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Subway train lighting NYC - shooting guerilla


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#1 Raymond O'Neil

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Posted 30 August 2006 - 03:31 PM

Hi, I will be shooting a scene in New York subway this labor day weekend and I am wondering if there is anything technical lighting wise I should be aware of (I know about the cops:)) )

Camera: JVC HD100U HDV Camcorder
Guerilla. I will not have my own light. In any case, I am shooting the whole with available light.

I'd like the footage to be with contrast, but not gritty. Ideally, consistent with the attached image.

I am planning to do most of th shooting inside the train car, so I am thinking about the interior car lights, etc. Do they flicker, etc?

I'd realy appreciate your feedback.

Thank you8stones_14.png

Edited by mastroiani, 30 August 2006 - 03:35 PM.

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#2 timHealy

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Posted 30 August 2006 - 04:04 PM

Older flourescent fixtures can flicker but sometimes you may not see it when shooting film, but with your camera I would think you could see it through the eyepiece or flip out screen.

Yeah be careful of the cops. Shoot at night perhaps on a long train and keep a large enough duffle bag around to shove your camera into. But on some lines the trains are so infrequent at night that there will be a lot of people on them.

If you do get caught shooting play dumb. Tell them you are just students and you had no idea. While shooting films on the subway one needs a permit, I don't believe you need a permit to do video. You could stress that point. But playing dumb and apologizing will work most of the time.

Best

Tim

Edited by heel_e, 30 August 2006 - 04:07 PM.

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#3 dr_gonzo

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Posted 30 August 2006 - 08:15 PM

Older flourescent fixtures can flicker but sometimes you may not see it when shooting film, but with your camera I would think you could see it through the eyepiece or flip out screen.

Yeah be careful of the cops. Shoot at night perhaps on a long train and keep a large enough duffle bag around to shove your camera into. But on some lines the trains are so infrequent at night that there will be a lot of people on them.

If you do get caught shooting play dumb. Tell them you are just students and you had no idea. While shooting films on the subway one needs a permit, I don't believe you need a permit to do video. You could stress that point. But playing dumb and apologizing will work most of the time.

Best

Tim



I've shot guerilla style on the subways many times shooting film and video. I would advise that you shoot on a train thats usually empty and relatively police free. I've had no problems shooting on the G, and the NW in the burroughs.

Also you can always look into shooting with an LED light that you can rigg off batteries that you can carry in a fanny pack.

Good luck.
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#4 Raymond O'Neil

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Posted 31 August 2006 - 03:42 PM

Thank you for your advices! I will keep them in mind.

I am planning to shoot on #1 train (red line) the night of Labor Day... I figured this would be the realtively quiet time since people wouldn't normally go out that night (I hope).

I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
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#5 John Pytlak RIP

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Posted 31 August 2006 - 04:32 PM

Thank you for your advices! I will keep them in mind.

I am planning to shoot on #1 train (red line) the night of Labor Day... I figured this would be the realtively quiet time since people wouldn't normally go out that night (I hope).

I'm keeping my fingers crossed.


The big issue with the authorities will be due to security concerns. Reportedly terrorists often gather information about potential targets by shooting videos, so if you get caught, you may have some explaining to do. Getting a film permit may be lots less hassle.
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#6 Raymond O'Neil

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Posted 31 August 2006 - 04:37 PM

The big issue with the authorities will be due to security concerns. Reportedly terrorists often gather information about potential targets by shooting videos, so if you get caught, you may have some explaining to do. Getting a film permit may be lots less hassle.



Hi John,

I used film permits for my previous episodes... that was until I went broke and couldn't afford it anymore... of course NYC film permit is free for general city shoots, but what you have to pay for is the insurance. If you don't have insurance you will not get a permit. Insurance for general street shooting is ranges from $200-500 per day for my type of no-budget shoots. As for the subway - forget it. They require minimum 2 milion in insurance and there is long wait from subway authorities to get the permit. Shortly, its a lot of hassle.

I also have a valid student ID that I can show to the police and my actor has a dimplomatic immunity (he is a dimplomat), so if they want to arraign us as terrorism suspects I'd say go ahead - there is no justice any longer :)
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#7 timHealy

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Posted 31 August 2006 - 06:40 PM

The big issue with the authorities will be due to security concerns. Reportedly terrorists often gather information about potential targets by shooting videos, so if you get caught, you may have some explaining to do. Getting a film permit may be lots less hassle.


