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    Suggestions welcome for night office shoot

    Hi all,

    First time post from a long-term lurker here. I've also posted on the DVinfo forum so apologies if anyone's read it there too.

    I'm a pro TV writer/director/producer/Avid editor but working on tons of light entertainment and lifestyle programmes over the years has slowly sucked my will to live and so finally I am getting round to shooting one of my short-ish films, essentially a very dark comedy, much of which is set in an office at night.

    Planning on using an M2-equipped HVX200 with some Nikon lenses.

    I don't have the location set yet but I imagine it would a large 20-40 desk open-plan office lit with nasty strip lights. Not ground floor so lighting anything from outside is a no-no.

    It sets the tone for the beginning of the 'dark element' in the comedy but is also where about 70% of the whole piece takes place so it can't be powerful to the point of distraction.

    Now the build up to the office scenes are very vibrant with some lovely stylised London exteriors and by way of contrast, I wanted the office to be cold - almost unsettling.

    Without spoiling too much of the story, what unfolds is a night long conversation (think Kevin Smith with less dick-jokes)
    between a terrified office junior and a gun-toting murderous IT man who has essentially gone 'postal'. All this takes place amid the office floor with many many former colleagues now dead, spread over their desks - much of the funny talk is taking place with elements of the prior (but unseen) carnage in frame.

    I've got Magic Bullet and a host of plugins for Avid and Boris Red / AE but I assume I should try to achieve as much as possible with the lighting at the time, rather than 'fix it in post'. .

    I can't come up with a reference look. Any suggestions of movie references, along with suggestions of how to achieve them, would be GREATLY appreciated.

    So far I'm thinking whites VERY white (ie tube lighting glare - white shirts) and reds very pronounced (as we only see it on the clothing of furniture of dead people). Originally thought about a sickly yellowish-greenish tint to everything but that may well be a distraction. Dunno.. Any thoughts?

    Ben

    #2
    I really don't have any great advice for you unfortunatley, for two reasons: number 1, I don't really know what the story is that well so I don't get any feelings to inform a suggestion and #2, it's an artisits decision so it really should be made by you. My one suggestion that I think will work though is to think of all the movies you know and try to figure out, story/mood wise, which is most similar to yours. Then watch that movie and look at cinematographic styles. Either you will fall in love with the look and simply try to emulate it ( I highly doubt it) or you will use it as a jumping off point, you'll realize what you really don't like about the look and you'll use that to form the look for your piece. That's the best I've got for you. Best of luck.
    Peace,

    -Harry

    Comment


      #3
      Thanks for getting back to me Harry,

      I understand completely what you are saying about not knowing the story and that the look comes down to me - and I totally agree. Like most here, I'm an absolute film-nerd but so far I just must have somehow missed the movie that would serve as inspiration, which is what has led me to post.

      If it helps at all:

      To sum up, a maltreated office junior comes back to his office late at night to pick up his cellphone - to find all his colleagues dead and an irate and suicidal IT man about to kill him, and then himself, with the rifle he bought (off Ebay, naturally!). The majority of the film is the office junior trying to persuade the IT man that he has lots to live for but in the process starts to question the worth of his own life. Cue twists and turns and an unfortunate incident with a pizza delivery man.

      Damn, that doesn't sound so funny when I break it down like that... You'll have to take it on trust that it's hilarious...

      -----------

      To be honest I'm as interested in the logistics of creatively lighting such an environment (which I've only previously done totally straight on Digibeta for regular TV) as I am for creative looks, but all advice is welcome and if ANYONE can think of movies with creatively lit office scenes PURLEASE let me know.

      Thanks again,

      Ben

      Comment


        #4
        Okay...that helps some. Honestly...I know this sound impossible...but if it were me I'd be *right* in between the look of the office scenes in Office Space and the office scenes in Collateral. Actually...I would start with Collateral as the base point but just use way more fill so you don't have so much falling off in to darkness. Is that happens people will naturally feel suspense, which I don't think is something you should go for in a comedy. Let me know what you think about those ideas.
        Peace,

        -Harry

        Comment


          #5
          Hi Mate,

          The comedy is very very dark humour and should most definitely be tinged with tension or a general unsettledness (is that a word?). The idea being that the guilt you feel at laughing at such a macabre scene is offset if you've got equal parts laughter and tension, sometimes in the same line of dialogue. Well that's my plan anyway. ;-)

          Collateral is a good call. Dull-ish movie but with a great look. Need to get it out again. Don't know Office Space... Is it a sitcom?

          Thank again fella,

          Ben

          Comment


            #6
            Hey man...if you can write it it's a word Anyway...Office Space is a comedy film made about ten years ago directed by Mike Judge (the guy who did Beavis and Butthead) I'm not sure whether or not you can get it that side of the pond...but if you can you must see it before you make any movie about an office...it's hilarious. Anyway...if you want the suspense, then yeah, I'd just go from Collateral and work off that.
            Take it easy Ben.
            Peace,

            -Harry

            Comment


              #7
              I'd go with those pukey drab green cubicles and pasty light colored formica table tops. Maybe some cheap metal stackable office chairs as side chairs.

              Maybe use a lot of wire racks for that tacky cheesy low budget IT look.

              I'd just use the flourescents, and maybe whack on the white balance to get a pasty greenish to all the skin tones.

