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Toby Bajrovic

Lighting a Low Key / Dark Day Interior

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Hey guys,

 

Just wanting to hear your thoughts and strategies on tackling a low key/dark day interior scene.

 

Sort of like something you'd see from Gone Girl or Ozark.

 

Here are a couple of references images from Lion and It Comes At Night that sort of have the vibe I'm going for. The Lion one moreso.

 

Opfjg4fl.jpg

 

C0YRp0Xl.jpg

 

 

 

I was thinking of shooting at 4200K, blacking out most windows and keeping the source coming in from one direction, and then using a S4 Litemat closer up and dimmed. Then I'd just neg on the other side for contrast, and make sure my background is at least 3/4/5 stops under my key.

 

What would your tactics be? Keeping in mind I am shooting this around 12pm - 4pm during an Australian Summer. So I intend to cover the windows with some bleached muslin to avoid any green spill and to control the light.

 

Cheers!

Edited by Toby Bajrovic

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I'm not familiar with the positioning of the sun at particular time in Australia, but is the sun directly over head at 12p - 4p like it is in the States?

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I'm not familiar with the positioning of the sun at particular time in Australia, but is the sun directly over head at 12p - 4p like it is in the States?

 

Yeah basically. The windows face west, so I will only be getting direct sun through it at around 5-7pm. We intend to shoot the scene from 12pm-4pm when it is overhead.

Edited by Toby Bajrovic

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These are fairly close reference shots, if you were to only shoot them (and nothing wider) I would suggest completely blocking the sun out by blacking out the windows, for complete control of fill levels. Especially the second reference shot has very low fill levels, almost looks like just 2 units, one hitting his face and one playing in the background. If you were to completely block out the sun, you could also safe money and shoot this tungsten, with very cheap units. Alternatively, a 1x1 LED panel would be easiest to handle if used with a softbox with grid. The light on him is not that soft, so that carefully positioned might be enough for the protagonist. If you find that to harsh, you can still put the LED panel through a 4x4 of WD. After that, something like an 8x8 Light Grid. Though at that point spill most of the time becomes your enemy, as it can easily kill all the moody contrast in the scene.

 

The second one (with way more ambience light) could even be just a single source, closer to the actor, so the background just naturally falls off. Also, the first shot looks a lot softer too me, so you would have to use at least a 4x4.

 

I guess you are shooting at least some shots wider than the reference shots? The second a window comes in frame you obviously have to show that all of the light is emitting from them. Will your scene play close to windows and if so, how close? You said low key, so I guess not too close?

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To get that cold Ozark look, I would white balance to 4300k (or lower), and expose for the windows, then use daylight kinos or LEDs to extend the window light further into the rooms and key your actors.

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These are fairly close reference shots, if you were to only shoot them (and nothing wider) I would suggest completely blocking the sun out by blacking out the windows, for complete control of fill levels. Especially the second reference shot has very low fill levels, almost looks like just 2 units, one hitting his face and one playing in the background. If you were to completely block out the sun, you could also safe money and shoot this tungsten, with very cheap units. Alternatively, a 1x1 LED panel would be easiest to handle if used with a softbox with grid. The light on him is not that soft, so that carefully positioned might be enough for the protagonist. If you find that to harsh, you can still put the LED panel through a 4x4 of WD. After that, something like an 8x8 Light Grid. Though at that point spill most of the time becomes your enemy, as it can easily kill all the moody contrast in the scene.

 

The second one (with way more ambience light) could even be just a single source, closer to the actor, so the background just naturally falls off. Also, the first shot looks a lot softer too me, so you would have to use at least a 4x4.

 

I guess you are shooting at least some shots wider than the reference shots? The second a window comes in frame you obviously have to show that all of the light is emitting from them. Will your scene play close to windows and if so, how close? You said low key, so I guess not too close?

 

 

Thanks for the suggestions. Sounds great!

 

To be honest, the first reference shot from Lion is more in line with what I'm going for. The scene takes place at a dinner table very close to the windows. There is a massive window that runs all along the table that is covered in blinds. I was going to mostly close the blinds just so I get a bit of ambient light coming through to motivate it. The wide will be shot profile side of the table/character facing the windows/blinds.

 

Then for the singles for both characters, I was just going to control the fill levels by blacking out whatever's necessary in the background, and then use a S4 Litemat with one or two layers of bleached mus over it so it wraps around a bit.

 

Then I'll probably bring in a 4x4 floppy for some neg. n contrast. Aiming to shoot it around 4000k.

 

Here are some shots of the room (it hasn't been properly set designed yet) so you guys can have a look.

 

2lLRsU5l.jpg

 

PDfnLe9l.jpg

 

 

And here are some super quick test shots. This is located at the back where the kitchen is. The second and final position of blocking for Character B.

 

This was done with literally no lighting other than the ambient light in the room.

 

zbwOCU8l.png

 

3kmxLHOl.png

Edited by Toby Bajrovic

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here are some super quick test shots. This is located at the back where the kitchen is. The second and final position of blocking for Character B.

 

This was done with literally no lighting other than the ambient light in the room.

 

zbwOCU8l.png

 

3kmxLHOl.png

If you like what the ambient light is doing, and it's not going to change substantially during the shoot, there is no need to light just for the sake of it.

 

These frames look pretty good. If all your angles work as well as these, why light?

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If you like what the ambient light is doing, and it's not going to change substantially during the shoot, there is no need to light just for the sake of it.

 

These frames look pretty good. If all your angles work as well as these, why light?

 

 

You're right, I wouldn't do too much to that particular shot, but it's the ones at the table that are more tricky as there's so many windows in that area that need to be controlled. I'll do another test later this week with the full set up to see how it all plays.

Edited by Toby Bajrovic

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Thanks for the suggestions. Sounds great!

 

To be honest, the first reference shot from Lion is more in line with what I'm going for. The scene takes place at a dinner table very close to the windows. There is a massive window that runs all along the table that is covered in blinds. I was going to mostly close the blinds just so I get a bit of ambient light coming through to motivate it. The wide will be shot profile side of the table/character facing the windows/blinds.

 

Then for the singles for both characters, I was just going to control the fill levels by blacking out whatever's necessary in the background, and then use a S4 Litemat with one or two layers of bleached mus over it so it wraps around a bit.

 

Then I'll probably bring in a 4x4 floppy for some neg. n contrast. Aiming to shoot it around 4000k.

 

Here are some shots of the room (it hasn't been properly set designed yet) so you guys can have a look.

 

2lLRsU5l.jpg

 

PDfnLe9l.jpg

 

 

And here are some super quick test shots. This is located at the back where the kitchen is. The second and final position of blocking for Character B.

 

This was done with literally no lighting other than the ambient light in the room.

 

zbwOCU8l.png

 

3kmxLHOl.png

Was this picture the first one you took, color graded? It looks a bit contrasty compared to the second one which looks grayer in the blacks.

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