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Advice on lighting an outdoor nighttime scene?

night lighting outdoor road

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#1 Megan Devaney

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 05:13 PM

Hi,

I'm looking for some advice on how to light a night time outdoor scene that is located alongside a road. There are some street lamps, but not many. This is a low budget film so looking to keep costs down. In the scene there is a conversation between two characters while walking along a path (some street lamps). There is then a crash scene (so will be able to use one cars headlights). If anyone has any ideas or tips as to the best way to light something like this I would be very grateful.

Thanks
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#2 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 06:45 PM

The main problem with exterior lighting is power. If you can access it from nearby buildings the options increase.
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#3 Matt Stevens

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Posted 28 December 2012 - 05:53 PM

It would help if we knew what you were shooting with/on and what equipment you had access to.
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#4 Megan Devaney

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 10:35 AM

We will be shooting on DSLR, probably a Canon 600D. We won't have access to electricity from any buildings. As to equipment, we are trying to figure out what we would need as we will be able to rent equipment.
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#5 Giray Izcan

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 03:39 PM

I would go for a maxibrute or t24 to light a street at night.
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#6 Hyun De Grande

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 05:54 PM

I don't know what the intended mood for the film is, but if the camera can manage it I wouldn't add too much artificial light. You already have 2 types of light sources at your disposal. Street lamps and car lights. Use them to the highest extent, especially if it's low budget. It can create a dark and moody atmosphere, whereas filling it up with a big moonlight can flatten the image rapidly (if done wrong).

Adding lights outside, without having access to nearby buildings would mean renting a generator, and a fairly big light to simulate the moon. Both are rather expensive.

But it all depends on the style of the picture...

Edited by Hyun De Grande, 29 December 2012 - 05:55 PM.

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#7 Giray Izcan

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 06:23 PM

If they're lighting a street or a larger area, they will have to rent a generator to support bigger lights.
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#8 Zachary J Esters

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 06:35 AM

Hi Megan!

It seems you happen to have an issue with budget and lighting/mobility. If you do happen to have (at the least) any lights at all that pull 2000 watts or less, look into purchasing a "Power Inverter" from Wal-Mart, online, or any other select store. Connect this up to a vehicle for mobile power, and you should be able to hook an additional light up to this. You shouldn't need to have your vehicle turned on to use power via this method, so get some extension cables/stingers and have someone "boom operate" the light and walk with talent.

Important Sidenote: If you instead try to do a moving handheld shot with no extension cables and in which the vehicle is also "on and moving," keep in mind that Sound will be an issue.

Also, if you have access to an LED panel, it is also possible for you to boom these as well, since they are generally battery operated.

Hope this helps!


Zachary J. Esters
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#9 Zachary J Esters

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 06:36 AM

Use the method above in combination with the street lamps available. And good luck!
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#10 Guy Holt

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 11:59 AM

It seems you happen to have an issue with budget and lighting/mobility. If you do happen to have (at the least) any lights at all that pull 2000 watts or less, look into purchasing a "Power Inverter" from Wal-Mart, online, or any other select store. Connect this up to a vehicle for mobile power, and you should be able to hook an additional light up to this. You shouldn't need to have your vehicle turned on to use power via this method, so get some extension cables/stingers and have someone "boom operate" the light and walk with talent..


Unless you know what you are doing, hooking a 2000W Inverter up to a car battery is a recipe for disaster. First inverters require deep cycle batteries that are designed for continuous low amperage loads. Car batteries are designed to provide high amperage for short periods of time to crank engines. A 2000W inverter will drain a car battery in no time. Also 2000W at 12 V will draw 166 Amps. If you connect it with anything less than two ought feeder cable you will start a fire. You don't want to play around with 2000W Inverters unless you know what you are doing.

One solution to Megan's dilemma is to use a portable generator like the new 10’000W Honda EB10000 with a boost transformer. 10’000W is just enough to power a good size HMI (say a 6k) to light the deep background and have enough power left over to power not only talent keys but also backlights, rim lights, and kickers to edge light your talent. A lot of productions hesitate to use non-blimped industrial generators like the new 10kw Honda EB100000 because of the noise they make. Whether you pick up generator noise on your audio tracks comes down to how you use it.

