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Lighting a hallway for a night shoot. With no natural light source (IE no windows for moonlight)

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Conan Stott
Lighting a hallway for a night shoot. With no natural light source (IE no windows for moonlight)
on Jun 26, 2009 at 12:21:27 pm

Hello There. I have searched this forum and picked up a few hints and tips but feel I need to ask the specific question.

I am shooting a film where part of it takes place in a Dark hallway. Now there is no opportunities to exploit what could pass as natural light (ie, no windows for moonlight e.t.c) but I still need to see the Actors.

How would I go about lighting this? right now Im thinking diffused over everything and fixing in post (the old fix it in post theory). I read a good tip here about not lighting from infront of the camera because it flattens out the image. Any other tips?

Thank you, would really appreciate you help.

Regards

Conan


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Michael Palmer
Re: Lighting a hallway for a night shoot. With no natural light source (IE no windows for moonlight)
on Jun 26, 2009 at 1:35:23 pm

I worked on Pulp Fiction as an electrician/set lighting and one of the hardest scenes to light for was a continuous walk and talk (full film load) with John and Sam. Best scene in the movie.

We had only a few opportunities for window light and it was in the day time, however if my memory serves me right we used mostly tungston unit and the DP wasn't afraid of hard light.

THis is a challenge for you and the gaffer as well as the Art Director to find a way to solve this. So many of the films today have art direction that allows for the rigging crews fixture people to install film friendly lights.

What type of film is this and what is the scene about? Will you need to stop during this scene for diolgue then continue the walk?

Hopefully you can tech scout this hallway and help choose the right one for you.

I would say bare bulbs or florescent fixtures are some options as well as a gaffer walking behind camera with a china ball to gently lift to ambient level. And of course blocking, back ground timing and good operating will hide some of the units you may have needed in the beginning of this scene.

Good Luck
Michael Palmer


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Mark Suszko
Re: Lighting a hallway for a night shoot. With no natural light source (IE no windows for moonlight)
on Jun 26, 2009 at 2:04:54 pm

If the hallway has an el at one end, you could put some light there and shoot the scene heavily back-lit, seeing them more in outline than from the front, and letting them get darker as they move down the hall towards you with you dollying backwards. Ramp the spooky music and sound design at the same time, and it can really set a mood. If one of the characters smokes, lighting up in the hallway is a classic (if overused) "practical". You might work with extreme face closeups using the cherry end of the ciggie to motivate some momentary reddish-orange fill onto the face... just thinking out loud. So much depends on the art direction and needs of the script here, it would be ahrd to just name a perfect soulution without more data.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Lighting a hallway for a night shoot. With no natural light source (IE no windows for moonlight)
on Jun 26, 2009 at 2:10:04 pm

Cell phone screen, I just thought of that. This works if you have the actor needing to stay in contact with someone off-screen, they keep the phone close to the face while going down the hallway, and you have your visble practical to leverage off of. Again, it depends on the story and the needs fo the story.


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Rick Wise
Re: Lighting a hallway for a night shoot. With no natural light source (IE no windows for moonlight)
on Jun 26, 2009 at 7:40:54 pm

One solution: incorporate single 4' or 8' kino flow tubes into the hallway as vertical strips in the shot. If you have the luxury of set design, have them construct small vertical shields to make the flos look like lighting fixtures. Space them out left - right - left etc. so that the actors are lit unevenly as they progress down the hall. Or, put them lined up evenly left and right. Depends on what look you want.

Another: incorporate single 8' kino flos as part of the edging, where the walls meet the floor.

Another: if the ceiling can be lifted up, slide those same tubes alternatively left and right; camera has to be high enough to never see the ceiling. Or, mount small fresnel units; let the actors get a bit hot at the closest points; spread them out so that the actors almost disappear into darkness inbetween for just a step or so.

Another, somewhat already suggested: have the actor(s) carry a light source. Even flashlights swinging around.

Another: build a false floor with strips of plexiglass and run kinos underneath. The plex could be at the edges, or down the center.

Another: attach battery-operated sconces to the wall.



