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Shooting Campfire at Night


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#1 Mark Heim

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Posted 02 July 2006 - 02:27 PM

I'm shooting a short in about a month that all takes place in a campsite. We are going to use 7205 for our daytime shots, and 7218 for the night stuff. It will all be shot with just the light from a campfire. I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions for how to get enough light. We are going to be deep in the forest and we are low budget, so power is not really an option. Except something that can be powered from a car, like mini flo. Also what is the color temp of a camp fire? How does push processing work with the 18 stock? We will be shooting S16mm

Thanks for any help
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#2 Michael Nash

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Posted 02 July 2006 - 03:01 PM

I'm shooting a short in about a month that all takes place in a campsite. We are going to use 7205 for our daytime shots, and 7218 for the night stuff. It will all be shot with just the light from a campfire. I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions for how to get enough light. We are going to be deep in the forest and we are low budget, so power is not really an option. Except something that can be powered from a car, like mini flo. Also what is the color temp of a camp fire? How does push processing work with the 18 stock? We will be shooting S16mm

Thanks for any help


We've discussed campfire lighting many times before, so search the archives for more info.

You'll probably be able to get a low exposure near a decent size campfire, but campfires can be unpredictable sometimes. The don't always stay at the same level for very long, depending on the fuel, distribution of logs, etc., plus they can put out a lot of smoke that can blow into actor's faces unpredicatbly and be hard to shoot through. You might look into using those compressed-fuel fireplace logs like Duraflame, I use them in my fireplace and they're very consistent.

As for getting enough light, you'll probably want to supplement the actual light with reflectors or mirrors, and possibly a secondary small fire off camera somwhere (maybe supported in something moveable like a small Hibachi).

Firelight is around 1800 degrees Kelvin, and will look similar to full CTO on a tungsten light while shooting on tungsten-balanced film. For exposure and pushing, you'll really have to test to find the look that suits you. If you expose properly for faces lit by the fire, the flames will just burn-out white on film. And if you close down a little to keep some color in the flames, you'll lose exposure on subjects surrounding the fire.

But if you're lighting by the campfire only and you're struggling for enough exposure on faces near the fire, then how would the viewer even be able to tell you're deep in the woods? The background except for nearby objects and trees would just go black. You could shoot the nightime campfire scenes at a location that's closer to a power source or road where you can stage a vehicle or generator.
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#3 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 03 July 2006 - 08:42 AM

Like Michael says - this has been discussed a lot on this forum.

But generally: flames are notoriously brighter than one thinks - to get a good flame that isn't burned out you have to stop down a lot more than you think. Just to give an inkling - last time I did it I was at around a T4 on 125T film...

This obviously presents a problem - how to keep faces lit by fire if you want juicy, orange-y flames? You either light their faces (which can look lit and unrealistic), or you let the flames do the lighting and live with the flames turning white.
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#4 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 03 July 2006 - 12:34 PM

"except something that can be powered from a car"


If you already indicate that you can get a vehicle in there, then you could run some small units, say
inkies,
off an inverter and run a 100' stinger or so so that you shouldn't pick up any audio from the car idling.
This might help with part of your situation. I often use a 700w inverter but I wouldn't put more than 600w
on it and it does beat on your alternator a bit, no matter what they say.

Perhaps with the small units, which if gelled are going to be even weaker (but perhaps you can get them
in close) you can expose for the orange flames and still get decent light on the campers' faces without
having them look too obviously lighted. If you have some helping hands , people often dangle strings
or something in front of the lights to create a flicker effect on faces. There are other ways of course but
that's an easy cheap one. Good luck.
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#5 Phil Curry

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Posted 03 July 2006 - 01:04 PM

"It will all be shot with just the light from a campfire. I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions for how to get enough light. We are going to be deep in the forest and we are low budget, so power is not really an option. "

Use propane powered flame bars. The color and filcker match campfire light, but can provide enough brightness. Use two or more to light into the background or for an edgelight.

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#6 chris kempinski

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Posted 04 July 2006 - 10:27 PM

phil, that's brilliant.

My suggestion would be to full and half CTO the head lights of the car, flag off the spill and have someone waive their hands in front of the light, creatively.
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#7 Bob Hayes

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Posted 05 July 2006 - 11:33 AM

We are going to be deep in the forest and we are low budget, so power is not really an option.
Thanks for any help


If you can get a car near the location then you can get a small generator to the location. I?ve shot plenty of small projects with just a 2k generator. Although a 5,500 would be my choice for this project. Put it at least 100? from the set and place a 4? x 8? plywood board between it and the set. Us it to give some light to the forest and perhaps a back light to the scene.
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