Monday, March 7, 2011

Creative Live with Vincent Laforet Making a Documentary

This past weekend I was fortunate to be the gaffer on the CreativeLive and Vincent Laforet workshop. The workshop was on moving from Stills to Video with digital SLR cameras, so didn't cover a lot about lighting. I'd like to talk about the light. If you weren't able to watch the free live presentation, you can purchase the video of the class now. You can also watch the 90-second documentary we created via the link on the class page.
Here is an overall view of the set for Saturday's documentary film on artist Miguel Edwards. This was taken at the end of the day, but you can see what we did.

As you can see, the studio space we used (thanks to Chase Jarvis) had a lot of daylight. And the window in the back had direct sunlight (or as much sun as Seattle could give us) backlighting the scene for part of the day. Considering all the light, we made the decision to use it and not try to block the windows. This was going to be a very openly lit scene. We augmented the daylight with two additional lights. In the upper left corner you can see an Bron DW 800 watt HMI focusing spot light going through a 4'x4' opal diffusion screen as our key light. And over on the right side you can see a Stellar fluorescent light bank giving an edge light. These are both daylight color balanced lights, and we added 1/4 CTO warming gels to each to warm up the light a little bit. The Stellar had a diffusion sock on it, along with the warming gels.

If you have listened to me talk about lighting you know I talk about having large lights as close to the subject as possible. Looking at the scene above you see that the lights are pretty far away. Why? With film/video we need to have a variety of shots. There is an overall wide establishing shot, some medium shots, close ups, details, etc. If we had the lights in close they would be in the wide and medium shots. I probably drove the crew crazy as I kept asking what's the widest you will go on this film? Can I put a light here? OK, how about here? Can I kill some of the fill? What if we warmed this up a bit?

If you watch the very end of the video you will see where one of the camera guys picked up a great smile while we were in doing the closeup shots. For that one the main light was in really close and I think that really added to the feel of that smile.

One more image from Saturday at the workshop...
Yes, there is a Canon 7D somewhere in there. And no, you don't need a rig like this to produce a documentary like this. One of the main reasons for going with this rig was so that we could split the signal out to show at the camera for the operators, on a monitor in the room for the students, and out to the live feed to the internet.

Next post will be on the short narrative film we produced on Sunday. Lighting for that one was completely different.

Sorry about the quality of the images. These were quick snapshots with my phone camera as I was working on the sets. I didn't get a chance to take more than 2 or 3 shots of each day's set.


  1. Gatt a say watching this workshop was like going to film school. It was SO informative. Thanks for the details on the lighting. Please do that for the Drama scene too. You did a great job with lighting.

  2. Yes, I will be writing up the drama scene this evening. Got my day job to do right now. Unfortunately, as I had a LOT more to do on the drama set, I didn't get a chance to take photos of the lights. I have one photo to post, but will see if anyone else took photos of the set that I can use.


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