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Lighting a Doc


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#1 Jason Hamilton

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Posted 12 February 2006 - 02:58 AM

I'm looking at shooting a documentary and I need a little help with the best way to light things on the fly. I'll be shooting with a dvx100b and i'll be in dark bars and clubs quite a bit which is why i need a quick and easy lighting solution that will give good results for a one man crew.

all help is appreciated thank you
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#2 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 12 February 2006 - 07:15 AM

In clubs and bars I usually just use a few smaller lights and gel them to match the practical lights then use a soft fill light. This way if you catch one of your own lights in shot it doesn't look out of place.

You want to be lighting at a level that the club's own lights do register, but your lights give shape and sufficient illumination to your subjects. That mightn't be a full exposure on the face, but something that fits the atmosphere of the location, small amounts of back light can often help. You need to be careful of cables and make sure that the lights are secure, there'll be quite a few people well under the influence and there's a good chance of them having an accident.

If you put a light on your camera, you tend to find that people in clubs will play up to you. If you want to blend in more I'd use the pre-rigged lighting method.
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#3 Tim J Durham

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Posted 12 February 2006 - 08:53 AM

I'm looking at shooting a documentary and I need a little help with the best way to light things on the fly. I'll be shooting with a dvx100b and i'll be in dark bars and clubs quite a bit which is why i need a quick and easy lighting solution that will give good results for a one man crew.

all help is appreciated thank you

As a one man crew, you need to travel light. I'd just take one Litepanel LED battery light and one stand. You can always find a spot in a bar that can provide one point of light from practicals. Then you can use your LED light as a key, fill or an edge light.

It's important to suss the place out beforehand if you can. If you try to set up three or four lights in a crowded bar by yourself, you're gonna be sorry. It's a documentary, don't try to over-slick it. Your biggest worry is gonna be sound anyway.
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#4 Tim J Durham

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Posted 12 February 2006 - 09:54 AM

Here are some interviews I shot for my college football doc. All are one-light interviews where the light was used as an edge light:

Davon.png
Combs.png
Tamba_1.png
Tony.png

So they're not perfect, but you need to balance making it look as good as you can while also being light on your feet and fast. Time is money and the more you can do in one location, the less $$ you spend. In documentaries, money is a rare commodity.

Next post- NO-light interviews.
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#5 Tim J Durham

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Posted 12 February 2006 - 10:04 AM

Here are some NO-light interviews from the same doc:

Richard.png
Phil.png
Rocky_1.png

So that's the idea. You need to spend as little time lighting as possible because you have a TIGHT budget and a tight schedule and you need to pack in as much content as you can. In that way, you have to think of doc shooting in a way that is opposed to shooting a feature.

(Obviously, these have not been color-corrected yet so...)

EDIT: It occured to me that this is actually NOT the opposite of shoooting a low-budget feature, you're trying to get as much done as you can while trying to make it look as good as possible. It's just that in a doc, you would usually err on the side of packing in more content and in a feature you might err on the side of spending more time making it look better.
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#6 Greg Gross

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Posted 12 February 2006 - 11:13 AM

If your're looking for "newsy" style look,you could use a light on camera.
If thats too hard you can diffuse it some. Actually a photoflood in some
type of reflector could get the job done. Of course it depends on actual
look that you want. You could also use a china ball on a stick which would
allow your gaffer to position light almost wherever you want it. Its a little
vague here to me as to exact quality of light you want. These lights would
allow you to move quickly and I presume you do not want to waste time.I
believe your LED lights are a little on the blue side. Actually using one light
for key and fill would allow you to model a little bit and would require even
light to all edges of source.

Greg Gross
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#7 Tim J Durham

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Posted 12 February 2006 - 03:35 PM

Of course it depends on actual look that you want. You could also use a china ball on a stick which would
allow your gaffer to position light almost wherever you want it. Its a little vague here to me as to exact quality of light you want. These lights would allow you to move quickly and I presume you do not want to waste time. I believe your LED lights are a little on the blue side.

A "one-man crew" implies that there would be no additional gaffer (or grip) so my advice was based on him having to do it all himself. The sreenshots I posted were examples of what you can do with one battery-powered light and proper positioning of your subject. In a crowded bar, it would be a benefit to have no A/C cables to run, tape down, trip over, worry about. Using the room you're in to maximum advantage, etc. Not perfect- but certainly acceptable. IIDSSM.

As for LED lights being "on the blue side", they are only on the blue side if that's where you want them.

Actually using one light for key and fill would allow you to model a little bit and would require even light to all edges of source.

Greg Gross

I have no idea what this means.

If you DO get to add an additional crew member, I would strongly suggest it be a sound person (no offense to all the gaffers/grips out there). In documentaries, audio is much more crucial than lighting.
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#8 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 13 February 2006 - 05:18 AM

It's extremely common for a two man documentary crew to carry a basic lighting kit. This usually consists 3 or 4 lights usually, around the 500 watt to 800 watt (1000 watt units in the US) range. One man news crews also often carry a light 2 or three light kits, usually they don't use them but they carry them for interviews.

Our local community TV station's director/camera people working as a one man crew take 3 x Arri 300 spots fitted with 500 watt bulbs; a few of them take a small Chimera.

You don't need an electrician or grip for a basic lighting set up and you can do some basic rigging yourself, just make sure that you've put a safety strap on and no one can trip on the cables (ensure that the cables a long enough, don't over stretch them, otherwise there's a good chance the light will be pulled over). If there's a chance of that happening you should find someone to oversee the areas at risk. Unfortunately, I haven't worked with an electrician on the lower budget documentaries for some time, only the higher budget docs have budgeted for one.
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#9 Andrei Butica

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Posted 13 February 2006 - 05:59 AM

if u are doing a documentary then i guess you want to catch reality as it is in those locations, so i would advise that you use as less light as possible, maby none at all for the wides, and for the closeups try to catch the caracters in some ligten spot of the location, if that is not enough than I would use a small 500W on the faces directed so that it would give the propper detail and seem to be coming from a source that is actually in the location, lateral ligtins seems to work most of the times. But than again, it all depends on your aproach to this doc from the cinematography point of view. Good luck
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rebotnix Technologies

Broadcast Solutions Inc

FJS International, LLC

Wooden Camera

Paralinx LLC

Tai Audio

CineTape

Aerial Filmworks

The Slider

CineLab

Technodolly

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Metropolis Post

Abel Cine

Visual Products

Ritter Battery

Willys Widgets

Rig Wheels Passport

Opal

Glidecam