How to Light a Scene with Just One Light

Can low budget filmmakers light a scene with just one light? You can, if you follow Raoul Coutard’s formula!

Watch my video:

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The single best trick I’ve learnt is to use soft top light. Regardless of your ceiling height, you can find ways to rig lights to your ceiling for cheap to create a soft source.

See how Raoul Coutard did it:

How I lit the cafe scene with one light

Last week I wrapped up my latest short film, Man May Love, and we had this quick scene in a small studio. We used one Godox SL-60W LED (Amazon, B&H), gelled with full CTO (Amazon, B&H) in an Elinchrom Rotalux Octobox (Amazon, B&H). Elinchrom makes the most amazing modifiers. The difference in the result when compared to cheap knockoff brands is really visible.

The softbox was mounted via an SN-14 Bowens to Elinchrom adapter (Amazon, B&H), since the Godox has a Bowens mount.

If you want a cheaper softbox you can try the Fotodiox EZ-Pro (Amazon, B&H). As far as great lighting goes, you can’t get a lot cheaper than this.

I boomed the softbox right above the set. The problem here was, the light spreads everywhere, and we didn’t have flags or grids. The simplest way to solve this problem is to pull the softbox away from the actors and point downwards, so the light hitting them is feathered, and it barely spills on the background.

The background needed a bit of depth so I opened one of the windows a teeny bit. A 200W tungsten bulb, dimmed way down, was used as a prop in the shot. It wasn’t adding much to the actors once the main light was switched on, and it wasn’t strong enough to spill to the background.

That’s it! I was able to shoot a wide angle, two singles, two close ups and an OTS with just this one light.

You can use a similar setup in any living room situation where a few actors are talking to each other.

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