipulations…

This is the same shot with just over a stop removed from the whole image.  This looks more like a bar to me.  A glossy bar, but still a bar.  Now let’s expose our hero properly….

This is merely to prove the concept, that we could’ve lost a few stops from the background, and we would’ve acheived a much more realistic “Bar look”.  

This probably should’ve been achieved in camera, by closing down the aperture, rather than weakening the lights, because we had barely any control over the practicals.  

My next blog post will be another setup from this same project.  A similarly glossy external night look.  

Glossy Hollywood Keylight

I’m interested in the “Glossy Hollywood Keylight” style of cinematography, where no matter what, the Hero is illuminated from a source from their side.  It’s a convention that audiences have become accustomed to, even though in reality Lights are rarely at eye-level.  

Here is a raw still from my project “Critic”, made for the “At the Movies” trailer competition, that demonstrates this style of lighting…

For this effect, this was the lighting design: 

As you can see, there are 3x redheads, 1x Practical Flouro and 2x Cheap LED lights used in this setup.  

Look at the girl’s hair on the ScreenLeft side - the blue streak is coming from the LED lights, gaffered to a Tripod.  They were very weak, so they had to be just out of shot. They are daylight balanced, and so didn’t need any color correction, as they were matching the light coming through the window.  However, I did cut 2 small pieces of Baking Paper out, so as to diffuse the light - i didn’t want to sacrifice my precious Diff Gel :)

Here is the ColorGraded shot: 

When i got to this stage, I realised the Practical Flouro illuminating the kitchen in the BG was actually too strong.  So two black overlays later and we get the finished product….

Note how the background seems more realistic.  


The External RedHead coming through the window is clearly a light source.  If I was to shoot it again I would put some Diff on the light to make it more subtle.  

See the whole Trailer here:

All White Backdrop

To start this blog post off, let’s open with a corporate Video that I’m currently Working on. It doesn’t get much simpler than this; client wants an All-White-Backdrop Look.  

So, this was the RAW FOOTAGE of what we came up with….

The Lighting Design for this setup looked like this….

Key Light:

This is a good first entry in this series on lighting designs, because it demonstrates my favorite use of a reflector: As you can see, the Key light is being shone through the reflector, therefore acting like a scrim.  

There are many headed debates online about how this actually affects the quality of light - but I’ll leave that for another post.  For the moment I’ll just say that I like the quality of light that this method produces.  

When using this method, it seems best to come in at eye level.  


The redhead is bounced off a poly, angled downwards from about 8 feet up.  
I think that even when attempting to get a 

The problems encountered: 

- This requires a lot of space.  We borrowed a studio to do it, and even then the location became hot with the 4x 800w Redheads pumping.  

- The wall we used as a backdrop was ever-so-slightly off white.  To correct for this i changed the color temperature in camera from 3200 Kelvin to 2900 degrees.  I also got the talent to hold a gray card under the lighting circumstances, just in case my idea caused un-natural shift in his skin color, I had the ability to to undo it later.  

- I really wanted to blow out the walls to “complete white” “in-camera”, however I didn’t like the glow that this effect produced.  I resorted to shooting it as you see it now, and pushing the levels in post slightly.  See this image to demonstrate what it will look like with some processing:

As you can see, the masked Triangular bit is the Raw footage, and the bits on the right are the processed bits, where the White is actually white, rather than the slightly off white we shot on.   

There is a slight natural Vignette that occurs in the footage.  This came from us only using two redheads with Full Diff on the backdrop.  Had we used 4, all the corners would be even.  

My original intention was to blow out the corners, but then it was suggested that we should add to the natural vignette subtly.  That effect would look like this…


- Everybody in front of the camera favours a certain side.  As you can see in the images, the talent in this production favours his left (camera right) side of his face.  The convention kindof states that the keylight should be on the far side of the lens, therefore, for the next shoot, I shall change the key side to Camera Left so as to have the “minor side” of his face illuminated more.  

- We were shooting at f4, and it turned out that the keylight needed to be a little bit stronger than “On Aperture” to make it look natural.  When i think about this retrospectively, it makes sense to consider it in terms of IRE.  If his skin tone is represented most accurately at 70% IRE, then in this circumstance he looks most normal when photographed as information starts to blow out (ie. at about 80% or 85% IRE)

Other thoughts:

Immediately after shooting I posted this photo from the set to Twitter:

Giving an example of the really complex nature of the setup.  

In reply, on twitter @Cailyoung, posted this as a single camera setup with a poly as an alternative method.—ever/P1/