No Country for Old Men


That shot of Javier was lit using a Tweenie bounced off some unbleached muslin. There was no 'special' used for the eye light as that just fell in naturally. I rarely use any small individual source for an eye light unless I am photographing a night scene and I want the eyes to 'pop'.

I will always set the practicals first and as this was a set I worked with the designer to make sure the practicals were of a kind that worked for me. The shot was lit mainly by the light of the practicals but there were two Pups (IK Fresnel), which were dimmed and wired down quite a bit as I was shooting at 2.0 on 5218, bouncing off some unbleached muslin taped to the wall left of frame. The muslin is just off the right of frame and the reflection which separates Javier from the wall is from the muslin.

Javier was lit by the practical alone, lamp was wired to fall. 150 household bulb on line voltage. I very rarely use photoflood bulbs. It was important in 'No Country...' that when the table lamp fell over in the motel room it was of the sort that had an open bottom and the light would go from a soft source to something harder.

I often take a gel and cut it into strips to break it up, make a hole in the middle or use it on a section of a light rather than cover the whole lamp. I usually choose a gel spontaneously from a pack of sheet gel that my gaffer carries. Sometimes I will use a pack of two or three gels and slash the centers so as to break up the colour. An example of this sort of thing can be seen in the high angle night bed shots of Moss in 'No Country for Old Men'.

The 'headlight' gag seemed the way to go as it would give me that great silhouette of Tommy Lee in the door. When we got to that scene I was using two Tweenies to dummy the headlights for the approach of then truck and it was only then that I realised the double shadow was a gift. I had always seen it as a single shadow (it is what we usually strive for) as if from a John Ford western but this fit 'No Country' so much better I felt. So, it was just two Tweenies.

In Moss' trailer the practical bulbs were probably standard 75–100watts and there were some bare 60 watt bulbs hidden behind existing fixtures and some bounce light was used in both situations, generally tweenies (warmed with a little with 1/4 CTO) bounced off of unbleached muslin taped to the wall. My shooting stop was 2.0.

lit with tweenies bounced off some unbleached muslin

Behind the Scenes DVD

a 1K pup (without a lens) and two Tweenies coming through the window to create the pattern on the wall. The lamps were some 10 feet from the window and had 1/2 CTO and Straw 013 gel, just as I used on the exteriors. There was another Tweenie bouncing off muslin, taped to the wall by the door, which lit Moss' face. I used three lamps to get a wider pattern on the wall. There was no way for one lamp to reach into the room and light near to the window. I also sometimes like to create the effect of multiple exterior sources and so have patterns at odd angles on the walls.

We shot that scene with Tungsten balanced stock with an 85 filter on the camera [daylight balanced]. The HMI we used to create the slash of sunlight was gelled with a half CTO and the bounce material we used was an unbleached muslin. The windows were left clean.
The kind of colour adjustment, which would add a little overall warmth to a scene like this, could easily be done at the lab or in the DI suite. That is what I would call insignificant. The bounce on Javier was just a small loose unbleached muslin, low down to the left of frame, catching the hard light coming through the window. I might have had a 200watt Joker on the floor below frame to help but that I can't remember. The light on Kelly is basically coming from a bounce outside the window with a light diffusion in front of it, probably a 1/4 Grid Cloth.

The room was lit from outside using 3 X 18K HMIs through a 20 x 12 light grid cloth. Inside I might have had some unbleached muslin picking up a little ambience but nothing else. The balance with the exterior was tricky as we were shooting on a day with fast moving clouds.

The scene in the gas station was shot inside the building you see in the establishing shot so the window was real. The location was picked firstly for the exterior and secondly for that one window! we had the piece of machinery purposely moved into the frame. The lighting was controlled with something like 3 x 4Ks some 5 feet from window & open door through 12' x 12' light grid cloth diffusions outside the windows, about 10 feet away, with a 250 diffusion [or 251] on the windows, which were not in shot. I may have used 18Ks but I seem to remember 4Ks, but if it were 18Ks they had a lot of wire on them. I often soften light by using a 4' x 4' brush silk diffusion close to the frame line and I may have done this here also.I controlled the exterior just by deciding which direction I wanted to shoot first. In a situation like this I would balance the light on the character with the background rather than work at a particular stop. I wanted the background to be quite hot so I judged the balance for that by eye. On Javier's face I would have exposed for the highlight side to be something like a half to three quarters of a stop over, when read toward my meter. Otherwise, I would as always light the shot to my eye.

lit using 12K HMIs projected through two layers of diffusion. The first layer was outside the window and the second closer to the actors. The windows were not gelled and I shot with 200T stock and an 85 filter.

