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Lighting for day at night

James Wallace

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Hi Guys.


I'm new here and relatively new to lighting for film. I'm hoping this forum will guide me and help me improve my lighting techniques.


I'm shooting a small corporate on Saturday and there is one shot on which I would appreciate your suggestions.


I have not had a chance to recce the location but have been sent this photo from the client.




The scene must look like daytime, but unfortunately due to a tight schedule it is likely to be shot at dusk (best case) or in total darkness (worst case, hopefully not as I will then be battling exterior sodium street lighting too).


As you can see the room is quite small. The key shot I'm concerned about will be a wide from slightly to the right of the photographed position (against the back wall). It will take in three people sat on the sofa looking at a photo album and must include the window. There is a vertical blind that can be drawn across the window and be either partially or fully closed, but obviously it must be sufficiently backlit to look like daylight outside.


A relatively soft look is desired.


There is no budget to hire in extra kit so this is what I have available to me to make the shot work:


2 x Arri 650w Fresnel

1 x Arri 300w Fresnel

2 x 55w (200w eq) Energy Saving Daylights w/China Balls

2 x Bicolor 1x1 Litepanels

1 x 1m lastolite style reflector

Plenty of Gels & Diff


Will be shooting on a Red Epic with Samyang cine lenses.


I have had some thoughts on how I might go about lighting this but I'm seeking the wisdom of more experienced folk. I'd be interested to hear what different approaches you guys might take towards achieving a soft daylight effect under these circumstances.




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Not so fond of vertical blinds since when you angle them to let the light hit the subject, they are usually angled to look closed to the camera, blocking any view, though in your case, that might be good since there is no view at night -- if possible, I'd consider adding some sheers...


Anyway, with that small a package, one idea would be to just cover the window with diffusion (1000H paper, 216, etc.) and take your two 650w lamps and blow-out the window and soft-light the couch with it. Use the blinds, sheers, etc. to break-up the view of the white window.


Then inside, don't overpower the window light with whatever else you add.


I mean, if you want to get fancy, cover the windows with Half Hampshire Frost to blur the view, put a 12x12 Day Blue Muslin outside, put a bunch of tall potted plants between the window and the day blue, blow some wind on the greens, etc. But then you'd have to use up all of your lights outside to light the day blue and to light the plants and to shine light through the windows, etc.

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Thanks David


Unfortunately as much as I would love to try your second suggestion both time and budget will not allow for it. If I'm lucky I will have an hour to rig and shoot this entire scene with only one other crew member to help, so the simpler the better.


I was already thinking along the lines of your first solution, so I'm glad I wasn't too far off the mark. Given that the amount of light coming through the window will guide the overall exposure and the completely white walls will help immensely in bouncing soft fill around the room I thought I should probably throw the 300 through the window too for good measure as I can likely achieve sufficient fill for my needs with the panels or chinas whilst retaining a little contrast.


If anybody has any alternative suggestions I would love to hear them :)

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It looks like a relatively small space so your kit should be enough.


Like David said, diffusion outside of the window and sheer curtains on the inside. Are you aiming for diffused north/south skylight or sunlight streaming through the window? How about using smoke to diffuse the light inside the room? I would suggest moving your 650w fresnels, gelled with 1/4 CTB perhaps, as far from the window as you can to reduce the falloff into the space and make it less contrasty.


Consider raising the ambient light with lanterns or bouncing a Litepanel or 300w fresnel off a wall or ceiling, too.


Best of luck with the shoot.

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