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Joseph Nesbitt

Lighting An (Abandoned House)

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I've got a scene where the charachter is sitting in what essentially is an abandoned house. The question is how to light it, I've got power covered but, high key, low key, maybe a single source to show the abscence of celing or wall fixtures. How should I light the backround? I've never even thought about doing this kind of scene before but has anyone else? Any suggestions would help.

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I'd guess you would go for a naturalistic, but somewhat cold effect. Abandoned houses don't have orange glowing electric lights like occupied houses do, they have plenty of shadow in the corners, they get all their light from outdoors. Horizontal soft lighting as through windows, perhaps with a bluish tinge to imitate the bleached out indoors look. Some of the color scheme can be worked out with your art director.

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well i think your question is too open..., on general matters, the first thing is day or night, the second was what's on the script, why your character is sitting in the middle of that house...???. The house have walls or just the structure, the house is totally closed or have windows open, i think this kind of details can help you to try and create a mood.


If your scene is in day depends the hours perhaps you have the sunlight coming through your window and perhaps bouncing in the room, here you can handle your contrast... depends your style in the production you can make it low key or high key.


At night perhaps you can play with moonlight coming through the windows or street lights (mercury vapor or sodium vapor lights) coming inside ...


I don't know your production background (script /motivations), but i imagine if you have a character sitting in the middle of abandoned house i guess it could be a dramatic situation, then if that is the case i didn't recommended high key... Anyway you can create what ever you want, in your creation all is allowed, take it as a challenge and don't get crazy... ;)


Good luck

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Turn all of your lights out and see what it looks wit only window light. Especially notice what it looks like in a large room far from the window. That is how I would light it for day. I would probably work with daylight stock and HMIs with quarter-CTO for just a bit of cold. I would try for somewhat, thoguh not extremely soft sources. Something like a 4x across the room.



For night, I would would work with sodium vapor colors. Direction could be drastically different depending on whether you're on the lowest couple floors or a higher floor. For lower floors the sodium vapor should be coming downward and be fairly hard. Higher flors have the light from streetlamps coming up into the room and bouncing off the ceiling. It's a really interesting look. You could easily work in a small fire or lantern for some motivated light inside the building.


Obviously, lots of liberty can be taken with my observations.

Edited by Chris Keth

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If I were you I would just in that room and think about how to light it. Sit in that room and just meditate. There is no one way on how something is going to be lit. Every cinematographer lights and frames different. Some like one big source, others use multiple lights. Just be sure that you add your style to that abadoned house and not any one else. We can all tell you what we might do but ask yourself "how should I light this space".

Hope This Helps

Mario Concepcion Jackson

Edited by Mario C. Jackson

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Don't forget the haze. I think it's a must to smoke the room if you can.

There's no better sign of an abandoned and untidy room than a visible haze of "dust" in the air. And you can play around with the three dimensional shape of the light - like if the house is really run down, you can have/simulate holes and cracks in the walls that let in sharp beams of light through the "dust".


I like Chris's idea for sodium vapor colors - I imagine an abandoned house having orangeish light, maybe motivated by windows covered in aging paper, I don't know what I'm trying to say :D


This is what I mean with the light beams and haze:


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