Hey John,

I would normally agree with getting a permit so that you plan professionally and you lock in your locations. The woman one has to deal with in the MTA to gain a permit is difficult and even when she caters to large studio films she can be difficult as well. I agree with mastrioni on this one, that in this case if one wants to shoot in the NYC subway with a video camera and a couple of actors, it will be easier to just go and do it. But don't get complicated trying to use supplimental lighting. Keep it simple.

But certainly in a post September 11th environment, it may be a bit harder, and there are many people who are paranoid about terrorism issues. Like the Jet Blue people last week who made and arab american who wore a t-shirt with english and arabic writing on it. They said "wearing a t-shirt like yours to an airport is like wearing a t-shirt with "I'm a bank robber" on it to a bank."

Most NYC cops deal with all sorts of issues all day and are busy. If they catch him and he doesn't have a permit, they probably will tell them to get out of the subway and leave it at that. A cop in a small town with nothing to do may have more reason to go through with an arrest. But I think he should do it low profile and play dumb about permits if he does get caught.

As a side note I think the MTA does make it easier for video shoots as opposed to film shoots for all the news channels and the the various video crews doing NYC b roll stuff for video producers over the world.

It wouldn't try it so much on a PATH train as the trains are shorter and the PATH stations seem to be better patrolled and monitored than the NYC subway.

Best

Tim

Edited by heel_e, 31 August 2006 - 06:42 PM.

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#8 Rik Andino

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Posted 31 August 2006 - 07:05 PM

Hi, I will be shooting a scene in New York subway this labor day weekend and I am wondering if there is anything technical lighting wise I should be aware of (I know about the cops:)) )

Camera: JVC HD100U HDV Camcorder
Guerilla. I will not have my own light. In any case, I am shooting the whole with available light.

I'd like the footage to be with contrast, but not gritty. Ideally, consistent with the attached image.

I am planning to do most of th shooting inside the train car, so I am thinking about the interior car lights, etc. Do they flicker, etc?

I'd realy appreciate your feedback.

Thank you8stones_14.png



The Labor-Day Weekend is a very busy weekend to be shooting guerrilla in the subways...
If you must shoot--stay away from Manhattan as much as you can.

As for the flourescent lights, they can flicker depending on the ballast and your framerate...
You're shooting vid so like someone mentioned you can see on the monitor the effects.
You can bring some battery powered lights to augment the lighting or some bounce-boards...
But if you're looking to stay guerrilla the lest the better.

Most of the lighting will be top lighting so be aware of this.
Bring somethings to create negative fill if you're looking for a contrasty image.

Most important to note is to be quick & alert if you waste time you may be caught.
Some police officers may let you slide but some may not--so you should avoid getting caught.


Good Luck

The big issue with the authorities will be due to security concerns. Reportedly terrorists often gather information about potential targets by shooting videos, so if you get caught, you may have some explaining to do. Getting a film permit may be lots less hassle.


John getting a film permit from the MTA is difficult and expensive.
That is why most low-budget filmmmakers shoot in the subways guerrilla style.

Getting a permit from the MTA can take a month and can cost over $2000 a day.
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#9 Raymond O'Neil

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Posted 01 September 2006 - 01:19 AM

Guys, I am planning to shoot the night of the Labor Day - Monday. My rationale was that not too many people will go out on the last day of the Holiday weekend; plus its Monday anyway - not a busy night in general.

I am keeping as low of a profile as possible. It will be only me, the actor and a crew member who will be simply present in the subway car and will act as a passenger. So in reality, cops would only notice my actor and myself.


I am planning to use the #1 train (uptown direction) as it goes thru Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood. We will be either in the very first or last car of the train. From my experience there are seldom any people there especially late at night (around midnight).

I won't use any additional lights, only available lights.

Per your suggestion I will adjust the frame rates. Its a B&W film, but I am planning to use Paolo Ciccone's recipe (True Color V3) for keeping as much information on the tape as possible for post-production purposes.

I will post the production stills later if anyone is interested.

Again, thanks a lot for your advices and good wishes. I appreciate it very much.
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#10 timHealy

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Posted 01 September 2006 - 04:59 AM

Good luck.

I think that is a good night to try it too. the city is quiet over the summer months with so many people out of town: school is out, people are on vacation, the ones who work go to their beach houses on weekends on the jersey shore and long island.

