Teenage Alcoholics

THE VIDEO

Teenage Alcoholics is the brainchild of Mr. Brad Gage, based on true alcohol-related shennanigans from his teenage years. The series was created for a monthly screening called Channel 101 and is currently one of the primetime shows after being renewed by audience vote.

CREW: one grip, one sound person

LIGHTING: one Arri fresnel kit (1k, 650 w/ Chimera, 300, 150), two small LED panels

CAMERA: Canon 5d mkiii, shot in Cinestyle

LENSES: Canon 24-105 f/4, Canon 70-200 f/2.8, Rokinon primes

COLOR: DaVinci Resolve Lite

LIGHTING

Episode 1

Teenage Alcoholics cop lights.png
Brad wanted lights from a police car, but we didn’t have a police car or one of those detachable spinning lights or anything. So we downloaded an app that replicates the blue and red flashing and our sound guy sat in the back seat, holding it up so the camera could see it in the rear view mirror. It’s a very quick shot so I focused on the mirror and kept everything else out of focus so you wouldn’t be able to see that it was really just a phone, but you still get the sense of police presence. Cop car illusion: complete.
Teenage Alcoholics lighting 1
I love being able to sneak in some high contrast stuff when I’m shooting comedies and, practically-speaking, it works especially well when you have limited lighting equipment. We wanted the shed to have a slightly scary feel to match its gun-wielding owner. There were two nice practical lights already in place, so I kept one on in the background and taped diffusion and black wrap on the other in order to spotlight and key Brad in that first shot. Then I bounced an Arri 300W on the ground in front of him to augment the practical, fill Brad in with some lovely soft light, and highlight the case of beer a little more. I went with the traditional blue moonlight coming through the windows to create some color contrast and motivate additional sources of light that helped key the actors when they face off. The 650W provided a little extra something for the background. I believe we actually doubled up on Full CTB for those two lights in order to get a more rich blue.
Teenage Alcoholics lighting 2
Mostly the same setup as before except I brought in a reflector and used the silver side to bounce a little fill onto Brad. The 300w is bounced off the ground behind him so that we could see the wall a little better and introduce some orange and green into the frame. The practical with diffusion and black wrap is now backlighting Brad while the 1k acts as his key.
Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 11.20.44 AM.png
For the car scene, I had my camera on a monopod, outfitted with Rokinon primes so that I could open up to f/2, which gave me nice background levels and bokeh. Then we turned on the reading light to key their faces, while sound man (Doug Beatty) held a small LED panel in the backseat for some slight fill.

