How To Light A Small Commercial

(Cinematic Lighting Lesson 23)

Summary: Ryan takes you behind the scenes of a small budget commercial shoot, where he breaks down one of the scenes, explaining his process and lighting set-ups.

Length: 11:48 minutes

Video Lesson

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Small commercial projects can be a fun challenge to light and shoot. Typically you’ll have a larger crew and you’ll have more lights, which can be a lot of fun, but you’ll still be constrained by a smaller budget and a tight schedule. So in this video I’m going to take you behind the scenes on a video shoot we did for a local yoga studio. First let’s take a look at the highlight reel and then we’ll break it down shot by shot.

Yoga Footage Example Video

[A two-scene highlight reel is played.]

Creating The Look / Mood

Video of Yoga Member (LC123)

The fictitious backstory for the storyline involves the lead character coming to this yoga studio to escape from her hectic, isolating life. She is there to refocus and regroup, with support from her friends. It’s all about her journey and her experience at the yoga studio.

Lit with Fill-Lite Lights Because They Are Soft (LC123)

When it came to lighting this video, we wanted to evoke a feeling of warmth and calmness. We also wanted to play off of the idea of yin and yang, or opposites, by having areas of shadow and light. To get that look, I opted to go with soft lighting throughout the various scenes. Our lights of choice were Fill-Lite lights because they are soft and versatile. The only problem was that ours are daylight balanced. They have the light quality I wanted, they were just the wrong color temperature.

Gelled Lights to Be Tungsten Balanced (LC123)

This wouldn’t have been a big deal if the rest of the practical lights were daylight balanced too, but they weren’t. We considered switching the practical bulbs out for daylight bulbs, but ran into a problem. The rope light which ran along the wall in one scene was tungsten balanced. The backup daylight balanced LED rope light couldn’t be used since it had an odd flicker and looked very blue. This pushed us to go tungsten with everything, so we gelled all of the lights to match.

How We Lit The First Scene (LC123)

Now that we had our look figured out and the practical lights issue tackled, we moved on to actually lighting our set. I’ll cover these shots in the order that we filmed them so you can see how the lighting changes as we move throughout this first setup in the commercial.

The Wide Shot

Start With The Wide Shot (LC123)

The wide is always where you have to compromise the most with lighting. The amount of space you have to light and the action that happens means that you’re not going to be able to place every light in the exact, ideal position you want. So try to get it about 80% of the way there. Don’t waste a lot of time trying to get everything perfect; save time for the other shots.

Placed Fill-Lite Squares In The Drop Ceiling (LC123)

In this wide shot, we start with two people talking on the mats, we cut to our lead entering the frame, and then one of the friends gets up to talk with her. For this setup I used three lights. I placed one square…

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Lighting Diagrams

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Tools We Used

How To Cinematically Light A Corporate Video (Cinematic Lighting Lesson 20)
How To Light Quickly (Cinematic Lighting Lesson 19)
Lighting For Extreme Frame Rates (Cinematic Lighting Lesson 21)
12 Crucial Questions Before Lighting Your Set (Cinematic Lighting Lesson 15)
3 Strategies For Lighting Your Night Exteriors (Cinematic Lighting Lesson 14)
5 Essential Strategies To Lighting Day Exteriors (Cinematic Lighting Lesson 12)
10 Tips To Lighting Day Exteriors (Cinematic Lighting Lesson 13)
How To Light A Small Commercial (Cinematic Lighting Lesson 23)
Where To Begin Lighting Your Set (Cinematic Lighting Lesson 18)
3 replies
    • Tim
      Tim says:

      Unless the project requires something else, we shoot everything at 24fps. Flicker from tungsten practicals have never been an issue.

      In our lesson on lighting issues with high speed we bring up the issue of flicker from small tungsten bulbs. We noticed a slight flicker from 60W bulbs at 240 fps. But at standard frame rates (24 fps and 30 fps) you shouldn’t see any flicker.

  1. Ahmedsalem
    Ahmedsalem says:

    Very informative article, but I have a suggestion since this tutorial has a huge work in shaping the light, why you do not show in the future the BTS behind the scene for the tutorials , to allow us to understand how you fine tune your work


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