3 Cinematic Lighting Setups in 1 Room – Aputure 300D First Look

I learned these lighting techniques when I was a camera intern on a feature film in NYC.  I spent 10 years experimenting and refining them during my career and now I use them on almost every shoot.

There were three main goals of this shoot:

  1. Demonstrate several fundamental lighting techniques that are used for narrative shooting.
  2. Light 3 interior scenes: Day, Sunset, and Night
  3. Test the preproduction model of the Aputure 300D LED light.

We shot at the Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema, that is located on the Steiner Studios lot in Brooklyn, NY. The school is only a few years old and the facility is brand new and gorgeous! We shot with their Red Dragon Weapon in 6K and used their Zeiss Compact Zoom 28-80mm f2.9 lens. I’ve used this lens quite a bit and it’s still one of the only cinema lenses that covers the Red Dragon sensor.

The bedroom set for this scene was constructed with 3 simple stage flats that were left over from the show “Vinyl,” that was shot across the street at Steiner Studios. The left wall had a door, the back wall had two windows, and the right wall had one window. The stage had a proper pipe grid and a man-lift, but for speed I decided to keep everything on the floor.

After framing up the wide shot, I also noticed that the left wall’s color didn’t match and that there wasn’t any floor boards. In situations like this, it’s best to keep the “UGLY OUT of the FRAME.” I stuck to the longer end of the Zeiss Compact Zoom 28-80mm and never showed the floor to wall transition or the left flat with the door.


I love lighting day interiors and I always pretend I’m shooting an episode of “Law & Order” or the feature film “Drive.” Those are my main jumping off references points for some reason. I started by framing the two back wall windows with two 4′ rolls of Quarter Grid Cloth diffusion. We didn’t need to cut the gels, we just unrolled what we needed and hung them from C-Stands with arms. This is a quick way of “frosting” the windows and hiding what is behind them. And in this case there was an ugly black sound stage wall about 10′ behind the windows, not a translite or another set.

For the wide shot I wanted to “blow out” or overexpose the picture window (the window that the camera see’s in shot) and I pushed an Aputure Tri8 LED set at 5600K and 100% output through it. That lighting unit has a relatively punchy focused light beam, so I aimed it at the lower part of the window. This brought the window/diffusion up to a nice light level and edge lit the male actor nicely.

Next, I added an Aputure 120D with a Fresnel Lens and pushed it through the right window of the back wall. We let some of the direct or hard light shine through the diffusion and slashed it across the lap of the actors. Real sunlight would have been MUCH brighter but we wanted to control it for this scene. The hard quality of the light made a convincing sunlight slash.

To add a soft keylight to the entire scene we bounced the new Aputure 300D into an 8×8 Muslin frame.

Muslin is basically a canvas fabric that is used to diffuse or bounce light in the film industry. It’s one of my favorite bounces and diffusion materials but it does “eat” a lot of light.

The muslin bounce made a great key and using the Aputure RF remote, I was able to dial in the amount of light I wanted to taste by looking at the monitor.


Aputure 300D LED – TBD
Aputure 120D – http://geni.us/Aputure120d
Aputure Light Dome – http://geni.us/AputureLightDome
Aputure Tri8 – http://geni.us/AputureTri8BC
Bounce/Diffusion – http://geni.us/BleachedMus8x8


I wanted to setup a Marvel / Neo Film Noir “desk with a typewriter” scene, so I brought a desk down stage and left the bed in the background. I center framed the whole set and started lighting from scratch.

The first thing I started with was the key light! We placed a very small desk lamp (PRACTICAL!) camera right of the talent. To make it feel like that lamp was illuminating the actor we pushed an Aputure 120T with the Fresnel attachment through the 8×8 Bleached Muslin.

Muslin comes in two types, bleached and unbleached. The unbleached is a more orange color and the bleached is closer to white.

In this case, it would have been nice to get the extra warmth from an unbleached muslin but we had the unbleached muslin already setup.

To separate the main actor at the desk from the background, I bounced the Aputure 300D + Fresnel off of a 4×8′ beadboard (whiteside) that was positioned as a back top ambient bounce. This spilled all over the room a bit too much for my taste, but I used the RF remote to dial it to a reasonable light level.

To finish the scene, I used an Aputure 120D to hit the two windows and flagged it off of the stage background. This added a bit of extra detail to the scene and made the “unmotivated backlight” a bit more believable. RE: unmotivated source: moonlight doesn’t typically backlight anyone unless you have large cathedral style windows or skylights.


Aputure 300D LED – TBD
Aputure 120D – http://geni.us/Aputure120d
Aputure 120T – http://geni.us/Aputure120T
Aputure Light Dome – http://geni.us/AputureLightDome
Bounce/Diffusion – http://geni.us/BleachedMus8x8


Sunset is always fun because you get to work with hard light from the SUN and color contrast. The general concept with magic hour is that the ambient light from the sky is 10,000 Kelvin or higher aka BLUE AF. And the direct sunlight, depending on the distance from the horizon is 1900-3200 Kelvin aka ORANGE AF.

To key the actor, I used an Aputure 120T (T FOR TUNGSTEN!) coming through the right wall window. We didn’t use any diffusion but the Aputure Fresnel attachement gave the beam a nicer shape than the basic reflector. This LED is natively 3000K and the camera was set to about 4300K, which made it render pretty orange on camera.

We used the same Aputure 300D and beadboard back ambient bounce for some well… blue back ambient lighting.

And the real moment of genius here (Matt pats himself on the back) was using a 4×8 showcard as a low budget translite. I hit the top of the showcard with a 120D (blue) and the bottom of the showcard with an Aputure TRI8 dialed to 2300K (orange). This created a gradient that graphically recreated the look of the sky at sunset. DP FTW!


Aputure 300D LED – TBD
Aputure 120T – http://geni.us/Aputure120T
Aputure Tri8 – http://geni.us/AputureTri8BC


I had a great time shooting this project and it brought me back to my film student / indie filmmaking days. While this may appear to be a “large” production if you are a student or a filmmaker who is early in their career, this shoot is the size of a VERY SMALL indie feature film or commercial. Given that, I was very happy with what we were able to create in a few hours with a small crew!

I recommend watching the video for some extra insight and if you are interested in picking up some of the equipment we used during this shoot, there are plenty of BHPhoto affiliate links casually dropped through out the post!




On Camera DP: Matt Workman
Producer: Ted Sim
Producer / BTS: Nerris Nassiri
AC: Silvia Lara
Gaffer: Kristen Meloche
Grip: David Light
Grip: Minu Park
Grip: Mikey D’Amico

Actors: Nick Rapp, Yasmeen Jawhar