High-Key Fitness Lighting

As a DP, I get asked all the time about lighting stages. There’s a plethora of tutorials on lighting white cycs and green screen, so I wanted to take those basic concepts and give a real-world example of that same style of lighting as applied to a fitness set. In fitness, you want high-key, soft lighting that’s even throughout a large space. You want little to no shadows, and you also want to be able to have your subject at the same exposure whether standing, sitting, or lying prone on the ground.

This was a pretty large set, 35×18 ft, plus we also had windows in the set that I put some lights through, as well as branding that we put accent lights above.

Equipment Used

  • 6 Mole LED Spacelights w/skirts, 400W (2K equivalent)
  • 6 Kino Image 80s w/5500k bulbs
  • 6 4ft 4-bank Kino Flos w/5500k bulbs
  • 6 Mole Baby LEDs, 5500k
  • 3 1k Arri Fresnels

Method

I know, this looks super complicated. Bear with me, though, and I’ll take you through it pretty simply. We hung the spacelights from a grid above the set (most studios will have a pre-built grid, but in this case my grip team had to build one from scratch). The spacelights were skirted with silk to diffuse the light, with a silk target on the bottom of each as well. All were daylight balanced. The spacelights brought an even exposure to the main action area in the center of the stage, and did so perfectly – that’s why they exist!

My gaffer, Ken, having a ton of fun working to set this all up.

Next, we’ve got the front of the stage lined with Image 80s on combo stands, a little above head level and angled a hair downward. Sitting on the ground underneath each of these were the 4-banks. Together, these provided exposure from the front on our talent, otherwise when they came forward from the spacelights they’d be backlit. The Image 80s hit our talent’s faces and bodies, while the 4-banks filled in their legs and feet (or their whole bodies when they were prone on the ground).

For the windows built into the set I had three Arri 1K fresnels, one for each of the three large windows. These windows were frosted plexiglass, which worked to heavily diffuse the light and create a pleasing bloom of light on the “glass.” Two Mole Baby LEDs added to this effect with two smaller windows on the back of the set, and they were flown high and stacked on top of two 1Ks.

Finally, we used three Baby LEDs pointed downward to accent the brand’s logo on the wall, and one rigged high to provide a backlight for our main talent.

Keeping an even exposure, even when on the floor

It was a lot of lights, but necessary to get the high-key look we were going for. Overall, the concept is pretty simple: spacelights to fill the large workout area in the center, Image 80s and Kino 4-banks to fill in talent from the front, and then some accent lights around the perimeter. You can scale this up or down; in a small enough space with one talent you can just use soft front light (and maybe a hair light) and don’t need spacelights overhead. In your own work, feel free to also change out for different fixtures: Image 80s can be subbed for Skypanel S-360s, Celeb 450Qs, or any sort of large, soft source. Make it yours!

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