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Hello Ci lovers! Today we are going to see the lighting setups of some scenes from the movie “The Assassination of Jesse James” with the legendary Roger Deakins. Without any further ado, let’s start right away with the first scene;


“The shots of Jesse James in the Undertakers were made to match some photographic references we had” Said Deakins on his website. They didn’t have a set and they really didn’t need one, as the idea was to have a very controlled pool of light. This was achieved by constructing the 10” x 5’ soft box as shown in the drawing below. The box was rigged horizontally so that the light across Jesse’s face would be quite soft and there was a 2’ ‘snoot’ that blocked the light from the backgrounds. The soft box was rigged on a simple block and tackle system so that they could change the height quite simply.
Deakins added: “I remember the ceiling of our warehouse space was pretty low so this wasn’t much of an advantage in the end. I remember we did lower the rig for the one shot where Jesse appears in the reflection of the camera lens as this built up our stop and also isolated his image that bit more.”


The lighting for this scene was provided mostly by a 5K Par mounted on the front of the train and specially rigged lanterns held by the actors.
They also had some gag lights underneath the train, little bare bulbs dimmed down, to light the steam and create the effect of this fiery red glow beneath the train. Deakins also said that they had a special-effects rig on the train that would create sparks as it started braking.

“I’d positioned some lights on Condors to rake through the trees so you’d get some sense of the trees before the train came. But about an hour before we started shooting, I decided to turn them off, and instead, we just pumped some atmosphere into the area.” He added.

Luckily there wasn’t much wind, so they could maintain a low level of smoke hanging in the air and just let the light on the front of the train provide the general ambience.

They set up a camera-platform rig with a big, soft buffer, and the train actually hit the platform and started pushing it along.
“In that particular shot, you can really see the warm glow of the bulbs underneath the engine.” Said Deakins

They also positioned a little silver reflector that caught some of the bounce from the 5K on the train, just to create some reflected light that would reveal the front of the train — otherwise, there was nothing else to illuminate it. For that cloud of steam, they put a steam generator on the train, claims Deakins.

Lighting Diagram

Inside the train, all the oil lamps had little tin hats on top of them; inside those were pieces of silver foil and a ring of five 250–300 watt bulbs dimmed down to 40% with flicker generators. Those read really well onscreen, but if you looked closely at the actual lamp it wouldn’t make sense, because the light was coming from the tin hat and not from the lamp itself.
“I chose those in collaboration with the art department because I knew Andrew (the director) wanted to do a constant movement through the train with Frank James” Deakins added.


Deakins: “The color of those reference shots was all done in camera without using gels but by dimming the sources.”

The Ballroom scene was lit with lightweight ring-light rigs that they hung from the ceiling. Those are basically concentric rings of household bulbs controlled by a dimmer, claims Deakins then he added that they hung the larger one over the governor’s table; that rig had a 10-foot ring of about 20 40-watt bulbs; an 8-foot ring with 60-watt bulbs; a 6-foot ring of 75-watt bulbs; and an inner ring with 100-watt bulbs.

Everything was back to a dimmer and run at about 40% to give warmth to the light. The color temperature was then set at around 2600K.
The ceiling was very low so they needed to frame height. There was no skirt and no diffusion. “It just wasn’t needed with such a large soft source. Sometimes when I light like this I will have the inner rings progressively lower to create a ‘chandelier’ but I didn’t have the height in this particular instance.” Said Deakins. The rest of the lighting for that scene was provided by the little globe lights you see above the tables. For close-ups, He had bounced light off a piece of card.


The sequence in and outside the barn was lit using Tweenies and Gold Stipple bounce material. The lights were warmed further with 1/2 CTO gel and flicker generators created some flicker. The background and rain were backlit using a 5K with 1/2 Blue gel. “I used a separate light to edge the characters which also lit the foreground rain,” Deakins added.

Made With The Ci-Lovers Lighting Diagram Toolkit


They got the light in the storeroom just by blasting an 18K HMI at the narrow opening of the door and flagging the top of the light. The lamp was a little high and angled down and there was a 1/4 grid between the lamp and the exterior of the door. It was also about 8 or 10 feet from the door.

Deakins: “I remember we were shooting at 2.5 on 500 ASA stock and I think I used an 85 on the camera instead of correcting the lamp, but I may be wrong about this. We shot the scene after dark so it was all artificial light. The art director had always intended to paint the room a light tone so that worked for me. The closer shots were done in much the same lighting setup. I think I softened it a little with very light diffusion over the doorway. Some of the close shots of Casey were actually done at a later time, as the director wanted a different performance, and I had to match the original setup.”

That’s all for today Ci-Lovers! I hope you enjoyed this episode. If so, feel free to share and do not miss the next episode, follow me on Instagram and Facebook or Twitter, whatever you want. See you soon Ci lovers!

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