Night… An ominous, deserted alley in Downtown Los Angeles. Bad guys with guns. Good guys chasing them with bigger guns.
All the elements are in place. We just have to film it. Simple, right?
Not so fast, pal.
In its entirety (the clip below is abbreviated), this scene is made up of eighty two cuts within sixty four seconds of screen time in the finished show – and that’s not counting coverage of the aftermath, when other characters appear for the battle damage assessment and to weigh in on what this event means for the future of humanity. Considering that we were granted only seven hours of effective darkness within which to capture all that, speedy camera work was high on the list of must-haves. Lighting is usually the first thing that suffers here, but I was determined to deliver something of more substance than the mere workmanlike approach suggested by some of the team. By the way, this predicament is nothing unusual. In fact, it’s the norm across almost all of modern television production.
The answer, as always, was found in simplicity.
After securing agreement from ace director Holly Dale that we would restrict ourselves to shooting only in one direction at a time, a 20K fresnel was sent up on a 100′ Condor at both ends of the long alley. When pointing the cameras north, for example, the 20K facing south would be turned on – and vice versa. This took care of 90% of the entire scene’s illumination by providing a quick and easy back light that created deep shadows and preserved the nighttime effect. Shot through a 4’x4′ frame of Lee 216 diffusion, they were angled in such a way as to keep the heavy part of their beam off the walls on either side.
When a little fill was needed to open up the shadows on the closer shots, we flew in some bounce light or a 2’x3′ LED panel through a diffusion frame. For the brief shots inside the SWAT van, a 3′ Quasar Science fluorescent tube was secured lengthwise to the roof of the cabin. Once again, quick and easy
The challenge was then left to the camera operators who had to dance around the gunplay and wrangle the chaos into something usable through the lens. By the results onscreen I’d say they did a magnificent job!