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Lighting street at night (Power Supply)


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#1 Maurizio Gaimari

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Posted 30 November 2008 - 05:25 PM

Hi i'm working on a short film and I need to light at least two street locations at night.
The film has a very low budget and I won't most probably have the option to use any ordinary power supply (home socket). It has been suggested to me that the kind of lights I will be using (HMI and Tungsten) do not always work well with generators (flickering).
Given the low budget I was thinking of using a car headlights in a creative way and also reproduce the kind of light you would normally find on a street more effectively. The film stock we'll be using is Tungsten 500, and I am not sure how car headlights will look on film.

Any suggestion on how to get around the power supply problem?
also suggestions on how to light street locations at night would be most welcomed.
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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 30 November 2008 - 05:30 PM

I've shot on the Honda Put Puts with T units without much issue. As for HMIs, the Magnetic Ballasts might have a problem, but the Electronic should be alright. We do it all the time.
For the car headlights; I don't think the headlights themselves would be bright enough, though. You can also run some smaller lights off of inverters from the cigarette lighter. Keep it under 1K though per car!
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#3 Chris Keth

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Posted 30 November 2008 - 05:39 PM

I've shot on the Honda Put Puts with T units without much issue. As for HMIs, the Magnetic Ballasts might have a problem, but the Electronic should be alright. We do it all the time.
For the car headlights; I don't think the headlights themselves would be bright enough, though. You can also run some smaller lights off of inverters from the cigarette lighter. Keep it under 1K though per car!


Careful, a lot of inverters sold at stores are only 250 or 500 watts.
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#4 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 30 November 2008 - 09:04 PM

Quite true, always make sure not to overload the inverted you have purchased. I assumed one would check that first, but it's important to be absolutely crystal clear not to overload things.
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#5 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 30 November 2008 - 09:29 PM

Your question brings up painful memories of my last student film shoot...

Tough to answer the basic lighting question without doing a scout! One street can be very different from another. I will say, headlights are kind of ugly, and they're not easy to aim.

My best advice is to try to shoot on streets that have a lot of native light, and use fast lenses.

Par-cans are a good, cheap source. If you're shooting on 35mm, you can probably get away with pushing a stop. See if you can give someone twenty bucks to allow you to run power from their store-front. Little Honda generators will run a 1.2k hmi just fine, but they do create problems for the sound dept.

If all you've got are little tungsten lights, don't be afraid to put them right in the shot. (You can always hide them with black wrap.)

Night exteriors are hard! That's when you need extra Grips and Electrics.

[attachment=4742:Pablo_ni..._smaller.jpg]


500t, super-16mm. (The picture is very compressed.) Prior to shooting this, I begged for a brighter street, but I guess there are enough street lights to just make it work. The sourcey light in the middle distance on the right edge is a 1.2k par hmi through a heavy apricot gel, and the actor is standing in a relatively low-power tungsten key + fill light, which I scrimmed down so it wouldn't overpower the street lights. Everything else is what was on the street. Our putt-putt refused to work, but we had the producer's mother's house, and a lot of stingers for power.
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#6 Alfeo Dixon

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Posted 30 November 2008 - 09:30 PM

Hi i'm working on a short film and I need to light at least two street locations at night.
The film has a very low budget and I won't most probably have the option to use any ordinary power supply (home socket). It has been suggested to me that the kind of lights I will be using (HMI and Tungsten) do not always work well with generators (flickering).
Given the low budget I was thinking of using a car headlights in a creative way and also reproduce the kind of light you would normally find on a street more effectively. The film stock we'll be using is Tungsten 500, and I am not sure how car headlights will look on film.

Any suggestion on how to get around the power supply problem?
also suggestions on how to light street locations at night would be most welcomed.


Most of my electrical knowledge has been to the lack of a gaffer and electrics on short films... that said, I've not run into a flicker problem using the put-puts from the rental houses with HMI's, but make sure your distro is correct as to most HMI's are not Edison plugs, but rather Bates. Getting close to the operating limits of the put-put will more than likely cause it to trip the breaker. They are also loud and at night its about 80% louder due to the lack of outdoor activity. We literally had to tent two in with sound blankets (leaving breathing space for air flow.) The best thing to do is call the rental house and ask them what units would work with HMI's, they will not be mad about you cutting cost buy looking elsewhere and if they do, then ask them to discount theirs so that you can afford it.

I've shot on the Honda Put Puts with T units without much issue. As for HMIs, the Magnetic Ballasts might have a problem, but the Electronic should be alright. We do it all the time.
For the car headlights; I don't think the headlights themselves would be bright enough, though. You can also run some smaller lights off of inverters from the cigarette lighter. Keep it under 1K though per car!


Car head lights work great with 500 or 800 stocks from about 10 to 20 foot range, you'll be surprised. For some reason, the Par-can light bulbs remind me of auto lamps?!? The only thing about auto lights is that its hard as hell to direct them, not to mention the are aimed to our midsections. To focus a light, an electric can jump on a stand very quickly and its done, if you use auto headlights, move the actors, not the car...
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#7 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 30 November 2008 - 11:25 PM

I actually think some of the older car head-lights were based 'round the PAR bulb. I seem to recall my old blazer (72). having something very similar to a Par bulb in it.
Anyone ever use those uber-bright xenon car lights? I'm sure that'd be an interesting, if hard to direct source. . .
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#8 Rob Vogt

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Posted 01 December 2008 - 04:43 AM

Also don't be afraid of the dark. On one of my earlier shoots we shot a night exterior and lit it too much so the lighting looked flat and had no real depth. Learn to work with natural shadows and find the depth in the blacks.
PS your Tungsten units shouldn't flicker with a genny... unless the genny is dying
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#9 Maurizio Gaimari

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Posted 09 December 2008 - 06:21 PM

Thanks a lot for the useful advice.
I'm thinking of hiring some Miniflo (Kinos), that I can use through a cigarette lighter, but have never used them before. Any advice?
Also I'm pretty sure the van I'm going to use has xenon headlights, anyone has experience of how they look on 500 tungsten film?
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