lighting a party scene


New member
i am going to be shooting a house/fraternity party scene, probably on a canon xl-1.
the room is supposed to be at least somewhat dark, but i still want it to look good. it seems like the pros still use a lot of light in these circumstances, even for a dimly lit or nightclub look.
any thoughts on what lights/setups/gels etc. i could use to achieve this would be much appreciated.

thanks in advance,
To keep noise down for a low-light scene, you want to disable auto gain, lock it at 0 db, lock the lens to a near wide-open f-stop (let's say f/2.8 or wider) and then light to the level that looks correct on the monitor for that f-stop, then unlock the f-stop to make final exposure adjustments.

So yes, you may find that the light level is higher than normal for a real party. Use brighter bulbs in practicals, hang Chinese Lanterns, hide small lights maybe with gels on them, etc. Depends on the type of party it is.

Once you've locked the f-stop, gain, shutter, you can pan around and watch on a properly set-up monitor to judge whether parts of the room need some help with an extra lamp or something. You want to avoid overlighting but you just want to use enough so that there is proper exposure without the camera kicking in gain to compensate. If a little noise is OK, you can manually set the gain level to +3db, let's say, which should not be objectionable, and perhaps the shutter speed to something longer than normal (if you are shooting at 24P and normally would use 1/48th or 1/50th, you can use 1/32nd let's say) and then light from there. +3db is a half-stop more exposure and 1/32nd instead of 1/48th is also another half-stop more exposure, so you can get an effective one-stop more exposure without too much objectionable quality loss.


New member
lighting a party scene

Generally speaking there should be at least two basic elements to any lighting situation:
Ambiance and Key.
Level of ambiance determines the mood of the scene...

Gain to Zero. Looking at the monitor determine the level of your ambiance with camera F-stop. Lock that F-stop. Start cutting through with Keys where you can also determine their level by watching monitor.

In order to have your Black to appear as Black, you need to light it first!
That is why you see the ambiance levels as High to the eye on professionals productions... Its look is determined by camera F-stop.
janusz :eek: