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Jared Bedrejo

"Smash" Lighting

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I would like to address this question to Mr. David Mullen himself!


I've just about wrapped up watching season 1 of "Smash" and may I just say, it's quite the addicting show! I really like the soft lighting on all the actors almost all time. With that being said, I noticed there frequently tends to be lighting changes when you would go from a wide to a tighter shot on an actor. For example,




In this shot, she seems to have a hard back light coming from the front of the car, maybe a street light or something, while standing on the side of the car.




Then when you turned around and she is in front of the car, she is quite softly lit from both sides of her face casting some nice shadows.




Then, when you went in tighter, the light hitting their faces becomes stronger and seems to be coming from directly in front of them,


With all that being said, I guess my question would be, were you aiming for the consistency of soft lighting over maintaining continuity? If so, what were your choices when lighting them the way you did? Also, what motivated your decision to add the vignette to the show?



Jared Bedrejo


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The vignette was established by the pilot, shot by Shelly Johnson, ASC.


I basically had a tungsten backlight on a condor in two opposing directions, so that when I did that reverse angle on Debra turning to look back at Christian and the camera now looked at the opposite direction, she would still be backlit. Of course the lights on the two condors were not on at the same time, I only used them as backlights.


As for the soft light on the face, I tried to key from the side when it was possible... but in the shots where they are side-by-side, it was safer to just key more frontally (the key was so dim that it was practically just fill.) A side key would have meant one person would be shadowing the other person, plus one person would be quite turned away from the key and thus needed more fill or another key... and I didn't want to start trying to do cross-keying outside in a parking lot because that would have involved arming lights out high in the air from each side, and would have diminished the effect of a single streetlamp backlighting them. Plus considering the Debra played most of her looks out to camera, not turned to Christian, a cross-key in the 2-shot may have not been flattering since her head would have been turned away from key half the time. Seemed "cleaner" just to have a backlight and soft fill acting as a key at that point. Also, in an emotional scene like this, it is sometimes better to not get too shadowy with the lighting and miss the performance because the actor turned away from a light at the wrong moment.

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Hi David, I really like the lighting in this scene you did a good job balancing the line between natrualism while still getting an adequate exposure on the faces.


Couple questions regarding the setup if you have the time to break it down. What were you using for the big sweep on the backround in the wide shot? (by this I mean the light hitting the ground and the bulding on frame right).... is that on a seperate condor then your backlights for the talent?


Would you be able to break down some of what you have going on in the backround ...Guessing you have some specials like on the trees and that house in the rear?



and this is just out of curiousity as someone who as only ever done a couple setups near this size. About long do you take to light that wide shot for a scene like this. I assume you have a large crew at play 10-20?


Thanks much for any insight always helps to learn from seeing how people approach their setups !

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I can't remember the units on that main condor, it probably was a 12-light and some 1K Parcans, but basically we either spread the rows in a 12-light out to include the building on the right, or I had a second unit in the bucket for the building. So it could have been something like a 10K for the backlight and a 5K on the building, or it was a 12-light (or maybe a 9-light). I don't recall. The house in the far background was just etched out with the 1K Parcan. Our main problem actually was the faulty streetlamp in the shot in front of the house, it kept popping off and then coming on slowly!


Since we were shooting on the Alexa, I often ended up reducing the amount of light in the condors -- there were some night exteriors where I was reduced to just a few 1K globes hitting a few areas. But those tended to be streets with more ambient lighting. Here out in Nyack, there was hardly any natural light.


We had been filming in the gymnasium for a few hours so my crew was able to get the two condors rigged while we were inside. I don't recall the size, maybe 4 grips and 4 electrics, maybe an additional electric for the condor? Anyway, it was a fast lighting set-up relatively speaking.

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