RED Dragon Commercial Part II / by Matt Mahoney

In part I of this series I talked about setting up the outdoor scene that was supposed to look like a sunny day while mother nature was doing her best to ruin my shots. With the outdoor scene completed we moved inside and did our best to stage the homeowner's bar area to double as a coffee shop. 


The bar area was tight, it had two French doors that open into the bar from the outside, and a long skinny room in which the bar was situated. The only way the bar would look close to a coffee shop was to shoot in a specific direction which was long-ways down the bar towards the French doors. This angle hid the full wet bar, the brick walls, and the doorways that lead to other rooms in the house while giving me an opportunity to add depth to the shot. Let's look at the reference photos I took on the scout day. 

As you can see, there are all sorts of shakers, mixers, bottles etc. That was fine. I knew all I had to do was drop the camera height down to hide that stuff. The main concern for me was how I was going balance the light levels outside and inside in a very narrow space. 


First, I put a two stop net across the French doors to knock down the ambient light. It was raining and I only had a double net on the truck. Next I had to add the light I just took away with the net and get it back onto the actor. I tucked a 575w into the camera-left corner of the room as high as it would go and shot it through 1/2 soft frost. This gave me the kick on the actor's face that I was looking for to play as daylight coming through the window. Next I needed some fill light. 

The first thing we tried was to bounce a 1.2k off of the ceiling to play as daylight bouncing around the room and hitting our actor. 3 things made that impossible. 

1. The wall behind the bar was exposed brick.
2. The other walls were painted a dark blue/grey. 
3. Our actor's complexion. 

So: Plan B.

I slid in a 4x4 bounce board behind the bar to camera left and angled it towards our actor. From a doorway on the right and behind the actors we placed the 1.2k, set it to spot, & ricocheted it off the bounce board and back onto him. It brought the levels up just enough for it to read as ambient light and made it work. It wasn't perfect, but we got the shots we needed and everyone broke for lunch. Here's a look at some frame grabs out of the camera. 

The wide shot.

A 1-stop net probably would have worked better here to make it seem brighter outside.

It was really important to keep the stop on the lens wide open in order to blur out the net that was just outside the french doors. To help compress that space and get a more out of focus background I shot the wide and the tight angles on a 70-200L at F2.8. Wide was at 70mm and the tight was at 110mm.

You can notice the tells that give away the lighting if you look for them. A 1-stop net was probably all I needed but again, I was planning on having a sunny day to work with. Overall I'm pretty happy with how it came out. The outdoor ambient levels kept fluctuating as lighter and darker clouds moved over the area and the double net does kinda help hide the blue blob in the background there, which is actually a kiddie pool. You can only fight a location and the weather so much. 

You win this time rain, but now I know how to to handle you in a situation like this in the future.

Next we'll take a look at the living room scene and the challenges that came with that.