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Lighing for a TV pilot - HD


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#1 3C Studio

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Posted 30 November 2006 - 08:28 PM

Hey guys,

First time here, great info so far, though.

I'm in a bit of a bind. I co-own a little amateur production studio. There are only a couple of us here, but we have access to other PA's, etc. Now for the major question; we have a client who wants to do a half-hour television pilot for a script he wrote. It's a drama, for the most part, about the stories that take place within a record store and a coffee shop (they are two seperate stores, but they share a half-wall, so it's almost one big area). The budget is around 20-30K and a good 10K of that went to purchasing TWO Sony HD cameras (the new hvr-v1u coming out in december). The rest of the budget allows for, get this, only $3,000 for lighting. and that's being generous. Stylistically, we don't want anything too difficult (a relative term in lighting) - something "gritty" but not too dark. Think CSI or ER. Same type of camera movements/shots as well. Handheld on a stabilizer at times, sometimes on a tripod. Probably heavy on medium shots, but always a variation. Usually at least three people at a time, sometime up to 5 or 6 (there's a scene with band playing at the cafe with a crowd, but we can light that similarly). We'll be SHOOTING at night mostly, but only because that's when the space will be available to us. Some shots need to be set in the daytime, some need to be at night, but generally, it's time-ambiguos (so kinda daylight). I know I put myself at risk for saying this but, we're more experienced in setting up shots and shooting things than setting up the lighting, SO, that said, take it easy on us.

What in Gordon Willis' name do we use to light a space 40'x100' (?) per room - cielings are 16'-20' high (with pipes and vents adorning said cieling, no drops, or nothin - except the flourescents that come with the building).

I hope that's enough info. just keep in mind, there may be a lot of moving camera. Thanks.

Evan
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#2 Tim J Durham

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Posted 30 November 2006 - 08:59 PM

Stylistically, we don't want anything too difficult (a relative term in lighting) - something "gritty" but not too dark. Think CSI or ER. Same type of camera movements/shots as well. Handheld on a stabilizer at times, sometimes on a tripod. Probably heavy on medium shots, but always a variation. Usually at least three people at a time, sometime up to 5 or 6 I hope that's enough info. just keep in mind, there may be a lot of moving camera. Thanks.

Evan


When you say pilot, is this commissioned or are you doing it on spec hoping someone will like the idea and pay you to produce it? Either way, sounds like you need to use available light as cleverly as possible. Have a big china ball on a grip arm that you can hang over the center of your group shots and keep your group gathered around it (but not directly under it) so you can move the camera and have everyone lit similarly.

If you plan to move around a lot, it's pointless to try to do too much beyond the available light without a budget and/or serious expertise. You might spend the money replacing the overhead tubes (fluorescents, I assume?) with 5600k tubes and you can take the reflector off of a 200 or 400 watt joker bug HMI and drop that down into your china ball so it will match the daylight overheads. Just make sure the bulb doesn't touch the sides or you'll have a comet in the middle of your actors.. That way, you can use the same lighting for your daylight scenes.

That's where I'd start.
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#3 John Hall

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Posted 02 December 2006 - 01:57 PM

$3000 is by no means a paltry lighting budget. I've seen people do great stuff with less.

How many shoot days do you plan in this location? If you schedule it over a weekend, you could have Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday night on one days rate from a rental house.
You will probably also find them to be fairly acommaidating to low budget productions, and you may be able to get a good rate on the gear, or a one day week or something.

If you could post some photos of the space, or give some more details about ceiling height, location and size of windows, it would help to give advice specific to your situation. Does your show take place in the daytime, nighttime, or both.

I would start by controlling the available light in the location.
I would use polytarp to cover your windows. One $40 roll should do them all.
I'd also use duvetine to put skirts on the flourescents, in order to keep them off the walls as much as you can. The lower you make the skirt, the more each unit will have a seperate 'pool' of light.
If you find they are still too prominent, or too flat, try turning off (probably by taking out the tube) of every other light.

As Tim mentioned, the colour of the store's flos will be a problem, but replacing them with daylight balanced tubes will be expensive and time consuming. And since your shooting at night, working in daylight doesn't make much sense.
Your best bet would be to balance your lights to the store's flos (there are many forums here with gel recipes to match lamps to particular types of flourescents) and then colour balance your camera to that.
You could gel each of the flourescents to tungsten, which may not be a bad idea if there aren't too many units.

As far as lamps go, I would rent an assortment of small fresnels (maybe 6x650's, 4x200's) to do things like backlights and little hits on the walls and background.
maybe get a 1k or two as well, but keep in mind power will be at a premium
I would rent a couple Sky High stands and some grid pipe to hang lights on. Then you can raise them over and behind the talent with outhaving any stands in shot.

To key with it may be worth getting some kinos since they put out a lot of light at very little power, and power will probably be at a premuim at your location. China balls are also a great idea as they are cheap and provide great key or fill light.

Round off your package with several C-stands, a large and small flag / net kit, some assorted clamps & hangers, a couple hand dimmers, some expendables (tape, blackwrap, duve), an a-frame ladder.

Without mortaging too much dignity (begging), you might be able to get that package for under $1500 a day, and like I said earlier, you maybe be able to get a one day week from a rental house (everything except maybe the Kinos), and you'll be good to go.

Also do yourself a favour and pay a relatively experienced lighting/grip person at least a token sum to help you. I gaurentee they'll pay for themselves in productivity and overall quality of your show.

Sorry if this sounds rushed through and full of typos, this is the second time I've wrote this. I was just about to post before and I clicked one of those ads on the right, when I pressed 'back' I had lost everything. :(
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#4 3C Studio

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 02:29 PM

thanks guys - great stuff, we've asked a couple other people too, and gotten very similar responses. (mostly that renting this is the way to go). I should point out that we are not getting paid for this, but rather, in exchange for our work, we'll get the equipment he purchases - so our intention at first, was to try and buy all the eqp't we can, but it looks like, for the greater good of the project, we may have to rent some stuff. We also contacted a local gaffer/electrician as per suggestion and we'll get a good idea of what we're really up against by the end of the week. Thanks guys.

Please check back sometime next week in case i have any more questions, you've been very helpful.
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Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Rig Wheels Passport

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Wooden Camera

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The Slider

Technodolly

Aerial Filmworks

Broadcast Solutions Inc

CineLab

Metropolis Post

CineTape

Abel Cine

Ritter Battery

rebotnix Technologies

Opal