A common challenge for cinematographers is how to make a daytime scene that’s shot on a set look like a real location.  There are any number of ways to approach this knotty little problem; most of them involve giving appreciably more exposure to the windows and whatever might lie beyond them – a backing, a translite, props…or anything else for that matter.  There’s no trick to it.  You just have to decide how much detail you want (or don’t want) to remain outside, balance that to how you’re lighting the actors on the inside, and off you go.

In this instance, we’re placed in a well-appointed South Florida apartment.  I automatically thought of blasting a hot sunlight source into the room through the opened patio doors, but according to the script we were shooting in mid-day and that would’ve been inappropriately timed.  Instead, I elected to have a hint of sun and then pour as much light as possible onto the patio and backing, bringing them to a point just shy of burning out.

The funny thing about these situations is that even with digital sensors and their generally low tolerance for overexposure, you can never seem to wrangle a large enough volume of light needed to sell the effect.  In this case two 20K’s were used to throw a steep sunbeam through the doors and onto the floor of the room.  While those provided a soft reflected key for the actors, they needed a lot more help for the rest of the exterior.  The crew threw everything else we had at the patio and seascape\sky backing…and we almost got there.  Time ran out and we had to shoot.

The effect may not be perfect, but it’s certainly acceptable.  Maybe I’m being too critical but zeroing in on this aspect alone for the run of the scene is probably a bad idea.  Having not seen it since we shot it, I now feel that just a few more footcandles would’ve made all the difference.

I don’t know.  What do you think?

By the way, a salute goes out to my good buddy Lowell Peterson, ASC, the principal visual architect of this fine show.  He brought me in to do a few episodes in a pinch and I had a blast the entire time!



  1. Thanks for sharing this! It’s a very beautiful setup even though as your say it doesn’t quite feel as intense as the sun would make it. Did you have any issues with casting multiple shadows with the various fixtures hitting the porch, such as having to put siders on each lamp?
    Also the gentleman’s side has higher contrast than the lady’s, did you have to add negative fill for that and the wide two-shot or was that the natural level of contrast before you added the LED fill for the lady?

  2. Josh – No, I didn’t have any issues with multiple shadows on the porch – you never see the porch except from the inside of the apartment! As for the higher contrast on the guy, well, he could take it; it just looked a little better, a little more rugged on him. I don’t recall using negative fill there, just less fill.

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