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Shooting boats on a lake at night


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#1 Eric Lin

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 09:58 AM

Hi all you lovely people.

I'm shooting a feature this summer with a few scenes that involved kids rowing a boat at night with a fair bit of dialogue. The setting is a tourist summer lake town upstate so at night I imagine things to be pretty dark in terms of available light in the background. It's an indie film on a budget so we can't afford to bring in big guns to light up the lake, etc. I'm imagining doing some combination of practical shooting for wide shots and some sort of poor man's process where we we fake the movement of the boat at night outside or in some sort of studio like setting. I'd appreciate any advice or examples of similar setups that people can provide, especially any pitfalls people encountered. ASC had a great article on WINTER'S BONE doing something similar and that's what I'm basing my approach on but would love to hear alternative ideas.

I haven't scouted the location yet but our main location is a large lake house with a small dock, so for the wides maybe doing some lighting from land out into lake is one idea for the wide shot.

Any advice would be super helpful!

Thanks!

Best,
Eric Lin
NYC
DP
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 10:28 AM

I'd consider doing the wide shot at twilight so that there is some background detail, maybe with one light on the boat from shore, then figuring out how to recreate that dusk-for-night feeling in poor-man's process on land. If you use longer lenses for the coverage then perhaps a wall of trees in the far background, lit-up but out-of-focus, will provide the fuzzy blue-ish details you need. You may want to try the old bouncing a light into a pan of water trick to create ripples of light in the shadows of the faces, to keep the feeling of water.

If you want to get fancier, you could try to create a fake silhouette of a tree line against a glow on the horizon behind the actors' heads, perhaps with a 20'x20' day blue with just some light glowing the base and some greens and cardboard cutouts in front of that in silhouette.

If you only have one shot at the dusk-for-night wide shots, then get two boats, one with a set of doubles, so that you can put the doubles in a boat far off from shore for a super-wide shot and the other boat nearer to shore, off to one side, for a medium-wide shot... then you aren't waiting to move the far boat around while the light is fading.
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#3 Eric Lin

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 10:34 PM

David, thanks for the great advice, as always.

Your fancy horizon idea is inspired. For poor man's I've only always done moving lights, never actually trying to create a background element. I hope to get a chance to try it. Though in this case of creating a BG or in just lighting up the background, do you think audiences will miss a sense of motion in the BG?

Double boats should be easy to get and will be a big time-saver.
Thanks again!
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