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Night Time Shooting with no key lighting


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#1 Nick JB

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 12:36 AM

Hi everyone,

I'm about to commense photography on a music video in which members of the band are seen wondering around a fairground at night. Due to restrictions in budget and by the mobile nature of the project, I am being forced to shoot cinema verite (hand-held, documentary style) with no lighting equipment able to be plugged in to light my subjects. I am shooting on a reasonable HD camera and will be able to set some shots up on legs.

I am basically a little afraid though about the obvious lack of key light and what that might do to the quality of the picture and the detail in the actors' faces. The background for the location is reasonably well-lit in places for a night-time shoot (bright fairground lights in contrast to night time sky) and I want to be able to be able to see some of the background detail, without totally losing my actors in foreground. Unfortaunately the site itself is fairly dimly lit when it comes to the action I need to shoot in focus and I am scared the whole thing will look really flat if I just expose for them. I am wondering what might happen in terms of noise, etc. if I push the gain in order to properly light the actors in foreground and is there anyway to avoid or minimise a really noisy image?

I am also considering exposing for background and coming up with some sort of hand-held lighting equipment to light up the actors that won't look ridiculously unnatural. Does anyone have any techniques or unusual pieces of lighting equipment that will enable for me to seperate my actors from the background and get some detail in their faces? At a budget....?

Any advice would be really well-appreciated.

Nick.
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 12:39 AM

Some HD cameras are noisy or less sensitive than others so it would help to tell us what camera you are using.

More gain = more noise.

Can you plug anything in or does every light have to be battery-powered?
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#3 Nick JB

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 01:23 AM

A bit more info:

Shooting with the Sony F900.

Cannot really plug anything in as we will be wondering around shooting when there are actual members of the public present in the fairground. The owners of the fairground are very reluctant for us to use elaborate lighting set ups, generators, etc. We do not want to draw any unwanted attention from the public either and thus big lights are not an option.

I figure that subjects are shot in lower lighting conditions in documentary film all the time. Most of my background though is in drama and I am used to have lighting set ups at my disposal. How do doco makers/doco-style filmmakers get away with it at night?

Nick.
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#4 jeff woods

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 01:29 AM

Do you have any way to bounce light from existing sources?

On the cheap, I have used sheets of foam insulation, that have silver on one side, as a effective and lightweight bounce.

Something like this is around 20 bucks.

-j
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#5 Gregory Middleton

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 01:53 AM

If you need to be very mobile and can't plug stuff in try a battery powered light.
If you are shooting with a little gain like +3db then a small battery powered light will do a lot. You can even bounce it into a flex/fill or white card for close ups.
Just because you are carrying a sun gun style light or an Arri 125w Pocket Par doesn't mean it has to look like news. Strategically place your key to not be too flat and not too bright to overwhelm your background.

Good Luck

A bit more info:

Shooting with the Sony F900.

Cannot really plug anything in as we will be wondering around shooting when there are actual members of the public present in the fairground. The owners of the fairground are very reluctant for us to use elaborate lighting set ups, generators, etc. We do not want to draw any unwanted attention from the public either and thus big lights are not an option.

I figure that subjects are shot in lower lighting conditions in documentary film all the time. Most of my background though is in drama and I am used to have lighting set ups at my disposal. How do doco makers/doco-style filmmakers get away with it at night?

Nick.


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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 02:05 AM

Fast lens wide-open, +3db gain, 1/32nd shutter (if at 24P), you should capture a lot of fairground light.

Augment with some bounce cards and boucing some battery-powered lights into the card, diffusing them, also can consider on onboard LED light like the LitePanels Micro for a little bit of fill (not key).
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#7 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 02:49 AM

You could have three or four grips holding 12v dedos while wearing battery belts, and maybe put a chimera on one of the lights. Have another grip walk around with a bounce card. Done. ;) Good idea exposing for the background, it shouldn't be too hard to bring up the foreground. You probably only want to pick out a few key spots anyway, not light up the whole thing.

Gregory's right, lighting with a sun gun doesn't have to look flat. I had to shoot a city street night exterior scene verite-style on Super-8 64T (6fps, 220 shutter = approx. 200ASA, 24fps, 180 shutter). I had one 100w tungsten on-camera light with a battery belt. The scene was a john picking up a hooker standing on the sidewalk of a downtown city street. I ended up motivating the key light as if it were from the headlights of cars passing by, so I had a grip hold the light off to frame left and spin around in place so that the light moved on and off the actor: http://www.flickr.co...57615007329660/. I grabbed the frames off the web and they're heavily compressed, but you get the idea.

Edited by Satsuki Murashige, 09 March 2009 - 02:53 AM.

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#8 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 05:31 AM

Will you be doing a lot of wide shots of the band members? That would be my biggest lighting concern. I assume you'll be a real skeleton crew since you'll be in the middle of a real fair, so keeping a low profile is a really sucky factor.

But if it's a lot of CU & MCU shots, try getting a chinaball hooked up to a battery. Keep it a bit sidey, and you'll still have some nice contrast with a soft key. It sounds like there should be enough practical light around for fill and enough happening in the background to create some separation. If it isn't too intrusive to the fair people, perhaps another grip on a sungun for an occasional backlight.

Since David has chimed in, it reminds me of the details he provided after shooting a scene at a fair in "Astronaut Farmer": http://www.cinematog...h...513&hl=fair
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