Main Stage Lighting & Set Design

I came to a final verdict on the lighting for the main stage this week. The main principles haven’t changed much, just little tweaks in how to position lamps in relation to the subjects. Even now with a drawing of the final plan I still have a few concerns, for example I feel it may be worth dragging back the fixtures at the front of the staging area so the lighting isn’t as intense of the subjects.

Each subject as a strong backlight to pull them from the background, with a lamp in front to fill out their details. The lead has more lamps as they will be the primary focus so they need to stand out subtly from the band, it also enables further control to manipulate their light. The drummer features two fresnels illuminating either side of the kit, with a back/top lamp to illuminate the subject and kit further.



Beth had a few thoughts about set design recently and how to develop it further. Currently I have been working under the idea of two boards placed behind the main stage lined with gels, then shining a 2K lamp through either to illuminate through the cutouts. Having discussed potential set ideas over the past month Beth has decided to focus on the identities of the bands instead, as the whole project is focused on the music and profiles of unsigned acts. This means bands could wear costumes with the odd prop placed, I will continue to converse with Beth about this to ensure the palettes and lamp positions work with these subtle changes. For example I have suggested Saona use white appropriately as the Tokyo Blue gel provides a UV lamp effect and emphasises bright hues. This is an ongoing discussion in the lead up to the week of rehearsals and broadcast.

Grading Log 30/3

Start: 16:04.10
Finish: END

Lindsay Shop
Lindsay walks into shop (05:10.12), have tried adding recurring red coat grade. Really struggling getting the colour due to a dramatic change in lighting during camera move. Have played with motion tracking and qualifiers with no success. Currently red looks good on the two shot but when she walks in the door it starts to dull, then saturation creeps around the coat before a sudden burst of red she the camera gets close to her back. Will have to debate and revisit the scene, potential manual tracking of her coat or dynamic grade shifting qualifier tones to matcher and movement to light levels.

Ingrid Letter
Revisiting from last grading session. Yellow of walls are very restrictive, playing around with pale blue tones as scripted but the scene is too dark for this to be effective. Have created another version of the grade but much prefer the original with a turquoise style, at first unsure of the colour but the wash is like water. Gives a connotation of being submerged, how Leon is drowning in his situation of his marriage.

Side by side comparison need to combine both versions. Like he is drowning in the blue, but other has red accents symbolising danger, also much lighter image so easily visible, blue version slightly too crushed.

Found this a really difficult shot as it shifts from dramatic light by Ingrid to darkness by Leon. Pulled the image in camera RAW – dialled down colour temperature, increased ISO, lowered exposure (originally raised by Ingrid areas blew out the image). A tad concerned with Ingrid shouting down phone, does work stylistically but may come across as bad grading, have got an outside opinion who liked the style so will remain as I have styled it until future review.

Lindsay/Ingrid Shop
Used same colour palette from shop, similar tone so maintains continuity in the location. Have successfully added red jacket to emphasise node. It was difficult to purely isolate the jacket so some other red tones in the scene have also changed, nothing substantial enough for a dramatic effect for the viewer. Seeing as 80% of shots in this scene need the red qualifier grade I have opted to add it to the entirety so reds are consistent throughout.

Debating using same technique to earlier shop scene, could argue heightened reds suggest danger approaching, not having to rely purely upon her coat. Will debate when revisited.

Leon Outside
Scene not accounted for in the script.

Darkness of scene leaves little room for stylistic decisions. Simply going to enhance the image, down to earth sequence so realism in colour could reflect realism of his situation in the narrative as he reaches his narrative decision.

Referencing log curve rather than REDGamma for more colour space, still very restrictive, noise is a constant issue no matter what luminance I reference. Have pulled down the shadows, new camera metadata allows details in the mids/skins. Dialled up the colour temperature and slightly offset to blue.

Cutaways To Shop
Continued with blue palette for continuity. Edit feels like it is cutting real time back and forth so it would seem strange if the tones of the shop had dramatically changed.

End House Kiss
Before reading notes from the script I feel like it should either be natural like everyday life or revert back to opening yellow palette. Shows how life has done a full circle, despite everything nothing has changed and Ingrid is trapped in her life. Everything continues as if nothing ever happened.

