Guerrila lighting (rooftop set) for Music Video


New member
Hello guys!
I'm finally about to make my first music video and as you can understand.. I am not nervious but I am worried about the technical stuff.. especially lighting.

This is a hiphop video and the track is a party song... think of a 50cent party song. Anyway, I will be given access to this rooftop and I'm trying to look for creative ways to light it. I think a night scene would be the best because that way I could throw somo color lights. JUST ONE LITTLE DETAIL: there is almost no budget for it.

I might get something to buy a couple of lights but these would have to be guerrilla style.... because of the budget. So what do you guys recommend me?

I think im better off buying a lot of guerrila lights then renting just one Arri Light kit that comes with 3 lights for this project ($100 rent). In the future I will ask for decent budget for rentals.... anyway... any suggestions? Stories? Something... :D




This is another location where we will film. It's very dark and that is my nasty flash.

Well, you could start off by placing christmas lights underneath ALL of the patio umbrellas. 300 candles on the ground and on the tables. Hiding lights away from the camera. You could string up 10-20 chinese lanterns, criss- crossing the patio. Give evrybody a flashlight....yeah, that's right.. Never heard of a flashlight party.... Don't ask..Internet I'm told. Do you have ANY LIGHTS ? Adding a few 2k lights from an adjacent building, shooting down onto the patio would add an edge light. Adding practicals, or hiding indivdual kino or other floro tubes around would help.
For the interior bar.. again add candles. It would be nice if you could rig some down lights onto the tables. Can you rent a ring light for your camera, downside would be reflections in windows. Downlights would avoid the glass issue.
If you walk around the outdoor patio, have an assistant carry a chinese lantern around with you. Or carry a 4ft x 4ft white board around covered with white christmas lights. Staple(carefully) a whole string to the board. Assistant can hold it in several locations, and hover around you, using it as a key light.
Last edited:
Lol. Flashlite party soudns like fun! Especially during the hurricane season here in Florida.

Christmas lights sounds like a good idea. Candles.. the dollar store! Flashlights - dollar store?

Good idea!

I have an incomplete Lowel Kit: 3 Tota Lamps with only one stand. Need to get two extra stands. I have 3 regular lamps from Home Depot (the circular silver ones). And one big double flourenscent light with daylight bulbs.

BTW... you also mean sticking christmas lights under the actual umbrella fabric? I wonder if it would look to odd if there is some kinda of light comming down from every umbrella.

Again... Good ideas!
Many restaurants do this to their umbrellas, the red fabric will also look cool in your establishing shot. You might even consider putting lights underneath the cool looking ,lounge seats on the roof top. Again, this is for affect, and will not add much to your talent. Your tota lights could be hidden on the roof, around the corner from what I can see in your exterior roof photo. I wouldn't use them as direct key lights, without some sort of diffusion on them. Problem with tota's, is that they get too hot to place any gel on them, but you can add gel or diffusion in front of them . You could try bounce them off the floor, or into a large shiny reflector of some kind. Try low camera angles, and place white reflector boards on the ground in front of people sitting and talking, or even dancing. Fire a 300 or even a 500 watt light into the board.. crop the floor out of frame of course. Have an assistant walk behind , or to the side of your talent with a handheld light and add an edge light to them. NO RULES FOR LIGHTING MUSIC VIDEOS, just light your talent in a way that they look good, so:
ONE: They pay you
TWO: You get more referrals
Last edited:
You could also use your floro lights as an on camera light in the bar area. Just watch the windows in the background. Effective use for these would be about 3 feet max..Good luck, I gotta go to bed..big day tomorrow.
The candles suggestion strikes me as odd. I have never tried it. Does the use of hundreds of live burning flames not impose the danger or potential danger I would think they would? That would make me sooo nervous. But like I said.... I never have attempted. Let me know.
lol, i think that the Christmas lights would be the best bet, of course, well placed China lanterns and photofloods will do wonders.

from the pics, it looks like you'll have plenty of set to hide lamps and still motivate your sources.
=Prodigy= said:
The candles suggestion strikes me as odd. I have never tried it. Does the use of hundreds of live burning flames not impose the danger or potential danger I would think they would? That would make me sooo nervous. But like I said.... I never have attempted. Let me know.

