Lighting Series: 'Don't Go' Music Video

At the end of 2016 I had the pleasure of DP'ing Frameworks new music video.

Frameworks UK is best known for his album 'Tides'. Well worth a listen.

The video follows a day in the life of three dancers, from meeting for a coffee early in the morning, dance practice in the dance studio and going home in the evening. 90% of the shoot was done with natural light, from filming in the streets and in the dance studio with its big windows.

BTS Photo Leighton Cox


The music video was directed by Simon Brooks; a Manchester based director who has directed previous Frameworks videos. Simon and I recce'd the dance studio the previous week to see what amount of light we would be getting through these big windows and if there was anything we could add. The first thing we wanted to do when we saw the windows was to add some haze to thicken up what was coming into the room. Unfortunately the windows were on the North West side of the building, so at no point would we have any hard sunlight coming in through them. We were on the 3rd floor of the building with a balcony outside the windows which seemed perfect to add some extra hard light to create some light rays with the haze. Unfortunately we could not get access to the balcony and had to use what we already had.

The Dancehouse Manchester


Simon wanted a natural handheld feel to the film, which meant it was a run'n'gun shoot, grabbing what we could in multiple locations around the city. Once we got to the studio we could set up more precise shots but ultimately kept the look and feel very natural throughout.

For these kind of shoots it can be hard to nail down any kind of look without it being a mish-mash of shots with different levels of light to go with the ever changing clouds and sunlight. So it's always important to me to try and keep the subjects back or side lit. My preference is to have the far/thin/dumb side of the face lit which leaves the camera/near/thick side darker. This is a common preference going as far back to painters like Rembrandt. It's common because it looks pleasing and is often flattering to the talent. I'll be talking more about painters and in particular Rembrandt in future posts. The Rembrandt triangle is a reference of lighting I like to use often and with the actors in this video walking either toward the camera, away from the camera and having them either back lit, side lit or anywhere in between, meant when they turned their heads to talk to each other, I would more often than not get great contrast in the face.


What was great about the dance studio location was the position of the windows. There was one side of the room with six windows, an adjoining wall with two windows and the other two walls with no windows. So using the wall with the six windows to shoot against meant we'd get great backlight on our subjects and then a nice side light from the window on the adjoining wall. If we changed camera position to shoot against the wall with two windows, we then had a great side light coming from the wall with six windows. With this 90 degree window setup I can use the opposite 90 degrees to move my camera anywhere in that position to get perfect side or backlight or both.

We used haze to thicken up the light, but without any hard light coming in through the windows, we couldn't get the light rays that would have taken it up to an epic level.

A similar example of this 90 degree window lighting can be seen in a recent episode of Mr. Robot. As you can see from the examples below, the two angles within the opposite 90 degrees gives us brilliant light from the two windows, back lighting Rami Malek in the wide and back and side lighting Christian Slater in his close up. There is a third angle of Rami Malek with side light which has worked out because Christian Slater is blocking the light from the window in front of him.

Mr Robot Mike Staniforth Rami Malek

As the day went on though, we lost a considerable amount of light and had to bring in a couple of Arri 2ks, CTB and some silk. These were placed on the same side as the wall with just the two windows to give us the sidelight we lost but also keep the backlight coming from the six windowed wall.


If you follow me on social media, you will know that I am a big advocate of Matthew Workman's CineDesigner. 

CineDesigner is a plugin for Cinema 4D which allows you to import ridiculously accurate models of some of the most popular filming equipment we use. From cameras to lights, grip to diffusion, you can use the software to accurately pre-visualise your scene and use the lights to almost perfectly replicate it as if in real life. I render out the scenes and work closely with the director to ensure when we get on set, myself and the crew are all on the same page with regards to the setup.

Check out the following renders as a comparison to the real life image.

Now I am not experienced with 3D software and you will be able to find much better examples elsewhere, but the accuracy of lighting and lens choice is pretty spectacular. 


For a sneak BTS of the shoot, have a look at Leighton Cox's fantastic video. Go ahead and subscribe to him on YouTube as he has a great VLOG.


That about wraps up this post, I've already started the next in the series looking at another setup in the feature film, 'Vote Debra Gray'. Like always, if you feel you want me to talk about anything in particular, leave a comment or send me a message on Facebook.

I have some exciting things lined up with a lighting company where I'll be doing some basic how-to lighting setups and looking at some lights I use the most.

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