After a month of shooting exteriors, yesterday we shot the first interior set for Ren. Which was just as well since a tropical storm was raging outside and blowing down parts of the exterior village set.
It was a classic prison cell scene, one of those shaft-of-light-through-the-barred-window jobbies. Amanda Stekly and her team did a great job of creating a two-walled set with moss, wet stone and even real snails. Outside the window was a platform to sell the illusion that the cell was below ground level.
Here are some frames from the scene:
If you’re going for this shaft-of-light-piercing-the-gloom look, you need three things. Firstly, a powerful, focusable light; I used a 2.5K HMI fresnel. Secondly, you need to accept over-exposure. The only way you will get any detail in the shadows is by exposing bright enough that the highlights – anyone standing in the direct beam of light – will clip. If you don’t like the highlight roll-off characteristics of your camera, stay away from this type of lighting. The cool thing about having a keylight this hot is that when a character moves around in the light, especially if they’re wearing light-coloured clothing, they bounce the light around in interesting and often unpredictable ways.
I shot the scene on Richard Roberts’ Blackmagic Cinema Camera, partly because of ongoing problems getting a monitor signal out of my Production Camera, and partly because of the extra stop of dynamic range the BMCC would give me to milk this high contrast lighting scenario.
The third and very important thing you need is a smoke machine to volumise the shaft of light. (More about using smoke in a future post.)
In order to give the sense of indirect “sky” light also coming in through the window, I placed a fluorescent outside the window so as to catch some of the side wall of the set. When I first tested the lighting set-up the previous night, I placed a second fluorescent fixture directly above the window to get some edging on the tops of the stones underneath. But I found that the more sources I set up, the less definition I got in the shaft of HMI light, so I dropped the toplight.
Although the script called for guards to drag Hunter (Duran Fulton Brown) into the cell and shut him in, the two-walled set had no door. So with help from the art department I constructed a ridiculous-looking door in roughly one-third scale, simply to cast the shadow of the door. Behind it I placed a redhead gelled with half CTO, which Richard wiggled during takes to suggest firelight.
I set the camera to a white balance of 4,500K so that the “daylight” of the HMI would go a little cold and the “firelight” would go really warm.
Our first shot involved Hunter washing his face at a bucket of water, then slumping back into the “sunlight”. We positioned the bucket out of the “sunlight”, in the small patch of light coming through the window of our fake door. But Hunter was still too dark by the bucket. I didn’t want to flood the set with fill and ruin the mood, so I hid a small LED light behind the bucket and diffed it down. This lights Hunter’s face when he leans over it, and hopefully suggests a reflection off the water.
When we moved to a close-up of Hunter washing his face (below), I rigged a fluorescent toplight, suggestive of indirect daylight from the window, and placed a circle of foil at the bottom of the bucket. The idea was that the toplight would reflect off the foil and the surface of the water and light Hunter’s face. It didn’t work, but the toplight itself really made the shot for me. The more you work with an actor, the more you learn the best ways to light them, and I’ve learnt that Duran looks great with toplight.
Screen grabs (C) 2014 Mythica Entertainment. Visit www.rentheseries.com for more info.