View Full Version : Lighting a Nightclub for HD shoot


Spatula
05-22-2008, 07:05 PM
Heya DOPs and Cinematographers, gots a question for you... do you have your thinking caps on? Are said thinking caps emitting 500ks of effervescences? Excellent!

So I'm part of a crew shooting a 15-30 second ad for some club this Saturday in HD, and though the official position is "lighting/all around person", it looks like I'm going to be sending the producer some recommendations on lights to use, and wanted to see if any of you could help me out on that.

The environment is a club... as far as I've been told, we'll be shooting people dancing, drinking, partying... and POSSIBLY a band, DJ or some kind of performance. I won't know until we meet tomorrow, but I'm looking to get a set-up that will be portable, flexible, and adaptable to all situations.

I'm assuming it'll be a prosumer HD model like an HVX or something as far as the cam goes.

So!...

I've got a 3-light Tota Kit I'm bringing which will be able to fill up some gaps in the light... what recommendations does anyone have for a decent (but skeletal) kit to bring along with that?

The producer will be renting these and I want to keep costs low, so who knows how to minimally light a club for maximum effect?

I was thinking 1k's will be too bulky, so aside from my Totas (2 500w and 1 250w), maybe a Lowel DP 3 Light Direct Kit -500w?... giving us 6 lights to work with.... should I throw a Kino into that?

Your help is GREATLY appreciated!

oakstreetphotovideo
05-22-2008, 07:33 PM
Some clubs have overhead bars on the ceiling, with outlets for hanging lights. If the club has those, I'd highly recommend you take advantage of them for 3 reasons;

1) the hot lights and cords are completely and safely out of reach of the crowd
2) they can be made to look like club lights so they work with the club scene
3) they are far enough away and in a position that they can provide a base light
4) the shadows they cast will be straight down
5) you can add a blue gel to them to give your base light a cool, blue tint

(did I say 3 reasons?)

Other than hanging some 1K fresnels above the scene, I really don't have any suggestions. I've done some music video recording in clubs and it's always difficult to setup lights where they are out of the way and give me the look I want for a club. There are too many people around, so you can't be too safe with hot lights, and I never seem to have enough light, so I generally pick a specific area in which to work.

Justin Hayward
05-22-2008, 08:13 PM
If you get a DJ, find someone with a huge lighting set-up of their own. Some of those guys have all kinds of funky club lighting they bring to weddings and stuff. The best part of using a DJ's practicals is you don't have to hide them. You can shoot right into them if you want. And, you don't have to worry about gelling them, because they're supposed to be a bunch of different colors. Maybe see how far you can spread their stuff around the club so it's not one ball of light coming only from the DJ.

You'll probably have to open the shutter or boost the gain a bit for a little extra stop, then fill in the really black corners of the club with your totas or whatever.

Just don't be afraid of the dark. It's okay to have lots of backlight and silhouette in a club scene.

Spatula
05-22-2008, 10:27 PM
Thanks so much guys, that's great info!

2001 Productions
05-23-2008, 11:25 AM
If you have access to one, I would also recommend bringing along a smoke machine. Fill the place with a haze of fog, evenly distributed so it doesn't register and not so dense that it obscures details.

This will provide several benefits:

First and foremost, it will lower the contrast in the room. Nightclub settings tend to be painted in dark colors, if not completely black. When you add a bunch of hard lighting your image contrast goes through the roof. While film can handle it, video might not fare so well. Smoke will help.

Second, the smoke will help diffuse the light sources, making them glow and reducing hot spots and kickers.

Third, the beams from any spotlights will become visible as shafts of colored light, making the image more interesting and dramatic.

As the smoke fills the space, have an assistant gently fan a sheet of foam core to break up any clusters so it is distributed evenly.

Justin Hayward
05-23-2008, 02:52 PM
As the smoke fills the space, have an assistant gently fan a sheet of foam core to break up any clusters so it is distributed evenly.

...And stick a fan in front of it to break it up even more. Smoke will also help with separation from foreground to background with minimal lighting. Of course it needs to be backlit in order to be effective.

