Lighting Night Scenes (with White Walls) at

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Old September 1st, 2003, 08:43 PM   #1
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Lighting Night Scenes (with White Walls)


I am a novice to video lighting, though I have a bit of theater lighting in my history...

I am having trouble getting convincing night-time lighting for internal scenes and I'm looking for any advice ... the look I'd really like is something like the main photo on this site:

Where the darks are dark, but the whites are white.

One problem I am facing is that my white walls are reflecting a lot of light with whatever I do... creating an ambient light that I don't want (and making the walls show up too much as well).

I have two 500w soft boxes and a 1000w umbrella, and I love them for daylight lighting but...

Do I need spots? Gobos? Just barn doors (which I have)? A big black cloth to absord the ambient light? I would can invest more if I need to, but like everyone I would like to avoid it.

Are there good books on the topic?

Any general advice here would be much appreciated.

Thanks in advance.

(for ref: I am shooting with an XL1)
Barry Gribble is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 1st, 2003, 09:11 PM   #2
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If you'll do a search here you'll find a few pearls of wisdom on this subject. I'll try to save you some search time with a few comments.

Recommended Book:
Lighting for Television & Film - Gerald Millerson [Click here to see it at Amazon]

Lighting Techniques Instruction Online:
Click here to visit Walter Graff's site and click the Articles/Instruction link. You'll find lots of useful information there.

You're going to need ways to block light spill, and you'll also need to either buy or make a cucoloris (cut out from a foamcore board...or even just sticking gaffers tape haphazardly across the front of a softbox will do the trick) to get the lighting style you mention on the X-Files page.

Good luck!
John Locke
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Old September 1st, 2003, 11:19 PM   #3
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To achieve the sort of result you are looking for, you'll need to use harder light. The shot from the X Files looks like a hard source like a fresnel, possibly through a light diffusion like opal, but certainly not from a softbox. It's very hard to cut down the light from a softbox in that fashion, you have to have the cutter (aka gobo, flag, solid) as far away from the light as possible, just outside frame to begin to achieve a "mottled" look.

John, I must respectfully disagree with the suggestion to tape across the front panel of the softbox--that will simply cut down on the intensity of the light, not shape it. The soft light will just wrap around the tape. A cuculoris would have a similar effect. In theory, given a large softbox way across the room and a cutter a few feet from the subject, you might start to see a distinguishable pattern in the light, but it's really not the right instrument for the look.

Agreed, though, that to keep the white walls from kicking up in intensity, you need to cut the source. Softboxes are pretty indiscriminate, they require cutting on several sides with flags that are at least the size of the box itself to achieve the sort of control you can get just with the barn doors on a fresnel. There are "egg crates" made for softboxes thtn aid in controlling the spread of the light, but I don't see them in use much on low budget environments.
Charles Papert
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Old September 2nd, 2003, 12:24 AM   #4
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You're right. My typed words abbreviated the longer version of what I meant. I didn't mean to imply that the X Files shot was done with a soft source...not with deep shadows like that.

I mentioned the tape on the softbox just as an example of the other end of the spectrum (opposite of the foamcore suggestion which, in my convuluted mind was automatically pictured placed in front of a harder source)... that you can always break up the light somewhat and that you don't need expensive equipment to do it. I have broken up soft light before using the method I mentioned...and also putting all kinds of things in front of the light source. And although the shadows don't run as deep as a hard light source, you do see some differentiation in the intensity of light falling on the subject.

But the real point is that you should try putting all kinds of things between your light source and the subject/background. Don't limit yourself to just "bought" items such as expensive flags and what not.

Anyway...apologies for not being clear. Charles...keep me in check, amigo. ;)
John Locke
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Old September 2nd, 2003, 05:25 PM   #5
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One micro tip I'll offer to what Charles and John have already offered is "color". Blue is generally the (viewer) accepted color for evening light (ie: moonlight) filtering into a room. If that's what you're trying to accomplish consider gel-ing you lights with a rather deepish blue.
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