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Building a Lighting Package for First Feature


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#1 Ryan Kroboth

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 04:34 PM

Hello All,

 

Our production company has been slaving away for many months to prepare for our first feature film.  The film is a dry comedy with a relatively low budget.  Being as this is our first feature, I don't know precisely what equipment will be adequate to produce a polished project, keeping in mind our budget and time expenses.  My lighting style typically is pretty minimalistic, but with the scope of this project, and the number of different scenes/scenarios, I want to make sure I am prepared for whatever we might have to tackle.  So here are a few considerations regarding the film:

 

-Not a very large budget with a modest crew, so very large lights and genny trucks are out of the question

-Being a comedy, I would like to shoot at least at a f4, don't want everything to be too shallow

-Shooting on the Alexa w/ Ultra Primes

-100% location shoots, NO studio.  That being said, 98% of the film is inside, and of that 98%, a majority of the scenes take place in relatively small spaces (such as houses), though the larger locations (concert venue, large restaurant, banquet hall) all take place at night, so I shouldn't need quite as much light, as I want to keep the natural ambiance of the space, just obviously light it for the camera.

 

That all being said, this is currently what I have written in for a lighting package:

 

HMI:

2 - Arri M18                  

2 - Arri 1200 Fresnel  

1 - Jokerbug 800 

1 - Jokerbug 400

 

Open Face:

1 - Arri 2000+

3 - Arri 750+

 

Fresnel:

2 - Arri T1 1000w

3 - Arri 650w

3 - Arri 300w

3 - Arri 150w

 

Fluorescent:

2 - 4x4 Kinos

1 - 4x2 Kino

1 - 2x4 Kino

 

LED:

2 - Litepanel 1x1

2 - Arri Locaster

 

As previously stated, I try to make my lighting as minimalistic and naturalistic as possible, with practicals playing a big part, but at the same time I never settle for less than a polished look (not a fan of just going with what light is available).  That being said, I try to light primarily with the tungstens and HMIs, and only really use Kinos if I can't fit a light where I want, or need a subtle fill (I hate overlighting with Kino's, because the image looks too plastic-like to me), and the last thing I want is for our film to look like a product commercial, oversaturated and plasticky. The LEDs are just there as a backup mainly if power becomes an issue (tho we will have a 6500w genny), and also for some interior lighting on a few car shots.

 

So yeah, those are my two cents.  I would appreciate any advice anyone has, as I have never shot a feature before.  I just want to be as prepared as I can be, as time is critical when shooting time comes.

 

Thanks!

 

-Ryan


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#2 Bart Hawkins

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 05:42 PM

Hi Ryan,  

 

I have been a filmmaker for 20+ years and I love to help out other filmmakers whenever possible.  I have never seen anything like the Hexolux lights before. They are truly revolutionary LED Fresnel lights.  The Hexolux lights are designed by two veteran cinematographers with optical, electrical and structural engineering backgrounds.  Thus they have developed the ultimate cine light with over 25 new innovations to cinema lighting.  The lights are based on sacred geometry of hexagons, making it the easiest, fastest, most modular light system in the world.  It has the highest CRI, most light output on target, most efficient, lightest weight, and most flexible lighting system on set.  It is super easy and fast to make a larger array of lights, so that you have less to load in, more to work with, faster set-up times, more production per day, and no generator required.  We also have the world's first HMI replacement with both V mount and Gold mount battery option.  

 

I would love to help you out on your production, just email me at bart@hexolux.com.

 

Cheers

 

Bart Hawkins     


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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 05:54 PM

The package looks good to me, just make sure you also have some paper lanterns...

 

Personally, I'd add:

 

-- at least one Joker 800 Source-4 Leko and two 750w tungsten Source-4 Lekos for bouncing and for hot slashes of light.

 

-- two 1.2K tungsten PARCAN's (VNSP "fire starters") -- a lot of punch for minimal power.

 

-- one 4' 8-bank Image 80 Kino (if you plan on using Kinos for large soft keys).


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#4 Ryan Kroboth

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 06:26 PM

Thanks David,

 

Paper lanterns I somehow completely missed, so thanks for the heads up, that could be very useful.  As for the Lekos, do you normally have certain heads dedicated to the Lekos, always on standby, or fix existing lamp heads to a Leko on a per-needed basis? I guess I ask because in the past, we've only ever transformed, say, our jokerbug 800 into a leko when we needed that defined ray, but for time saving, I guess it may be smart to order another Joker to avoid the pain of assembling the fixture.  I have a few PARCANs sitting around, but I'll make sure we have the ones with maximum punch.  Finally, for the Image 80, I haven't worked with those much, and I'm not entirely sure our rental house in town has them (limited here in Pittsburgh), but I'll definitely check them out.

