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How To Light Bar & Pub Scenes: 3 Narrative Setups

How To Light Bar & Pub Scenes: 3 Narrative Setups

Zane Gong |

Lighting a bar scene can be tricky because the setting is usually dark but needs a lot of color and it just has a lot of moving pieces to it. In today's episode of Four Minute Film School, Ted from the A-Team and narrative director of photography Andy Rydzewski walk us through three famous bar scenes and their lighting setups, and how you can implement them in your next setup!

Setup #1: “John Wick”

The first setup at the bar is inspired by the film, ‘John Wick’, which is a very color saturated movie. The key lights are an Aputure 300d and 120d gelled with CTB (full blue gel)and bounced off a bead board for even coverage of the two actors in the scene. The reason why two lights were used is because blue cuts down so much transmission of light, so the scene called for more power. To add more intensity of the intended saturation in the scene, the camera’s kelvin temperature was set to 2500K, resulting in a more pronounced blue.

 John wickfirst lighting setup

The second light used in the scene was an Aputure 120d with a red gel located above and behind the talent. Red was used to contrast the blue in the scene and since its providing rim lighting on the talent it makes for a very appealing accent in the scene. The third light in the scene was an animated LS1 with a red gel rotating left to right across the front of the talent, representing an active club scene in front of the talent out of the frame. And lastly another Aputure 120d with a red gel to accent the background, blue gives a nice wash and red gives a nice accent. Conversely if red was the wash and blue was the accent, lots of detail would be lost in the actors face because red is so saturated with digital sensors in cameras.

Aputure 120d with a red gel

final image with 120d

Setup #2: ‘Don Jon’

The next bar scene was inspired by the film, ‘Don Jon’, the bar scene in that film used warm and very soft lighting. For the main key light focused mostly on the female, an Aputure 300d and Light Dome using both included diffusion layers. In addition to another layer of diffusion hanging in front of the light called highlight, which brings a glow to the skin. The primary focus of the shot is on the woman and that she is the object of the affections and interest of the male bartender. So, a total of 5 layers of diffusion were used for a more beautiful soft light. The next light served as a top, back edge light on the woman, provided by an Aputure 120d with an amber gel and 2 layers of muslin diffusion. the intensity of this light was more intense on the woman than the key light, resulting in a halo effect making her appear as if she is glowing.

Don Jon

lihgting setup

The third light is another 120d but with a CTB (blue gel) used primarily as an accent background light. The light was pointed upwards along a brick wall in the back so the bottom of the wall just fades into the shadows. Lastly, a pair of Aputure M9’s with blue gel were used to accent the bottles on the wall behind the wall, just for a subtle definition and depth in the background without drawing attention away from the couple.

 Setup #3: ‘Casablanca’

Our third bar scene setup was inspired by the film, ‘Casablanca’ which is a black and white film, so Andy wanted all of the color saturation was turned down in camera. As a rule, he prefers to make as many decisions in camera as possible. For the key light, an Aputure 300d on lowest output setting with fresnel and two layers of diffusion, grid and highlight were used. A black flag was then used to cut the light in the middle of his face, creating a soft spot light on his face. An Aputure M9 was used for fill on the actors face, fill light allows for a more visible performance.

Casablanca film lighting setup

lihgitng setup

Next light was an LS1 shot through a translucent window in the background, this is a nice example of accent lighting adding depth to scene by highlighting architecture. For additional depth in the opposite side of frame, an Aputure MX was used for another architectural highlight and depth to show the character is in a bar. These subtle accents really help make a scene come to life and look more cinematic.

Well, there you have it, 3 different cinematic bar setups to add to your lighting arsenal. Obviously these tips can be used in different environments, so grab a camera, lights and a friend and go shoot something today!