On Set: Into the Badlands – Replicating Early Morning Interior Light

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On Set: Into the Badlands – Replicating Early Morning Interior Light

Welcome to “Into the Badlands”, where we are going to be talking about Day Interiors and creating some nice early morning light. We’ll be taking a look at that beautiful quality of light where the sun has just risen above the horizon. The light at this time of day possesses a more coolish tone that tends to be a little bit greener in the morning than at night. In comparison, nighttime twilight feels a little more purplish.

Early morning light tends to be a little more green with a coolish tone

Early morning light


Early morning light


Early morning light

This is what we are embracing today: early morning sun that is piercing in through some of the windows which creates these beautiful shafts and pockets of light.

In this episode, we had to marry two locations together as a part of one sequence. Our first location was used as the lodge interior.

This location was used as the lodge interior

Our lodge interior location

Our lodge interior location

A different location was used for a fight sequence between the Widow and Quinn.

Our second location for the fight between the Widow and Quinn

Our second location

Our second location

I was tasked with creating these beautiful, early morning coolish tones along with warm and cyan shadows in both locations, effectively matching them together for the sequence in the show.

Here’s the schematic for the location.

Schematic for our fight scene location

They enter from the stairs at the bottom of our diagram. Quinn, Sunny and his men come in and find the Widow. Sunny breaks off and goes into the room off to the right while Quinn breaks off and heads into the room off to the left.

So, how do we go about lighting this sequence that moves between various rooms? Director David Dobkin wanted it to feel very immersive. Wanted it to feel like we were right with Quinn. So we establish them coming in.

Quinn and his men bust in through the front door

We cut wide, looking down the stairs as they continue to enter.

We cut to this shot, looking down the grand staircase

This whole background behind the front door in this shot was 40’x40’ greenscreen. We had to be able to cover that arched window up top as well. We brought it in with a condor and suspended it. We also tilted it ever so slightly so that it would catch all of our ambient light from the sky, lighting the green screen evenly.

Up over the top of the green screen, I blasted in a M90 into the front doorway. We rigged the light on top of the condor that was also holding the green screen. This gave us that early morning vibe of the sun coming in.

Quinn and Sunny’s entrance lighting

We had to tent this whole place so we could easily switch between night and day. I didn’t want to be stuck in just one scenario.

Our 2nd floor balcony made it easy to tent our location

I then positioned M40s throughout this whole area so we could get this type of lighting in the room. I wanted it to glow. I smoked up the interior so each window would have a nice glow to them. I also had shutters on every window and could manipulate those depending on how much light I wanted to come through.

Our M40s blasted through the windows

I loved how it felt. They’re silhouetted and just slashing each other.

I wanted a look of emotion on Quinn’s face when another guy sneaks up behind him and tries to kill him. In order to do that I put two Kino Flo Celebs overhead.

I placed my 2 Celebs overhead on Quinn as he walks through the door

The toplight lights his hand and the sword. Note the early morning light coming through the window

The glowing windows are from the Matthbounced M40s. The haze in the room creates this nice glow, but there’s also stark contrast in the shadows.

The room where I rigged the Kinos

This is the room where I hung the celebs up in the top left in front of the doorway. I set up wall spreaders all the way across the ceiling. The Matthbounce was directly outside the room, wrapping around outside the windows.

This whole sequence maintained that early morning feel and quality of light

This next sequence is a completely different home in a completely different neighborhood, but a part of the same fight sequence between Quinn and the Widow.

I love the interior of this space and how it feels.

There’s an 18k just out that window that’s tickling in. Up the stairs, I had a M40 with ¼ CTB bouncing into the ceiling.

Lighting in layers

This is a great example of lighting in layers. I have that light tickling in through the window to make it feel like the sun is just rising. I have that green/cyan light on the wall to the right and in the shadows. I have a cool light hitting her face from the window light in the other room. She’s perfectly side lit as well as pulled out from the background due to the texture of light on that back wall.

Quinn sees the Widow

I tried to tone the window light down here a little bit so I could get a little more shadow on his side. We’re silhouetting him on his dark side, but I wish I could have taken that down at least 2 stops. I should’ve put a topper on it so there’s a gradation coming up the wall.

Quinn and the Widow move into this room and begin their fight

You can see way deep in this image. With early morning and late afternoon, you get a contrast shift. When light is higher in the sky, it is bouncing on the ground which adds a lot of ambient light in the room. In the early morning and late afternoon, the shadow areas get much darker because the light isn’t coming in and bouncing all over the place. Your shadows also become colder due to the ambient skylight.

I’m using the ambiance of what’s outside to illuminate some depth, but I’m lighting all of this, completely controlled. I flagged off all sunlight from outside and contained it. This allowed us to shoot the whole sequence and keep it consistent throughout the whole scene. Going with available light wouldn’t give you this. It’s a recipe for disaster with a massive fight scene.

