The Wandering DP Podcast: Episode #63 – Blocking for Light

In today’s episode of the podcast we look at how blocking can change bad angles in to good ones and ease the pressure on location lighting challenges.

The commercial featured today was shot in one location and the action/script in combination with the interior set up of the space meant we were going to have to be very smart with our angles.

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The Final Sequence

The script had a mother and two young children in a dentist’s office.  The mother speaks to the boy then turns her attention to the receptionist behind the counter.

The number of angles, wanting to see the whole family in the space, and the size of the location meant keeping a nice look and feel going from shot to shot was going to be a challenge.

Here is the Final Sequence:

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The Location

The location wasn’t the first choice for production but as happens on tvc stuff we ended up there anyway.  There were some issues with the space.

  1. The space was quite small.  This eliminated the idea of lights inside.
  2. The space wasn’t super interesting or photogenic.
  3. The location of the windows posed issues as outside there was very little room between a major road and the windows.
  4. Floor to ceiling windows ran the length of the space.  It was North West facing and we would have to be there for schedule during the after noon.

1 Blocking for Lighting 3

The Blocking

Going over the script with the director I knew we were going to see 270 degrees of the space so we needed to light it accordingly.  The most difficult aspect was determining the angles for each micro set up.

We needed angles for the mother talking to the boy that looked great for lighting, then angles for the family talking to the receptionist.

The desk was oriented and fixed in place which meant the conversation between the family and the receptionist would have to take place perpendicular to the window source. Never good for lighting.

The Solution

We needed a big soft source that felt nice and wrappy but also one that could be fairly mobile as we needed to adjust the angle from shot to shot so that the changes in positioning wouldn’t jump out and distract people.

With the space we had outside on the sidewalk we put in a 12k HMI through a 4×4 frame then through a 12×12 frame that was loosely draped over a t-bar.

Camera info:

Alexa Mini

Cooke S4i Lenses

ISO 800

Shutter 180 degrees at 25 fps.

Lighting Equipment:

Arri 12k HMI

12×12 Full Grid

Arri M18

4×4 Floppy – Neg Fill

4×4 Poly – Bounce

We needed quite a bit of level coming from the HMI as I knew we would be facing an untinted window in one shot and the schedule for the day meant we would be there at the worst possible time when the background was at its hottest.

For the blocking we started with the ideal wide and worked backward.

Things to take into consideration:

  1. We wanted to be shooting into the shadows.
  2. We wanted the best looking background which gave the shot as much scope as possible.

Knowing that we knew we had to be on the shadow side of the line for the first interaction between Mother and the boy.

Then as we jumped conversations to the next group we looked at the wide angle we liked the figured out how to light the receptionist and the mother to suit.

The Shot Breakdown

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8 Responses

  1. Alex

    Great break down. Thank you! Love gaining insight on the way you problem solve.
    I know sometimes you feel like people don’t like these as much but I truly appreciate them.

    Just a thought…I did get lost a few times because some of the frames are similar. Might be cool to number them in the future.

    Thanks again!

  2. Sam Cocum

    Sounded like a tricky shoot, another great breakdown Patrick, keep up the good work!

  3. Mark

    Love listening to this podcast. Great breakdowns and useful information !

    • Dirk

      Fantastic as always. We all really appreciate your effort Patrick. Will get on to your Patreon once I get some regular gigs.

  4. Lisa Diaz

    Beautiful images and in such a small space! Love the way you used the net to stop down the background, do you put it right up against the window? I learn so much from you, thank you!