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no budget setup


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#1 Ari Schaeffer

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Posted 19 January 2011 - 07:46 PM

figured i'd share a gaff job i have in a day or so. very last minute, i was given a budget of 100.00. it's a performance, in a studio space, with a stage. no tech scout, no scout, was simply told the dimensions of the shooting area. basically like shooting against a cyc, only it's a red curtain, and the coverage is as wide as the space on stage (12 foot wide stage)...they also gave me a depth of 9 feet of space, but i'm not really sure if they know what they mean by that..soo...subjects are a band, playing on stage, 6 members, but the singer is the hero of the whole thing. he's also got a dark skin tone, where as the dancers will most likely be lighter.

the pluses here are they are shooting dead on, with the possibilty of maybe panning slightly but highly doubtful. wides, then meds, then tight. no other setups, no flipping a room, nada. pretty much photo studio lighting. they also said they wanted high key, soft lighting...so, photo lighting. pretty boring, but hey, whatever.

for 100 bucks, i managed to get this package for them:

1 8x8 frame + rollers + ears (or something to that affect, maybe cardis, whatever works)
3 standard c's (maybe 40s if their feelin nice, but not neccessary)
1k fresnel
100-200w something..most likely a 200w inkie, but anything 150-200 should be cool.
stingers for this
8x china silk

plot.jpg

quick n dirty plot using boyd hobbs icons (thanks man!)

first box is the stage area, black box would be where the band is..not to any type of scale, haha

a) 2, 1k fresnels, pooled into an 8x half silk as the soft, wrapping key...can be moved along the camera axis to the side for slight contrast as needed...this is going to vomit a ton of soft light, with spill (they can't afford a single flag, though, i'll prolly end up slinging duvy over it or something if i need to cut an edge...
B) 650 fnl. backlight, can be on either side, maybe just an edge, whatever looks nice..might let it spill onto the curtain a bit, will keep it a stop , 1.5 hotter then the key side and punchy..possibly opal, maybe not...
c) smaller source..maybe fill? maybe a kicker? maybe hidden in the drum kit for some backlight/underlight...haven't really decided, but this little guy will add to the overall contrast....

that's about it...super low budget...i'll try and get some stills of the footage so you can see how it turned out
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#2 Ed Conley

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 11:00 AM

Where are you located?

Iffin' yer in Los Angeles I can get you some more stuff if needed.
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#3 Ari Schaeffer

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 05:38 PM

That's mighty generous of you Ed. Sadly I'm in NYC, where it's a lovely 28 F. No worries, I honestly think I should be alright with this setup. They want high key, they'll get high key. The rental house did graciously toss in a tweenie, and I learned I have 30A circuits at this place (crazy i know), so I'm looking at 5 units, plus my bag o practical tricks. They've asked to shoot a 2.8-open so they can rack a gazillion times everywhere (no comment), so I'm trying a new lazy lighting method on this one. I'll place my key where I want it, meter, and dial up/down the iso until I've got the 2.8 or lower reading they want, then whatever ISO I'm at, that gets set in camera. It's an incredibly ass backwards way over the traditional method, but this way I can get my main source (which is key + fill in this instance) up and set quickly, and easily focus in +1 or +2 highlights with the other hard non diffused units I've got...

I personally would want to shape the light more then what they'll be getting and I'm sure be thrilled with, but I'm already bending over backwards for what they've offered to spend on g/e. Meanwhile, I'm hearing the makeup/costume budget is x4-x5...which makes me think, how exactly were you planning on seeing this art design in the dark?

Gotta love no money gigs.
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#4 Noah Yuan-Vogel

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 07:24 PM

Hey Ari, Good luck!

If you ever need a goofy no budget light kit in NYC, you know where to call. Let us know how it turns out.
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#5 Ari Schaeffer

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Posted 23 January 2011 - 10:16 AM

It went well, I'll write up an entire post mortem in here once i get some stills of the footage so people can see the results visually. Hopefully within the next few days. Space was much, much, much, bigger then I was told, but I worked my ninja skills.
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#6 Ari Schaeffer

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Posted 12 February 2011 - 09:25 PM

hey guys. so i've finally got some stills from the video so you can see what the setup looked like in camera.

to recap so far,

was called for a gig, but no scout. was told i had virtually no budget for grip/electric, but they were looking for a high key look, and also to be able to rack focus (but fairly normal length primes, so that meant wide open or almost wide open apps). the visual reference i was told was actually robert palmer's "addicted to love" which if you remember is dead on, and super high key (though with some slight shadowing being projected behind them)

i was told they'd be shooting dead on, one wall, possibly panning slightly left and right, maybe a low angle.

i asked what the widest shot was like, and was given the dimensions of 12 ft wide, 9 ft back, and a very tight cell phone picture of a curtain and a drum kit.

i came up with this game plan:

Posted Image

a) 2, 1k fresnels, pooled into an 8x half silk as the soft, wrapping key...can be moved along the camera axis to the side for slight contrast as needed...this is going to vomit a ton of soft light, with spill (they can't afford a single flag, though, i'll prolly end up slinging duvy over it or something if i need to cut an edge...
B) 650 fnl. backlight, can be on either side, maybe just an edge, whatever looks nice..might let it spill onto the curtain a bit, will keep it a stop , 1.5 hotter then the key side and punchy..possibly opal, maybe not...
c) smaller source..maybe fill? maybe a kicker? maybe hidden in the drum kit for some backlight/underlight...haven't really decided, but this little guy will add to the overall contrast....