Episode 2

Teenage Alcoholics lighting 3.jpg
Shot this entire scene on my Canon 70-200mm at f/2.8 and ISO 1250 with a white balance of 44ooK because I was mixing tungsten and 5000K LED panels. The Arri 300 was acting as a light from the building. The 650 had a combo of three orange gels to simulate sodium vapor street lighting and the LEDs augmented the LED street lamps. One backlit the actors and the other was on the ground, facing up on the leaves in the foreground. Now, here’s a game for you. Can you find the c-stand in the shot?
Teenage Alcoholics lighting 4.jpg
Same lights, different setup. I used the 300w to hit both the wall and the actors, again, acting as a light from the building. It was on full spot, armed over close to the wall and up almost as high as the c-stand gets. I used the 70-200mm on all of this part as well because we didn’t want to see too much of the actual venue. [By the way, in case you couldn’t find it, the answer to the question from the previous diagram is that the c-stand is perfectly in line with the ladder on the right side of frame. We covered it in black gaff tape so it would disappear into the ladder in the darkness.]
Teenage Alcoholics lighting 5.jpg
This scene had a super simple setup and I love how it turned out. I shot it on my Rokinon primes at a 2/2.8 split and an ISO 1250, which I based on the background levels. Brad wanted to see the Taco Bell sign behind them and the way it was positioned, there happened to be a bright practical on the building right in front of them (behind the camera) to key light them. I wanted to augment it a bit, though, so I placed an LED with diffusion that wrapped their faces nicer and brightened them up a bit. Then I put our other LED behind the car, facing up at the Taco Bell sign to highlight that a bit. For Paul’s closeup, I turned it around and used it as fill, then I used it as a rimlight on Brad’s closeup to separate him from the black sky behind him. Just as a note: I usually try not to use those LEDs on skin because they’re so green, but every light in the scene had that green tint, so it blended well when I removed the green in post.
Teenage Alcoholics lighting 6.jpg
This scene, on the other hand, probably looks like I did absolutely nothing when, in fact, we had to set up almost the whole kit plus a reflector. I pointed the 1k at the ceiling, mainly to brighten the illumination for exposure and provide fill. Then I used the 650 to augment the sunlight coming in from frame right, which introduces a bit o’ the old contrast to Paul’s face. Then the bottom part of the frame with Brad’s legs looked dark and muddy, so I pointed the 300 at some white bounce to fill in that area with some really soft light. The slits of sunlight were coming in through the blinds on frame left and I liked it, so I kept it. Would’ve been cool to have my smoke machine so we could see that shaft of light. Oh well. The fire alarm probably would have gone off anyway.
Teenage Alcoholics lighting 7.jpg
Another easy setup. I placed a 650 Chimera for key light and a 300 right behind her with diffusion as a strong backlight motivated by the main source of sunlight coming through the window. I had CTB on both tungsten lights because I white-balanced to daylight so I could use natural light from the window as fill. I pointed the blinds away from the background so it did double duty by making the background less bright as well as bouncing off the wall to create fill on her face.

 

 

COLOR CORRECTION

Episode 1

Teenage Alcoholics color 1 copy
We had very little time in this location (as always) so I used the sunlight from the windows as the main source and just added a 1k and 650 to fill in and backlight the actors. Then…extensive color correction. I reshaped the light a bit, worked on skin tones and even cooled down the backgrounds to help separate them from their faces. And, of course, it was shot in Cinestyle so I increased the contrast for deeper shadows.

Episode 2

Teenage Alcoholics color 2
Basic contrast correction to counteract Cinestyle. Also, just like the last episode, the wall was blending into Brad’s face, so I cooled it down to make that punim pop.
Teenage Alcoholics color 2a
Same wall trick on this first shot. For the background of the second shot, I was dealing with changing sunlight, so I added a pretty serious vignette to darken it and focus the attention more on her.
Teenage Alcoholics color 2b
The LED lights added a nasty green cast on this scene, so I just balanced that out, lowered the shadows, and voila!

 

LESSONS LEARNED

I focused a little more on motivated lighting during these shoots. I think I ignored it a lot in the past; if I felt that something needed a light, I just added it, regardless of its purpose. I wanted to make sure every light had a realistic motivation on these shoots and I’m liking the results. I think one of the reasons I can get so much out of so little equipment is that I’m paying more attention to the real world lighting around the locations so I can use whatever is already there and then just spice it up a bit.

Contrast has been really fascinating me lately, too. What combination of lighting and exposure and latitude and gamma curves create the most pleasing looks? So many complex variables! And that’s just black and white. Add color science into the mix and it starts to get cray up in here. Learning how to color correct has been one of the best things I have done to improve my cinematography.

 

CREDITS

Written and Directed by Brad Gage
Shot by Eric Lombart
Executive Produced by Anna Akana
Produced by Brad Gage
Edited by Zac Suprenant

Starring:
Brad Gage, Paul Du’Pree, Debi Bradshaw, Arlan Godthaab, Ed Spangler, Nancy Cronig, D’arby Rose, Alex Jacobs, Steph Tolev, Chen Tang, Nolan Fabricius

Sound – Doug Beatty & Jake Robinson
Grips – Chad Bond, John Lee

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2 thoughts on “Teenage Alcoholics

    1. Sometimes. It depends on the project. If it’s really small and there’s not much of a crew, then I usually just rely on false colors to dial in my exposure. If I’m working with a gaffer, then I’ll use a meter so I can communicate exposure and contrast ratios quicker and more accurately.

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