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Old November 6th, 2006, 10:51 AM   #1
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rigs to mount lights on the ceiling

I have been asked to reproduce the lighting and framing of the boardroom on the show The Apprentice.

For references, you can see photos of the setup as well as a 360 view here

Because of limited time and budget, it is not going to be an exact replica. However, I'd like to get as close as possible, but maybe with a more minimalistic approach.

One thing I cannot change much is light placement. In the Apprentice's boardroom scene, the key lights are all more or less above the table (3 accent lights on the table plus one key per participant. You have backlighting and accent lights on the walls as well). They have a studio rig to hang their lights to. We don't. We'll be working in a conventional office board room.

So I was wondering if there were any accessories / tools / rigs I could rent that would allow me to safely mount my lights on the ceiling. I thought of using booms on stands but because of the characteristics of this setup and the wide field of view needed for the cameras, I don't think it'd give me enough clearance. We cannot modify / alter the location as those are functional offices, but I still need to find a way to get those lights out of the view and at the proper angle.

Any suggestions?
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Old November 6th, 2006, 11:11 AM   #2
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You need an auto-pole - it's an extendable pole that braces against the walls. Should be OK if the office your're shooint in isn't too big - I've used them in 3 metre wide rooms ( http://www.morco.uk.com/latest/manfrottostudio.htm - scroll down, third item.)
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Old November 6th, 2006, 11:36 AM   #3
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Thanks Dylan.

Are these pretty strong? How many lights were you able to mount per pole? I would hate to see this pole as well as the lights attached to it fall on a participant's head. That would bring a quick law suit. Are there suction cups that you can attach to the ceiling as well? This might make the whole thing safer.

The room will be more than 3 meters wide though. More like 4 or 5.
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Old November 6th, 2006, 11:59 AM   #4
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If the room has dropped ceilings, you could use a combination of scissor clips and/or cardellini clamps to hang the lights. If not, you could try wall spreaders and lumber. However, I'd be concerned about the stability of that approach for a 5 meter length. Another idea is to use several Matthews Mini Max 9' booms, which are great for flying lights overhead in rooms with low ceilings. Or, maybe even the original 17.5' Max, which is a lot bigger, and significantly more expensive. Hope this helps.
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Old November 6th, 2006, 12:17 PM   #5
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I haven't seen the location yet (doing that tomorrow) but I'm indeed hoping for some dropped ceiling where I'll be able to hang scissor clamps. If not, the auto-pole seems like the best idea. They have many rooms where we can do this so maybe I'll push to see one where we could use a 14' auto-pole.

The Mini Max is an interesting suggestion, though I'm not sure if I'll find this at a renting facility (at a price that fits our budget). I know I have a boom arm for my stands but it's not really long, 3' extention tops.

As for the light selection, well the boardroom lighting on that show seems to be mostly Fresnels. It is a hard low key contrasty lighting scheme so I do not plan on using any soft lights except for fill purposes maybe (though I'm assuming the walls will be white so I'm thinking even fill won't be necessary). The rest (accents, keys, backs) will be Fresnels.
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Old November 6th, 2006, 12:32 PM   #6
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If there is anything pre-existing that you can clamp onto, I've found the Lowel Space Clamp can be tightened with a great amount of tension around most anything. http://lowel.com/clamps.html
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Old November 6th, 2006, 12:47 PM   #7
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Thanks Guy I'll look around during the scouting to see if there are any door frames, poles and what not where I could use these, might be a good solution as well.
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Old November 8th, 2006, 05:56 AM   #8
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I just did a shoot where we hung tarps across a wall. There were windows and curtains on the wall preventing us from hanging directly on the wall, so we fashioned a frame out of two 8' 1x2 knotless douglass fir and a long telescoping paint pole was the top. We used the wood to hold up the paint pole at either end and clipped the tarps to the pole. This provided a quick and simple backdrop that completely disguised the background. I realized later that a similar configuration could be used to make a sort of arch to hang lights. The key is a sturdy telescoping paint pole or something similar.
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Old November 8th, 2006, 09:15 AM   #9
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Well after seeing the location, I realize it's much worse than I thought.

here is a rough schematic of the room.

There will be 11 persons to light total, 3 on one side of the table, 8 on the other. The room is beautiful but it is huge. No way can I mount any kind of pole whatsoever, anywhere. There is no dropped ceiling either.

The director asked for dramatic lighting. All I can think of is renting a bunch of 300W / 150W Frsenels but where the hell will I put them. The only thing I can think of is there's 2 big cavities on the ceiling to create a ring of light where I might be able to hang some lights of my own but there's not a big chance I'll be able to do that. I'm at a loss, this setup looks impossible to create. I'll have to re-think this over.

I think the only solution left is to use available light, which is those multiple movable ceiling mounted lights above the table. Hopefully I can get enough light from that to expose properly.

Last edited by David Lach; November 8th, 2006 at 09:46 AM.
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Old November 8th, 2006, 06:02 PM   #10
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scaffolding maybe....

David: How high are the ceilings? You could rent a rack(is that the right term?) like mobile DJ's use to hang lights and/or speakers at an event. If that is too expensive what about a single layer of construction scaffolding. I have worked on that stuff and it is very sturdy. Just more idea's to follow up on Marcus's suggestion.

Also, are you recreating the reality show or spoofing it? If your spoofing and using actors then shoot one side, relight and then shoot the other. Seems to me like the existing track lighting you describe could at least give you the table accents you are looking for.

