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Lighting for Night


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#1 M Joel W

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Posted 09 August 2007 - 03:32 PM

Hi, I need to light "dark mysterious woods" tonight (and in the future) for a feature I'm shooting. It needs to be dark since it's horror and we want it to seem like the monster could be lurking there.

I'm using a slight blue tint for moonlight so I'm shooting with a 575w HMI with CTO 1/4 or 1/2 for the background light and using motivated tungsten sources for the key and fill on the foreground foreground plus a very soft and dark backlight on the talent and foreground.

Will this work? We have access to a 1.2k HMI if that works a lot better. Shooting video around 500-800ISO.

Also, could I just use inkies with 1/2ctb scattered throughout the woods to give a hint of depth? Are there any good articles online about shooting woods at night (on a budget).

Thanks,

-Matt
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#2 Michael Nash

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Posted 09 August 2007 - 04:28 PM

I would keep all the lights the same color temperature, if the only source is supposed to be moonlight. Having your key and fill warmer than the the bluish background will tend to make your foreground look artificially lit, unless that light is specifically motivated by a warmer source.

Generally in the woods you need a ton of light, just so you can back the units farther away and have the output carry farther and more evenly. Inkies will only help for very small areas, but you can use them. Use whatever you've got!

The problem with shooting in the woods (especially at night) is finding a place that's open enough for shooting and lighting, yet still looks dense enough to look like you're in the woods and not in a clearing. Trees shadows are always a problem, even with the biggest units.
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#3 Dan Salzmann

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 08:10 AM

Good advice from Michael and don't forget you need to power all those lights which can mean long, long cables (colour shifting red) and/or generators.
The woods at night and low budget do not go hand in hand.
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#4 Rupe Whiteman

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 05:19 PM

... I'm doing this exact kind of thing on a low budget horror film shoot tomorrow night... I've got a couple of 1.2HMi's with a 'genny plus a few smaller hmi's for bounce/fill... It helps me too that a couple of the characters will be using small hmi torches too... I'll probably warm the bigger units up with 1/2 cto and may try giving the smaller hmi fillers a bit of a green tint to suggest they're moonlight bounced back from the surrounding foliage...

... I'll try and take a few digital stills if I've got the time...
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#5 Douglas Sunlin

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 05:40 PM

Good advice from Michael and don't forget you need to power all those lights which can mean long, long cables (colour shifting red) and/or generators.
The woods at night and low budget do not go hand in hand.

Do longer cable lengths cause the light to be redder?
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#6 M Joel W

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 05:55 PM

... I'm doing this exact kind of thing on a low budget horror film shoot tomorrow night... I've got a couple of 1.2HMi's with a 'genny plus a few smaller hmi's for bounce/fill... It helps me too that a couple of the characters will be using small hmi torches too... I'll probably warm the bigger units up with 1/2 cto and may try giving the smaller hmi fillers a bit of a green tint to suggest they're moonlight bounced back from the surrounding foliage...

... I'll try and take a few digital stills if I've got the time...


We're essentially no budget, unfortunately, so all we can afford to rent on top of a basic arri softbank kit and some inkies is one 575w or 1.2k fresnel (and sometimes just a few tungsten 1ks, which we shoot without gels then tint the footage blueish in post). We have a generator but are avoiding it because it's loud. I'm considering just running the 1.2k through a big diffusion frame and some branches then lighting the rest with photofloods in china lanterns for fill, which we'll move around the scene as necessary.

Also, I didn't know cables made lights turn more orange. Is this because the longer cables work as dimmers? I know longer cables draw more wattage, since this is a problem we face frequently on set.

Oh, and I'd appreciate the stills (and any advice regarding diffusion without losing too much light) very very much.

Edited by Matthew Wauhkonen, 10 August 2007 - 05:59 PM.

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#7 Michael Nash

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 06:09 PM

Also, I didn't know cables made lights turn more orange. Is this because the longer cables work as dimmers?


Yes, exactly. It's called "line loss," where the resistance of the cable itself start to act like a big dimmer (resistor type). The voltage drops, causing a color temperature shift in tungsten. With your HMI you could have problems getting the ballast to strike.
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#8 Paul Bruening

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Posted 11 August 2007 - 02:15 AM

You can lose as much as 7 Volts per 100ft. of line feed (less if the line is bigger (thicker)). If you're shooting video then just white balance to match. If you're shooting film then blue filters can be hard to judge without a color meter.

Since you are shooting this kind of story, back lighting or rim lighting is easier and keeps both backgrounds and foregrounds inherently obscured leading to more of the kind of viewer reaction you might seek. As well, tighter shots and slightly longer lenses reduce the area of lighted foreground and background that you have to put into frame. I hope your director is a practical person and available for compromise. It's when they want those big, Musco type shots that you start getting heartburn.
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#9 M Joel W

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Posted 11 August 2007 - 11:11 AM

The woods is unfortunately so insanely thick (and I mean insanely thick) that we've found backlighting nearly impossible in almost all locations. It turns into pure shadow within ten feet. We haven't noticed much color shift so we'll probably just time it out in final cut, but I'll keep it in mind. We also only have one 20 amp circuit (and sometimes not even enough extension chords) for a lot of scenes so CTB cuts too much light in most situations.

The director wants mostly wide angle jib shots for night exteriors to convey expansive space, but thankfully we're friends and have worked together a lot before--and he has a background in cinematography about as much as I do so he understands what's possible and what's not. Not to say we've been having an easy time, though....

You can lose as much as 7 Volts per 100ft. of line feed (less if the line is bigger (thicker)). If you're shooting video then just white balance to match. If you're shooting film then blue filters can be hard to judge without a color meter.

Since you are shooting this kind of story, back lighting or rim lighting is easier and keeps both backgrounds and foregrounds inherently obscured leading to more of the kind of viewer reaction you might seek. As well, tighter shots and slightly longer lenses reduce the area of lighted foreground and background that you have to put into frame. I hope your director is a practical person and available for compromise. It's when they want those big, Musco type shots that you start getting heartburn.


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#10 robert duke

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Posted 11 August 2007 - 03:00 PM

Try Running strings of xmas lights in the background. The gaffer for x-file used to do this to separate layers of depth for the background. Just run a couple strings in the far background. the strings will be out of focus and give a sense of depth. They are low wattage and cheap.
you can also try using stake lights like people use in landscaping to up light trees in the near background.
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#11 M Joel W

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Posted 12 August 2007 - 02:21 AM

Try Running strings of xmas lights in the background. The gaffer for x-file used to do this to separate layers of depth for the background. Just run a couple strings in the far background. the strings will be out of focus and give a sense of depth. They are low wattage and cheap.
you can also try using stake lights like people use in landscaping to up light trees in the near background.



That's an awesome trick and I'll remember it next time I'm shooting on a larger format, but our 1/3'' sensor won't get that out of focus enough to read except as christmas lights (since we're shooting almost all very wide angle). That is a really sweet trick, though. The stake light thing is pretty awesome and I'll check it out. Thanks for the help.
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#12 Rick Shepardson

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Posted 01 September 2009 - 08:08 PM

Try Running strings of xmas lights in the background. The gaffer for x-file used to do this to separate layers of depth for the background. Just run a couple strings in the far background. the strings will be out of focus and give a sense of depth. They are low wattage and cheap.
you can also try using stake lights like people use in landscaping to up light trees in the near background.


This is a very interesting idea. Would he use bluish lights for moonlight? Or, would it primarily be to simulate tungston light in the background?
It seems that blue lights would need a lot more power to register.
I'm asking because I'm in a similar situation as the original poster.
Thanks,
Rick
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