Lighting setup workflow

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  • #198736

      Hi Roger,

      A situation really troubled me for a few times. Before the actors come in, the gaffer and I have to finish setting up the lightings- which lights puts here and there; diffusion or no diffusion; dimming up or down; exposure level…etc. It often embarrassed me when the actors come on set with makeup ready, I have to re-dial the exposure level or put a diffusion in front of an LED.

      It makes me unprofessional because everyone is waiting for me. However, I really face a dilemma. You know we couldn’t have the real actor to stand on mark while we set up lighting to see the right level and effect. That’s the job for stand-in. In most cases, the production doesn’t have enough budget for stand-in, so I will have my assistant to be the model. You know not every person have the same skin tone, so the exposure level might look different. Even if we have stand-in with the same skin color, I still have to adjust light position a tiny bit, because the light cast a shadow on the real actor’s hook nose or different hairstyle from the stand-in.

      I’ve heard of that a really famous actor gave the DP a scolding in a big movie. The situation was that the DP open the eyebrow of one of the light during the rehearsal, and the light flares the actor’s eyes. That’s how the actor is pissed off.

      What’s your lighting setup workflow with your gaffer? Not all the gaffers are experienced. There might be certain situation that might take brain storm even with an experienced gaffer. What’s your workflow before actors come in? Would like to hear from your advice.

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    • #199562

        Are you referring to the Christian Bale rant on the set of ‘Terminator Salvation’ in 2009?

        “Bale verbally goes off on the film’s cinematographer Shane Hurlbut, who had walked onto set to check a light during the filming of a scene. This was apparently the second time he had done this…”.

        I would say that is a very different situation than adjusting the lights when the actors arrive on set, which is being done all the time on the productions I am on. But I also don’t know the workflow on bigger budget productions.

        Roger Deakins

          I will sometimes adjust my lighting after I watch a camera rehearsal and I might make a few more ‘tweaks’ between takes. I think that is part of the process, and especially so when you are seeing an actor in costume and make up for the first time. But when shooting some actors, or some particularly delicate scenes, you know that it is better to compromise and shoot. There is a balance and many more people are involved in creating the end result than just you. Any time you step onto a film set and look through a camera it involves some sort of personal compromise.

          It has happened that I felt the need to make a large adjustment to a lighting set up. But its also happened that the director or I will discover a ‘better’ camera shot. Or, maybe the actor will find an entirely different way to play the scene and then everything changes! But its all part of the process of exploration we go through.




            Yeah that’s what I was talking about.

            Situation differs, and not every actor can stand with technical adjustment. Some of them don’t want any distraction.


              Thank you for your answer.

              Now I know what I have to do next time.

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