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Lighting Haunted House

Spencer Katz

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Hey all,


I'm photographing a short film in an old manor in upstate New York.








The majority of the film takes place at night in dimly lit environments.


For the second act of the film, the main character walks around with a lantern...



I will have access to a wide range of tungsten lights, a few small HMIs, and some other units.


Shooting on 200t Kodak, S16 SR3.


I was just wondering if any of you have tips on moonlight influence, augmenting the lantern, and anything else.



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MY GOD! (It's full of stars...!) THAT HOUSE IS GLORIOUS! I wish there were houses like that around here. That's like my dream house (to live in).


I bet it will be awesome to shoot in. Or, perhaps not, if the wiring has not been updated.

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What a beautiful location! What town is it located in? I remember hearing in The Assassination of Jesse James, Roger Deakins had lanterns like yours and rigged some incandescents in them and dimmed them down for warmth. If you could get a glow going outside the window, maybe break up the light with branches and such. I could picture really uneven lighting flowing in. Please be sure to show us anything you come up with!

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Awesome location. For the dim look you're going for those windows and high ceilings will give some great dramatic opportunities.


For lantern in the second half, you have a couple options - either staying with the open-flame, sticking a tungsten halogen source in there or going with a cooler LED litestrip. Then you'd probably want to match your other lighting to the changing intensity of the lamp, so you'd want some sort of a dimmer system - whether that be everything on a hand squeezer, GAM flickerbox or a rc4 wireless DMX system controlled by a magic gadgets. You could stick a 100w/12v halogen car bulb in there with a little rc4 wireless dimmer, or run a small gauge wire to a 12v power source connected to a 120v dimmer that can control your other lights. Or, get a bit of the LiteGear Very High Output stuff and layer it inside, frost the glass and gel down to 3200k, with a bit of led strip on the actor-facing side and do a similar dimming scenario for a powerful, low-heat source.


In general, light over and print/color grade under. You'll have a good amount of latitude to recover on either side, but if you want to keep it dim and control grain err on the lighter side. You can still keep the moody contrast ratios you want, adjusting the base level to wherever you think will be enough to hold detail when you pull the black level down. Another thing to consider with that scenario is how you want your shadows hard or soft, which in this case is a combination of light shaping and the addition/subtraction of your fill.


David Mullen, ASC gave some great responses on this thread http://www.cinematography.com/index.php?showtopic=49102 in regard to exposing in the camera as well as shooting a couple camera tests that can help you determine how your stock will perform over and under by shooting a grey-chart, etc, generally a lot of great tips for making low-light scenes intelligible and clean (or not.)


Best of luck with the shoot, I look forward to seeing the photography from such an exquisite location.

Edited by Ross Neugeboren
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