The Widow walks in and confronts Quinn

I love the way this shot looks. The tones, the starkness of her outfit, and the cyan just pull it together. It looks like natural, early morning sky ambience outside. It has a slightly greener tone as well. I like to play my tones on the slightly more cyan/purple side. With purple, I go with more twilight. Early morning, it’s more cyan. She has a beautiful tone on her. Then she walks into the hot light from the previous image. I love that too.

Quinn confronts the Widow

Quinn’s shot has nice contrast. I’m bouncing in a little eye light just to get a little detail back in the eyes.

The Widow’s closeup

I took that hot light you see in the wide and diffused it for the Widow’s closeup because she wasn’t looking as good with that harsh hard frontal light. I waterfalled my half soft frost and brought it in just out of frame to the left.

I diffused the hard light for her closeup

You can diffuse hard light by placing diffusion in front of it. However, you can make that light even softer by moving it as far into your actor or actress’ face as possible. You actually make it 2 to 3 to 4x softer by moving the diffusion into the actor. You can see the diffusion in her eyes during her closeup.

I keep my nice cyan vibe in the background through the windows.

I thought about my coverage before lighting this fight sequence. I knew I wanted to do an overhead shot, so the light couldn’t come from above. If I were to do that, then those angles would look very flat, lighting-wise. Now that I kept the sunlight on the horizon, I was able to strafe those across and keep it contrasty.

The coffee table has cold undertones felt throughout that creates a unique contrast that happens at sunrise

Looking at the tonality of the coffee table, it has some cold undertones that you’re feeling throughout this whole place creating a really unique contrast that happens at sunrise.

Let’s quickly recap what we’ve seen:

  • Early morning light possesses a more coolish tone that tends to be a little bit greener. At nighttime, in comparison, twilight contains more purple tones.
    • Early morning – light it when the sun has just risen right above the horizon.
  • Sometimes you must match two different locations to make them feel like they’re the same location.
    • In our fight sequence, we used two different locations but had to keep the lighting consistent
  • David Dobkin wanted the scene to feel very immersive as if the viewers were right with Quinn.
  • I used a 40’x40’ greenscreen on a condor behind the front door in the grand staircase wide shot.
    • We angled the greenscreen in order to catch the natural ambience which lit the greenscreen evenly
    • On that same condor as the greenscreen, I place a M90 that blasted in through the front door, creating that early morning vibe of the sun coming in
  • We tented our whole location so that I could control the sunlight throughout the day.
  • I didn’t want to be in a day scenario where I didn’t need the tent but then have to go into a night shot. I wanted the flexibility to be able to go back and forth and the control in order to maintain consistency
  • I wanted a look of emotion on Quinn’s face so I added two Kino Flo Celeb 400s for some top light.
  • The haze helped provide some glow to my early morning look inside the lodge.
    • The haze didn’t take away from my start contrast and deep shadows, a quality of the early morning light look that is extremely important
  • I lit in layers. For the Widow’s mid shot, I have the light that’s tickling in that makes it feel like the sun is just rising. I have a green/cyan vibe, a cooler sidelight on the Widow, and separation from the background.
  • I toned the light down a little bit for Quinn’s midshot for some extra shadow on his side.
    • I wish I had dropped the light level another 2 stops to create more separation
    • I would have loved to provide some gradation up the wall behind him as well
  • In early morning and late afternoon, you get a contrast switch.
    • When light is higher in the sky, more ambient light bounces around into the room.
    • In morning light and twilight, the shadows get darker because ambient light isn’t coming in and bouncing all over the place
    • Shadows also become colder because of the ambient, cool, skylight
    • I am using the ambience of what’s outside the room (in the wideshot of Quinn and the Widow while she stands in the sun beam) to provide depth
  • All my light is controlled.
    • If there’s sunlight outside, I’m flagging it off
    • If there’s sunlight coming in through a window, I’m flagging it off
  • We need to be able to maintain consistency. Controlling the sunlight is one way to do that so we can get the same look over our four day period of shooting this fight sequence.
    • If going with available light, it’s a recipe for disaster
  • I like to play my tones on the more cyan side, and not the purple side. Purple, I go for end of day, at twilight.
  • I took that hot light that you see in the wide shot and I diffused it for the Widow’s closeup. She wasn’t looking as good in that harsh side light. She needed something a little more creamy and pearlescent.
    • I brought in my waterfalled ½ soft frost just off camera left
    • You can see the reflection of the diffusion in her eyes
  • You can make diffusion softer by moving the diffusion closer to the actor.
    • You can make it 2 to 3 to 4x softer by moving the diffusion closer into your actor and further away from your light source
  • The tonality in the coffee table has these cold undertones that you’re feeling throughout this whole place which aids in creating this contrast you see with early morning light

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