In this clip from Down To Earth (directed by Paul Weitz & Chris Weitz), Chris Rock’s Lance Barton attempts a special delivery through the front entrance of an upscale NYC apartment…

            This scene was shot inside the lobby of an elite 5th Avenue edifice located on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.  My first impression during our location scout was that it was nicely appointed – but very dark and cavernous.  That was not what I wanted to convey for this upbeat comedy, so I used light to judiciously remake the environment – while trying to maintain the feeling of substance and majesty that was inherent to the space.

            All very easy stuff…  But an added twist came in a request from the directors to end the scene in a close-up of Chris Rock’s reflection as the lobby door is slammed in his face.  Lighting it wasn’t the challenge.  Getting the exposure right was.  I was quite well-experienced by this point, so calculations with my Pentax Digital Spot Meter made me confident in my choice.  Remember – when shooting film there’s no immediate feedback like there is on a digital platform.  It wasn’t until my customary visit to Technicolor Laboratory on West 44th Street at five the next morning that my decision was confirmed.  As I recall, Chris Rock was lit two stops above key exposure so as to make the reflection pop for the lens.  Since we’re looking at the reflection from over his shoulder, there was no issue with the added light – it was shining strictly onto Chris’ face and thus not caught by the lens.

            You can see the effect in the final shot.  I have always been extremely particular about my exposures.  This one – like all the others – is right on the money!

            Note: Upon our move to New York City from Toronto, a change of laboratories was necessary.  All NY footage was processed and printed by Technicolor NY’s inimitable (and sorely missed!) Joey Violante.  Naturally, there were some differences in the look between the two; I did extensive testing beforehand so as to establish a new printer light and mitigate any issues.  But that’s another subject for another time…


2 thoughts on “LIGHTING DIAGRAM #43 – DOWN TO EARTH”

  1. Very nicely done!
    The lighting in the lobby captures the elegance of the space.
    Even the polished floor is revealed in the soft dim light.
    You captured Chris’ face perfectly. I’m sure that different glass
    types have different reflectivities.
    Nice meeting at the Reel Inn!

  2. Ken – Thank you for the kind words! And yes, it was a pleasure meeting you at the Reel Inn. I hope all is well. Please keep in touch!

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