Nicholson Ren | Cinematographer & Colourist

What's Left Production Diary

Shot Break down 1 - Basic Lighting Set ups

To have the flexibility to design the lighting and manipulate what we see on screen is one of the "magic" moments of movie-making. This post is all about the reasoning and de-construction of certain shots. I will cover why I placed a light where I did and what I was trying to achieve by doing so. 

Prior to What's Left I didn't have much access to equipment to light a scene the proper way. I was restricted to using natural lights without the option of enhancing or adding lights to get what I was looking for. With this being the first time I got a chance to choose the placement of lights I am pretty happy with what I managed to do. For this shoot our lighting equipment consisted of: 3x Red-heads | 2 Aputure LEDs | 1 variable LED | CTO/CTB Gels and Cutters | Reflectors and Diffusers


Ms Kingsley's Office

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There was only one main source of light in this room and it came from the window directly behind the desk. We chose to position it in front as opposed to sideways so that the natural light could act as a backlight and key light for our actors. The first problem I had to solve on this set was the harsh morning sunlight coming in the room. I decided that placing 2 diffusers outside (4/C) would soften the light enough but the drawback would be a loss of detail in the window and still an overexposure problem. It wasn't the best solution but it was the best with the resources we had. You can see part of the diffuser in the final shot (A). Even though there was plenty of light coming in during the day I still placed a Red Head outside (2/C) because I was worried about the sun changing positions as the day went on. With a light outside - our source was now predictable and controllable. The lights inside (1/3) were used to balance the light in the room to the intense sunlight still coming in. 

In (B) you can see the entrance to a hallway and the study hall which we didn't want to show a connection from this room so we made a conscious decision to never film facing that direction at all. 

1. Red Head with 1/2 CTB & 1/2 Diffusion bounced against the ceiling to act as ambient room light. 

2. Red Head outside the window to simulate the sun serves as a constant light source. No gels.

3. LED light to give some dimension to the teacher's face. Half-Diffusion applied. 

4. Two Diffusers put outside the window to soften the harsh sunlight.

The Infirmary

The infirmary was particularly difficult to shoot because we initially didn't have another source of light to play off until we brought in a lamp. Similar to the other rooms we had another Red head (3) give ambient light to the room by bouncing it off the ceiling. The ray of light on the wall was also created from this source by refracting light from the crumpled CTB. It was unintentional but I decided to leave it in because it looked motivated by the window and gave a line of direction to the actors.

The curtain lifted up onto the air con (B) was to let light from the window closest to the actors give them more back light. An additional LED (4) enhanced this motivation. The table lamp (1) gave more texture and side lighting to the actors for when we shoot away from the window. There needed to be another source of light in order to light the scene convincingly. Despite being in the middle of the day, movie logic dictates that all lights and lamps are switched on to make it look nicer regardless of practicality. 

1. Table light to give more dimension in the scene.

2. Window light as back light

3. Red Head with 1/2 CTB & 1/2 Diffusion bounced against the ceiling for ambient room light.

4. LED light with 1/2 Diffusion to enhance backlight from window. 

Common Room

The same concept applied in both shots above was applied to this room. Red Head (1) bounced against the wall gave off the idea that sunlight was hitting the wall as you can see in (A). The LED panel (2) acted as the light from the left window directed onto the actors (E). Similarly another LED (3) is placed in the same position as the right window (E). The third LED (4) acted as a backlight from the back window onto the actress that was sitting at the edge of the sofa (F).

The lighting design is once again all motivated by natural sources, although we do not see the positions of the window the lighting hints at there being a source somewhere infront of them. As we also do not see practicals within the room I find that it's best to light as natural as possible unless there is a shift in tone or mood that requires a specific look.

1. Red head with 1/2 CTB bounced against the wall to simulate window light spill and also as ambient room light.

2. LED with full diffusion to soften the light.

3. LED reverse of (2) and simulate window light.

4. LED backlight to simulate window light in the backroom.

At this stage I've mainly explained my technique and why I've positioned the lights where they are. There is a whole lot more thought that goes into choosing the look which I regrettably didn't focus on as much. Most of the time on set was spent setting up lights and just trying to make it look natural than thinking about how it matches up thematically. As long as the lighting doesn't distract from the story; the audience shouldn't be wondering if the lights they see are motivated or not, they should just believe that it's natural and that it's looking good.