We did a test shoot for Episode 4 of Average Joe called ‘The Guru’. In summary, this scene is where Joe goes to the Guru so he can perform his stage duties better.
Before the shoot I helped set up lighting. Then during it I was the head gaffer when the main gaffer had to leave. It took a couple hours to set up lighting, then we’d set up too many lights then it took a while to figure out the cameras and blocking.
Lighting Plan (we had available red heads, dedos and blondies)
Imagine Joe and the Guru facing each other. We had a red head lighting the scene with dedos focusing on the actors. Except the lights were way too bright and on top of that it took way too long! So our lecturer gave us some helpful tips:
Guy’s Helpful Tips
- Don’t put too much lighting. Start with the back light or key light and work out how much you need based on that.
- Build in pools of light so you can focus interest on your main task.
- Block first then do lights.
- Don’t use any real walls when building a set because they will limit you.
So after Guy helped us, we had a new and improved lighting plan.
We had a red head coming through the door to illuminate the Guru when he walks through it. A dedo on the guru’s face, a dedo on the back of Joe’s face and a dedo on the back wall. Here are some photos of reference.
So it looked like this on camera.
One of the most difficult parts of the test-shoot was using a real wall. It meant we had to rotate the set including lights and props to get the shots we needed. It was also hard be head gaffer halfway through the shoot (just before the rotation) because the lights had changed positions and purposes and people kept changing them anyway and it got extremely confusing.
But after seeing the monitor I could quickly remember which way the lights were facing in in relation to the actors. In future, if I’m gaffer again I’ll carry a notepad and write down exactly where the lights were and what colour gel they had over them.
This exercise really helped me as I need to organise a lighting and camera plan for my episode that I’m also coincidentally writing. It actually taught me so much.
- Know the blocking
- Start with minimal lighting and work my way up layering with more lights.
- lights are specifically on the actors to give them attention.
- review how the lights look on camera and the intensity of them.
So my scene is mostly in the ‘porn studio’ and a ‘backroom’ (or the corner of the porn studio to cut down on locations). The porn studio stage is well lit, around the stage is dark, and the backroom will be only half lit.
Here is the final test shoot
[PRE-RESEARCH] During the porn scene on the stage I’ll probably surround them with one big blondie and a read head to completely flood and wash out the scene.
Then I’ll light up the surrounding area of the stage with just dedos.
The back office I’ll just use lamps and little LEDs.
I tried finding a visual reference for flooded lights and found a cool website Here where productions have used cranes and 6k lights to light up outside scenes and it looks awesome as.
[POST-RESEARCH] I finally actually watched some 80s porn. The lighting and shots were vastly different to what I originally thought them to be. (I won’t be posting any relevant link here). But I will provide a still from it to demonstrate my points.
- The lighting was much darker than I originally thought, with more contrasting shadows.
- There were plenty of close ups on the face (an uncomfortable effect I found).
- There was weird elevator-type music playing in the background.
- All the hair was thick and curly, including head hair and pubic hair.
Other than those surprising points, the acting was as atrocious as I was told and the noises were as fake as ever. This particular storyline followed a man who met a mermaid on a rock who explained it was mating season for them, so naturally he took her out for dinner specifically to shag her later. When she went to the bathroom, the waitress lured him into a back room and slept with him, who coincidentally ended up being a mermaid too. She tried denying it until he threatened to pour water on her and she caved with the truth about her species. TWIST: the first girl found them from the start and watched the whole time with no expression.
In seeing this, I now feel confident in writing a corny porn scene.
Lighting and look breakdowns – Lighting. (2017). Cinematography.com.