April 28, 2015 at 7:54PM


Lighting a Hotel room for a night scene?

I have an interesting dilemma I'd like to get input on. I have an upcoming shoot for a feature film in which a scene takes place inside a hotel room at night. The scene is a heated conversation between two characters, so they are walking around and are rarely stationary.

We want to shoot the scene handheld on a shoulder rig with long takes that will be choreographed with the blocking of the actors. Because of this, more than likely, the camera will have a 360 degree view of the entire room on any given take. This also helps us because our time in the hotel room is limited and we won't have time to break down and set up a dozen or so shots. It is much more practical (and time/cost effective) for us to light the room rather than individual shots.

My question is how would you go about lighting a scene like that? Since it is a hotel room drilling lights to the walls and/or ceilings is not an option. Lightweight LEDs could be an option if they are light enough to be supported by velcro or something along those lines. Our absolute last resort is to rely solely on practicals.



If there is a balcony you could place a 'streetlight' outside to bring in extra light. Bulbs with more power than the present lights can help as well, but make sure you don't blow the circuits :-p

On what camera will you be shooting?
A A7s is very very very light sensitive and can prbably manage with the available lights.

April 29, 2015 at 8:36AM

Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer

We haven't decided which camera we are shooting on yet, but the A7s is at the top of the list.

I like the "streetlight" idea, and that's something we might be able to do. Switching out all of the light bulbs for more powerful ones came to mind. My problem with that is that it doesn't really a have look to it. All it really does is flood the room, and that's what we're trying to get away from. It's definitely an option, but it's our last resort. Getting enough light in the room isn't the issue. It's controlling and directing that light to create a mood that we're struggling with.

One idea we had was to get rolls of LED tape, make our own LED panels with foam core (then they're battery powered) and those will be light enough to tape to walls and the ceiling. Some makeshift barn doors will let us shape the light a little better. It's not ideal or elegant, but at least it's something.

April 29, 2015 at 10:30AM, Edited April 29, 10:30AM

Andrew Greco
Director of Photography/Editor/Writer

Use a large dimable fill light from behind the camera that can travel with the camera as you shoot. This light is meant to be ambient fill light that will help lower the contrast of your shots and open up the shadows. Expose for the the practical lights in the room and use your fill light to open up the shadows. The whole reason for it being a large light source is to eliminate the risk of secondary shadows appearing from the fill light in your shots.

April 30, 2015 at 1:23AM

Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer

Rig several half moon China Balls on all 4 sides walls with dark side of the moon against walls and skirt them or blackwrap them off the wall if your ceiling is not too low to be in frame. Put them on dimmers if you can and have your gaffer adjust your desired light ratio with the choreographed blocking. This would give you soft yet contrasting light without strong shadows when you need it. If your ratio adjustments on the faces works with practicals(not overpowering) it'll look natural yet dramatic.
Walls tend to be your enemy especially if they are white with nothing to break them up.

May 1, 2015 at 10:36PM

Jean Bernard

If the ceilings are high enough and won't be in shot, you can always have someone with a china ball on a pole, which they can suspend above the talent and follow them as they move. This could emulate lights from above, such as spot lights, or you could have the pole long enough for the grip to hold it central of the room whilst still moving around.

I'd dot practicals around, maybe even with low wattage bulbs or diffusion wrapped around them, and you could always add a little extra light in there by having the TV on a static channel, giving off a different colour temperature which might be aesthetically pleasing.

Check out the Grand Budapest Hotel BTS pictures, as this was a popular way of lighting for the hotel interior scenes.
It would be a cheap option, and you could pick and choose your lightbulb depending on wattage - frosted/unfrosted etc, even wire it to a dimmer if you wish.

China balls are cheap, and you can always defuse more if needs be.
It would be a quick option, as you could build it up before arriving, and it would be fairly intrusive.

Just my 2 cents, but as always - whatever you do, have fun doing it!

July 29, 2015 at 12:03PM, Edited July 29, 12:09PM

You voted '+1'.
Nicholas Lee-Shield
Director of photography

Your Comment