 

One further question, do you think it is a complete mistake to not have any larger fixtures like 4k HMI or above in the package? Based on my smaller locations, I am limited, and by the budget, but I don't want to skip out on anything that can potentially improve the overall look I'm going for.


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#5 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 06:59 PM

Depends what you're doing for power, really - what's the plan?


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#6 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 07:29 PM

What David said, but I'd also change the 1200 HMI fresnels for Pars.

 

As far as larger lamps go, I think you'll be very pleasantly surprised by the output of the M18s


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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 07:36 PM

Sounds like he is limiting himself to household power, Phil, so 20A circuits probably.

 

I'd get a dedicated Jo-Leko, the alignment of the bulb / adaptor is too critical to be constantly messing with it.


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#8 Ryan Kroboth

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 07:38 PM

Depends what you're doing for power, really - what's the plan?

 

The current plan is to run the majority of units of house power, with a 6500w portable genny (20A edison and 60A bates inputs) ready when needed.  I'd rather not deal with a large distro system because of time and manpower constraints, also because the smallest tow-away genny the rental facility has is 600A, which is plenty more than I need.

 

What David said, but I'd also change the 1200 HMI fresnels for Pars.

 

As far as larger lamps go, I think you'll be very pleasantly surprised by the output of the M18s

 

Yeah, I really am a fan of the M18, I haven't used them extensively, but their punch is incredible.  Are you suggesting the Pars just to have more punch at my disposal? I haven't worked with those lamps much, only the fresnel, so I'm not as familiar with their light quality, especially compared to the M18.


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#9 timHealy

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 09:34 PM

I would also get a 1x1 light panel at least daylight if not bi color. Or a Zylight IS3 or celeb 200.

 

and a daylight LED brick.

 

If you are using a EU6500 make sure you understand what outlets are hot when in 120 or 220 modes. It takes a bit of rereading if you are not familiar with the machine. Honda really should label the panel better right out of the box.

 

Tim


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#10 Guy Holt

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 09:38 PM

.... do you think it is a complete mistake to not have any larger fixtures like 4k HMI or above in the package? Based on my smaller locations, I am limited, and by the budget, but I don't want to skip out on anything that can potentially improve the overall look I'm going for.

 

Yes!  As long as there is a sun and moon in the sky there is the need in my humble opinion for a large HMI like a 4k on interior and exterior sets because smaller HMIs (even the M18s), Kino-Flos, & LED panels don’t come close to balancing direct sunlight in day light scenes or covering deep background in night scenes. For powerful daylight fill on exterior sets, to create the feel of hard sunlight on interior sets, or to light deep background on night exterior sets, the dual wattage Arri M40 with Max reflector is an invaluable tool on low budget productions because it will operate off a modified Honda EU6500is (pictured below) or off of regular wall outlets with a transformer/distro.

 

 
HD_PP_System_Complete.jpg
A 7500W Honda EU6500is with transformer/distro & what can be powered on it

 

The Max reflector of the Arri M40 not only will give you more output than a traditional par,  but is also extremely versatile. When you need a lot of light for fill on day exteriors you can lamp it with a 4k globe. The light output is crisp enough to cut a hard window pattern for day interior shots. And, when you don’t need the punch of a 4k Par, like on a night exterior, you can swap the 4kw globe for a 2.5kw globe giving you more power to run additional lights on a 7500W Honda EU6500is with transformer/distro. The 15 Amps you save by burning the smaller 2500W globe will power quite a few more lights when you consider that a Kino Flo Parabeam 400 uses only 2 Amps. For example, it is possible to power a lighting package that consists of PFC 1200, & 800 HMI Pars, a couple of Kino Flo ParaBeam 400s, a couple of ParaBeam 200s, and two 4'- 4 Bank Kino Flo Tegra lights, in addition to a Arri M40 (with a 2.5kw globe) off of the modified 7500w Honda EU6500is Generator with a Transformer/Distro. Given the light sensitivity of the Arri Alexa this can constitute a complete night exterior lighting package. When you have a camera system like the Arri Alexa, that offers a large image sensor, interchangeable lens capability, and is capable of an ASA of 1000 without noticeable noise, you don't need much more light than can be run off a modified 7500W Honda EU6500.

