Lighting the Restaurant Scene in the Pingup Commercial

On Friday I had the good fortune to work with Buster Cox of 5th and Ocean/A3 Network shooting a spot for Pingup, an app that allows businesses to respond to your texts. One of the scenes was in a dimly-lit restaurant in Back Bay. I’m going to deconstruct this shot from that scene:

Clearing out the place wasn’t in the budget, and the managers weren’t too happy about bright lights that would bother the other patrons. We had to shoot this guerilla-style. No problem with the C300. At f2.8 (small enough that the actors wouldn’t go out of focus if they leaned forward) and ISO 6400 here’s what the shot looked like in available light (with some gain applied in post):

Not too bad! But her face is kinda dark, and her eyes in too much shadow. I fixed that with a Mini-Maglite with Full CTO gaff-taped to the monitor. It brightened up her face nicely without making it look like there was a spotlight on her, and doubled as an eyelight. Here’s what that looked like:

Much better! Now we’re talking. But it still wasn’t quite perfect. Her head seemed to recede into the background on camera right. That’s not good, we want her to pop. So I grabbed my Litepanels MicroPro (which itself can be a great eyelight) and used it as a hair light:

Voila! That’s what I’m talking about. It still looks like it was naturally lit, but you don’t have to strain to see her expressions, and more importantly, she looks gorgeous. Finally, here’s how it looks with a little color grading, as shown at the beginning of the post:

And here’s the setup. You can see the Maglite taped to the C300 on the right, and the Litepanels LED on the actresses’s left.

All in all, a wonderfully fun shoot where everyone concerned was tops to work with. I’ll definitely be giving Pingup a try the next time I need a cab.

Hope this was helpful!