Two characters in a small practical location in the middle of the day, delivering lots of expository dialogue… How do you keep the lighting interesting?
First, a tip of the hat to my good friend and esteemed colleague Lowell Peterson, ASC. Recipient of the ASC’s Lifetime Achievement Award in Television, he was the principal cinematographer on Jane the Virgin and was kind enough to invite me over to shoot a couple of episodes of his show. The producers and directors were fantastic and his crew was one of the best I’ve worked with. I truly enjoyed every minute as part of the team!
The lighting for this scene could not have been simpler. Fortuitously, one side of the room featured some large windows; an 18K HMI – strategically placed outside the building – did all the heavy lifting. Since we were on the third floor it required a Condor in order to make the height, but that was no stretch for this production. I was careful to stage the actors in such a way that this light would mostly hit them from an oblique angle.
A gift then came in the form of the mullions that broke up the configuration of the glass. They helped flag off parts of the room and attenuated the light as the actors moved through the space. The changing texture then created the illusion that I had done something much more complex with the HMI. The windows were also covered with a sheet of Lee 216 diffusion. Semi-sheer curtains softened the effect even further.
This show projected a sense of heightened realism and I strove to shoot it in the style Lowell had long established. The actors had to look good, but there had to be the tiniest bit of an edge present. The set decoration also went a long way toward making this scene so successful.
Full disclosure: for several shots I had to overcome my normal aversion to fill light. A small, flat-panel LED was used to open up the shadows a tiny bit and provide some eyelight in the close-ups. It too was fired through a frame of Lee 216 diffusion.