January 27, 2016 at 8:58AM


Lighting a pool table scene

I am in preproduction for a short comedy sketch that is focused around a couple friends playing pool, being the DP and producer of the project, i am trying to figure out the best way to light it, id love to use the lights that are already there on the ceiling but they are bright florescent and would make the majority of the shots look bad. i was just wondering if anyone had any tips as to how i should go about lighting, because a bunch of the shots will incorporate a large portion of the room using a Steadicam/slider i wanna figure out the best way to attack this, thank you in advance! just as a side note this is a very low budget film using basic DSLR cameras, with access to about 4-5 tungsten lights


I suggest you tackle the problem in stages.

Step 1: light the table. What many do is to start with a fluorescent fixture sitting on the table, and then raise the fixture until the light covers exactly the edges of the table. Lighting modifiers can be used if the shape of the lighting fixture doesn't quite have the same rectangular shape as that of the table. If your lights are ceiling mounted, you can still use lighting modifiers to block the light down to just cover the table. You also may want to use (or make) an EggCrate to get the down lighting pointing mostly down and not throwing any glare onto players faces (which are typically not part of the light frustum.

If you are definitely not going to use the ceiling light(s), then obviously you need to put a good tungsten source up top, in a soft box, creating a large body of diffuse light, ideally going through EggCrates (that you buy or make).

Step 2: light the players. Even though the table light is only pointing down, whether it is seen in the shot or not, everybody "knows" that there's a light centered above the table. If you draw a line from a player's face to the center of the fixture, that's a line you can logically light from the opposite side of the table to the player. Directional lighting (snoot, barn-door, EggCrate) is your friend as it keeps excess lighting off the balls (step 3) and it keeps the lighting concentrated on the players allowing you to keep the background darker. Of course you can cheat the light off the line if need be. And you should fill to taste (opposite side of player's face, large diffuse with EggCrates for directional benefits). When you have two players in frame on different sides of the table, you have two lines you need to illuminate. In that case it can work well to fill both players with a single fill up the middle. And rim lights will help the players stand out from the surroundings.

Step 3: check the balls. The balls reflect the lights. In a perfect world, they will see only the top light and not all your other lights.

Good luck!

January 27, 2016 at 11:23AM, Edited January 27, 11:23AM


thank you very much! such a huge help!!

Lucas Veltrie

January 27, 2016 at 12:54PM

Glad to have helped. I meant to elaborate that the lights illuminating the players' faces can be fairly level with them (they don't need to be up super-high). This will also help keep spill off the table and balls (especially if you have a lighting modifier that shades anything below the lowest face level). The higher the player lights, the more the balls will pick them up.

January 27, 2016 at 2:45PM


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