· Miscellaneous


To me, the PAR 64's are mainly useful for getting a really hot, searing spot on something for very little wattage. PARCANs ("firestarters") are better than PARs in some situations since you don’t have to deal with side spill and the tube is long enough to put a gel in a gel frame holder in front without melting (except for the narrow spot ones. You can also clip a scrim from another light to a PARCAN, or put it on a dimmer.

Here are some examples of PAR64 spots used in "JFK". Now for interiors, a 1K PAR64 "firestarter" might be overkill unless it is a huge space like a gym or a warehouse. "JFK" was shot mostly on 100 ASA film (to get a fine-grained look) in 35mm anamorphic. A small interior could probably get away with a Tweenie at full spot for a similar look on faster film (or the RED.) But these are a good example of why some clipping is not always unintentional.

Often Richardson would use these spots when the people or camera was moving, so the flare-up was momentary as the person moved thru the overhead spot. With a very narrow spot globe, the center of the beam is nuclear, basically not worth metering, but the edges fall-off into something more manageable.
Oh, here was the trick to lighting an entire alleyway with a 1K PAR64 at night... I wet down the alleyway, ground and walls, first. That way, when I put the PAR at the end of the alleyway pointed back at the lens, with the lamp itself blocked from view by some foreground art direction, the shiny walls and road basically reflected the globe, creating a bright kick off of the surfaces. So even though the light itself was underexposed, the reflections were very hot so the image was not underexposed.

They never use lights behind the camera, instead using ambient light and (possibly?) reflectors for fill.

They shoot on set for a tungsten white balance (presumably 5218) and almost all light sources (except maybe kickers, hair lights, etc? I forget) are soft. The main instruments they use are enormous banks of 60w or 100w incandescent light bulbs in a grid pattern. (bare incandescent bulbs). If the wide shots feel unnaturally soft, this may be why.

These are installed on dimmers at the corners of the sets and only the ones facing the camera are used for a given shot. This way the DP can maintain a soft, offside key for all his CUs and get a dark "silhouette" look for straight-on wide shots. The soft light wraps nicely so it doesn't look so harsh and the considerable spill serves as fill light.

There's preference paid to getting offside keys and nice looking lighting over naturalism. You'll often see that the direction of the key and position of its apparently source (lamp in frame, etc.) are at odds.

The lead DP does not use a meter, but he estimates that most of the time he's shooting with the key (which is sometimes effectively a backlight in wider shots) at 1/3 stop or slightly more over and he lets the shadows fall where they may, often a stop or more under. I think. I'm sure David has more practical/useful info than this for achieving that look in broader terms, but maybe this will provide some supplemental insight. (REDForum user)

You'll notice that there is a soft 3/4 back-edge from a higher angle, and then an eye-level soft side light coming from the same direction as the back edge (rather than the opposite side of the face, which is more traditional), so it all sort of blends and wraps around the face, but there is still a bit of a hotter edge and some soft edges on the shoulders, rounding them out and separating them from the background.

Try this, light someone from the side with two 4'x4' frames of diffusion side by side so it blends into an 8'x4' diffusion. Then make the first 4'x4' frame that is slightly behind the person hotter than the second 4'x4' frame that is coming around the front of the face more. The first 4'x4' frame that is hotter will create a little kick or glow on that lit side of the face but also blend into the soft key coming around the front. (DM)

To do this I said, “we need to have everything in the room be white except him, and he will have to be dressed in black." “No problem Rob said," but there was a problem. We were shooting this room at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles and they would not let us paint the walls. The walls were like a hubbard squash kind of color. At this point I knew not only did I have to create this graphic scene but also I was going to have to blow the walls out so that the film would read them as white

Being wall to wall mirrors, I was limited on where I could light. I ended up replacing the overhead fluorescents with daylight tubes for the day scenes and then augmenting that look by hanging an HMI Joker Chimera ball over the main workstation. The shop had fluorescent panel lights next to each mirror but they turned out to be 3’ tubes, which we were not carrying replacements for. I decided to add some needed color in the shop by letting them be Cool Whites and augmenting that color by putting some Cyan 30 gel on the white panel covers. Since I had an HMI Chinaball over one workstation, I added to the overall level to the opposite side of the room by bouncing an HMI Joker Source-4 off of the ceiling. Basically I was unable to key from eyelevel because of the mirrors on both sides of the room, so I tried to make the overhead key very soft. For the night scenes, I turned off half the overhead daylight tubes, but left then daylight, then I hung a tungsten Chinese Lantern over the main workstation and switched the camera from 5600K to 3700K.

I had to quickly light this entire restaurant so I started by swapping all their light bulbs with brighter bulbs. In the background, I hid two 2K Zip lights in the ceiling. The foreground was crosslit by two 1KChimera/Woodylights and some Source-4 bounced off white card for fill. I decided to use some light diffusion for the romantic dating scenes, the #1/8 Classic Black we got for “Manure".

shooting under their fluorescent lights, which I augmented with some HMI Source-4’s (gelled to match) bounced into cards.

