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  • Lighting set up for a horror

     Alan Lloyd updated 11 years, 1 month ago 7 Members · 11 Posts
  • Steve Topper

    April 7, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    Hey, I am filming a piece that would fall in the horror/thriller genre. As such there will be some bright, vivid outdoor shots, but mostly this will be juxtaposed with dark, shadowy indoor shots.

    I care very much about getting a great stylistic look to the film, and I am wondering what kind of light kit I ought to buy for these indoor shots. I am on a budget, so I want to get what I need as cheap as possible. However I won’t specify a specific range, because I will ultimately pay what I absolutely have to pay to get what I need.

    Any low cost reccomendations for what kind of light kit or set of lights would be best for such a production?

  • Todd Terry

    April 7, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    It’d be difficult to say because there are so many unknowns. We don’t know what the scenes are, what the locations are, what the action is, exactly what kind of “look” you are trying to achieve, and all that good stuff regarding the interiors.

    However, just taking a stab at it, I’d think in many situations like that for “dark, shadowy indoor shots” I’d probably rely heavily on a number of smallish fresnel tungsten instruments. There are a number of brands/sizes/flavors, but I personally like the “Pepper” fresnels made by LTM. I have one particular Pepper kit that contains two 100/200w heads and a 300w head. That’d be a good starting point but you’d probably would want quite a few more instruments than that if your location is very large, you have complex action, or a number of people in your scenes.

    Hard instruments like the Peppers (or any other fresnels) will make it a lot easier to get that “shadowy” look you are going for, as compared to soft instruments or flos, etc.

    They are, however, not particularly cheap. You might consider designing your lighting plot for your scenes and then just renting the exact instruments you require as needed… your lighting dollars would probably go a fair bit father that way than trying to buy a do-it-all kit just for one particular project.


    Todd Terry
    Creative Director
    Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

  • Mark Suszko

    April 7, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    The best suggestions will come if you can show us boards or even just simple stick figure line sketches for each scene you need, or at least detailed descriptions of location and actions. Indoor/ outdoor, day/night, particular emotional message for each scene, how many actors and what kind of action, one camera or more, etc.

    Could be on your budget that you can use a lot of “practical” sources, or sources that are really pro lights but “look” like Practicals – and just reinforce them with a few other instruments. Also, there is a LOT you can do in the grading process nowadays to help with this kind of thing and really sell a certain “look”… but you can’t work miracles on badly-lit base shots. You need a bare minimum level of quality lit footage, if you want to get all painterly later with the color-corrector and compositing in post, and take it to the final high level of polish.

  • Rick Wise

    April 7, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    Less is more.

    What’s implied is often much more scary than what is seen.

    Splashes of very hot light that illuminate body parts/sections. Possibly very, very low intensity overhead soft light to bring up hints of details in the shadows. Sometimes silhouettes as in lightning flashes. Lights that go on and just as abruptly turn off. Etc.

    Should be lots of fun.

    Rick Wise
    director of photography
    San Francisco Bay Area
    part-time instructor lighting/camera
    Academy of Art University/Film and Video (grad school)

  • Dennis Size

    April 8, 2011 at 2:51 am

    A dozen Source 4 Junior zooms — with stand hardware AND hanging hardware — (along with an assortment of metal templates) should service you just fine.
    Of course, a lighting designer and a good gaffer will also be required.


  • Mark Suszko

    April 8, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    We don’t really know how to light it, until we know what it IS. We can only make some assumptions, and without solid facts behind them, they may be wrong.

  • Bob Cole

    April 9, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    [Dennis Size] “A dozen Source 4 Junior zooms”

    Please say why you’d go Source 4 Jr. Is it for their focus, the internal blades and patterns, the quality of the light, or some other factor? Would you have light controls in front of the lens as well, and if so, what/why?

    I was going to recommend a distantly-hung China Ball to establish a very low base, along with fresnels.

    Bob C

  • Steve Topper

    April 10, 2011 at 12:30 am

    Yes, I’m sorry I suppose It was a little vague. All outdoor shots will use natural light. (They will be mostly in the woods, and I don’t care to deal with a generator.)

    The indoor shots will be a mix between evening shots in a house and night time shots. For the evening shots I guess I am going for “unconfortably underlit” like when you’re at someone’s house and you just wish they’d turn on a few more lights. The mood of the piece is kind of isolated and cold, from a child’s perspective.

    The last time I did something like this for night shots I lit the room very brightly with multiple keys to get some harsh shadows and turned it down in post. This gave me mixed results. One reason I used so much light was because the camera could hardly handle low light. I don’t think I’ll have such a problem with the 5d. I guess I’m wondering if there’s a better way to light night scenes.

    Honestly, I am mostly concerned because I have never had to pay for or gotten to choose my lights before while I was in college. So now, I want to make sure I buy( or rent) right and buy once.

  • Steve Topper

    April 10, 2011 at 12:31 am

    ah china balls and fresnels. sounds promising, I think I will have to experiment with this. Thanks!

  • Dennis Size

    April 10, 2011 at 5:30 am

    Let me repeat something Rick Wise said.

    “Less is more. What’s implied is often much more scary than what is seen.
    Splashes of very hot light that illuminate body parts/sections.”

    Rick hit the nail on the head! Scary lighting utilizes shadow and darkness to create mystery and suspense. Anyone ever see a Hitchcock movie, and how extensively he uses gobos in front of his Seniors/Tenors?
    The interplay of highlight and shadow, and hot intensity can be achieved very easily with ellipsoidals …especially when using gobo templates.
    You’re correct in assuming the shutters can help shape the beam …another plus.
    It’s also true that the angle of light is very impotant. High key steep positions will be required. This can obviously be done with a fresnel or a softlight but neither of those fixtures have the control that can be achieved with a leko (ellipsoidal). Why use a fresnel when a leko from the same angle can also be textured with myterious shadows?


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