Best

Tim
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#11 JD Hartman

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Posted 01 September 2006 - 06:40 AM

Reading all the suggestions and distilling them down, I would: keep the camera in a bag, duffel, cardboard box and just expose the lens; use available light with bounce boards small enough to be slipped into large shopping bags; ride near the center of the train, so you have a chance to spot the police and evade them; shoot a camera test; claim ignorance if caught.
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#12 Dan Salzmann

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Posted 01 September 2006 - 07:58 AM

+1 on the bounce boards.
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#13 Kristy Tully

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Posted 01 September 2006 - 03:30 PM

I just shot some spots for IMF, an international music channel in February, on the nyc subway, on video. You sound like you already know the deal. I shot without anything, just a camera, a sound person who would hook into my camera at the last second, an actor and director. We were low profile. Had the camera in a napsack, shot on the Q going to brooklyn. We had tried to get a permit, and wasn't able to because of a movie already that was shooting that day doen there. We had shot in Grand Central Station earlier in the day, with a permit of course, and decided to take our chances with the subway. The lights on the train were fine. There wasn't contrast of course, but I was able to crunch the blacks a bit later. I wouldn't bring anything to supplement or create negitive fill with you. I shot a music video on the subway the year before. Just me and the director with PD150s. We were stopped by the police and were just told that we couldn't continue. ( It helped that Robbin Tuney was in our video and they wanted her autograph). So, we moved it above ground, but got a lot of great shots first.
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#14 timHealy

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Posted 05 September 2006 - 05:35 PM

Hi, I will be shooting a scene in New York subway this labor day weekend and I am wondering if there is anything technical lighting wise I should be aware of (I know about the cops:)) )

Camera: JVC HD100U HDV Camcorder
Guerilla. I will not have my own light. In any case, I am shooting the whole with available light.

I'd like the footage to be with contrast, but not gritty. Ideally, consistent with the attached image.

I am planning to do most of th shooting inside the train car, so I am thinking about the interior car lights, etc. Do they flicker, etc?

I'd realy appreciate your feedback.

Thank you8stones_14.png


How did it go? Or can you not check cinematography.com from housing provided by the NYPD?

Best

Check
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#15 Raymond O'Neil

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Posted 05 September 2006 - 10:07 PM

Hi Tim, luckily I escaped the "long hand" of the "justcie"... :) It was quite easy actually... But I just woke up. We came back around 5 Am in the morning and I had to work in the morning.

Yesterday, I went to the subway around midnight to shoot my episode. I was alone with one actor and a friend who was helping me with transporting camera and a tripod... yes a tripod which I used for about 15 minutes!


We took #1 train from 125th Street toward uptown until the last stop in the Bronx. I didn't wait for the train to become empty and started shooting. No one paid any attention (you gotta lova NY). Then we took the same train toward downtown and thus made loops up and down for about 5 hours... There were no cops to be seen anywhere, either on platforms or in trains. I was shooting pretty openly.

I managed to shoot almost everything I needed (about 80%) and I am planning to go back sometime next week to get the finishing details.

I used Paolo Ciccone's True Color V3 settings for my camera and shot with available light (no bounce board, etc). F2 stop.

There were some nice color exposures and light plays, but I have to discard color anyway...

here is the link to the screen grabs from RAW footage.

Again, I want to thank everyone on this forum for their advice and support. It was enormously helpful.

http://server6.theim...php?album=16716
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#16 timHealy

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Posted 06 September 2006 - 07:52 AM

looks good. nothing looks like the subway like the real thing. I would have prefered to have a very small eyelight but that is just me. when one is runnin and gunnin, theres no time for some things. Perhaps the lights in the tunnel give him flashes of light in his eyes occasionally. I'm surprised you brought a tripod. that was bold.

what kind of camera were you working with and any settings or filtration? Are you planning to desaturate?

Best

Tim (or call me "check". I have no idea why I signed that last post "check")
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#17 Raymond O'Neil

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Posted 06 September 2006 - 10:47 AM

looks good. nothing looks like the subway like the real thing. I would have prefered to have a very small eyelight but that is just me. when one is runnin and gunnin, theres no time for some things. Perhaps the lights in the tunnel give him flashes of light in his eyes occasionally. I'm surprised you brought a tripod. that was bold.

what kind of camera were you working with and any settings or filtration? Are you planning to desaturate?

Best

Tim (or call me "check". I have no idea why I signed that last post "check")



Hey Tim, thanks. I used JVC HD100U camera. The setting are Paolo Ciccone's True Color V3 (there is a thread on this forum somewhere with the settings, or you can go here http://www.paolociccone.com/Paolo's%20Site.html


I didn't use any filters.

I am shooting a black and white film so I will have to discard the color. I shot in color to retain maximum data for post manipulation.
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