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Lighting an outdoor parking lot for a car scene


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#1 Edrick Smith

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 03:50 PM

Hey,

I'm working on a project for someone and they asked me to find a way to light a night scene thats going to take place in a parking lot of a building. We can't use a generator or power from the building thus we need to run it entirely from batteries. We need to light an unlit parking lot area where a car will be driving and parking so it's going to start with a wide shot thus everything will need to be lit and we will also be doing close ups.

So we were thinking just doing it cheap and getting work lights of 500 watts - 1k but the issue we run into now is power. Does anyone have suggestions for power wether there's some type of DC lighting we could use instead of having to use a Inverter. Or if we're going to need to use a bunch of car batteries with a set of inverters?
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 04:00 PM

I'm sorry to be blunt, but parking lots are a dime a dozen, so find one with access to house power, because working with batteries is an exercise in frustration, especially for shooting dialogue scenes that may take a couple of hours to complete.

I can't tell you how many times I have regretted lighting scenes with battery-powered lights, except for a brief driving shot or something.
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#3 Edrick Smith

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 04:18 PM

I'm sorry to be blunt, but parking lots are a dime a dozen, so find one with access to house power, because working with batteries is an exercise in frustration, especially for shooting dialogue scenes that may take a couple of hours to complete.

I can't tell you how many times I have regretted lighting scenes with battery-powered lights, except for a brief driving shot or something.


Well that's what I was thinking would be the best solution however the person who's in charge of the shooting most probably won't agree. I'll try suggesting it to him later on today. Worse case though I'm trying to figure out a way that this could be lit without access to an AC power source.
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#4 Ralph Keyser

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 02:09 PM

I agree with David's comments on this. You would go through huge stacks of batteries trying to do this, especially if you have to light the entire parking lot.
Finding a better location with access to house power would be a great solution.

If you're stuck with that location, and looking for cheap, quiet power, you might look at some of the little Honda portable generators. The EU2000 puts out 13 amps or so continuous, and I've run 1.2K HMIs off of them all night. They are quiet enough that with a little creativity on placement, you can get sound. They rent for $30-$40 a day. Just a thought.

I have no affiliation with Honda, but I do like their gennys :)
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#5 Guy Holt

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Posted 21 January 2009 - 11:43 AM

You would go through huge stacks of batteries trying to do this...If you're stuck with that location, and looking for cheap, quiet power, you might look at some of the little Honda portable generators.


Unless you have to shoot in a moving car, I would agree that your best bet would be to use a generator. Portable gas generators have come a long way since the Honda EX5500 with Crystal Sync. Honda now makes a 6500W Inverter generator (the EU6500is) which we modify to provide 7500 Watts of power in a single 120V circuit when used with a special distro we have developed. With the right lighting package that 60A/120V circuit can go a long way toward lighting your parking lot given the extreme light sensitivity of chips these days.

If your shooting in a moving car, you would be better served by a “Battverter” rig. A “BattVerter” is a Battery/Inverter system designed to provide AC power from DC Batteries. Your area rental house might have the Kino Flo system. We offer a variety of BattVerters - from a compact turnkey 750W BattVerter to the 1800W battery/inverter rig we custom built to power four 4’ – 4 Bank Kino Flo Fixtures on an Airport Shuttle for the feature film “Shuttle” (use the link below for more details).

You can get everything you need to build a battverter at your local marine supply store. You need a DC power source (deep cycle Marine Cells work best), a DC-to–AC True Sine Wave Power Inverter, and a Battery Charger (to top off the charge on the batteries between takes). Wire these components into an equipment case and you can put it on the floor of the back seats or in the trunk of the car. I would suggest making up a lightweight "jumper cable" that you can securely attach to the leads of the car's battery. That way the engine alternator will charge the batteries as they are being discharged by the lights. Tie–ing the BattVerter into a vehicle engine will extend the running time on your batteries so much that you may never run out of power.

If you don’t require a lot of lights, a Battverter will enable you to use a car as a generator. Use the engine to run the lights through the Battverter as described above during set up and rehearsals. When it comes time to shoot a take, simply shut off the engine and continue to run the lights on the BattVerter alone. Running the vehicle engine between takes charges the batteries so that they will run lights all night.

To see how to build a Battverter, use the link below for a more elaborate Battverter system that we built to run four 4' 4 bank Kinos to light a shuttle bus for the upcoming feature "Shuttle" that was shot here in Boston on the Viper. The production stills show you pretty much how we wired it into the shuttle bus.

http://www.screenlig...lmstrip4lg.html

Word of caution: charging batteries generate Hydrogen gas. Do not use a Battverter in charging mode inside a tightly sealed car. Put the Battverter in the trunk, or rig it to the front bumper (as pictured in the “Shuttle” production stills), if you are going to use the engine to charge it while shooting.

Guy Holt, ScreenLight & Grip, Rigging Gaffer on “Shuttle”
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#6 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 21 January 2009 - 01:17 PM

I was asked to do something like this a few weeks ago. It just isn't possible without a genny or house power.

The Producer didn't want to add the expense of the genny, the fuel, and the manpower to deal with it, so we scrapped that idea and found a parking lot that had LOTS of "streetlights" that did the big work for me. Then we did get house power out of one of the offices. There was a bit of a stinger run, but I was able to light the talent and the car in the background without any problem.

But before we even got to the point, I had to tell my "eager to use batteries" Producer that it just wasn't realistic. Once we got past that, it was all about figuring out a solution that was feasible.
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#7 Edrick Smith

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Posted 21 January 2009 - 01:30 PM

Our current plan is to use a bunch of shop lights (4' florescence) and color correct. We've got 7 of them sitting in my apartment plus he's getting 3 more before we shoot plus we're renting a genny. Although it'll probably be kinda loud so we're going to have to figure that out especially since it's a night shot right in front of a residential area.
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#8 James Martin

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Posted 21 January 2009 - 02:31 PM

Having worked a lot at motorcycle racers where everyone has a generator, they're not actually that noisy anymore. Most car park will have a load of bushes somewhere or something, especially if near a residential area. Just stick it there. Shouldn't be audible from 20+ feet away, at least not for people sitting behind double-glazing.
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#9 DS Williams

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Posted 22 January 2009 - 03:09 AM

I had a shoot like this. The producer wouldn't budge.

Believe it or not, the gaffer and I and the key grip all parked our cars in front of the picture car and turned on our high beams; really ghetto but it worked like a charm. Try it.

The cars were off of course. Just running off battery. There were hardly any other lights in the garage so i didnt have to deal with conflicting lighting temperatures. The car headlights were all around thesame temp. Probably somewhere between 4 and 4.5k, since they appeared warm on my daylight balanced cam.

Good Luck!
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#10 Bob Hayes

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Posted 22 January 2009 - 09:13 AM

I shot a second unit night scene at the Down Town Los Angeles police station on “The Closer”. The plan was to use existing lighting with no genie. To our surprise the police station doesn’t turn its exterior lights anymore on because of cost of energy these days. I shot the scene with the Van head lights and grabbed all the crews’ flashlights and hid them in the planters like Malibu lights. Worked great!
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Glidecam

Aerial Filmworks

Visual Products

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