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Lighting for Bedroom Door Opening at Night

Stephen Selby

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Hi Guys.


I'm new to this forum. I'm struggling to light a scene and wondered if you have any suggestions. I have two solutions but neither one seems to be working.


Here is the layout of the rooms and action taking place.




So the main character walks into a room. Initially the camera sees a darkened room then as the door opens the light sweeps in and spills across the bed revealing the second actor in the bed. He moves towards the chair and sits down before switching on a bedside lamp.


Solution 1.


Before the door is opened it would be nice to see some of the room in darkness so I put up a soft light at the window (assume shooting at night).


Next I placed a nice hard dedo-light so the shadow boundaries are nice and crisp - as the door opens we get a nice spill of light across the bed and the spill goes right across the second characters face - it looks fairly good. The boundary of spill is shown by the grey line. However, as the main actor walks passed the door he ends up being overexposed. Given the room available it isn't really feasible to move the dedo back and scrim it.


Solution 2:


So this solves the issue of the character being overexposed as he walks past the camera. However the spill in the shot is significantly reduced so that when the door is opened the shadow of the edge of the door only goes across the first part of the bed and doesn't reveal the second characters face.


Any suggestions how I could light this?





Edited by Stephen Selby
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I've done something like this before but into a basements not a bedroom. the block was that the actor was to open the door then walk down the stairs, the camera was place at the bottom on a 25mm or a 35mm can't remember 100%.


because the camera could see pretty much to the top of the stairs putting a stand there was out of the question. If we put the Lamp outside of the door then the DP didn't get the look he was going for. So we took the door off it frame, rigged a 650W to a couple of C-stands booms arms and got the lamp through the door and above the actor pointing down giving the look the DP wanted to have the opening of the door I used a flag and moved it as if the actor was opening the door himself.


but that can only work if your able to take the door off, which by the sounds of it you want in shot?


could you possible bounce a light from the opposite side that the Dedo is on in the second one? which you might be able to scrim/ defuse or maybe flag off of the actor?


or use some editing magic and do both set ups just cut them together with a interlinking shot... I'm drawing a blank other then maybe using a bigger light through a silk in the hallway but you then lose the hardness/ might not make it to his face

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If you can't figure out a solution you may have to think of an alternative set up. We had a similar-ish shot in a film last week but instead we shot a girl walking up a door in the hallway, then we shot towards the door from inside the bedroom, so the room was lit with soft fill light and then as the character opened the door she entered in silhouette with the harsh hallway light behind.

You could have the sleeping character in the foreground of this shot and still get the spill of light with harsh border lines as the character enters.

As the doorway character moves towards the sleeping character you could light her with the newly turned on lamp, and then set up the reverse with the harsh border lines (I assume that's what you really want from in this shot)

Let us know how you go with the shot :)

Good work on the diagrams!


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Darryl's senario made me wonder if you couldn't put a light on the other side of the door (tucked in by the hinge) and have someone flag it open to mimic the door. You'd still have the problem of having your actor burn as he passes close to the light, but if you have any graduated scrims, that might help that problem.

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Hmm - wondering whether this scene needs to be redesigned - if we want it to be dramatic then perhaps a moonlight shaft across the bed from the curtains will suffice and exchange light in hallway for soft moonlight. In otherwords when he goes from one room to the next he doesn't switch on the hallway light. Then the drama is captured in the shaft of moonlight rather than the light from the hallway.

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what's the point of the scene? why is he going into the room and all that? as I don't think you would have to redesign the lighting style completely just maybe more your shot plan, as from what I'm getting from your floor plans is the door is in shot and we see the actor walk in. But the audience will get that the door is being opened when the shift in colour happens as the doors open. So maybe have the same set up just move the frame and have the actor coming into frame later after the doors open and he's past the hot spot

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You may have to rearrange the furniture and redesign the shot so that a light in the hallway can actually throw a slash of light across the person in bed. Move the bed to the middle of the room for example near the window. Or find a different room where the angle of the hallway lends itself better for the light to hit the bed.


Otherwise you just have to fake the light effect and break the shot up in two different directions.

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I can think of two options I'd try. Firstly, I suggest bringing the dedo into the room, above the camera's position tucked into that corner, and flag it on as the door opens - by keeping it up high, you should be able to keep the hot spot off your actor and the door. I'd then add a softer source out in the hallway to light the actor to a reasonable exposure as he comes in, as well as to motivate the 'spill' that the dedo provides.


If that doesn't work, I'd say scrap the doorway, and move the camera forward a little, flag your dedo on for the door's opening, and cheat the door's action with sound design. It isn't quite the shot you envisioned, but you'd still get most of what you wanted lighting and blocking-wise.


Hope that helps

Edited by Mark Kenfield
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Basically the lighting boils down to bad shot plan - bad choice of camera location. This video is really interesting and basically shows that most of time camera placement for site is face on with actor walking up to door and reverse shot walking away from door.



Hitch doesn't ever seem to dolly or track through door. And I'm sure that these all are in different contexts. These variations in style and framing of opening doors should cater for most scripts and storylines. Perhaps limiting factors stopped hitch from moving through the door, but if hitch can make it work with statics then so should I. Why complicate things when there is a simple solution.


Another great film for doors opening and closing is The Others.

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