I think I diffused the windows of that coffee shop and also used a second layer of diffusion (probably a light grid) to further soften the HMIs I was using.

-- The night into dawn at the crime scene was shot over three evenings and two dawns. raw HMI light and shooting on 5218, which is a tungsten balanced stock. I used three Musco lights and two Pars in order to see the landscape and I set these units on a high bluff overlooking the action. By focusing racks of globes on the far background ( 2,000' or more) and flooding others down onto the foreground (some 750' ) I could cover the distances involved whilst giving some shape to the landscape and by placing my source back from the edge of the bluff I could create a deep shadow on it's face. (We never needed the shot but at one time I had considered a shot wide enough to get the lights in, which would have been replaced by a CGI moon in post ). As we were going to shoot shots from every angle I didn't have the time to move such large units in the middle of the night and needed to choose an optimal position for them. We are talking here of an area well over 1/2 mile square with the Muscos on a bluff some 500ft above the 'set'. I had the possibility of between 6 and 12 foot candles (which is about where I like to work for 'moonlight') over the area that the trucks were spread if the Muscos were set at flood, which allowed me a little safety. I was using 3 of the Arri Master Prime lenses, and working wide open at 1.4/1.6 on 5218 500T. I was never happy with the results. I had to shoot wide open on most angles and for close shots I really needed more light on the backgrounds to stop them becoming out of focus 'mush'. I just didn't have the light to do this or the time to rig seperate lights to enhance the backgrounds of individual shots. Such situations are always a compromise in some way. Ideally, I would also have liked to light each shot individually and change the angle of the source light to suit each set up but, given the scale and rugged nature of the location, that was a non starter.

I had lit the silhouette of the small hill and Moss' truck as if it were the first light of dawn and knowing that the true dawn would come from the same direction. 9–12 x 18K HMIs [with maybe 1/2 CTB] placed below the rise on which Moss leaves his truck. These lamps were directed at about 45 degrees into the sky to create the effect of early dawn (we removed wires [nets] as the scene progressed) and which were completely cut off from spilling light directly onto the back of the rise by a 120' x 10' black solid. In essence they were lighting what dust there was in the air. Unluckily for me the main wide shot was scheduled on a morning that was cloudy and my 'false dawn' light didn't work so well! Otherwise I was sometimes using a 1/4 on any floor bounce depending on the shot. The blue HMI look was basically one colour and I did have complete control over it in the DI. I could adjust it relative to the headlamp sources.

The river was shot over two evenings and two dawns whilst we were shooting the scene with Chigurh on the bridge at night. We would scramble from our bridge location to the river location in order to set up and catch the early dawn light. We also had a small second unit shooting for two days.

lit with a very large single source. I needed my light sources at some distance from the subject so as to limit the fall off of the light over the set. In both situations I used uncorrected daylight sources, HMI lights, and a tungsten balanced film stock.

Behind the Scenes DVD

for sickly flourescent color: We used corrected tubes and then added a green sleeve to them. The same gel was used on any additional lighting for the car interiors etc. Everything matches better doing it this way.

The pan to the motel room door was just me inside the car with a fluid head. I know we completely rigged the motel to look the way it did and we used very little in the way of lighting that was in addition to what you see in frame. We placed those 'sodium' orange (a half CTO plus a Straw 013) practicals in the background and one or two 1Ks on the roof with the same gels to bring that light into the parking lot. I remember that we also put some extra florescents (with the same green gel) on the roof above the hero motel room door in order to get a little light into Josh's face as he looks over [in the car]. I was shooting at about 2.0 and I am sure that was all the extra light we used.