 

For details about powering the new Arri M40 4k HMI on wall outlets and portable generators read an article I wrote on the use of portable generators in motion picture production.

Harry Box, author of “The Set Lighting Technician’s Handbook” has cited my article in the just released Fourth Edition of the handbook. In addition, he has established a link to it from the companion website for the Fourth Edition of the Handbook, called “Box Book Extras.” 

 

BoxBookLinkGenSetSm.jpg

 

If you haven't yet read the article, or looked at it in a while, it is worth re-reading.  I have greatly expanded it to be the definitive resource on portable power generation for motion picture production. Of the article Harry Box states:

 

"Great work!... this is the kind of thing I think very few technician's ever get to see, and as a result many people have absolutely no idea why things stop working."

 

 

"Following the prescriptions contained in this article enables the operation of bigger lights, or more smaller lights, on portable generators than has ever been possible before."

 

The  “Box Book Extras,”  site is also worth checking out because it includes other source material used for the handbook, articles by Harry Box published in other periodicals, related websites, a list of production oriented i-phone apps, as well as more in depth discussion of topics touched upon in the handbook. You can log onto the Box Book Extras site at http://booksite.foca...ox/setlighting/  with our pass-code "setlighting." Use this link for my news letter article on the use of portable gas generators in motion picture production.]

 

Guy Holt, Gaffer, SceenLight & Grip, Lighting and Grip Rental & Sales in Boston.


Edited by Guy Holt, 08 August 2013 - 09:40 PM.

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#11 Ryan Kroboth

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 01:26 PM

I would also get a 1x1 light panel at least daylight if not bi color. Or a Zylight IS3 or celeb 200.

 

and a daylight LED brick.

 

If you are using a EU6500 make sure you understand what outlets are hot when in 120 or 220 modes. It takes a bit of rereading if you are not familiar with the machine. Honda really should label the panel better right out of the box.

 

Tim

 

Tim, I have two Litepanel 1x1 bicolors budgeted, as well as the 2 Arri Locaster LED bricks (which have a wide range of color selection).  Thanks for the heads on the EU6500, I'm 95% positive that is the generator our rental facility carries, so that is good to know.

 

 

Yes!  As long as there is a sun and moon in the sky there is the need in my humble opinion for a large HMI like a 4k on interior and exterior sets because smaller HMIs (even the M18s), Kino-Flos, & LED panels don’t come close to balancing direct sunlight in day light scenes or covering deep background in night scenes. For powerful daylight fill on exterior sets, to create the feel of hard sunlight on interior sets, or to light deep background on night exterior sets, the dual wattage Arri M40 with Max reflector is an invaluable tool on low budget productions because it will operate off a modified Honda EU6500is (pictured below) or off of regular wall outlets with a transformer/distro.

 

 

Guy, I've seen that article on power distribution before (I also own the Set Lighting Technicians Handbook), it is very informative and ridiculously detailed.  You do raise a good point though, at the very least, a 60A transformer like that could pose to be very useful, because many of our locations supply many of those 240v higher amperage receptacles, and that would alleviate a lot of time worrying about distro and tripping breakers throughout a confined space.  I am highly considering this option.

 

As for the 4k, I do agree with you as it's usefulness, especially when retaining consistency of a 'skylight' coming through the window.  We don't really have the need for deep background in night exteriors, as there are very few, and what ones there are take place in areas that naturally pose good lighting contrast, and outside daylight fill isn't entirely critical, there is essentially only a handful of shots that are exterior day.  That being said, it would be a nice light to have around for when I need it.  It comes down to the ability for the budget to compensate for it, because it's not exactly a cheap light.  I will definitely run this by my producer.


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#12 Guy Holt

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 08:54 PM

As for the 4k, .... it would be a nice light to have around for when I need it.  It comes down to the ability for the budget to compensate for it, because it's not exactly a cheap light.  I will definitely run this by my producer.