Although the candles will not offer much as far as lighting your subjects, they will add to the set. More of an art direction comment here I'm afraid. I have used the christmas light gag before, using a staple gun to attach lights to a reflector. Just put them in a pattern like several "S" curves. You can even cut a hole in the middle, big enough for the lens and shoot through it. Poor man's ring light....
As far as the Hundreds of Live Burning flames..l....Live dangerously...
Candles on a rooftop? Forget it... unless you put them in glass lanterns it'll never work... and it probably still wouldn't. Too much air movement up there.

For low budget your best bet is going to be chinese lanters and a cord with light sockets every 8-10'... Fortunately for a video you have some leeway for artistic interpretation... but basically you want to light it like you would light it for a real party... only brighter. We shot a music vid recently and we used china balls for motivating the light and to give the scene depth, but we also used a LOT of flo-banks... like 6 of 'em... the big boys. So that we could bring up the overall light levels of the entire scene.

You're going to have to be realistic and choose part of that roof to focus on... or else plan on a couple of setups... to think that you can use that entire roof and have it lit enough to shoot anywhere on it is nuts. That would be one big-ass set.

I would have some china-balls (or christmas lights) all over the place so that you give depth to the scene... just as background elements which will become forground elements on the next setup... but you'll have to raise the overall brightness of as big an area as you can afford to... which will probably mean 20' x 20' areas on a low budget... Flos fall off, so you can't get as much distance...

If you really do have zero budget then I'd try to set up some worklights (if you can't afford PARS) and set them up just like you would to light a stage with hard lights... go with the obvious fact that there is lighting and draw attention to it so it looks intended. The worst is when people try to use a worklight and you can tell they tried to pull it off as if it were an HMI or something... and it just doesn't work...

So if you have the money then I'd do a couple small hard lights, while raising the brightness of the rest of the scene with flos... and you can probably skip the hardlights if you have enough flos... if you have truly zero money then you're going to have to accept some facts... and make the sparse and hard lighting look intentional... as if on a stage.

Finally... you may want to consider shooting this in two different locations... shoot the roof as the overall scene, but then do it again and imply that the shots are cutting together all on the roof... like if you have a drape backdrop on the band you can take that setup somewhere else on another night.

Am I making any sense?
candles? hmmm. They are often used as practicals, but generally are not the best way to give light. Even as a practical, another light is usually hidden nearby.

xmas lights? Guys, these are production design ideas, not really lighting ideas.

Try this. Go get a lot of GOLD or SILVER card if your subjects are african american. For your exterior, use this thing called... the sun... and bounce it with gold card to light them well. Your problem is going to be bringing up their exposure to match the sky, so that you don't blast out the sky. But when you're dealing with a day exterior, on a rooftop, the sun is pretty much your best lightbulb. reflect reflect reflect. Gold card is generally the most complimentary to african american skin, white card for caucasian skin. If you play it right, you could either get the look of magic hour, or moonlight, just with some bounce. I recommend you track the suns path and plan your day accordingly. You can get some REALLY nice stuff up there at magic hours.

Watch out for those umbrellas, they can be your friend or enemy depending on position. But don't over light this.

For your interior, I WOULD stick with the arri kit for starters, because you want at least 3 lights that can focus through a lens and are over 500W. You can blast one at the ceiling to create an even fill and blast the others against gold card to get a similar bounce as from the rooftop, you could possibly use this as your key.

Depending on where your actors are, you could cheat tungsten lights on to the tables (candles won't reach all but one square foot at one footcandle!) or, my favorite, china balls. Go to Ikea and pick up some 4 dollar china balls, and bulb socketts. Then go to a photo store and get some 250W or 500W light bulbs. You can even get Photo-Floods, which cast a bluer light. You might want some diffusion and black spray paint too. I find that I often need to streak the bulb on one side so that the china ball is directional, then soften it up with a small bit of diffusion on the inside of the china ball.