If the hospital has hundreds of Cool White bulbs and I don’t have to mix them with daylight or tungsten, then I’m more likely to work with that as a base color and match everything else to that. If it’s just one room, I might switch to Chroma 50’s or Optima 32’s, etc. In other cases, I may want the Cool Whites to render as cyan, so I’d work at a 3200K base, mix them with tungsten sources to get that two-color effect. You can get away with soft edges and backlights from flos in a hospital location. You can turn off sections of overheads to create more mood, you can use negative fill, etc.

perhaps one of our biggest and most expensive lighting set-ups for the whole movie. And they are never easy – you can’t really use the overhead metal halide fixtures in these spaces for a dance ( the day after that, having cleared out the gym, we shot a pep rally under the normal overhead metal halides.) We hung about 40 PARCAN’s for the dance area, plus four HMI Source-4’s pointed into a mirror ball, a 1200w HMI follow-spot, two MAC lights, and a stage for a band with rows of PARCAN’s mounted to a truss. In “Assassination" I ended up, in the last minute, bouncing an HMI Source-4 off of the ceiling of the gym to bring up the general ambience, since the overhead PARCAN’s are quite spotty. And I had to use extras to hide the stand for that Source-4 in the middle of the dance floor. So for this movie, I added eight Chinese Lanterns to the overhead grid, with blue photofloods inside them to create a cool ambient fill for the room. I used Chinese Lanterns because I figured they might look better if seen on camera compared to some other soft units up there.


I kept looking for ways to add more color to these locations. The tattoo parlor was basically a big white box with overhead fluorescents, not some black-painted neon-sign-lit funky place like you’d expect. We also had to deal with a big set of windows at one end of the room for a scene that would be shot from sunset into night for a day scene. So Clark suggested that he paint the top row of windows with letters on a color background so that I could backlight the paint and bathe the back end of the shot in colored light. That worked quite well. The back windows were mainly painted red and yellow, so I added cyan gel to the overhead Cool White fluorescents to provide an overall soft cyan ambience. Then I used a tungsten desklamp to light the foreground

A real challenge, especially if the door is white. It makes a big difference if the actor is slightly behind or ahead of the doorframe. If slightly behind, like when you see an actor peeking through a cracked door, sometimes the simplest solution is to backlight the actor and put white card on the backside of the wall and door so that the bounceback fills in their face.

Shot from inside a closet as someone opens the door to look inside, then closes the door again over the lens. I wanted to see her face, but I couldn’t figure out how I could have a light shining from the camera direction that wouldn’t light-up the inside of the closet door before it opened. I considered dimming up a key from inside, but that seemed risky. I ended up just putting white card on the outside of the closet door and backlighting her, so her face was lit by the door itself bouncing light back-up. As she leaned her head in, she did go silhouette however, which was fine for that scene, but I perhaps could have faded up a bit of fill / eyelight, or perhaps raked her from one side. But it seemed safer to not have a light on inside the closet.

A few years later, I had a shot in “Twin Falls Idaho" where the actress is seen through a small window in a door, so to get light on her eyes, I used the same trick as I did before, I put some white card around the window so a backlight bounced back into her eyes from the door direction:

It's a common, old-fashioned way of lighting people looking into a mirror, place a backlight above/behind them that is reflected in the mirror back into their faces as a high frontal key light. There is some slight loss of transmission in the reflection so the backlight looks slightly hotter than the light on the face.

Lighting faces in mirrors is always a bit tricky because it's like lighting someone facing a wall, either the light has to come from a source right next to the mirror (so table lamps, wall sconces, etc. very close to the mirror help and can be photographed in the same frame) or a light reflected in the mirror can hit the face. Often the problem with real locations with bathroom mirrors, etc. is that there is a practical lamp that was installed too high above the mirror so the effect is rather toppy on the face. So if this is a set being built I will ask the production designer to add a practical lamp that is much closer to eye level for the actor, whether just above the mirror or to one or both sides, etc.

I often use mirrors to 'sharpen' the light, as a way to cut a light or both. Often it is easier to bounce a light off a mirror, in order to create a sharp source, than it is to rig a lamp at the same relative distance. On a small stage it may be the only way to create a sharp source. (Deakins)

"High texture" comes from lighting surfaces from a non-frontal manner so that surface texture comes out -- in that case, higher resolution helps in a number of ways, especially if you like soft lighting, because you'd get the most texture often (but not always) from raking hard light across rough textures. Sometimes you bring out rough textures by reflecting a soft source in a reflective surface though. So more resolution means that you don't have to emphasize texture as much with lighting because the camera / format will pick up fine detail.

Besides harder raking sources, higher contrast lighting also emphasizes texture since fill lighting will reduce contrast and thus the dark edges of the object will be less pronounced. So if you are going to use soft sources, use them from a raking angle and reduce the amount of fill light.

