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Old February 5th, 2005, 05:36 PM   #1
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Help me light this scene from American Beauty!

As part of a film school project, we have to recreate a scene from a movie to the very last detail. I'm in charge of lighting/DP and need some help lighting the dinner scene from the film American Beauty. These are the 4 main shots:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v3...oo1694/fam.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v3...694/Lester.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v3...94/carolyn.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v3...o1694/Jane.jpg

Any help is much appreciated! We have many 2K's, 1k's, 650's, 250's, etc. at our disposal in the studio.
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Old February 5th, 2005, 07:24 PM   #2
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Daddy Bass says:

Some sort of direct, hard toplight right above the center of the table. Perhaps it should be slightly bluish (but this might just the color of the tablecloth or something wrong with your photo). Keep this toplight from hitting the actors. It's just for the table. Annette would appear to have a subtle light for her hair in the wide shot--a fresnel very tightly reigned in ( keep it off everything but her hair) could work here.

For faking the candles: Daddy Bass says perhaps a chinese lantern for the closeups, perhaps gelled somewhat orange (though if you put them on a dimmer, dimming them will make them orange-er). The wideshots, I don't know. I don't see where you could hide lights, except the ceiling, and you wouldn't have much control from softlight coming from the ceiling. You could use two fresnels, gelled orange, and cross light them, I suppose. Somehow that doesn't seem like it'd look too great.

Another idea is to hollow out the candles, and fit some tiny little bulb in there, and let that light their faces. You'll do this in such a way as to not have the camera see it. This could be dangerous; I don't know.

Daddy Bass does not claim to be any sort of authority or expert, just trying to be helpful. Daddy Bass thanks you for your time.
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Old February 5th, 2005, 08:14 PM   #3
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Dan,

If you watch the DVD with the directors commentary I believe they actually talk a little about the lighting on that scene... I forget exactly what they said though. Check it out and good luck.

Also note the shadows on the floor... they tell you where the light is coming from... it looks really soft on their faces, but there is a pretty strong shadow there...
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Old February 7th, 2005, 01:46 AM   #4
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Daddy Bass seems to be pretty much there. Not having seen it (I know, I know), I'm now going to borrow, or rent it.

You can see a shadow on the wall and curtains, to the upper left, just below the top of the frame in the wide shot. It's from a teaser, or some skirting.

There are three things going on here:
1-one top light that is lighting the three walls of the set and the actors, located above and behind the girl, creating the big shadow of the talent and table.

2-Another harder, brighter light directly over the center of the table, but not hitting the talent.

3-A third light giving direct overhead light as a separator on the talent's head and shoulders-look at the chair backs, heads and shoulders.

Looking at the double shadow of Mom's chair I'd say that lights 2 and 3 are one large China ball hanging from the center, creating light 3, with no paper in the hole in the middle, creating light #2, hard table center light.

The center light is flagged or ND gelled, or draped w/muslin to keep the talent dark and soft at the edges, with a hot center. The center hotspot is also acting as a main light for the faces in the wide shot. Looks like there might even be a white card on the table lighting up mom, or just the pitcher, I may be over thinking at this point. The large hotspot behind the girl and above the picture frame, reinforces that it's a large China Ball with gels and diff, pinned/taped, or draped on.

You can also see that there is something low powered and soft in the lower left hand corner, just inside the door-look at the folds of the table cloth and mom's shoes.

In the close up of the Mom, you can now see her head shadow on the wall behind her. That wasn't there in the wide shot. I'm guessing that it's a large kino w/grid, or Chimera w/grid to keep it soft, but directional. But that's her fill light on the left, casting the wall shadow and creating the enormous hit on the gold picture frame. Her key light is soft and to camera left. Note also her hands and dinner plate are being lit from directly overhead. There's no real hairlight at that angle

Spacey has his main light to camera left also, see the shadows on his shirt.

Or it's a 1K, a couple of Kinos and China balls, some ND, muslin and 216. And a bounce card.

It's nice to be able to have a grid from which to hang your luminaires and a wall that you can cut holes into, to hide lights.

Center china ball may instead be a coffin light with muslin over the bottom and a hole in the center

But hey, what the F do I know?
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Old February 7th, 2005, 02:10 AM   #5
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More than I! Ha! I kill me.
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Old February 7th, 2005, 08:08 AM   #6
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Oh daddy Bass, not necessarily. I just have way too much time on my hands.
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Old February 7th, 2005, 09:09 PM   #7
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Sound like you know your stuff better, in any case. Although reading through "Reflections. . .blah blah. . .at work", I realize these people use a ton of lights to do certain things, more than you'd think.
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Old February 8th, 2005, 07:42 PM   #8
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Wow! You guys are incredible... thanks so much. I'll be sure to post screenies of the final product
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Old February 8th, 2005, 08:46 PM   #9
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Cool, love to see 'em.
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Old February 8th, 2005, 08:47 PM   #10
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Big softbox over the entire table.

This is the 'standard' way to light a dining room table. There is a very large softbox roughly the same size as the table suspended above the table, shooting straight down. This is the softness and notice how 'lit' the tabletop is. Rent "Something's Gotta Give" and watch the extra features - same thing and they show the whole lighting setup.
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Old February 8th, 2005, 08:50 PM   #11
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And...

Yes - there are some side lights, and I'll bet that the lighting is not the same from the shot of the entire table (shot 1) to the closeups. They were lit to match, but augmented. The lighting on the mom, in particular is _much_ softer on her closeup than it is on the three-shot.

What a great movie. Definitely in my top 3.
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