How to work with overhead office lighting without replacing every fixture in the ceiling!
We’ve all been to that location before. Flat lighting usually with just a touch of green 🤢 Ew, no thank you! 🙅♂️ You don’t have the budget to replace every unit up there, so wyd?
One of the quickest ways to make an office scene look better is to selectively turn off or black out overhead lights. This will help you shape the subject with the key light of your choice. The first lights I’ll turn off or black out are usually on the fill side and in front of the subject so they don’t flatten the image too much. This also applies to windows in front of your subject.
Once you know which overhead lights will be affecting your frame, you can start to enhance the overall quality by modifying them with diffusion. You can cut sheets to size and tape discreetly if they’re going to be in frame, and if not, you can just spring clamp a silk up there and no one will ever know (no one’s gonna know. how would they know?) Swipe to check out some bts. Ain’t pretty but it works!
This particular office was meant to feel a little depressing (sloth Kevin just spilled his chili, after all) So we leaned into the darkness more than we would have for a corporate video, but we still applied the same methods.
Once you’ve spruced up the ambient light, you can set your lights to match by dialing in the appropriate color temperature and plus or minus green (aka magenta) value. They also make these things called “gels” that you can put in front of the light to change the color 😉. Every office is different, but a 1/8 plus green gel on your light is usually a good place to start. Subtle, but helpful, and your colorist will thank you.
For this shot we had most of our units rigged to the ceiling with +3 green dialed in to match the overheads. Keyed with the LiteMat 4 Spectrum and edged with Titan Tubes. Both had Snapgrids to keep the light intentional. The MCs helped lift the foreground. We put scraps of bleached muslin on them and bounced to make a bigger soft source. 🦥
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.