There were too many street lights to change them out - this was not a huge budget film and I was conscious of the manpower I would need etc.. Besides, I thought the colour was OK for the scene so I matched it with a 1/2 CTO and a 013 Straw. I had groups of Fresnel lamps set on the roofs next to or across from the practical street lights. There would be 5 lamps configured in a row 1K1K2K1K1K or 1K2K5K2K1k. This would give me a softness to the light. On the floor, to light the interior of the truck for instance, I was bouncing 1Ks or Tweenies off 4' x 4' or 8' x 4' Gold Stipple reflector boards. All the lamps would have taken 013 Straw with either 3/4, 1/2 or 1/4 CTO gel. I will use a variety of lights depending on the shot. Around the motel we used actual sodium units, one or two 2K Blondes and a 5K Tungsten Par at one point.

in Las Vegas, New Mexico scene, Source 4s were used two to each pole. With wide or medium lenses they were mounted each side of the existing street light with the lens in line with the top of the diffuser. (Lately I have been using Tweenies for the same purpose but they lack the power if the lamp post is very high.) No doors were used and gels were clipped to a gel holder. Being open like that the gels would hold if the lamps were saved between takes. The effect was to give a soft pool of light which extended the light from the existing fixture and we usually has the source 4s back to a dimmer and lowered the intensity so as not to overpower the existing light. The CTO and Straw gel matched the sodium colour quite closely. The camera wouldn't see the lamp on the far side and the near lamp would become look as if it were part of the existing fixture. We did the same trick on the Border Crossing with 1.2 HMI Pars and we also did the same trick on 'The Man Who Wasn't There'.

The lamps we had on scaffold were to 'dummy' the effect of the street lights and give more throw where I wanted it across a street. When I use the Source 4s on the poles it is to create pools of light, as for the shot of Chigiurh's car driving past the Del Rio sign. For the street where Moss is chased and flags down the farm truck I couldn't get the throw from lights mounted on the poles themselves so I augmented them by using lights from the rooftops. The tricky thing was to light the street and be able to change camera angle quickly without seeing the lighting rigs. We just didn't have time in the schedule for lighting changes during the night so everything had to be rigged beforehand. Lights were back to dimmers so that I could work them separately, depending on the camera angle, and we had blinds to block them to camera where we knew from scouting we were going to be wide enough to see them.
The source 4 is a tungsten lamp so the 1/2 CTO and Straw 013 worked on them for a sodium effect.

At the Border Crossing we used 1.2HMI daylight lamps and used 1/4 CTO to bring them back to look as if they were mercury vapor street lamps. We may have used a little green in places but I can't remember that detail as it is something we would have done by eye on a shot by shot basis.

I used no gels for the 'Moonlight'. I used HMI lights including 3 Musco lights during the film. I would normally have used a 1/4 CTO to pull the blue back a little but I needed the light and the exposure so I shot with them raw. Also, the one night scene turns into dawn so, in fact, I ended up adding a little blue to match the natural dawn light.

The Mexican border scene was shot at dusk and in the early morning. We used 5218 with no correction and that was about it. The wide shot of the church was the key shot and I wanted to shoot in the evening backlight. Whilst we waited for the right moment to do this we shot the musicians as I could balance their faces a little better to the earlier and brighter evening sky. It was then just a matter of matching the closer shots of Josh the next morning.

lit by the practicals you see in shot and nothing else.
[something added on the CU ?]


Those two angles in the car were actually lit with a few 60 watt bulbs. Two bulbs were mounted about 6" apart on the end of a 8' pole and a little 250 diffusion was wrapped around them. Two of these poles were then waved like wands over the car windscreen as we were driving to mimic the idea of passing street lights. It is a very easy solution when you have absolutely no time in the schedule for anything elaborate. I had scouted a few streets at night and picked a location that was close to where our main shoot was that day and which needed no additional lighting so that we could make these two shots quickly at the end of a day.


The big shootout was pretty complicated. We had small rigs of four or five 1Ks bunched up on rooftops, and we had little gag lights on streetlights to create more defined pools of light. I stuck with the orange-sodium look for that chase because I wanted it to feel pretty grim:

More stills from the film:


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