              If you want less overhead shadow, or if you want dramatic side shadows, maybe stick some standard (ie weird sickly colored) flourescent bulbs under the desks, or use those home depot 48 inch flourescent shop lights with flags for key lights.

              I don't see a yellowish green... I see sort of a bluish green cast to really make the skin tones pasty.

              Put the IT guys all in "white on white" short sleeve dress shirts. tacky tacky tacky.

              Just my take on the setup.

              Comment


                #8
                Office space at night....I liked the suggestion of Collateral as an example...Looked like it was just lite w/ desk top practicals, a couple of torchier lamps and maybe a couple of banks of light. Very easy to imitate that type of lighting...You won't need HMI's, tungsten lights would match anything going on outside if you can see outdoors at all during your shoot. Keep the overhead flo's off. If you really want to leave them on, let them look even greener than normal. Make the office situation look even more unnatural,uncomfortable, garish, dark circles under the eyes type look. My 2 cents.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Hey Harry,

                  Checked it on IMDB and I've seen it! Missed the first five minutes of it and so never knew what it was called. Great film. Sums up my entire attitude to the workplace. Another good call. I'll have to revisits it to check out the lighting.

                  Cheers,
                  Ben

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by 500lb Productions
                    I'd go with those pukey drab green cubicles and pasty light colored formica table tops. Maybe some cheap metal stackable office chairs as side chairs.

                    Maybe use a lot of wire racks for that tacky cheesy low budget IT look.

                    I'd just use the flourescents, and maybe whack on the white balance to get a pasty greenish to all the skin tones.

                    If you want less overhead shadow, or if you want dramatic side shadows, maybe stick some standard (ie weird sickly colored) flourescent bulbs under the desks, or use those home depot 48 inch flourescent shop lights with flags for key lights.

                    I don't see a yellowish green... I see sort of a bluish green cast to really make the skin tones pasty.

                    Put the IT guys all in "white on white" short sleeve dress shirts. tacky tacky tacky.

                    Just my take on the setup.
                    Hiya 500lbs,

                    Thanks for your comments. I'll almost certainly be stuck with the whatever's in the office as is so wholesale furniture changes ain't gonna happen except perhaps a rejig of what's there.

                    I've been thinking about a light bleach-bypass look and your setup sound similarly start and unpleasant for an interior - I mean that in the good way. If it is stark except for the occasional splash of colour I'm hoping it will add to the claustraphobic tension.

                    IT department setups sound a little different on this side of the pond. Forget white shirts... Over here in the UK your average IT man is a 19 year-old spotty oik in a Metallica or Napster (or both?) T-Shirt with the social skills of the 40 year-old virgin. They met their 'girlfriends' on MSN chat etc... Think Napoleon Dynamite without the charm or sophistication.

                    That said, all the dead members of staff with uniformly be wearing white shirts or blouses. The only red in this entire part of the film is going to be blood. Wow, that sounded really satisfying to say. Never been interested in making gory films but I just think it will be very pleasing aesthetically, sicko that I am.

                    There is another smaller office which will be the 'IT department' - prob a set elsewhere in someone's garage. Essentially a nerd's paradise, decked out with so many whirring, blinking and flashing lights on various bits of machinary that it looks like the deck of the Starship Enterprise, which of course my uber-nerd/murderer is soo into. I intended this to be quite lush and soft - IT Man's domain. Where he is comfortable and safe.

                    Hence your suggestions and the others these lovely people have made for the main office section would be a fantastic contrast.

                    A specific question about this lighting setup you suggested here. If I'm using an 35mm-adapted HVX200, will that be enough light? I know it's all hypothetical without any of us (inc me!) knowing the location but people keep speaking about how much more light these things need with the adapters on them and I'll probably get one night, maybe two to get the office stuff done (which is about 70% of the whole movie)


                    Wow... Keep it coming guys...This is great food for thought.

                    Ben

                    PS - Re IT Men's music tastes. Not that there's anything wrong with Metallica...

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Hi Filmat,

                      Thanks for chipping in. It'll probably be a 2 or 3 floor office space in London, hopefully overlooking the Thames so there might be a nice cityscape but knowing here, it'll just be rainy. It'll be an overnight shoot anyway so it wasn't gonna be a MASSIVE influence.

                      Essentially there's about 5 main setups where conversation takes place within that office and about four for action.

                      I'm now thinking that I could do the 'greenish' setup at one point, perhaps by the green laser of the photocopier - and do the blue tint in another, maybe by a ironically apt blue screensaver crawl on a PC monitor (IT Man joke maybe)?? Keeping the same intensity of light and contrast etc, but just shifting the dominant tone in the setup. Figured this might allow me to be creative and have fun (the whole idea behind it) PLUS can help echo the shifting dynamic of their relationship, which pretty much changes at the end of each of the setups... sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

                      I can actually see it coming together . I've been a director for years but outside the basics, every lighting cameraman has guarded their tricks from me like it was the black arts. Cameras, framing, writing and directing people I can do, but its fantastic to be able to bounce ideas around like this.

                      If you've any more ideas on other looks within that spectrum, please let me know.

                      Also, have you guys any thoughts on whether my cunning plan for the different setups in various areas within the same 'main' space will break continuity or whether it can be done subtly enough to just make it interesting?

                      Thanks so much everyone - You're lifesavers.

                      If I can help with plot devices, best ways to tell actors to shut up, or even the world of Avid/Boris/Magic Bullet then let me know,

                      Ben

                      Comment

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