Shooting close to the wall (7 replies and 9 comments)
Hello Mr. Deakins and forum members,
I'm gonna start shooting a short and there is this scene that the characters are in front of the wall. Flat white wall. For budget reasons we can´t get another apartament and the apartment is pretty small.
How can i make it interesting and avoid dullness? How do i make it alive?
Thanks in advance
Obs: This site is one of the best things i have found
It all depends on how you shoot it but I would suggest you project shadows on the walls such as a window frame silhouette or Venetian blinds etc. Hang a few photos or pictures, perhaps a rubber plant to break up the blandness. Can you not hang a few practicals then hide the cables but at the end of the day it’s going to be how you light it.
All Film and TV and Theatre sets start as a blank canvas, they are just 3 square walls with nothing in them. It all depends on the script and how you are going to present it, even with a small budget and only a few lamps you can make the stage come alive by using colour, shadows etc you can create some form of depth and shape. Make a small model and use toy figures to rehearse the scenes and by using a flashlight and gells try manoeuvrering the figures and shadows to see the rough effect and where the light sources should be. Then ofcourse translate it to real time and see if you can recreate what you have just practiced.
All sets start off bare and plain boring but have look at the attached photos, these are Theatre stages made to come alive by using clever lighting techniques to give it presence and shape but more importantly creates the atmosphere that encourages the audience to believe the story being acted out.
If you think shooting the actors against a flat empty white wall is a bad idea, then why do it? It is that hard to find a different wall or to dress or paint it?
Otherwise, embrace it, the starkness of it, for the modernist feeling. If you want some contrast, pull the people away from the wall enough to soft top backlight them so they are more silhouetted against the wall.
One splash of color can do wonders against a white wall: a piece of art, a plant in the right vase, etc.
As Mike said, shadows can also be your friend. This can be as simple as an interesting angled shadow to break the wall up.
If you’re shooting at night, splashes of light with practicals can create interest as well.
As David said, you can also just fully embrace it. If you take that approach, think about what light you can put on the subject and how you can frame things to bring the starkness of the blank background into the shot design to get the overall effect you’re after.
Is it so boring to shoot against a white wall? What is the scene? that is the first question you must ask yourself. Maybe the scene should not look 'alive'. Diane Arbus always shot characters against a white drape and she made some very hypnotic images. A side light with no fill could give you one look but a lamp bounced off a frontally placed large reflector would give you something else entirely. How about a direct spotlight from above? There are so many possibilities but, as David suggests, why choose that space if it is not right for the scene? If that is a given, what lighting would compliment the scene? It is not just a matter of lighting a scene to make it look interesting. That's just creating 'eye candy' and there are enough people doing that already.
I’d like to kick my two cents in on the problem of a “blank-boring” wall.
My personal approach (as a director) is to ask what is the emotional intent of the scene? Are these characters lost in their lives? Are they plotting? Are they quiet and pondering? Are they angry? For me, if they are lost in their lives then a simple white wall and a static wide shot might work. If they’re angry then tight quick cuts might work. I always try and Light to the intent of the characters and the emotional need of the scene. If it’s intimate then possible choose a different “location” within the apartment. A framed window. Fire a light through from outside to build the background through a curtain. Something like that. I’d think about the characters first, what is the audience supposed to understand about them and then decide how to light and shoot.
For instance a couple make conversations and baground a framed window wall or part of the curtain in the wall would give you more psychological feel? I am just curious your words Fowler.
All shots and lighting set ups are psychological. Different set ups for different psychological effects for the characters and the audience. A romantic drama is typically well lit, even and conveys ease and calm and romance. A crime drama is typically darker with a harder edge to the lighting.
It all really depends on the emotional intent of the scene - which will stem from the over all mood of the script.
I know lighting depend up on a context. There is no doubt. You talked about framed window. I don't think a wall part of the framed window would give you lost feel than without framed wall.
Exactly my point. Well said.
Is that the only reason in revolutionary road a young couple living home interior all white wall!
Thank you Mr. Deakins. I am a big fan of your work but a larger fan of your basic principles of shooting. Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of this website.
i was thinking about your issue. It would be best if you explained what the conversation is about. You mentioned a “couple.” Is this romantic? Is this an arguement?
Also, what is the script about?
We all might be able to help better if you could lend some specifics about the script and the scene and the characters in this scene.
Bingo! No one has seen the script yet and we are all pulling our hair out, this is really funny This would make a great story on its own.
Well, if i had no other choice (even other spaces within the apartment) I’d probably shoot the scene directly from above and either go with cuts back and forth or camera swings to accentuate the importance of each characters point of view. The length of their bodies and floor beneath them adds to the “artistry” of the shot - but also gives the audience a unique view point. If one character is about to hurt the other physically with some sort of weapon it also might be nice to show the audience that weapon in glimpses behind a characters back - from above - as if they’re hiding it. But again - I’m simply guessing without knowing all the details. And depending on how the rest of the film is to be shot - either a nice 35mm focal length would be good or a lovely 70mm focal length directly on their faces (especially if you have the room to do it) would add to the audiences focus. You could also play around with different shutter speeds if you want a more agitated feel.
Lighting wise - Because it’s an arguement - i would either be very clear about the audience seeing their faces OR go the complete opposite way by putting one (usually the aggressor) in mostly silhouette, make them “bigger than life.” A single lighting set up would achieve this.
Hope some of this gives you ideas on how to approach your film.
Best of luck!!