Lighting a Restaurant at Night at

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Old November 7th, 2005, 06:22 PM   #1
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Perth, Ontario , Canada
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Lighting a Restaurant at Night

Hi - I have a couple of questions regarding an upcoming shoot I am working on.

We are shooting a scene in a restaurant at night, and I am struggling over what would be the best setup. The scene involves two characters sitting across from each other at a small table. Right now, my setup involves rigging up two small fresnels (inkys) on the ceiling shining down at the character on the opposite side of the table, with some minimal fill light coming in from the front. The restaurant has nice practical lighting, creating small "pools" of light on tables around the restaurant, small bar lights, some soft light hitting pieces of artwork on the walls, etc. I was thinking of just leaving the restarant lights up all the way, and using the setup I previosly described. I looked at the test footage (shooting on dvcpro) and it looked "alright" but I think I can do more to the scene. I have LOAD of lights at my disposal (film school) , but I haven't really had the chance to light many scenes on this scale.

I would appreciate ANY suggestions as to how this scene might work best. Should I throw more lights in the background? I want it to be a fairly dark scene, but I don't want to have a HUGE lighting contrast between foreground and background. What about diffusing the inkys above? Using a dimmer and adjusting as needed? I have a bunch of questions, but I'm basically just looking for some general feedback, advice, or any interesting lighting setups that would add some spiiiiiiice to the scene. Thanks fellas

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Old November 7th, 2005, 06:37 PM   #2
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Location: Phoenix, AZ
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Sometimes, when you have a location that has great practical lighting, it's best to just augment reality enough so that it plays right for the camera.

How about hitting all those pools of light with extra small sources, then doing a subtle wash or play with color a bit? Maybe not "James Cameron Night Blue", but just a source with a 1/4 or 1/2 CTB and maybe a cuke? Something that might actually be motivated in the scene?

Remember that just because you want a scene to read as fairly dark, it doesn't mean you have to have inky blackness. Having enough contrast in a scene will read dark, even if the ambient illumination looks too bright to the eye. Use an on-set monitor to judge the impact on the screen.

Diffusion on the key light is sometimes very effective, but you then tend to lose that "punch" of strong shadows on the faces. How about putting diffusion over half of each inky, so that it works as a hard light for one character, and a soft fill for the other? Be careful to integrate the main talent into the rest of your lighting plan - you don't want them to stand out so much that it screams "I'm lit!!".

Is that what you're looking for?

Last edited by Scott Anderson; November 7th, 2005 at 07:23 PM.
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Old November 7th, 2005, 09:59 PM   #3
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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A lot of this depends on the coverage you have planned. Lighting from the ceiling will be instrumental for wide shots, but when you move into coverage (i.e. closeups) you do not have to use the same instruments. As long as the general direction and level of light is observed, you can light with different sources that may be lower (to dig into the eye) and/or softer. As far as the background is concerned, if you like the way it plays, maybe you don't need to do anything with it--it's a matter of taste.

Having an arsenal of gear is great, but having the restraint to only use what you need and leave the rest on the truck is a first-class way to go (and an approach that many of the cinematographic greats champion).
Charles Papert
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Old November 7th, 2005, 11:21 PM   #4
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"if you like the way it plays, maybe you don't need to do anything with it"

Amen to that.

I'll add that you should make sure your talent looks good being lit from high angles. Some do, some don't.
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Old November 8th, 2005, 01:11 AM   #5
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Hey Dan,

My suggestion would be to use two low wattage Chimeras on C-stands. Place them so that the majority of the light will fall on the subject OPPOSITE one of the lights, but with enough spill to add alittle backlight to the subject on the 1st Chimera side. Do the same with the 2nd Chimera; light the subject on the opposite side of the table, but tilt it down just enough to kiss the head and shoulders of the person on this side of the table. This obviously requires placing the C-stands on the outside of the table. Not knowing how wide you are shooting, this suggestion may not be feasible.

Lighting from above often renders a very unattractive "raccoon eye" look unless additional fill light is added. Fill light stands may again be in your wide shot.. Also, as you have stated, it is important to match the faces on your table scene with the ambient light of the restaurant.

Hope some of this dribble helps.... E-mail me directly or through this post if I can help with further clarification.

Much Good Luck!
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Old November 10th, 2005, 11:00 AM   #6
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As an alternative (Stephanie's' plan is a solid one), if the restaurant happened to have candles on the table and/or you could place small low-wattage light fixtures in the centerpiece of the table, you can hide your lights BELOW the table for the profile 2 shot, still using a crosslight technique as Stephanie describes. Then when you move into coverage (singles or over-the-shoulders) you can subtly raise the key lights to get a more natural look. If you are replicating candle light, nominally this would be replicated by hard light but this is a tough look to pull off especially with video (low hard light tends to look like an old horror movie) so I would definitely recommend adding diffusion or going to a Chimera on the closeups.
Charles Papert
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