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Dylan Baker

Lighting in small dark bar

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Hi everyone


I've been tasked with lighting this bar/club scene. It is really really dark in there and not much room to maneuver. I plan on shooting 800 ISO at 2.0 on a BMCC (not the best for dark scenes).


There is a stage below that is naturally lit with red light but because there are no windows and the only sources are small lamps on the walls, I'm really struggling to think of a way to be able to get enough light in there without it looking fake.


Do you guys see any obvious problems with my plan? I'm not entirely sure how to fill either. Maybe a camera light?


Any tips or recommendations would be greatly appreciated.



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Darkness is our best friend!

i don´t know your creative concept for the rest of your movie but i can tell you how i would do it.


maybe go out & look for some nice practicals & tungsten bulbs you can add with the art-dep. on small dimmers. You only really need fresnels when you wants to spot or direct something. I mean… this is up to your creativity but… usually people don´t use fresnels in their bars ;-), also maybe they will bother you more then be helpfull.


as key I would also invent practical bulbs and then force them with chinaballs and pancakes. (100-500watt chinaballs can be still enough light for your camera), i think this will give you a more controllable shape for the key light.


If you need some more fill, maybe just add an unblaeched muslin where needed just as fabric. Fabric is mostly really easy to fit somewhere in indoor locations… And if you still need more Fill you can bounce a little bicolor led against it, which you can dim wihout color change. Or use one of your 350w fresnels and control the fill bounce with the doors.

I would break the contrasts by adding some haze, which fits in a bar scene anyway.



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Haze / smoke will act as fill so if you use that, you don't need to worry about overall fill except for close-ups where a little eyelight might be helpful.


Maybe you could hide a few bare Kino tubes in the ceiling to light the middle of the space. Add more practicals, neon signs, etc.

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Thank you guys! I was thinking about china balls but unsure how to rig them to the ceiling as its so low and with the spill as well. Maybe a suspended wire or some tape?


The idea for the fresnels was because there is a stage to the left but the stage lights need a little boost to help with that red glow. Like you say may become uncontrollable.

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You can rig a china ball on a boom or gobo extensions on cardellini clamps +++ or find something where you can just clamp the cable & let them hang. they are really lightweight. I like to put some thin black-molton cloth around them to control the spill - really simple with small metall clamps.


also as david already suggested- you can rig bare kino tubes with longer zip ties somewhere in the ceiling. again you can control the spill with blackwrap or some molton cloth.


I also use a Aladdin 1x1 bicolor a lot for tiny spaces. They are super flexible, see pictures below. You can rig them on a audio-boom pole and they´re still below 4pounds… http://www.dopchoice.com/testimonials/philip-reinhold/


I recently just used red colored tungsten (party) lights in chinaballs for something similar.

(also added a picture for you)





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Here is a bar scene i did. First the area is filled with haze. I then put a 4x4 bounce behind the bar and shot it with a source4 stage light. The people in tye background are lit in a similar way. I love the source4 s because it is easy to shape light with them. I only wish they were more powerful so i could get a stronger key side. We also blacked out the windows behind him and put a 4x4 floppy on the fill side to keep a more cinematic key to fill ratio. The back window is naturally cloudy day coming through those blinds.


Edited by Connor Lee
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