This got me thinking... I wonder what it would look like to open the shutter and turn on a strobe light while people dance? It might be pretty cool if every time the light flashed, you see a bunch of smeared people.

Will Vincent
05-23-2008, 04:40 PM
...And stick a fan in front of it to break it up even more. Smoke will also help with separation from foreground to background with minimal lighting. Of course it needs to be backlit in order to be effective.

This got me thinking... I wonder what it would look like to open the shutter and turn on a strobe light while people dance? It might be pretty cool if every time the light flashed, you see a bunch of smeared people.

In a room full of fog it will just be a brilliant bright white that fills your frame. ;)

I'm wondering.. while there has been some good advice here, what kind of club wouldn't already have lighting in place? Every nightclub I have ever worked at has had SOME kind of lighting, even the run down places had some colored par cans that would cycle, but most places have intelligent lighting and such. While that doesn't do much to help you with exposure levels, it should already have the correct ambiance in place.

You might do well to bring along your small kit and use it to set up an interview area or something, where you can get shots of people commenting on what they think of the place, why they come there, etc... and then maybe have a small on camera light to help even out exposure as needed in the rest of the place. Seems to me if you want to really capture the feel of the place, you'll want to rely on their light set up for dancing/etc type footage, because more than likely they have put a good deal of time and money into getting their lighting set up and programmed, to come in and install a bunch of high powered tungstens or something just to get your footage properly/evenly lit seems a bit of a disservice to the establishment, if this video is as originally explained an advertisement.

This is about the only time/scenario you will ever see me promoting potentially incorrect exposure. ;) But having worked in the nightclub business for the past 13 years, I think I have a little bit of an understanding where I'm coming from here... and ultimately, you want to realistically represent the club in an ad. If it's a brightly lit place, cool.. if it's a typical nightclub environment where it's mostly dark, but they have a lot of cool effects lighting sweeping around, adding too much additional lighting will kill that effect. Generally speaking, I think most places -- once they get their lights going for the dance floor -- will provide ample lighting for a digital shoot.

I shot this footage (http://www.yippi.com/djfunklord/videos/?v=124797) to help this DJ out with an audition video for some film.. it was all existing lighting, I didn't augment it at all. Granted, it is a bit dark, but I also didn't put too much effort into it, because it was a last minute deal and as is it was better than any of the other entries I'd seen. ;)

oakstreetphotovideo
05-23-2008, 05:13 PM
I've shot videos in 2 nightclubs that had either inadequate lighting, or no lighting of their own. In both cases, the DJ provided the lights and the DJ wasn't involved in our shoot.

Doug

2001 Productions
05-23-2008, 05:25 PM
.Of course it needs to be backlit in order to be effective.

I may have been unclear about the purpose of the smoke. The room should not register on camera as smoky -- in other words, you don't want to use so much of it that the viewer says, "Oh, there's smoke in that room." (unless that's what you want, in which case just ignore me :) ) Justin's correct that the more backlighting you do, the more visible the smoke will be.

The intent is to simply create a haze that softens the room a little, bringing down the contrast slightly to make it more video-friendly.

Sorry if I wasn't clear on that.

oakstreetphotovideo
05-23-2008, 06:52 PM
I thought you were clear, and having shot in dark clubs with dark walls, I think it's a great idea.

Doug

Spatula
05-23-2008, 08:14 PM
Wow, awesome.

From this advice, I'm going to bring my 3-Tota kit as a backup on Will's suggestion, but rely on the natural light to represent the venue. For this shoot, we're not going to have smoke machines or anything, but it's good to know for future reference!

Thanks!

Justin Hayward
05-23-2008, 10:12 PM
The intent is to simply create a haze that softens the room a little, bringing down the contrast slightly to make it more video-friendly..

Atmosphere.

Will Vincent
05-24-2008, 08:58 PM
Smoke/Fog also lets you see the shaft of light from each fixture, which if you're using intelligent lighting as many clubs are, is kind of essential. :)

Cleo
08-02-2008, 09:27 AM
why would anyone want to put a smoke machine in a night club thats my question?