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Lighting a beach scene at night


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#1 Timothy Reynard

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Posted 29 November 2010 - 07:39 AM

Hi there. I am currently in pre-production on a World War Two feature and am just doing some research. The first scene in the film is on a beach and sees two British Commandos swim to the shore of a beach past some rocks. The only narrative natural light is the moon and the torch of a German patrolling soldier. Please could someone give me advice on the best way to shoot this scene? I was thinking potentially kino flos and a 2.5-5k EMI, any thoughts? Thanks in advance for any help anyone can give, anyone who gives excellent advice will get a complimentary LIGHTING CONSULTANT credit on the film. Best, Tim.
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#2 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 29 November 2010 - 08:51 AM

It really depends how wide you want to go. With that rig you'll manage an area on the beach, but you won't light an entire beach, unless it's very small one.
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#3 Timothy Reynard

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Posted 29 November 2010 - 09:05 AM

It really depends how wide you want to go. With that rig you'll manage an area on the beach, but you won't light an entire beach, unless it's very small one.


Hi Brian,

It's just a small section of a beach. Probably about 20 metres by 20 metres plus about 10 metres of the sea. Will try to upload a picture soon.

The rig that I mentioned in my first post is the maximum we can get but if we can use less lights, that would be brilliant. We have one wide shot at the beginning, then the rest are medium close-ups.

Best, Tim
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#4 Timothy Reynard

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Posted 29 November 2010 - 09:15 AM

Hi Brian,

It's just a small section of a beach. Probably about 20 metres by 20 metres plus about 10 metres of the sea. Will try to upload a picture soon.

The rig that I mentioned in my first post is the maximum we can get but if we can use less lights, that would be brilliant. We have one wide shot at the beginning, then the rest are medium close-ups.

Best, Tim


Please find the image attached, albeit a drawing and during day. The red dots indicate the maximum area we will have in frame.

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#5 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 29 November 2010 - 10:55 AM

What are you shooting it on?
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#6 Timothy Reynard

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Posted 29 November 2010 - 02:34 PM

That's still to be properly determined, but more than likely HDV.
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#7 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 29 November 2010 - 02:54 PM

I suspect you may need something more sensitive than a 1/3" HDV camera.

It would best to get some height for your moon HMI. Also, bear in mind that the tide will come in and out, which might affect your lighting distances if your light is (as I suspect it will be) positioned off the beach. Plus it could create problem for your continuity.
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#8 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 29 November 2010 - 09:48 PM

That area seems to be WAY too large for the minimal lighting you have available. Ideally, you'd boost the ambient level with some kind of balloon or other large soft units for the wide masters and then add fill with smaller closer units for the closeup work.

If you can't get units to light that large of an area, then perhaps consider shooting at magic hour or day-for-night. Magic hour is likely your best bet so if the work will exceed what you can accomplish in one "day," then plan on spreading the work out accordingly and returning to the location as needed.
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#9 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 30 November 2010 - 04:19 AM

Yes, the dusk for night works extremely well, it's the method I tend to use on these types of project. On a moonlit beach you do see the horizon. You can then use the smaller lights for CUs to give some shape. Although, the cameras I've used are more sensitive than the HDV cameras.

You might get away with the small light rig using the HMI as backlight because the sand and sea are pretty reflective. However, there's a good chance of the lighting levels dropping off at the edge of frame.
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#10 Edgar Dubrovskiy

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Posted 30 November 2010 - 06:05 PM

Also, maybe shoot from the sea towards the shore with some silhouetting of the soldiers against the German torch...
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#11 David McDonald

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Posted 01 December 2010 - 12:23 AM

Also, maybe shoot from the sea towards the shore with some silhouetting of the soldiers against the German torch...


I'm assuming this is low budget so you're probably not going to have access to the lighting equipment that would be ideal. You would ideally want big lights like 12ks or 18ks. I recently worked on a film that was shooting on a beach at night like this and we only had a couple 1.2k HMIs and it did NOT work. It looked like the actor was standing in a studio with lights pointed at him. Everything in the surrounding area was pitch black. What we plan to do to pick that scene up is shoot evening/day for night stuff since there isn't much budget for the lights we would want. As long as you don't see a bright sky or the sun, you can get away with quite a bit if you have a good post-person that can deal with blue-ing it up and darkening things.

Also, I dont think shooting HDV is the best idea...though if I knew the specific camera I could comment better. I would personally shoot with a DSLR (5D/7D) if I were you, since the low light abilities are probably the best for a situation like this with a low budget.
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#12 Ram Shani

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Posted 02 December 2010 - 07:28 AM

hi

i have an idea maybe you can take a 5k and bounce it to like 3-4 big mirror that become your light source and you will get 3-4 sources out of one and if you put them (the mirror ) on stand you can adjust them to where ever you like. and that way you will cover much more bigger space
then you can take same lights to light the house at the back ground to give more depth
you can use fire in same places if it right for the scene

one more thing you can do is to built a tower or put your big light on one of the rooftops and movie it like it's a light house lamp

smock can help you a lot with back light

find the biging of this scene form "Apocalypse Now
see how storrero light it with one light and smoke


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#13 James Neihouse

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Posted 03 December 2010 - 12:54 AM

Shoot it on the Canon 5D with a fast prime lens, you'll get the most out of your small lighting package and the limited depth of field on that camera will help hide other problems you may encounter.
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#14 Timothy Reynard

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Posted 03 December 2010 - 06:22 PM

Thanks for everyone's help. Coincidentally, I was thinking the Canon 5D too, however unfortunately due to our limited budget (mainly on flipping uniforms and props!), it looks like we are going to be shooting on a Z1. We'll be using a .7 wide angle lens. We are going to be trying to use a light blue kind of colour palette for it, probably doing this via a light filter. We also have access to potentially 6 redheads and a dedo too. What kind of lighting setup would people suggest, ie. locations and choice of lights?
Thanks again for everyones invaluable help.
Best, Tim
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#15 Timothy Reynard

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Posted 03 December 2010 - 06:30 PM

By the way, we have significantly reduced the maximum amount of beach to be shot, it will now be about half of that. Cheers.
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