Charles Grodin’s CIA operative Jim Harrison listens in on his prey from a cramped surveillance van. Find this piece around the 00:47:20 mark…
This was a deceptively complex shot to light, as are all shots that take place within unusually confined spaces. The problem is not just related to the size of the equipment or camera placement. It’s also related to physics – the Inverse Square Law, to be precise. For our purposes, this states that the closer an object is to a light, the brighter it gets…and vice versa. With no choice but to place the actors right next to the lighting units, the potential for wide shifts in exposure was always present. Fortunately, they didn’t have much room to move. But the possibility for disaster was always nipping at Storaro’s heels.
This’s why in most cases cinematographers prefer to place their sources as far away from the subject as possible. It allows for a more even spread of light and thus a consistent exposure as the actors move around the set.
As you can see and the diagram illustrates, the 100W bulbs in the practicals hanging overhead carry the bulk of the task. And they do it just right!