Production Journal - ''These Days'' - Week 1 Continued




So we wrapped week 1 today (continuing from a partial week prior to the 4th of July).

The week was split between two locations – inside and outside of both of them. Both locations were very difficult to work in. They were very small, cramped apartments.

The first apartment was a tiny white box (dubbed “The Closet” by the AD). Luckily the production designer (Scott Clark, who is doing a great job) was able to dress the walls with old grungy cardboard (the character is a very odd artist). This helped darken things up.

The second location was a little better. It was larger, and we were able to paint the walls. The only problem was that it was a second story apartment, and most of the scenes for the last two days (out of 3) took place during the day (in the script). I could not really hit the windows with light from the outside (we could, but it was a huge pain), so I just worked around a system of lighting from the general direction of the window from the inside.

We shot in the small apartment (“The Closet”) for two days. Most of those days were a day interior scene (as well as a night interior, and some day exteriors).

My general approach for this location was to use as little equipment as possible on stands. I wanted to only light from above or from outside. To do this we placed a wall spreader across the span of the room that I could put various units on (usually a 2x4 Kino), and also put some light diffusion on the windows in the room and shot two HMI PARs into them (either 1200’s or 2500’s . . . don’t remember).

Here is a bad picture of the setup:

Another problem with the location was the limited room for staging any equipment. We had to stage in a hallway, but due to the buildings management, they would only allow us a small chunk of space.

Essentially this was all we could stage:

Pretty much some gel, stingers, and various other expendables. We kept some other gear outside, but anything else meant a trip to the truck, so it took a little while to get anything.

All and all I am really happy with the stuff we got for these scenes. The performances were good, and I feel like we got a good look out of a tuff location. The trick I think was creating a quality of light that had a very fast fall off, thus the light was darker by the time it hit the walls. There was not a lot of movement in these scenes, so a lot of falloff worked well.

Latter in the day we ran outside to grab a very tight close up of an actress when the sunlight was in a good position. Rather than spend the time to bring lights out, etc we just shot it in available light and augmented some with bounce:

I used a frame of ¼ grid (I think) overhead, and just shaped it with the bounce. It looked pretty nice, and was fast.

Latter that day we went outside for more day EXT work. I wanted this scene to look like the sun had just gone behind a building (which it had), and was about to get dark. I did not want to see into their eyes, it was a fairly contrasty, “ugly” look that really worked well for the scene. I honestly have never shot anything that looked quite like this. In fact my gaffer who works with me a lot was talking about how weird it was that he was doing a scene that looked like this with me. I don’t know what it was about the look of the scene; it was just different (and uncharacteristic for me). I may look at it down the road and think “What the hell was I thinking?!?” but at this point I like it.

I originally wanted to use a book-light for the key in this scene, but due to space restrictions we couldn’t really fit one. So instead I used an Image 80 fairly close to the actors:

And on the other side I bounced a 1200 PAR into some bounce board armed overhead to create a nice subtle reflection in the actor and actress’s dark hair, and act as a little fill

(I don’t know why I never got a shot with both units in the frame, bad pictures on my part)

We then moved to the next location.

We started with a scene in a shower (neck up, and reflections in the mirror). Real simple, easy way to start off. I used a 2x4 Kino on wall spreaders.

Next we did a nice, classical looking shot of a girl getting ready in a vanity mirror. I wanted to motivate light from somewhere, so I suggested a vanity light. We really had nothing on hand that would work for this so we used a 9” mini-flo and art department did a great job of dressing the unit. I then used a 650 with a really long blackwrap snoot and 4 layers of 250 for a super soft, controlled light on the actress. I then created some nice edge light with a 150 Dedo.

The final scene of day one (in that location) was a fairly huge setup that had us lighting almost the entire apartment for night.

The scene was of several characters eating dinner, but the camera needed to see about 270 degrees.

For the table, I used two heavily skirted chinaballs overhead, as well as a Dedo in the middle of the table to create a hot spot for some energy in the frame. I then used a Kino for some minor fill:

For the kitchen, which is in the background I used two 9” mini-flos with ¼ plus green under the cabinets to create some ambiance:

The next day I had a day for night INT of some characters seated on a couch watching TV.
I used a 1k openface through a Chimera as a soft key motivated by an onscreen practical. I also used a 2x4 Kino overhead to create some reflections in the black leather couch. For the TV flicker I used two globes in one chinaball with ¼ blue flickered and dimmed randomly:

Later we did a day for day INT where I just used a 1200 through a 4x4 frame of ¼ grid on the window side, and a 8x8 solid on the other side of the room for negative fill. It looked nice, and was simple

We resumed a similar setup the next day, but I got bored with the 4x4 frame and went with a Chimera instead. It was a smaller source with more falloff, so it was a lot more contrasty (which I wanted for the scene).

We finished up the week with a 7 page dialog scene taking place in a bedroom. The scene takes place during the day, but I knew we would be shooting into the night. The problem was that I had no way to get lights from outside the windows. Thus, we scheduled our shots in a way that we would shoot out the windows before the sun went down.

I put 1000H on the windows, and bounced a 1200 PAR off the ceiling from the same area the window light was coming from, creating a permanent soft ambient “window light”. We pretty much committed to never seeing that one corner of the room, thus I had a permanent soft side, edge light. For fill I just moved a Kino around all day. It worked well, and was really fast so it gave the director maximum time shot to shot with his actors.

All and all it was a very good first week. I mostly spoke about the technical aspects in this post; maybe tomorrow I will talk more about the interpersonal aspects of the project. But for now I am tired!

Kevin Zanit

Agenda Productions


Thanks for posting your set-ups Kevin it is very inspiring and educational to see how you work on a reasonably low budget film.

I have a few questions.

Firstly, what camera and what format are you using?

With the wall spreads- how do they work so that you can be confident they will not fall with such heavy weight? Is it possible to make these units yourself and they will be reliable?

With the china balls you used what wattage are they, they look like a very soft source and not creating much shadow at all, is this what china balls are used for predominantly?

Do you think you could of got the similar desired effect if you lit the subjects from the ground with the same equipment?

I'm sure many people get a lot out of your journal posts and it would be great to hear more. Look forward to your response.




I outlined some of the format information in a previous post in the same forum. But briefly, the camera is just a DVX100 with a matte box (sometimes two cameras).

The spreaders are simple, standard grip items. They consist of pieces that go on both ends of the wood. You cut the wood to the size you need (actually smaller to leave room for the spreader). Then you hold the wood in place and crank the spreader as tight as you can (sort of). You really should have an experienced grip rigging things like this, especially over peoples head's. The item is not really something that could be made that easily, as it is all machined. But, they rent for very little money (like $2 USD a day). They also can not hold much weight.

The China balls had anything from one 75 watt globe to a 500 watt photo-flood. In these particular setups I think they were just 100 watt bulbs. It is a very soft source, thus the shadows are not very defined.

The look would be similar if lit from the ground. You would have to arm the China balls overhead to get the toppy look, and you would need the Dedo overhead to have the same effect.

The main reason for being rigged all from above was due to the need for the camera to see about 270 degrees of the room at any time.

I just finished another week (like an hour ago), so I will post another update soon.

Kevin Zanit


New member
wow kevin! thanks for all your posts!! this is so exciting to see the step by step process and hear all the detail from you! i actually even told the people in my film group (here in nyc) to come over here and check out what you have to say :) thanks again!