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Lighting for Drama

As someone who primarily works on commercial projects, it’s always a treat to light a moody low key scene.

I love this sort of look because you can really direct the viewer’s eye and evoke a feeling other than something bright and cheery.

A few things to consider when tackling a scene like this:

💡Control grids are your friend. Spill is the enemy. Keep the light focused and only where you want it.

💡Your eye will always be drawn to the brightest point in the frame. Make sure your key light is prominent but still balanced to the rest of the environment so it feels natural.

💡Practicals can add depth and visual interest to your shot. In a bar scene you can get away with using colored light motivated by that glowing Miller High Life sign nearby.

💡Don’t forget to haze it up. This is an old west saloon and you better believe people smoked cigarettes in there until like 2019.

For this setup, we used the LiteMat 2L Plus with a 40 degree Snapgrid on a menace arm as the key light. An Astera Titan Tube splashed some red light to the left side of frame, and a second was used through the doorway to add some value to the background. An Aputure 600D was set on the right side of frame and flagged to heck to create a little pool of light in the foreground (you can’t see the floor in this frame, but it played in the wide shot) the 600 also gave us that soft scratch on the far right bench.

This project was one of my favorites from 2021. I’m grateful for every day I work on set, but especially so when I get to create with colleagues who I now consider friends. Thanks for making last year a great one. Looking forward to kicking ass with you in 2022.

Tyler Kaschke is a freelance gaffer with a grip truck based in Lafayette, Colorado serving Boulder, Denver, Golden, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs and the Rocky Mountain region at large.


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