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Brad Simmons May 15th, 2003 10:32 PM

Need Some Lighting Advice
Hey guys. I am going to be shooting a short film in a couple of weeks and I'd like to get some advice on how I should light a particular scene.

This scene is going to be inside a confessional booth. We will be building the booth ourselves so we don't want to show the actual booth. What we are going to be showing are closeups and medium closeups of the actors through the confession screen.

We only want their faces, shoulders, and the confession screen in between them lit. Everything else should be pitch black so that you can't see the surroundings. So, I'm assuming that we shouldn't use a broad flood light or soft box etc. We will need something more focused. We need concentrated light that will only show on the actors faces and upper torse and nothing else.

1. What specific types of lights do I need?
2. Any tips on how I should light this to acheive the best effect?
I don't want it to look like we threw big lights on his face, I want it to look natural, almost as if the sun from outside is shining through a window onto their faces.

thanks in advance...

Charles Papert May 16th, 2003 01:56 AM


Much of this depends on the direction you will be shooting them, and the feeling you would like to get out of the scene.

You will do well to stick with hard light (direct light from a fresnel source) as you suspected to maintain better control. You might want to try a light rigged overhead and snooted or with tightly closed barn doors to avoid spilling on the walls, which will give a dramatic, intense feel. A smaller unit from below can help to pick out the eyes a little. In general, if there's a wall in the booth you won't be seeing on camera, trying lighting from the opposing side.

I'm a little unclear about building the booth--does this mean you are only building the screen and hanging black drape behind them...?

As far as the screen, I would recommend backlighting it to give it a nice texture.

Another interesting look is to position a similar screen off camera to use as a gobo, and light through that--the pattern will play onto the actor's face as if the light was coming through the screen. As long as you have some light on the screen itself (as suggested above) it will feel realistic. This will require hard light to make decent shadows, and you will need to play around with the distance of the screen to the actor, and the light to the screen to find the appropriate size and sharpness of the pattern.

Good luck!

Zac Stein May 16th, 2003 02:24 AM

Dont know if this will help, there is a lackluster move called "40 days and 40 nights" around, but there are quite a lot of shots done in a coffesional and they look very nice, maybe watch that try and figure out how they are lighting it.


Brad Simmons May 16th, 2003 04:20 AM

thanks for the response guys. Zac I'll check out that film for sure.

Charles, to explain a little more about the booth I just made a little diagram here.


Note that I am a horrible artist, and even worse drawing on the computer, but I hope you get the idea.

Charles what would you personally recommend as far as a lighting kit for someone new to lighting? Now I know I'll need some fresnel's, can you recommend a particular brand? I've read up on a lot of the threads here about kits, but I'm curious as to what you personally think. Do you think one of those Lowel DV creator kits is a good start for a newbie to lighting? I want a kit that will last me awhile.

Also, you recommend the hard light. Would it be wise to add diffusion so that it is more soft, yet still concentrated?

Thanks for any more info you may have.

K. Forman May 16th, 2003 05:09 AM

Brad- Use the search button, and look for light kits. There have been many threads going over pros and cons of different light kits.

Wayne Orr May 16th, 2003 09:00 AM

Brad, I don't know if you have any practical experience with a confessional, but very often there will be a light on in the side with the priest. The priest is known to the "confessor" but the confessor is the anonymous person in the dark. So, the light should be in with the priest, and can "bleed" into the side with the confessor. This make for some great possibilities for visual drama.

As suggested by Charles, a hard light can rim the priest, leaving all or part of his face in shadow, with the light falling on the screen also. The screen material is very important, because on the confessor side, you can get the pattern to fall across the confessor's face from the light on the other side. You may also want to add a very soft, low fill light to both sides, rather than have everything drop off to black.

You will have to tweak the lights as you shoot from different angles for your coverage.

BTW, there are a lot of production facilities in the DC area, and you should be able to rent lights for little money if you plead "student film." Worth a shot.

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