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How do I light this 3-subject set-up?

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Hey all,

I'm fairly new to grip work so I'm a bit stumped by this. So I'll be shooting this scene involving 3 subjects, all of which are situated behind a table with a black backdrop behind all of them to act as a background. It's just going to be the one wide shot, so the camera will be positioned dead centre in the middle of all of them. I've attached a photo complete with my expert illustration skills showing the placement of the subjects in the scene.





So I'm looking for a lighting solution that can efficiently light all of them using as few lights as possible. The overall look will be fairly high-key, with a light on the backdrop so it won't look like a black hole behind them. My existing kit consists on 2x Nanguang Luxpad43 LED Panels, and I have the go-ahead to rent any additional lights I need (within reasonable cost, of course)

I'm torn between two possible setups:

1. A large diffused soft key in the centre that casts on all the subjects, with one light at camera right near the backdrop to act as fill for Subject 1 and backlight for Subjects 2 and 3, and one light at camera left near the backdrop to act as fill for Subjects 2 and 3 and backlight for Subject 1. Finally, 1 additional light for the backdrop as described earlier. This is the cheaper solution; I'm guessing the centre key will eliminate the need for a backdrop light but I will have other scenes that make use of the backdrop light so I'm just thinking about continuity here.

2. Similar to above, but with 1 diffused key light at camera left for Subjects 2 and 3, and 1 diffused key light at camera right for Subject 1. The fill/back lights stay the same as with the above option, together with an additional light for the backdrop. This is the more expensive option, but I'm worried about the spill from the key lights onto the backdrop as the backdrop will be situated fairly close to the subjects. That and they might mess with the lighting from the backdrop light too. The obvious solution would be to get LED Panels with built-in barndoors; I'm just wondering if this would be the more reasonable route to take.

The kit I'm looking to rent is a set of 3 Coolcam 1' x 1' Bi-Color LED Panels with barndoors, failing which I might get a set of 3 Litepanel Caliber 150W LED Fresnels or Aputure LS-mini20s. I might have the luxury of additional stands and flags but I'm trying to keep the set-up lean, and I'm already running on a tight budget as it is. Also, I'm a one-man Cam Op/Grip/Director/Producer with no extra pair of hands available (ridiculous I know).

Any help would be appreciated!

Edited by Hafeez Zainalabidin
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Are all three looking forward towards the camera or is it one person facing the other two people -- you didn't draw a nose on the circles! If they are all facing out, then why is #2 staggered back?

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Sorry about that! So the idea is that they'll start by looking across at each other, shake hands and while shaking hands, they'll turn to the camera and smile. It's a rough approximation, but yeah #2 is probably right where I want it to be, just not too far back that it's covered by #3 in the frame.


I'm not particularly locked to the idea if it ends up being to cumbersome to light, so it could very well end up as two separate shots - maybe a wide one for the looking across, and another slightly tighter shot for the hand shaking and turning to camera?


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The two most common ways of lighting this, assuming that there is not a strong source like a window to one of the room or something to motivate the direction of light, is either (1) to cross-light the three of of them so that they face a key when turned to each other, but are edge lit when they turn out to the camera or (2) top light them from a centered overhead. The cross light can be as simple as a long soft backlight.

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There might be some ambient light from windows and from some tungsten bulbs cos we're shooting in an office environment and not a studio, but the windows will be relatively far away and I figure the keys will overpower them both anyway so they won't be too much of a problem. The office will not be in the frame.


So let me see if I understand you correctly:


- Would the cross-light setup you described in (1) be similar to the setup I described in Option 2 in my initial post? With the 2 keys on either side of the camera in front and 2 back lights on either side of the backdrop?


- For (2), this seems like a more affordable option. Since that would put it in the same position as a normal overhead office light fixture, does that mean it has to be positioned fairly high up and diffused to prevent it casting those dramatic and unflattering shadows? Or am I missing some fill lights in this mental picture I have of your setup? I haven't tried overhead lighting before so I'm curious as to what I'll need to make it work.

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