Creating a 1940s Parisian Cabaret club bar. (8 replies and 10 comments)
I have to light this next week, for a very short promo.
One tracking shot towards a bar, wide leading to mid shot. A woman behind the bar talking directly to camera. 2 men propping the bar either side of her, as the camera moves between them.
I wish to highlight her, and have the 2 guys in shadow. This is only 1 shot, but I want it to look authentic to 1940s. Pinterest seems really great for inspiration. Director likes the look of the final bar scene from 'Killing Her Softly'.
I want to keep it simple, so I think hanging a single china ball over her will do the trick. Would I need to bounce back to show her face? Blocking out the light from the windows to the left. Haze will be added too.
As you can see from the attach image, the director is standing behind the bar where the barmaid will be. That blackboard will be gone. The bar will be dressed to look 1940s. Not sure if there's any option to add a practical light somewhere perhaps, to help bring in some backlight effect.
There's absolutely no budget, so I'm having to rack focus myself, as well as operate the camera on the dolly. Should be fun.
What about a slightly soft/sharp spotted/controlled light 1.5m above the camera, mounted onto the dolly? At an angle on the girl to create butterfly light (shadow underneath the nose). That way, as you are traveling closer to her; the light gets a bit more focused. At the same time you could ride the iris a bit to keep exposure of her face constant while the surroundings fade more towards shade.
Apart from that I would bounce a couple of lights around the room to create a general diffused base tone. Maybe a little hair/back light on the girl and the guys. You can also experiment bouncing a hard light off the bar surface to create a soft, angled "floor" bounce.
A china ball would probably wash out the place.. and for wider shots I personally don't like them that much because its light quality isn't hard/sharp enough to make detail stand out on a wider lens.
chinaball example; and this was done a very sharp 50mm lens.. focus was on the table.
Great suggestions here. Will spend my weekend experimenting, liking these ideas. thanks Wouter
You're welcome! Have fun!
The photo already looks like a 1940's cafe. I would keep it to a minimum, just add candles in a wine bottle on the tables. A 1940's cafe would have been filled with heavy cigarette smoke so play around with the smoke machine until you get the right density. The cafes I have been in had bare light bulbs above with perhaps a small neon sign behind the bar advertising Citanes cigs. Don't forget the black cat sitting on a bar stool.
Photo of "Ricks" restaurant. e.g Palm silhouette breaks up a bare wall.
There's something about that blue in those chairs! I like that color! You might think about incorporating a similar color into the space to make it pop! maybe table cloth or curtains? Sorry the art director coming out in me.
Thanks for the advice Mike! And rlandry1, love the enthusiasm. Those blue chairs won't be staying! Will be stripping everything out the way to keep things authentic.
If you look at the opening scene of Still Alice, attention was brought to Julianne Moore by using a double defused snoot. It brought the exposure on her up, and left everyone else alone. Although it could be considered heavy-handed, I think it will be appropriate for something set in the 1940's. Looking at Hitchcock's work or Sunset Boulevard, there are plenty of shots that seem over-the-top, shots that are obviously beauty lighting, from today's perspective, but it was considered very cinematic back then.
If you can hide a small bounce card on the table/bar or on either side of it, you can add a little light to bring up her shadows up and make the two men seem darker by comparison.
yes interesting concept you bring up:
when we think of a 1940's look.. what does that mean? Are you trying to recreate that typical image everyone has stored in their memory or are you purely recreating the set, the way it looked back then while lighting with practicals and perhaps invisibly augment them?
The beauty lighting is a very obvious look and immediately screams: "old-timey-look"!
Then again; you could also do it the opposite way and light it all very naturalistically.. in a way a 1940's setting really looked but didn't often look on a picture.
I think I might attempt at achieving a mixture of both. I do want it to look as natural as possible for the time (the setting is Paris, 1941), but have a nod to the 'beauty lighting' techniques from that era of film.
fine choice I must say 🙂
I think I should elaborate on what I meant. I'm saying you can pay homage to the period through subtle cinematography, however I personally believe that the vast majority of the period look should be accomplished through art department, wardrobe, and hair/makeup. Using lighting that is a reference to period filmmaking techniques can be acceptable or believable for a film set in that era, which gives you creative freedom and gives you access to a broader range of tools, but it should be done in a way that doesn't draw too much attention to it and it should be done more than once to show intentionality. Unless your audience formed their idea of cinema through work made in that period you're not referencing their memory, you're referencing nostalgia. If you choose to exclusively use filmmaking techniques from an era to their full extent to the point that it's obvious, it can definitely work. A fantastic example of this is The Artist (2011) or the opening shots of the Band of Brothers pilot.
It should go without saying that none of this is fact, there's no right or wrong way to do something, this is all just my personal opinion.
You're quite right Krishan. A realistic portrayal of a 1940s pub is what I'm aiming for more than anything, which will be achieved more, as you say, by the costumes and the makeup and set design.
There is really not much difference between a 1940's cabaret club and today. I thought that you were trying to recreate a cafe scene and there are plenty of those around. There's a great one in Canterbury opposite the Cathedral with a genuine French interior and staff all speaking French! Also there is 'Zedels' in London which offers French hospitality and a nice cabaret too.( film production friendly). Southend had quite a few once. I did some scenes once in a Short Stirling bomber at the museum, now gone. Zip over to Paris and you will find the genuine article in the back streets, all the inspiration you need is right there and it's only a train ride.
Interestingly, I was in Quebec a few months ago and they had some fantastic French style cafes and restaurants many were copies of the ones in France also Newport RI had some delightful eating houses selling French cuisine all wonderfully decorated in the period style.
Send out your Art Director to take some photos!
Thanks Mike, I appreciate your advice and wisdom. I think time/money are restricted for this particular shoot in terms of getting inspiration other than online. I recognise and acknowledge the need for decent location scouting and research though, so thanks for the heads up here.
You mentioned Southend too, the pub we're filming in is the middle of Southend. Quite a few old locations like this around here.
Shoot went well.
We hung a china ball above the bar as planned, off an extended C-stand, with black tat clipped and skirted around the ball so no spill beyond the bar. An Aputure Lightstorm LED panel set to 3200K to the right to help highlight the bar maid behind the bar a little more. Practical lamp in the background, dimmed down helped a lot too.
Client and myself very happy how our little shoot turned out in the end! Thanks for the tips and advice.