 

Even if you decide not to use a 4k, you may still want to use a transformer/disro to power the Arri M18s on the Honda  and house power.  The reason is that the Arri 1800W ballast has a nominal Apparent Power of 2250VA (2600 Max  according to the ballast manual) which means it will draw 19.5 amps  at 115V.  Arri is guilty of a bit of hyperbole when they claim the Baby Max is “the brightest light that you can plug into the wall.”  Lately, they have been footnoting that claim as follows: ““Into the wall” denotes a single, 20A 120VAC electrical outlet on a single circuit.” The reason for the footnote is that many wall outlets are on 15 Amp circuits, and those that are on 20 Amp circuits probably use receptacles only rated for 15 Amps. It will also trip the common 15amp house circuit and will trip a 20 Amp circuit if there is something else, like a computer or light, on the same circuit.  Where you can't always know what else is on the same circuit, or even if it is a 20 or 15 Amp circuit when you plug into a wall outlet, it is risky to plug the Baby Max into the wall. 

 

Even if you were to find a dedicated 20A circuit (by unplugging the refrigerator for instance) you may still have problems because the draw of the 1800W Baby Max is just too close to the threshold to operate reliably.  If there is any line loss from a long cable run, or increased resistance from an overheated/under-rated plug end, the draw of the ballast climbs over 20 Amps and trips the breaker. It has been my experience that more often than not the stinger plug-ends overheat because most are only rated for 15 Amps. The increased resistance that results from the heat causes the voltage to the ballast to drop and so it has to draw more power to maintain the 1800W load. At 110V it will draw 20.5 Amps. The power drawn by the 1800W Baby Max is just too near the operating threshold of a 20A circuit for it to operate reliably plugged into a U-Ground Edison Outlet.

 

The same is true of operating them on the 20A circuits of portable generators.  To the problem of line loss and overheating plug ends, you have the added problem that as you add load on portable generators their voltage output drops.  It is not uncommon for a generator to drop 5-10 volts under full load.  The 1800W ballast that drew 19.5 Amps at 115 Volts will draw 21.4 Amps at 105 Volts.

 

It has been my experience that the Arri 1800W Baby Max works best on a real film distribution system where every circuit is 20 Amps, you know what is on the circuit because you are loading it yourself, and because you are distributing the power yourself from a tie in or generator you can bring the receptacle to the light.  When you can run a 60A whip and drop a Snack Box next to the ballast you won’t have a problem. But, if your style of shooting requires that you run multiple stingers to plug into a wall or generator outlet, you will likely have problems with the plug ends or receptacle overheating. 

 

I have found that the only reliable way to power a 1800W Baby Max on wall out-lets or on portable gas generators is from a 240V circuit through a 240v-to-120v step down transformer. A transformer will convert the 240V output into a single large 120V circuit that is more than capable of powering the 19.5A load of a 1800W Baby Max. And, if the transformer is outfitted with a 60A Bates receptacle, it will enable you to use a distro system that will allow you to move the generator  off set (where it won’t be heard),   minimize line loss over a long cable run, and provide plug-in pockets close to the ballasts.

 

To assure full line level (120V) on set, use a "boost transformer" that is designed to compensate for the slight line loss you will inevitably have over an extended cable run by stepping up the voltage slightly. A boost transformer will enable you to run 200’ or more of cable to get the generator further from set where you won't hear it, yet assure that the supply voltage on set does not drop below 120V and cause the 1800W ballast to draw more power and trip its’ 20A breaker.  If the transformer is equipped with a 60A Bates you can use standard film distribution equipment like 60A Siameses, 60A Whips, and 60A Snack Boxes to run power to the light (breaking out to 20A Edison pockets next to the ballast), rather than having to run multiple stingers from the ballast back to the generator.

 

A transformer will also enable you to run 1800W Arri Baby Maxs on “house power” from common 240v household outlets as well. Just like it does with a generator, a transformer will step down the 240V power of common high voltage household outlets to a single 120V circuit capable of powering multiple 1800W Baby Maxs. Common 240V sources found on interior locations include Range Plugs, Dryer Plugs, and special receptacles installed for Window Air Conditioners. By giving you access to more “house power” through common 240V household outlets, a transformer also enables you to run a real distro system without the need for a tie-in or expensive tow generator.  The ability to run multiple 1800W Baby Maxs off of common 240V house receptacles, or the 240V receptacle of portable generators, is one of the best reasons that I can think of to use transformers on set.

 

For more detailed information on reliably operating M18s on generators and house power, I would suggest you read the article I wrote on the use of portable generators in motion picture production mentioned above. 

 

Guy Holt, Gaffer, SceenLight & Grip, Lighting and Grip Rental in Boston.


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