Lighting groups

Recently, I had the privilege to make a short film with middle school students. They recited selections from Dr. King’s “I have a dream speech.” We masked each student over a background of diverse students. There were many challenges, one being lighting the group in a totally dark room.

I have lit scenes indoors and outdoors with lights, numerous modifiers and reflectors. One producer had mentioned to me that they had lit a group with 2k lamps. That was nice, but I couldn’t reach that level with a limited budget. I do have a number of 1k Frenels. Well, 1 plus 1 equals 2. Genius huh? So we prepped with four 1k’s up front as keys and two 500w behind for rim lights. We had compromised modeling with a more high key approach.

The group was in three rows one on the floor and the other two on risers. This adds more difficulty to get enough spread from your lights. Safety is always a factor, so make sure your risers, stairs or stands are stable for the subjects. With all the lights, there were a lot of cords. The room was a small gym. Fortunately, there were mats we able to use to cover the cords. Rugs would be good to cover the cords. When you have to move so many lights in a short time, it was impossible to tape. We constantly reminded everybody to be careful.

Some group lighting approaches are to aim your single keys (right and left) to the far side and one third in. Then feather them within 2/10ths of a stop. That does work if you have a large enough light. With the four 1ks we aimed them to the same side and the light spread was quite even. The two 500w rim lights did the job. The challenge with the rims was to avoid a lens flare. The barn doors make the difference. It just takes time to adjust the lights until right. Don’t forget to look for the catch light in the eyes.

As per usual with most projects time is of the essence, so we were pressed to work as fast as we could. I had a crew of four and it took every minute of their effort.