This scene provides a lesson in how to turn a relatively boring and unadorned location into something reasonably interesting to look at.

            It was shot inside a nightclub somewhere in East L.A.  According to the script, it’s before opening time so the place is empty save for employees preparing for the evening ahead.  In a similar real life situation, the entire place would be lit like the inside of a refrigerator with no resemblance to what it looks like during business hours.

            But I couldn’t let myself just fill it up with light…that would’ve been boring.  Instead, I took a lower-key, controlled approach that was more visually interesting and gave the narrative a bit of subtext (the cops are looking for a fugitive).  It’s certainly nothing amazing but it was fast and easy to accomplish…and I believe holds up best against the alternatives.

            The house lights were used for the backgrounds, dimmed down to a low level except for the stage area in the distance.  The only lighting done by the crew was close to our actors: the Kino Flo tubes you see at the bar and service station.  Mounting those units below the actors’ eyelines helped sell the veracity of the location.  Combined with the cool color (I don’t recall what type gel was sleeved over the daylight-balanced Kinos), the effect is a vast improvement on simply imitating what reality would most likely have shown us.

The scene was shot entirely on Steadicam.


2 thoughts on “LIGHTING DIAGRAM #42 – SWAT”

  1. I love the simplicity of this set-up—one of those times where it sounds like it was more about taking away than adding.

  2. Matt – indeed it was! When you get down to it, that’s almost always the case…

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