Those single-shot long takes are cool, but how are you supposed to light them?
Long takes tend to bring an intriguing immediacy to scenes and allow audiences to immerse themselves in the drama, however they can be quite challenging to pull off, especially when it comes to lighting.
In your standard short-length shot, you block your characters and set up your light sources based on where they are in the frame. Nevertheless with a long shot, you have to get creative with where you place your lights, because if your characters are moving around, that means they might be moving away from those light sources.
Here are a few tips:
Move the key light
Lights can get mobile. If you’re able to move your key around—that is, it’s not going to burn your face off or be too heavy—do it. Sometimes all you’ll have to do is some panning or tilting, but other times you might have to carry around a portable LED.
Be aware of your frame lines
You should always be aware of where your frame ends, but it’s especially important if your camera and subjects are going to be moving around a lot. So, take note of where your frame lines are throughout the entire long shot— plan, choreograph, and practice the shot over and over until you’ve got it down. Then place lights.
Hide lights in the frame
This technique is used a lot apart from shooting long takes. Hiding lights behind or inside stuff that’s within the frame allows you to put that valuable real estate to good use.
Use flats or corners
This technique requires you to be knowledgeable about the layout of your location. So, if you’ve got flats (walls or partitions) and corners, you can use their blind spots to hide lights. You can also use curtains, fake walls, or anything that’s large and tall enough to give you what you need to hide and rig lights.
Bounce an on-screen source
This is a great little trick if you’re going to be utilizing a practical light, namely something handheld like a flashlight. Have a member of your crew follow the subject around with a bounce card, or have them wear a white shirt. This will add a little bit of illumination without having to figure out where to plug in and place a light out of the frame.