Notes say should be blue to match coldness of situation. Am working against this verdict as like the idea that the colour is trapped in this fake happiness, connoting Ingrid’s state of mind. Rather than reflecting the situation that has happened the colours are fake and sarcastic.

02:36.07 – Ditched dreamy pink look, reverting to blue for continuity for following scene.

08:11.02 – Switch to red (need to review later).

14:53.21 – 16:02.00 – Added red qualifier nodes to symbolise danger like following shop sequence between Lindsay and Ingrid.

30/3 Log Summary
Happy with the state of the film currently. There are a few fine tweaks I need to do. As Tom (Director) isn’t around I have exported stills of the film for him to review and will discuss tomorrow, hopefully he will approve of my approach to the grade as times I have swayed from the script notes due to personal feelings of the narrative of colour.

Boyce Avenue – Everything

I am extremely happy with the state of lighting regarding the acoustic stage. That being said I came across this recent video upload by Boyce Avenue, it is probably the closest to the look I am trying to achieve and the circumstances I am working under. This is very stripped down, with no background and purely focuses on light position and practical options.

The practical back lights are great sources to help pop the members out from the black background, and at the same time their position creates a unique lens flare style associated with Boyce Avenue’s acoustic videos. Working with the camera for the position of back lighting I could look at increasing the prominence of lens flare in the performance. Accommodating more for camera could continue to build on the unique styling to the Bristol Vibes brand, allowing focus purely on the raw performance of the act.

The three point lighting is flipping when compared to previous videos I have deconstructed from the band. This time the key comes from the right hand side of frame putting focus on the neck of the guitar rather than his strumming patterns. Personally I prefer focus on the main body of the guitar, still another concept to experiment with.

The soft fill light creates higher contrast with a lot of shadow cast to the left of frame over the singer’s body and right arm. The slightly harsher light source doesn’t wrap around his face as much as previous performances. I’m not a lover of this slightly harsh beam cast on the face, much preferring the feel when wrapped around the face.

There are some concepts from this video I am tempted to play around with when Alex comes in for the next rehearsal. I’m really happy with the lighting plan for the acoustic stage but there is always room for further experimentation and potential improvements dependent on the results.

Emailing Paul Lewis

James Helps (Visiting Lecturer/Set Designer) has been a huge help to me so far this year in working on Varsity, and possibly future projects to come such as Bristol Vibes. As I have been taking a further interest in live events and theatrical work our friendship has become strong. He is fantastic at what he does and thinks highly of me when it comes to my work in lighting.

Following my recent work on ‘Varsity 2015’ James was assisting me in building the studio design, one requirement was for Astro Turf, James was able to source this from a friend at the Bottleyard Studios. This is where James introduced me to Paul Lewis, another theatrical worker who also lectures drama at the UWE Frenchay Campus. James has been fantastic in helping me get connected to industry professionals and really has been backing my efforts to find a career after university. Paul and I got on really well, he actually recommended I contacted him regarding some upcoming employment opportunities with local theatres.

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 23.41.27

Paul responded promptly with a wealth of knowledge, offering voluntary roles with the UWE tech group. My concern with the voluntary role is due to the end of the season with the organisation I may no longer be eligible as I graduate this year. However the mention of jobs going at the Alma and Redgrave have perked my interest. At this stage I have been struggling to find the time to properly look at the job market, this is a lucky encounter I had with Paul and I will act upon this chance swiftly.

Tips For Colour Correction

Whilst there isn’t much for me to work on until the final narrative of the documentary is decided I happened to stumble across an interesting article regarding colour correction. I generally find myself browsing the web concerning colour grading, and with a documentary approach I can appreciate the need to correct the footage before considering any stylisation (if this is still the plan for this documentary).

This article from HurlBlog outlines 7 tips for colour correction, definitely something to pay attention to.

1. Shoot With A Flat Or Log Profile

This is something I discussed with Nathan and Liz prior to filming so that I could get more information from the restricted colour space of the Panasonic 101 camera. As far as I’m concerned I am already covered for this element of colour correction.

2. Trust The Waveform, Vectroscope & Parade Scopes

The waveform represents luminance, vectroscope represents chrominance and the parade for values of the three colour channels: red, green, blue. In my mind this is basic colour grading etiquette, trusting your data over the display monitor (as this technology can vary). Ever since I understood the scopes I’ve dramatically improved my ability and increased the speed I can work at, I’d stress once again the importance of these scopes.

