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Turning an office into a studio

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Matt Radbourne
Turning an office into a studio
on Jan 15, 2010 at 10:53:34 am

Hi forum
I've been tasked with turning a small office into a filming studio and am getting a bit confused by lighting and I was looking for some general advice. The room is fairly small and just about wide enough for a 2 person seated interview, say 4m max.

The snag is... it must be possible to turn the room back into an office in a few years.


This is my plan at the moment:
Buy a set of 3 Arri redheads and use these as the main scene lighting.
Remove the office strip light in the centre of the ceiling and replace it with a standard household spotlight strip so the lamps can be angled onto the scene if I need an extra boost.
Black out the window positioned opposite the scene.

Should I black out the window or, assuming all filming is done during the day, ignore the subtle changes of light coming through the window?

If I do black out the window, will the 3 redheads be enough to light a 2-person interview?

If I went for the spotlight backup idea, are there any special bulbs I should consider?

Should I abandon the spotlight idea and just replace the office striplight with a similar one and leave it switched off when filming?


Any advice anyone can give would be really helpful. I don't know what I'm talking about! :)

Matt Radbourne
Media Designer
CEM, UK


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Mark Suszko
Re: Turning an office into a studio
on Jan 15, 2010 at 3:10:07 pm

The office light is usually going to be too high and directly above a subject to make the talent look good. Depending where inthe room it is, it might work for a back light but I geenrally would just turn all that off and light with my kit instead. More control and precision and choice.

How high is the ceiling, and is it a hard ceiling or a tiled drop- ceiling on a grid system? If grid and tile, you can do a couple things that won't lose your security deposit on the room when you remove them.

One is to use scissor clips on the grid to suspend small lights from. The other is, if you need more height, remove some of the tiles, and hang the lights higher up in the square hole in the grid, any way you can. Be aware of building fire codes and check them first, if you go that way. Likely you can't run the AC power cables for the lights *above* the tiles, for example, only to clips on the grid *beneath* them, in the open, things like that. if tey make you use plenum cable for your ethernet, for sure you can't run AC in that space unprotected.

I would prefer to use flos over redheads for these things, to keep the heat and power draw down, and the diffused light will be flattering anyhow.

If the lights are too heavy for hanging off the ceiling grid, you can hang them from a removeable bar like the Bogen Auto-pole or a piece of pipe anchored at the ends to straps/hangers you run up and over the top of the walls, or screw into the walls above the ceiling tile line, where it won't show.

I would black out the window with a curtain, or if you can't hang curtains, you can make a window cover out of foam core or something that just plugs the space and sits over the glass. I wouldn't want the window in the shot, ever, without a very good reason.

Sit in the room with eyes closed and LISTEN very carefully for a long time, espedially around the time of day and day of week when you plan to be using the setup regularly. many offices will have various noise problems that turn out to be bigger than the lighting problems. Air handler noise, traffic, and devices and mechanicals in or nearby. Check all that out before you spend any more money first.


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Matt Radbourne
Re: Turning an office into a studio
on Jan 17, 2010 at 1:42:25 pm

Hi Mark
The ceiling is definitely very solid whatever it's made from so I won't be able to take anything up above it. There is a beam in the middle of the ceiling running parallel to the back wall so we might be able to attach a rail to that.

Yeah, the building is basically in the middle of a field hehe. I had a good listen and there isn't any real background noise, just the occasional 'clonk' from people walking past the room but there will be signs going up that'll warn people that we're recording

Thanks for that Mark. That's been a huge help.

Matt Radbourne
Media Designer
CEM, UK


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Hunter Mossman
Re: Turning an office into a studio
on Jan 29, 2010 at 12:29:58 am

Marks got the right idea. The "Red heads" or ARRI 1K open face lights are not a good choice in this instance. Kino's or some other Florissant fixture's as mark described are the best choice for your frontal lighting. If you can't afford Kino's then go with a couple 1K or 650 Fresnels with chimeras (soft box's). With such a small space you'll prob have to just cross key your subject with those to achieve a soft even lighting. Look at the beem you spoke of in the ceiling measure the width and make sure it's staple. Chances are you can use a C-Clamp with baby spud or Furni clamp with spud to hang a couple 300W Fresnels with a little diffusion on them for backlights. Make sure you have access to at least 2 dedicated 20AMP circuits if you go this route. You'll need the juice for this setup.

The 1k's with Chimera don't have to be brand name. You can get different strange brand soft-boxes that will probably work fine for a while. But the backlights will most likely have to be pro fixtures.

Make sure you have lot's of diffusion of different thicknesses and some blackwrap or (cinefoil) on hand to deal with camera flares and to help soften everything up. A small space can be a real challenge.

Hope this helps. Good luck!

Hunter Mossman
Director of Photography
http://www.huntermossman.com


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