You can get like 5 of these, hang them on C-stands and move them around whereever you want. Or you can hang them on painters polls and have people hold them up in the air ad move them around during a shot. This is unrealistic lighting, but works amazingly well, especially for a video.

China balls have a soft, moonlight quality to them, perfect for a restaraunt.

Just don't over light. Otherwise everything will look lame and flat. Let there be plenty of contrast, don't be affraid of things going dark, as long as the frame looks interesting and the part of the frame that you want to be your subject is lit well, people will like it. The minute you just blast light everywhere, it will look like home video.
MattinSTL I think we posted at the same time! With the same advice! hahahah! Except for the flos, but I hate shop flos.

I wonder if an HMI would kill a vampire?
Nice nice.
I was actually considering the Christmas lights more than the candles.
Yes, candles sound cool but I suspect that the area it illuminates would be bit small and too dim to be dramatic on the set for this case. It's something I would keep in mind though for small set ups.

I thought that Chistmas lights / Light Ropes might work really for the Sushi Place (Last Picture) and to light the black tile room. (BTW I love that black tile splash... you won't believe me but I have always dreamed of making a video with a black or blue tile room like this one... for some reason it look 80ish to me and I love it... however I always fantasized that I was shooting a Depeche Mode video... hehehe). Anyway... I am considering the china balls and painter polls. Working lights might be to powerful but I heard that you could use a rack (or some kind of support) to hold a white plastic sheet that would stand in fromt of the lights to diffuse it. I thought it might be good for a side light.

I am worried about the skin tones too. I will be working with 4 african american guys and 1 latin guy that has a light complexion. NICE... I have never tried this before. I know that in FILM this is a nightmare but on video I am hoping is not as bad. I will look for gold reflectors!
It's been cloudy and rainy these days... and it is a challenge to get a consistent blue sky... however, it might happen. As I understand I would have to close my iris to let the blue sky appear on the video and light my foreground. Just afraid that the reflectors wont be enough. In that case it sounds like I would have to light the reflector.

About shooting tow locations and make it look like it was all on the rooftop. Yes, sounds like a pretty good idea. What's PARS anyway?


My idea for candles is and was intended for the art dept. Ambiance...not as a light source. Christmas lights on a board is a stolen idea from"Eyes Wide Shut". The interior dance scenes were ALMOST entirely lite with christmas lights. They are portable and light weight.... don't knock it till ya tried it.

Just get a few HMI's blast those straight into the camera, prop up some kinos (balanced, no tint) in well hidden places for fill, grab some worklights and bounce those around ... or diffuse with plastic... just play with it beforehand with some people.

I'm assuming that all these party scenes are at night, when parties happen?

Also - if you're planning on shooting it more like a "real party scene" (usually meaning somebody is going in with a ring light or on camera light) make sure it feels right: to me this means the background is darker for more of a contrast - also make sure the talent is kept at the correct distance from the light - as they move towards and away they will become hotter or darker.
I'm on it! THanks!

Intereting. Was that mention on the extras for the movie? I doubt it has any extras. That I can remember all of Kubrick's movies are wihtout extras.
Im your originial post you mentioned GURIELLA Lighting which to me means anything shot Guriella style is rolling up to the location jump out of the car and set up quickly and roll tape then leave. Maybe i didnt read your post correctly.
EdMista said:
I'm on it! THanks!

Intereting. Was that mention on the extras for the movie? I doubt it has any ex
tras. That I can remember all of Kubrick's movies are wihtout extras.

I was told by a friend, who knew one of the electrics on the film. And if memory serves me right, it was mentioned in American Cinematographer as well.
DVX100Shooter, the term make my point accrossbut.... come on!
But thanks for the clarification! (y)

Anyway... it's nice to know about the Christmas Lights being used in Eyes Wide Shot. Thanks!