3. Order Of Operations

Stu Maschwitz suggest grading in the following order for best image quality and preservation of information. I can respect his choice in doing this, to some extent I use this type of ordering but I could need more work on following this exact pattern:

  1. Remove artefacts and de-noise.
  2. Balance your shots.
  3. Relight within a shot using power windows or masks.
  4. Add gradients, diffusion and other lens filters.
  5. Add vignettes.
  6. Grade your images.
  7. Simulate a film stock of your choice.
  8. Resize and sharpen.


4. The Fast Colour Correct Effect

This feature relates to Adobe Premier as it allows you in real time to address levels, saturation, balance, etc. The fact I choose to grade in DaVinci makes this advice obsolete under my circumstances.

5. Adjust Your Lift/Shadows/Blacks First

Usually I approach the grade by doing a first pass of nodes purely for addressing luminance before making any changes to colour balance. My option will address black and white levels.

6. Mids Are Where Faces Live

With well shot footage this should always be the case, but in the case of documentary general camera rules can go out the door. The suggestion is to adjust exposure to accommodate and from there address the highs and lows in the image. Ultimately the face should be the focus and take priority before any overexposure or underexposure that occurs when accommodating for it sitting in the mid tones.

7. Look For The Flesh Line On The Vectroscope

Adjusting the hue can ensure the skin tones align with this point on the scope. Through finding natural skin tones everything in the frame will become a natural representation. In the case of wanting a stylised frame I would suggest using the ‘qualifier’ function in DaVinci to isolate the skin tones and ensure they stay natural fleshy tones.


I can appreciate all of these tips regarding colour correction and I think I may try some of these techniques out. It’s nice to know the majority of these tips I already follow evidencing my good practice in this craft skill.

Successful Reshoot

I gathered the reshoot today went smoothly and everything was shot as planned. Having spoken to Harry he gave me positive feedback, they were even able to get down Max (Freddie) for an hour to get shots of his body being carried down to the van. The only major issue was the lack of lens adaptor for the Zeiss lenses to fit on the Sony FS700 body. I was so concentrating on securing a camera and lenses I didn’t get this vital element, nevertheless shooting a flat image profile shouldn’t make this change too noticeable.

On the morning of the shoot I had to go back and forth between Beatrice (Casey), her dad and Harry (Unit Manager) as her coach was delayed. It was just the case of pushing back filming particular scenes and then notifying Beatrice that Harry will come pick her up at a new time. The fact I heard nothing more from any cast or crew for the rest of the day I take as a positive sign. I look forward to seeing how the reshot footage turns out. I shall follow up with an email to cast soon updating on the state of the film as its currently in post production and soon will reach me for grading.

Saona Rehearsal Review

Beth has now placed footage from Saona’s performance online so I can now review how the lighting looked in the final export. You can immediately see a subtle difference in colour from the introduction of gels, however as expected this is nowhere near strong enough for any dramatic effect. Currently it softens the skin tones nicely to complement the composition, but nowhere near the final effect I want to achieve.

The lead singer and drummer are both lit nicely, some tweaking could be done on the other members. It is important the lead singer is lit prominently as naturally the camera focuses on them primarily. The hat on the drummer has cast nasty shadows, so this is a consideration that needs to be made by Beth (Producer) when she goes through costumes, I have already raised my concerns.

The static lighting works nicely for this performance. The slightly dim look makes the whole experience feel very intimate. In my mind this music is very chilled back so the general representation of intimacy seems appropriate.

The wide shows the obvious areas of illumination, once again continued to focus on highlighting individual members rather than the bland darkness of the studio floor and curtains. When performers step out of the light their are moments of nice silhouette style illumination.

Overall I am happy with how the lighting turned out for this set. The main issue is directions of lights being off slightly, this could continue to be a potential problem considering I have to do a lighting turnover during the broadcast. I think I feel for narrow beams again for focused lighting points, I must remember to widen the beams to allow performers space for movement and account for errors in light direction. Come the next rehearsal I will ensure I have all of the appropriate lighting gels ready.