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Advice - exposing and lighting for winter snow shoot


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#1 Matt Pacini

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Posted 27 August 2007 - 06:14 PM

It's a low-budget 16mm shoot, with probably 50% of the shots outside in the snow, and probably 80% of those at night.
I guess I just want some general pointers.

Plus, can anyone suggest a way to light a fairly large area cheaply? I mean, that really looks good, not a handful of shoplights or whatever. It's about 1/2 an acre, surrounding two cabins, all snow, with thte treeline starting at the periphery, if you can visualize that.

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#2 timHealy

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Posted 02 September 2007 - 08:43 AM

I shot one film in Vermont during the winter and the thing that I took away from it the most was that it was always easy to find a nice shot with the sun. It was always low in the sky and never had the straight above noon look that one tries to avoid during the summer.

Snow makes a bounce all over so it may be great for some shots or you may want to keep that in mind if you want to use negative fill.

Technically the cold was an issue. I had to keep batteries inside my coat with a cable running down my sleeve and sometimes (when it was -5 degrees fahrenheit) I had to run my SR for a minute before a take without the mag. Then put the mag on and shoot the take.

Your wide shot depends on many variables like can you do a tie in or is there enough money for a generator? Is there a building nearby where one can put lights on a roof and use it as a lighting platform? Is there enough money to rent one large HMI? or it may be cheaper to rent several 12 light maxi brutes. Both would require a hefty tie in or generator. If you are trying to do it cheap and easy and have power from the two cabins I would suggest several 1k par cans with firestarter bulbs. Then with high stands or from scaffolding paint the area with the par cans. You dont have to light the whole field, just enough so that you can see your scene and it will have areas of light and dark to make it look good.

Or can also try low house hold bulbs in the distance to suggest something in the deep background past your field if that would be appropriate. Jim Denault used that technique (although) it may have been a 750 with a small generator) in Boys Don't Cry and Janusz Kaminski did a variation in the ferry scene of War of the Worlds with a string of bulbs (I think they were 250 watts) across the river in the ferry scene.

You could also try balloons but they might be out of your budget, take time to fill, transport tanks, and might not be a good idea depending on the weather and wind.

Also you may want to shoot your wide shot when there was a bit of light in the sky so that the sky doesn't go completely black and you can see the horizon. If your looking west the best time to do that would be at night. If your looking east the best time would be in the morning before sunrise.

Best

Tim

Edited by timHealy, 02 September 2007 - 08:46 AM.

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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 September 2007 - 08:54 AM

You can't get around physics -- you need "X" amount of footcandles to light a certain size area at night to get enough exposure for your lens and film stock combination. There are a number of solutions to create a big single source over a large area but they are all relatively expensive and generally require a generator, a large powerful light of some kind, and a way of getting it up in the air like a condor crane.

Luckily with snow you can be more underexposed and hold detail.

One solution to eliminating the crane would be to find a location at the base of a convenient hill with a road at the top to put a light on a stand.

The cheapest solution would be to shoot wide establishing shots at dusk for night and then use large soft sources in close-ups to continue the effect at night. You could bounce up into a large frame of white cloth or string a bunch of Chinese Lanterns around with daylight compact flos or blue photofloods.
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#4 Chris Keth

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Posted 02 September 2007 - 02:39 PM

You might try to place a source such that it reflects off of the snow and basically right into camera. That might let you give the illusion of more light than you really have. The trick will be finding a suitable place that isn't in the shot.
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