then went to my local g/e house. i was able to get this package

1 8x8 frame + rollers + ears (or something to that affect, maybe cardis, whatever works)
3 standard cstands
1k fresnel
1 inkie
1 tweenie
1 arri 650 fresnel
1 arri 300w fresnel
stingers
8x china silk


the arri 650 and 300 fixtures were brought by the AD which I was able to add to total fixture count (though no scrim sets, props stands or replacement globes with those obviously)

when i walked into the location the space was huge. i mean, warehouse huge. the stage was 35-40 feet wide, and at least 15-20 feet deep. we're talking at least 30-40 ft ceilings as well. i was anticipating a room not much larger then the 12x9 figure i was given, so i had a bit of a small heart attack at first. to give you an idea, when i later talked to one of the folks working there, he informed me that they had another crew shooting an Alicia keys video in the space a few weeks back with a 25ft jib..

there were some advantages to this however...

to start, being a music venue they had some par cans up on in ceiling rafters. the bad news being they were all in a fixed position unless I somehow could magically pull a scissor lift out of my pocket. luckily they were all on separate switches and at least one was properly hitting the curtain behind them in the background. this meant i wouldn't need to lose one of my 650s and a stand/arm to just do that job, or try and compromise one of the 650s and split the beam into hitting as a backlight and a background light at once.

the space also meant i had the ability to position & separate with blocking (since they couldn't afford any flags for separating light) and i also had plentiful 30A circuits everywhere, which was a rare treat and meant I wasn't hunting or running cable as often as I normally do.

i set up the 8x frame with the half silk, but quickly saw that camera would be shooting pretty much in the same space as my original position for that setup. true, it'd be angled to be more side keyed but if they started traveling handheld for some movement, it'd be a problem. this meant my 2k + diff frame had to live off stage, further from the subjects then I had planned for. thankfully we weren't married to an ISO, they simply told me not to introduce noise if possible. being on a 5d, we had a decent sensor, so I was able to dial in until I hit a 2.8/4, closer to 4 split on my main subject from that soft key. there were three "planes" of subjects in the frame..the singer in the foreground, a keyboard player and guitarist in the middle ground, and then a drummer in the back. the key gave me a nice falloff until it was gone completely by the time it would reach the back curtain, which meant i didn't see any bleeding into the background. this was also great as the main subject at the front was a darker skin tone...

Posted Image

here you can see the 650 backlight doing it's thing on the keyboardist, throwing some nice contrast on the otherwise dark floor, and also giving the main singer a nice edge as well.

Posted Image

here you can see the 650 improperly focused, so it's not hitting the singer at all, and how the lack of any edge or fill from the left leaves that side in shadow.

Posted Image

a closeup. to maintain the intensity + specular highlights I was getting I wasn't able to fully fill the 8x silk, hence I created a sort of circular hotspot (i was banking 2 1k sources as a single 2k source). you can really see this in the eyelight reflection as you'd normally have a more square eyelight from a frame.

remember we're only at 3 sources at this point (the par on the curtain, the 2k/silk key, and the 650 backlight). this left the keyboardist and the guitar player a bit underexposed on the face for the directors liking. i could have walked the entire frame/2k unit back to drop the intensity on the front most subject, letting them open up a little bit more from the 2.8, thus bringing up the girls. however, they were very happy with the specular highlights and shadow strength they were getting from that key, so I instead put up my inkie on the right of frame with some diffusion (250), and then my 300 watt on the left of the frame, again with diff on the fixtures. the smaller unit went to the girl camera right, where the key was stronger, the larger unit to the girl on the left. the angle was more or less frontal to reduce introducing any new contrast/shadows on their faces and to match the angle/wrap of the 2k soft key.

they ended up bringing in 2 more subjects for the middleground, so this turned out to be the right choice anyway.

Posted Image

in retrospect i would have put up an edge/backlight on the subjects frame right, to match the the one frame left, but this was down to not enough stingers/stands left. i would have also maybe gone with a different choice of diffusion. i went with the china silk since i knew it'd only take 1 stop of light, and it still has this nice quality of giving you specular highlights while still being a diffused source. while that was indeed true, and nice with his skin tone/leather jacket/shiny makeup, i personally find the shape of the specular reflectance really off-putting..i just don't feel like it works with his facial structure..if i could do it over, i'd go with maybe a thicker material, or if i had the money, bounce/booklight from a larger source instead...

hopefully seeing the process of this job from start to finish helps some people out there...you can watch the entire video here:

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#7 Josh Bass

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Posted 15 February 2011 - 10:31 PM

Here is my not so expert opinion: LOOKS AWESOME! It has a glossy high fashion look I associate with magazine ads and music videos. Looks nicer than anything I've ever done and most of the stuff from profession sets I'm on. I don't know if this is due to the lighting, the art direction, the wardrobe, the format (film?), grading, or something else, but it looks very nice to me.
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#8 Alain Lumina

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Posted 23 February 2011 - 08:35 PM

Killer! As far as your lighting I thought there was great contrast, and you could really see the texture of the singer's skin and hair.
An absolutely insane performer ( in a good way) and you captured the aggressive sensuality. Even with the millions of musicians out there, I think you would remember seeing this video!

As far as direction I would like to have seen more of the backing musicians, the shots where the singer was interacting with them were good dramatic contrasts to
the solo shots on him.

I didn't notice any noise, which I guess is sort of the worst outcome when doing something like this.
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