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Burning a Bridge, Night Exterior


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#1 Rick Kelly

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Posted 19 February 2007 - 11:31 PM

I'm trying to light a night scene where a 100' covered bridge will be torched in a micro budget Civil War picture. A Civil War re-enactment group will be used to stage the attack on the full size mock up and the water will be computer generated. Because there will be an audience I can't use a large genny (plus there isn?t any money) so for my key I'm limited to a couple of 1200w and maybe one or two 575w HMIs. I don't have a lot of experience with night exteriors but I wonder if I grouped them closely, and added a little diffusion if they might act as one larger light that would seem more natural in the wide shots. I'm not able to get access to the set for any pre lighting and will have only two hours on the night of the performance to set up so I'm trying to think it out in advance. Any ideas or suggestions are appreciated.

Thanks.
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#2 Michael Nash

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Posted 20 February 2007 - 03:14 AM

What video camera or film stock are you shooting with? It doesn't sound like you have enough light to get much of an exposure of the whole bridge, let alone balance to the flames. Are they really going to set the bridge on fire, or will there be some other kind of fire effect for the audience?

How are you planning on getting the coverage you need for your film, if it's staged in real time as a live event? Your shots really define what lighting setups you need.
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#3 Rick Kelly

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Posted 20 February 2007 - 05:29 PM

The film is secondary to the event. We built the bridge but don't have money for troops, horses, costumes etc. so we worked a deal with the re-enactment group.

The scene is being covered with 5 HDV cameras, 3 Canon XLH1s and 2 others. Each shooter has his/her own directions for shot coverage. There is no dialog and the coverage just shows that the troops did destroy the bridge. The dialog scenes will take place around the smoldering remains and will be lit separately. They are actually going burn the bridge (pine straw and kerosene underneath where the water normally is) and I will have some 4x8 bounce placed for some of the close-ups that are planned when the bridge is fully involved (to show our actors amongst the re-enactors).

After sleeping on it I think my hands are fairly well tied. I have 50amps at best and no pre-lighting time. I may just spread the instruments along the length of the bridge. Maybe the best I can hope for is to provide enough exposure be able to see the troops before the bridge is lighted.
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#4 Ed Nyankori

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Posted 22 February 2007 - 10:37 AM

A few years ago I shot a civil war reenactment in Savannah. I had a couple of night exteriors and only a 1200w hmi and a lowel kit. The scene was really large maybe half a football field but the location provided me with an advantage: the old fort had earthen mounds as bunkers. I was able to get the lightfixture relatively high (20' above the set) and used wide lens. This gave just enough stop and provided a nice moonlit ambience. The campfire provided the key light and i blocked the closeup to use the 1200 as a backlight.

If I had 2 1200's Id put one high and behind the bridge the other lower heavily diffused closer to the camera (yes im ingoring the five camera situation) and test the fire light ahead of time to know what to expect.

Y'all have a good shoot, now!
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#5 Rupe Whiteman

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Posted 22 February 2007 - 11:00 AM

If you shine all the lights you mentioned into one (big) diffuser frame, then remember the frame now becomes the single light source. Obviously placed with the 1200s behind the 575s.

- The problem is getting an even spread of light onto the frame for an even source, and of course by diffusing you're going to lose stop from the word go not to mention shifting hmi's forwards and backwards to fill the frame!

- If you're trying to recreate moonlight remember it is not necessarily diffused - you get good clean shadows under real moonlight conditions - the difference is that moonlight is a lot dimmer than daylight. If you group the lights (safely)together without using a diffusion frame I'd keep the 1200s at the centre. You could then add a gel for giving the hmi a moonlight kind of look - a light steel blue or combination.

At least you'll have plenty of light when the fire gets going! - some silver reflectors will be good for reflecting the flames & why not take some mirrors/mylar too..
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#6 Rick Kelly

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Posted 23 February 2007 - 07:23 AM

Thanks for the input. My main concern was getting as much light as possible with out throwing multiple shadows. I would rather have one large source (like a 6k) but I'm stuck with the small lights. We are going to white balance to tungsten so the fire will be nice an yellow/orange and the HMIs will be moonlight blue. I was thinking very light diffusion just to blend the sources. If I mount three (2-1200/1-575) on a triple-header at about 75 feet from the subject without any diffusion, do you think it will look like one source?

I'm using 4x8x1.25" styrofoam with silver foil backing for the bounce. It works great for firelight.

Edited by Rick Kelly, 23 February 2007 - 07:27 AM.

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