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Lighting 360° Around A Table

Published : 9th February 2005

I'm shooting four people in a room who come in through a hall way and sit around a table. The director wants to keep the camera tracking around as they come in and sit at the table and then continue around 360 degrees.

I'm trying to work out some solutions in lighting and was hoping for some advice on how I could still maintain modelling on the actors face from overhead lighting and get a boom in there for dialogue.

I've currently looked at chicken coops overhead but I find the eye sockets are a problem.

Any suggestions on what I could try.

Fritz Bizaro


class="style9">>I'm shooting four people in a room who come in through a hall way and >sit around a table.

I did a similar scene once and my gaffer and key grip hand-made a softbox out of Gatorboard. Inside the box, we put tungsten units on dimmers. The bottom of the box had some diffusion, probably quarter grid. We taped black tape in the centre of the diffusion to keep the centre of the dining table from being too bright. Outside the box, we added drop down flags out of Duvetyne. The light on the faces was frontal, but it seemed very natural - to simulate just what it was - a light over a dinner table.

The trick was in the flags and keeping the light off the walls. It allowed for shooting at any angle, with no relighting.

Jim Dollarhide
Director/Cinematographer


I’m my days as a location film mixer I had a scene like this, lit much like Jim describes.

I solved the boom problem by using two booms, each working from opposite diagonal corners of the table; each taking two actors on their side of the soft box. That way, a boom never has to cross under the soft box.


You'll need two good boom ops with muscle memory, familiarity with the dialog, and a feel for the camera's movement and the length of the lens.

Oh, and hiring a choreographer wouldn't hurt!

John McDaniel


I shot a similar scene for a short recently. I went with a similar approach to Jim's, but I didn't use the Gatorboard. I mounted a bunch of tungsten units (on dimmers) to the ceiling and then put some unbleached muslin under the lights. The muslin was just taped to the ceiling and allowed to droop down in the middle so it made a kind of belly.

This (I hoped) would let the light reach down into their eyes and keep from looking too toppy. It actually looked very natural. The whole thing was skirted with Duvetyne to keep it off the walls, except for the one corner facing the doorway was peeled open to help carry the actors into the room.

I used unbleached muslin because I wanted a warm feeling to the scene, but that decision is up to you...

You might also put up some wall spreaders or pole cats for small backlights.

Keeping them off stands so you can shoot 360°.

Good luck,

Paul Niccolls/NYC



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