Rick Wise
director of photography
San Francisco Bay Area
and part-time instructor lighting and camera
grad school, SF Academy of Art University/Film and Video
http://www.RickWiseDP.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/rwise
email: Rick@RickWiseDP.com


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Alan Lloyd
Re: Lighting a hallway for a night shoot. With no natural light source (IE no windows for moonlight)
on Jun 26, 2009 at 9:23:27 pm

Some good suggestions above, and Mark hit it with his comment that we need to know a bit more of the flavor of the work to comment in detail.

That said, here's my $0.02:

Set a low, even base light from overhead - maybe slightly blue? - and keep it low enough to just barely be able to see the actor(s). And enough to keep the pic from going too noisy if yo're shooting HD instead of film. Add just a bit of fog - not enough to add "fogginess" (that takes a lot) but instead just enough to diffuse/scatter the light some.

If there is a door (or two) then blast a powerful light under the door to add some atmosphere and make it look as though life is going on offscreen. The fog will also pick this up and accentuate it.

If you're dollying backwards down the hall, consider a couple low-wattage instruments off to each side, and move them along with the dolly, so they're in constant spatial relationship with the camera yet not directly in front of the talent.

If there's any space for a "practical" or two in any way, use them.

Some or all of these may be useful, or none of them. Again, knowing more about the script nad setting would be very useful.


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Conan Stott
Re: Lighting a hallway for a night shoot. With no natural light source (IE no windows for moonlight)
on Jun 26, 2009 at 10:18:23 pm

Hey, thank you all for your comments. It has helped. Unfortunately there is not an opportunity for a practicle here but the fog is a great idea to disperse the light I will use. Looking at the hallway I do beleive we may be able to exploit the moonlight from the door ( has a few glass panes ) but it is a long hallway. Any options for light near the far end of the hallway im still pondering. I have one simple idea, let me know what you think...

A soft light coming from nowhere inparticular, using diffusion and the fog to acheive this for the far end of the hallway.

For info, the actors do stop briefly and talk at this part of the hallway, and I am shooting HD not film.

Also, the dolly tracks down the hallway in both directions at different points in the film.

This is an ambitious but low budget film... I am very confident in it but some of the more expensive solutions may not be feasible.

Thank you all for your help :) Have a great weekend.

Regards

Conan


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Dennis Size
Re: Lighting a hallway for a night shoot. With no natural light source (IE no windows for moonlight)
on Jun 26, 2009 at 11:10:14 pm

I've done this shot dozens of times on soap operas and the best solution to is use the one Rick Wise mentioned -- have all the actors carry flashlights, and let them light each other's faces. (use a Roscolux matte silk diffusion #113 in the lens to help spread the beam) It's believable, and natural ...and answers the obvious scripting question as to why they're running around in total dark to begin with without some sort of "security" light ....especially when they stop and talk (which makes no sense unless the boogey man is chasing them -- in which case why worry about a realistic natural quality of light).
It's also wise to add as much backlight as possible as that will "edge" your actors and provide shape to their movement and the space they're in -- without making it seem like there's any light in the space. I've done the gimmick using 100w fresnels randomly buried up in the corners as backlight down the length of the corridor (obviously out of your shot). You could even use the smaller, cheaper, 50w or 75w "birdies". Gel them light blue (perhaps Rosco #63).
I also recommend a few 375w, 50 degree Source 4 Juniors equipped with break-up gobos and blue color (Rosco #68 works well). Be sure to use dimmers to also keep the intensity down. Dedo's are always my first choice, but it sounds like you don't have the money. Longer lens units will assist you in lighting the far ends of the corridor while still being able to hide the fixture. Let the actors run through the colored textural break-up and they can actually "settle-in" to a pool of texture when they do their dialogue. Some of my favorite non-descript break-ups for this type of gimmick are the GAM or Rosco "Construction", "Glass brick-up", "Squares", or even any one of the "linears".

have fun wih it.
DS




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Alan Lloyd
Re: Lighting a hallway for a night shoot. With no natural light source (IE no windows for moonlight)
on Jun 27, 2009 at 3:17:47 pm

Glass panes? Moonlight? Punch some blue through there - and put a cookaloris in front of it for breakup. And maybe a branch-a-loris in front of that with a PA waggling it a bit. And remember - moonlight is a point source, don't diffuse it at the head.


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