The videos from this first season will eventually be posted on Not all fit into the “one light kit or less” criteria, so here’s a post about one that does


Rocker Face, exists in the dark and depressing world of aging rockers who never quite made it, but keep a tight grip on their hopes and dreams. The band members are willing to do whatever it takes to make it big, even if that means kicking out their loyal drummer because his face doesn’t quite mesh with their hardcore image.

CREW: (1) AC, (1) grip, (1) sound

LIGHTING: no film lights, only practicals and household halogen bulbs

CAMERA: Alexa Mini

LENSES: Rokinon primes (24, 35, 50, 85mm)

COLOR: Davinci Resolve



I have been thinking about practicals lately and how much more efficient it seems to build the lighting into your set as opposed to always needing more money to rent a bunch of film lights, hire several people to help set them up, crowd up the set with a bunch of extra stands, etc. Plus, let’s face it, the budget just isn’t always there. Wouldn’t it be awesome if I could get away with shooting a professional product using zero film lights?

Groundlings Lighting

Rocker Face was shot in the dressing room backstage at the Groundlings Theatre. We wanted a very grungy look, as if the scene took place backstage at (name-any-venue) on The Sunset Strip. Considering this is what the Groundlings dressing room normally looks like, it took a wee bit of production design:

When I was scouting it with the director, Alex, I noticed track lighting on the ceiling at just about the exact place I would have wanted some back lights. Ahhh yessss…the perfect video to try a no-film-lights approach.
In order to create a tighter, more intimate feel, we closed the room off by placing a back wall (made of 3 flats) about one foot behind the track lights. I replaced all the fluorescent track lighting bulbs with halogen spot bulbs. Then I pointed some towards the actors to use as back lights and pointed the others down onto the background wall as accents. I also found another scoop light in the office, so I borrowed it to help with the back light. All were covered with red gel to give us more of a dingy, backstage, rock show vibe.
The actual vanity lights keyed the actors’ faces. The Alexa is so amazing that it was able to retain detail in the lights, unlike this iPhone pic. We also used a fog machine to give the room a little atmosphere. It dissipated quickly, but it was still fun to have. Boom. Zero film lights, baby.



Rocker Face color.jpg
We shot in LogC and I decided to grade from scratch, as opposed to using the Alexa Log to Rec709 LUT. I added some custom curves for contrast and some for color that added green to the shadows and yellow/orange to the highlights. Since we were aiming for the grungy rock look, I chose crunchier instead of punchier, which I would normally do for something like Anna Akana’s Youtube videos. (Left to right: Scott Beehner, Laird Macintosh)



Left to right: Alex Staggs, Heidi Gardner, H Michael Croner, Eric Lombart, Eliot Schwartz.
Wiring for sound. (But really, any excuse for Eliot to show off his nips.)
My mugshot for the cinematographer gang. So far, I’m the only member.



With careful planning and scouting, you can eliminate the need for traditional film lighting…though it’s definitely better to have a few close by just in case.


2 thoughts on “Groundlings

    1. Thanks so much! Don’t worry, there will be more to come 🙂 I’m gonna start streaming some setups live on Instagram, too, so feel free to follow me and check those out if you’re curious.


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