I would consider something like the lighting in "Apocalypse Now" as being highly textured because of the angle of the light and the higher contrast:


I've always liked the color design of this frame from the TV miniseries "Jesus of Nazareth": (DM)

Even in old 3-strip Technicolor movies, half the time, the sets were painted in muted colors and most of the wardrobe was muted, leaving strong color accents to pop out better. Look at these frames from "Black Narcissus" -- you'll notice that most of the wardrobe is white-grey (the nun's habits) and the set walls are muted, the color comes mostly from the lighting and select elements in the frame. When Sister Ruth goes mad and puts on a red dress and wears red lipstick, the visual effect is very striking. I'll also point out that Natalie Portman's red lipstick in that frame above was making a story point as well.

You'd be amazed at how little light you need when you're talking about a reflective angle on a shiny surface. For example, I backlit these hallways at night with a bare vertical single Kinoflo tube (daylight) in this movie I shot in HD ("The Quiet"). The tube was outside the double-glass doors. The light falling into the hallway from the tube wasn't really bright enough to meter, but it didn't matter because all I wanted was the reflection of the tube in the shiny surface. Even though the tube is outside some fifty feet away, it makes a bright reflection on the wall behind her head:

A different scene:

I took my tungsten 1K Fresnel, tried it on spot, flood and without lenses. It worked better without the lenses. best result came from the crappy lights.

I played with the venetian blinds, it's ok that I'm getting more streaks of light than streaks of shadow but I liked the result (the Fresnel would soften the shadow edges no matter how),

In the gym during the homecoming dance, with a soft frontal key from a Chinese Lantern (with a 250W daylight photoflood in it) mounted to the dolly for a 360 track, with the actors (stand-ins here) on an opposite platform mounted to the dolly so we all go around together:

This is a camera dolly ice rink rig my Key Grip, Brad Heiner, built using speed rail, with hockey pucks on the base -- it was pushed around by a skilled ice skater / camera operator (who worked on "Blades of Glory") with my operator Chris Squires sitting inside.

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I lit the whole rink with eight Chimera Balls with Joker 800 HMI's inside them, mounted to the ceiling. I also put bare 8' daylight Kino tubes around the base of the plexi windows surrounding the rink, and tungsten Source-4 spots high up on the columns of the room, pointed into the rink so that skaters moved through little spots that flared the lens.


We had two methods for this. One was this water pan gag that was built, a metal pan with a glass bottom and a mirrored lid underneath that would swing open at a 45 degree under the pan, then a lensless 5K fresnel above pointing down into the pan. Then a bag of water with an IV drip was attached to the stand to drip water into the pan to cause the ripples. The other method, which produced longer, sharper waves of rippling light, was done by skipping PAR’s off of the surface of the pool and then stirring the water slowly with a pole: (DM Jennifer's Body)

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Photo © Universal Pictures
Sometimes off camera. I would just bounce them on the muslin if I just need a little more push but I really lit it by the projection mostly. I think the projection was doing 95 percent of the homework. Lighting by projection. That was cool.

We ended up finding a 4ft square window from a special effects company that continuously drips water over the glass. Behind that we put a heavily netted 1.2 k x-light, which gave us a wide spread but also the hard shadows that we needed to bring out the rain. the light was very close to the window [only one or two feet away] - though we did use a few nets to take some of the kick off it. That was our set-up which we moved around the room, depending on which direction we were looking. As you'll see from the grabs, the aim was for a quite pronounced, stylised rain effect - it's an art installation without actors, and the director was after a slightly surreal look. But I did notice that you get a softer, more natural effect from the light that was reflected back off our window/xlight setup [probably similar to the effect you'd get from bouncing into a mirror, as Roger suggested] so that's interesting to note for future reference.

-- On 'Fargo' I deliberately went with small sources because of the amount of reflected light coming back from the snow. The highway was lit using a couple of Tweenies that dummied the headlight beams across the snow whilst the driving was done with a small bounce on the hood and a dimmed red head, attached to the bumper, lighting the side of the road.
The streets and the parking lot were lit with small lamps boosting the street lamps - probably Source 4s, 500w mushroom bulbs or something similar. As I remember the only large lamps I used were 3x10Ks which uplit a factory building in the distance.
-- we used small Fresnel lamps, 650s, to 'dummy' the effect of headlights.

Most of the close-ups were lit with a 1K fresnel directly, sometimes with a strip of 1" black paper tape across the barn doors to throw a shadow across the neck or chest, though the main character often wore black so I didn't do that as much on her. 35mm 5213 200 ASA film rated at 100 ASA, usually shot at f/2.8 on Zeiss Super Speeds. I did use Source-4 Lekos with red gels for the backlight in that scene.

From the little X shapes in the glints you can see also that I used a black net on the camera lens for diffusion.
This shot of two other characters wearing white shows more clearly the shadow I got from the strip of black tape across the barn doors. This technique only worked though at the sort of distance I was between the light and the subject (about 6 feet). If I had used a 2K fresnel that was 12 feet away, for example, I would have had to use a piece of wood on a c-stand to create a bar shadow like that.

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