A common problem with open-frame industrial generators like the EB10000 is that by the time you move them far enough off set that you don't hear them you have significant "Line Loss" (often referred to as "Voltage Drop") from the long cable run back to set. To the problem of line loss, you have the added problem that as you add load, the voltage drops on portable generators (it is not uncommon for a generator to drop 5-10 volts under full load.) The combination of voltage drop on the generator and line loss on a long cable run can cause voltage to drop to the point where HMI and Kino ballasts cut out unexpectedly or won't strike at all. Low voltage can also cause problems such as reduced efficiency and excessive heat in equipment, unnecessary additional load on the generator, and a dramatic shift in the color temperature and in the output of lights. For these reasons, portable gas generators are typically operated too close to set where they are picked up on audio tracks.

The trick to recording clean audio with the EB10000 is to use the generator with a boost transformer that will enable you to operate the generator at a distance where it won’t be heard, yet maintain full line level on set.

Posted Image
Honda EB10000 with Voltage Select 84A Transformer/Distro and 14 Gallon Fuel Caddy

A boost transformer will enable you to add 300'- 400' of larger gauge 250V twist-lock extension cable between the generator and the transformer serving as a Distro box. This is usually enough cable to place the generator around the corner of a building, or to run it out of a van or truck - which is usually all the additional blimping you need with these generators. The heavy-duty 250V twist-lock cable eliminates multiple long cable runs to the generator and minimizes line-loss (eliminating the severe voltage drop you would have using standardelectrical cords.) And, by compensating for the unavoidable voltage drop you will have on a fully loaded generator, a boost transformer will assure full line level (120V) on set.

Posted Image

Left: Honda EB10000 operating out of grip truck (note set at distance (bright spot on right side.)) Center: 84A Full Power Transformer/Distro compensates for Voltage Drop over 400ft cable run. Right: Beach Set with 120v full line level 500ft from power source.

A good example of how the voltage boost capacity of boost transformer makes it possible to record clean audio tracks with the EB10000, even under the worst of conditions, is the indie short "Paralarva" (pictured above and below.) The film takes place around a campfire on a beach on Cape Cod. To record sync sound without picking up the noise of a generator, the crew ran our modified 10kw Honda EB10000 out of their grip truck 500 ft from their beach set. To assure full line level on set, the production used the boost capacity of our 84A Select Transformer/Distro to compensate for the line loss over the long cable run.

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Left: Beach Set lit by two 1800W Arrimaxes. Center: Secondary side power distributed with standard 100 Bates Gang Boxes. Right: Set viewed from generator (note: distance and extent of set power distribution.)

From the Transformer/Distro they then ran 100' of 4/3 Bates Extension to set where they broke out to 20A Edison receptacles using 100A gang boxes. While running the generator near full capacity with a lighting package that consisted of two 1800W Arri M18 Baby Max HMIs, several Tegra 400s, and assorted Litepanels and Quartz Fresnels, they experienced no appreciable voltage drop on set even after a 500' cable run because our Select Transformer/Distro was able to compensate for both the line loss of the cable and voltage drop of the generator under near full load.

Posted Image

Left: Ready for rain on the set of "Gasp." Center: Two 4kw Pars operate on a 10kw Honda EB10000 Generator through our 84A Full Power Transformer/Distro. Right: 100A Shock Block GFCI downstream of Full Power Transformer/Distro offers Ground Fault Protection for entire 100A distro system

By comparison, had the crew of "Paralarva" run 500' of standard 14 Awg electrical cord they would have experienced a line loss alone of 24.5V. To avoid having their 1800W Baby Maxs cut out from low voltage, they would have had to move the generator closer to set where it would be picked up on the audio tracks. This example clearly demonstrates how the boost capacity of transformers can enable you to not only place the generator further from set where it won't be heard, but also assure that the supply voltage on set does not drop too low (use this link for information about Line-Loss and how to combat it.)

Line loss compensation is just one of the many benefits to be gained by using a boost transformer on the new Honda EB10000 generator (use this link for details.)

Guy Holt, Gaffer, New England Studios, Lighting and Grip Eq. Rental & Sales in Boston

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