Working with less is how I like to light. Look at a scene, watch the blocking with the actors ebbing and flowing, figure out how the camera will best move to tell this part of the story, and then decide where the key light should go. Once this process is done, the fill light and back light can be worked out. This process is how I look at lighting for every scene. The KISS philosophy (keep it simple stupid) is always going through my head. On We Are Marshall, I challenged myself and my team to think about how we could light a major night exterior in the rain with just two lights.
When Director McG and I conceived this scene, we wanted it to be a surprise. The audience knew, but January Jones did not. We had just seen January in the diner getting the bad news that a plane went down at the Huntington Airfield. She goes to the crash site and realizes that it was her husband’s plane. She heads back home to cry herself to sleep. Headlights wake her up, and she runs out the door to see that her husband is, in fact, alive. The whole sequence was lit with two lights. Here is how I lit two of the shots in the sequence.
This was lit with one Mole-Richardson Baby Baby with the Fresnel pulled out of the head so that the tree and rain shadows would be at their hardest. This light was positioned outside of the window, which was built on stage. The 1K projected through the tree branches that I put outside the windows. We dripped rain on the window as well. The second light was a 12 x 12 Ultra Bounce that was rigged just off camera right high over the set wall with a 575 watt HPL Source Four Par bouncing into it. I underexposed the moonlight coming through the window 1.5 stops, and then the bounce fill was underexposed 3.5 stops.
The next shot of her rising up in bed is one of my favorites. The headlight sweep and her beautiful silhouette were lit with just two lights once again. The 1K Baby Baby without a Fresnel and a 1K Baby Baby were used for the headlight sweep.
The wide shot was another example where it just worked. I used two lights as well – one Mole Richardson 24 light Dino light with narrow globes and then a mini Nine Light Fay with FCX globes. The narrow globes on the 24 light Dino were to project through the trees and the distance, which was across a valley.
The Dino was placed on a 100’ condor about 300 yards away, blasting through the trees. You can see the tree shadow on the wet driveway. The nine light fay was motivating the porch light she just turned on. This gave the warm sidelight on them as they embraced. I placed that up on the porch exactly where the porch light was and then pushed it thru a 4 x 4 216 diffusion frame. I added two 70k Lightning Strikes to pull in the mood of the storm as well, but I would classify these as special effects lights.
I had a third light ready to fire up for frontal fill, which was another 575 HPL Par light, but turned it off once the rain machine started. The mist of the rain filled in the shadow areas perfectly. This is another thing to consider when you are doing smoke or rain. Always fire up a test before you go crazy lighting things. Sometimes your subtleness in the light you created doesn’t come through once all the effects are fired up. I had the warm side light that was motivating the porch light on a 6K dimmer at 35%. Once the rain started, I ended up cranking it up to 65% to cut thru the rain and mist.
What are some of your stories about going with one or two lights? I would love to hear.