Just rambling out ideas.

Randy
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Old November 8th, 2006, 09:49 PM   #11
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David:

There has got to be something on that ceiling you can hang lights off of. No conduit, beams, pipes? Is it just smooth stucco? Describe what's up there. As you know, available light will suck, you need to figure out a way to make this work.

I have a radical idea - if it is a huge room with a high ceiling, hire a helium balloon light. These will put out a huge soft source that will very nicely light the entire area. I was on Prison Break last year, we were shooting an underwater scene at Great Lakes Naval Base outside Chicago. We brought in a helium balloon 5k and floated it over the indoor pool. They are great and not really that expensive to rent although you will need a generator and usually a technician comes with it.

There is a way to light your setup and make it look killer, you just have to want to do it.

Dan
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Old November 8th, 2006, 10:26 PM   #12
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"So I was wondering if there were any accessories / tools / rigs I could rent that would allow me to safely mount my lights on the ceiling. I thought of using booms on stands but because of the characteristics of this setup and the wide field of view needed for the cameras, I don't think it'd give me enough clearance. We cannot modify / alter the location as those are functional offices, but I still need to find a way to get those lights out of the view and at the proper angle."

David, I think you need to alter your own perceptions as well as the client's. Don't think of your work as harming the location, you are "upgrading" their office lights. Unless you are doing something dangerous or are harming the structure of the building, you are doing a good thing for these people.

The best things to hang lights are BOLTS into the structure. Usually, that is not practical, but with no place to put poles or trusses, I would just start fixing things to the structure. Even if you must remove things after the shoot, a screw or bolt only makes a hole 1/4" in diameter which can be filled with a bit of caulking compound. Obviously, sinking into the studs is the best, but there are even some drywall anchors that could hang a small light.

Don't be discouraged. There is probably an incredibly simple solution.

Pictures of the location (you took pictures, right?) would be very helpful for us to give you further advice. I can probably tell how a wall is built by a picture.
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Old November 8th, 2006, 11:01 PM   #13
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The ceiling is pretty low. There is indeed some weird ceiling edge that I could work with possibly but the director did not look thrilled about hanging anything to it (this is a corporate video. We were hired to film a spoof of the Apprentice with their employees for morale / team building). All he wants is dramatic lighting (as in sharp, contrasty, top head lighting concentrated on the faces and table). I think the overhead lights will provide that (hopefully) as they are very directional and concentrated around the table area, and I will try to refine with my lights.

I will have very little time to set things up, around an hour is likely, maybe 2 but I doubt it given the tight schedule of the participants, and have no time at all to test anything ahead of time. Just to give you an idea, when we did the scouting, the board room in question was in use by a board commitee. We weren't even able to look at the empty room. I could not play with the lights, had to make sure not to get too close, not talk too loud. And I stayed there all but 2 minutes. I can't perform miracles if I don't have to ressources and time.

During that shoot, which is a spoof of The Apprentice as I said, I will not only have to set this boardroom lighting up and shoot it as camera B, but I will also have to light a dozen other setups throughout their offices for all the other scenes and shoot them as well as camera B again. All that trying to work around busy businessmen's schedules. I will be running around all day long. The project does not call for ellaborated lighting setups. Just renting three 300w Fresnels with a Frezzi with Chimera and battery belt, second camera, plus what I charge for my gear (camera and 6 pieces lighting kit) almost maxed out the gear budget for this video. Believe me if I could have rented a dozen Fresnels, tied into their electrical box and taken the necessary time to set this up, I would have. This was the mindset I had going into this project, just like any other project. I quickly realized I would need to readjust my objectives.

Marcus, I would probably have been fired on the spot had I proposed to screw things to their expensive corporate board room walls or ceilings. You should have looked at the producer / director's face just when I proposed the auto-pole solution. That wasn't even an option. They are doing this "for fun" as they put it, and have no interest in altering their offices for this little "fun" project. I think the expectations of both the hiring client and the producer are much lower than what I originally thought. Therefore they seem to have little interest in investing both in time and money to make sure this is a killer setup. I know I would have, that's my mindset for every job, and between here and Monday (because it's next Monday) I'll still be scratching my head in the hope of finding a genious problem solver idea. I know tomorrow I'm going to the renting facility talking with someone there to look at every single possibility.

I'm thinking I'll try to get some clamps that I might use in there (though where do I run the wires, that's an other problem) but if I'm able to hang lights to the ceiling, it'll be 3 or 4, not a whole lot to light 11 people sitting around a conference table.
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Old November 9th, 2006, 01:34 AM   #14
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From what I remember of the Apprentice, you never see the ceiling - I like the idea of the mobile DJ truss, and hang the lights from there. I think I've even seen it where you prehang the lights (and prewire, perhaps) so when you setup in the room, all you have to do is aim them.
You're right tho, not much time to get things done. They probably don't realize how much time and effort it takes to get a certain look.
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Old November 9th, 2006, 12:53 PM   #15
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I think I found the solution.

We'll shoot one shot at a time and move the lights around. One shot for the participants entering the room. One for the speaches. One for Trump's entrance, etc. That way, I'll be able to put the lights on stand, move them around between shots and still keep them out of frame. The editing, if the footage was well lit and shot, will be seemless.

Why try to fight it. This is not a studio. There is no lighting grid mounted on the ceiling. I have to use common 15A outlets. I need to stop trying to fight the location and work with it.

Now on to trying to convince the director...
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