The Wandering DP Podcast: Episode #60 – White Cyc

In this episode of the podcast we discuss a recent commercial I DP’ed and how the production dealt with the project from start to finish.  This is a bit of a long one so strap in and hopefully it helps.

If it does help or you get any value out of this podcast please consider visiting the link below to donate to the show.  Every donation makes a difference and is much appreciated.

Donate to the Podcast


Here are a few images from the spot we will be breaking down:

1 5 7 11 8

The Process

For this episode I wanted to go one step farther than we usually do for these break down episodes.  After a bit of back and forth and after quite a few listeners requesting to see the preproduction documents I use I have decided to show a few pages of the actual material I used on this job.

I show these documents with the hopes that they will help you get better and that perhaps you will improve upon them and then I will be able to steal back the ideas from you.

Step #1 – The Pre-Production Stage

The booking is confirmed and the project materials start to trickle in.  There were a few technical challenges in the original scripts so we had to hit the ground running on this job.

The first thing to do is get the script and the treatment from the director to see what they have in mind.  Once that gets a look over there is generally a call with the producer and the director to get a lay of the land and also talk about any tech issues involved so we can start to get some options or solutions sooner rather than later.

Once that conversation has been had the ideas generally start flowing.  Based on the conversation with the director I will start to formulate my initial thoughts into a document to share.  I do my best to make it short and to the point as during prepro directors have tons of stuff being thrown at them so it is in my best interest to keep it brief.

Step #2 – The Lighting/Tech Document

This is where the fun begins.  My set up is very basic and the template allows me to throw these together in just a few minutes.  I prefer to keep the layout to one issue per page (ie key light or backlight or background or composition).  Takes away any clutter and confusion.

So let’s take a look at the actual document I sent through for this:

kmart_lighting_ideas-1 kmart_lighting_ideas-2 kmart_lighting_ideas-3 kmart_lighting_ideas-4 kmart_lighting_ideas-5 kmart_lighting_ideas-6 kmart_lighting_ideas-7 kmart_lighting_ideas-8 kmart_lighting_ideas-10 kmart_lighting_ideas-11 kmart_lighting_ideas-12

Bask in the glory ladies and gentlemen.

Step #3 – 3D Lighting

Using a 3d lighting program I am able to build the set and start lighting from the comforts of my own office.  As there quite a few technical challenges and questions these virtual builds got everyone on the same page and answered a huge amount of questions for all departments.

The dancers were going to be on a purpose built pool of water.  The cyc was being built as a one of.  The question was how big did both have to be?  Hard in a pre virtual world but it took 10 minutes for me to model up my thoughts and send them through for the build.

Here is what I cooked up using different angles/heights/focal lengths:kmart_pool kmart_pool_cam_view kmart_pool_cam_view_2 kmart_50mm_15maway kmart_50mm_15maway_cam


Based on the info provided in these shots art department were able to build exactly what we needed.

Now on to lighting in 3D:

kmartoverhead kmart13 kmart12 kmart11 kmart9 kmart8 kmart6 kmart1 kmart kmart2

Step #4 – Studio Time

bts-2 bts-4 bts-5 bts-6 bts-7 bts-9 bts

Step #5 – The Results

11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

16 Responses

  1. J Parker

    Maybe I’ve missed where the PDF for this podcast is to download? Maybe I’m blind… IDK.. could you point me in the right direction?

    • Wandering DP

      nothing to download for this one. unless you want to download the podcast.

  2. Kevin Klein

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! This takes so much effort to put together, a million thanks for your dedication. There is so little professional and relevant information online (amongst piles and piles of terrible, how to make films with no budget advice). You break down the process with great depth and simplicity and it has helped me so much in the way I approach my work and the increasingly bigger jobs. Lots of love from Berlin!

  3. Rod

    Dude! So pumped you’re back. Been following you on the gram and the stills have been looking great. I actually have a white cyc shoot in 3 weeks I’m prepping for. There’s no pool of water and we’re going for infinite white background and we don’t want lights in the shot… but still! Digging it. Quick question, do you do any photometric calculations for which size/amount of lights you want for a shoot like this to get your exposure and ratios? Or is it more of an assumption that 6 6k space lights and a 12K chimera are going to get you all the top and back light you could need and you can freestyle a bit with the side light? Thanks dude, keep killing it.

    • Wandering DP

      Hey Rod, thanks for that. Once you do it for a bit you just sort of know based on other shoots. So no photometric calculations on this one.

      • Rod

        Thanks for the reply! And that makes sense. Was there a time early in your career when you did do that kind of math? Or am I getting too focused on numbers?

  4. Dom

    Stoked you’re back! It’s so hard to find good content like this. I stared at the photos for a good hour after listening. For real, this is some really great stuff. I can’t wait to hear more.

  5. Gabriele

    Thank for this wonderful podcast!
    Is it possible to watch the commercial somewhere on the internet?

    • Wandering DP

      Thanks for the support Gabriele!

      I don’t think it is online just yet but I will post it once I see it.


  6. Gabriele

    thank for the reply.
    just another question.
    I tried to make a previsualization with C4D.
    How do you manage the photometric datas?
    How do you know the lumen of emission for not declared lights?
    I use a simple app that give the efficiency of the source and i combine it with angle of emission because i use nonprofessional tools often like HMI lights without photometric datas

  7. Michael Lockridge

    Impressive and very informative. I look forward to the future podcasts. DP’s rarely get to see other dp’s approach (especially pre-pro) so it is a real treat to see how you work.

  8. Mark G

    Hey Patrick, welcome back! Those final images are gorgeous! Love the in-depth look this time around. Incredibly informative.

    Thank you for taking the time to share.