Lighting help for spooky house shoot... at

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Old January 13th, 2007, 02:28 PM   #1
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Lighting help for spooky house shoot...

Hi everyone -

I have an upcoming project in which I'll be shooting a short (45 second) film inside a darkly lit house. And I'd like to know the best way to light it.

The overall idea is that, shortly into the film, the lights go out, and the character has to go down in the basement to the fusebox. The house is a large, airy lake house, and has large windows through which we'll see occasional flashes of lightening.

The plan is to shoot with my GL2, then use Magic Bullet in After Effects to get a really good look. This is really the first time I've done something like this at night, however, and I want to make sure I light it correctly for Magic Bullet to work its magic. My experience is that if you shoot in neutral colors and light it naturally without going too dark or bright, you can use MB more effectively...But again, I haven't done this in the dark.

So the first question is, how would you light this, and what kind of lighting kit would you use? This is ultra low budget, though I'm still aiming for a professional look. Can I get away with work lights and china balls? Or should I rent a kit? I was looking at this Lowell kit, which seems to be a good start: But I only want to do it if its absolutely necessary.

The problem is, I don't have all that much time to experiment, and I want to get it right. How do I go about creating that dark atmosphere with just the right patches of light to get the face, body, and a few background elements?

Any advice would be much appreciated!
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Nick Carr is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 14th, 2007, 12:48 AM   #2
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China Balls and Shop lights are about the WORST sources if you're trying to do something like this.

China Balls are a large soft source that throws relatively even amounts of light EVERYWHERE. The produce VERY soft shadows and VERY, VERY, VERY flat lighting.

Spooky movies are ALL ABOUT shadows.

Shop lights are a little more directional than China Balls, but they also toss MASSIVE amounts of un-directed light into a space. So much that if you turn one on the east wall, you can BET that the entire West wall, will light up as well.

You need CONTROLLABLE lights.

The lowells are fine for something like this.

Use small hard lights like Lowel Pros and Omnis - NOT "fill the room" units like Totas.

Hard light is good for spooky - as long as you can barn door it off the majority of your scene.

Buy a roll of black wrap and make a bunch of ragged/torn cookies. Use the lights through the foil to cast small beams-pools of light that you actors can walk through, into, and around.

Light faces and eyes.

Light the SHAPE of the people with rim lights from behind.

Blue gels are also useful so that you can make the light look kinda "moonlight" since it's in a dark house at night.

Light things BEHIND the subject (wall, tree, whatever so that their shape stands out. Then put a kiss of light on their face/body/knife/whatever to direct your audiences eyes to whatever's important.

Spooky is DARK.

Less is more.

Good luck.
Bill Davis is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 14th, 2007, 01:57 AM   #3
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Thanks for the comments, Bill

Thank you Bill for the help. I'm almost tempted to erase my post out of embarrassment at being such a newbie to this kind of thing, but I'll just admit to my lack of knowledge and move on!

This picture indicates our most complicated shot -

The talent walks out of a side room into the shot. The camera pulls back as the talent directly addresses to the camera, then comes to a halt about 8 feet back as the talent passes off camera. Our final image is of the door, a screen door, which slaps shut like someone has just come in.

Am I basically following the same philosophy with the camera moving? Directing the omnis so the talent walks in and out of them while lighting the background enough to catch the door opening and closing in the wind? What is the best idea for illuminating the background?

Thank you again!
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Nick Carr is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 14th, 2007, 06:08 PM   #4
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Bill's advice pretty much covers it.

Just one other possibility I'll add. If the character is using a flashlight, strategically placed reflectors can be used to add a soft fill to the faces by reflecting the flashlight. So the actors essentially light themselves.

These frame grabs from one of my shorts pretty much use all the techniques mentioned by Bill. Lit with one or two (depending on the shot) 300w Dedos, a flashlight bounced off a gold fleccy to fill in the candlelight, and a heavily diffused 800w redhead outside the window.

PJ Gallagher is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 14th, 2007, 06:50 PM   #5
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Spooky lighting sometimes includes a light source from below and in front of the face in close-ups, probably replicating the backscatter from olden-days handheld lanterns and candles.
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