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Power for Lights - No Outlet


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#1 Noam Suissa

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Posted 30 November 2013 - 01:24 AM

I'm shooting an outside scene with no access to a power outlet. This production is very small, so we won't have any generators or anything either. If you've ever dealt with something like this, I'd love to know what you did. 


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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 30 November 2013 - 01:39 AM

Done this a few times and the way you approach it depends on what you're tryin to do.

hat works really well these days are LEDs. they are almost always battery powered and pull little and you can buy them almost anywhere. They may not be the prettiest of things in terms of color rendition (they are awfully green, or purple, or god only knows what color that is supposed to be) but you can correct them a bit with gels or let it slide if it's more of a modern look.

They also now make Frenels as well as the typical panels; the Fresnels are hit and miss (lite panels Solas come to mind-- though not super rugged, can be powered off of 12V)

They also have power packs for charging up laptops ect which sometimes give you a 12V outlet and a 120V inverter.

 

Speaking of inverters, if you have a big enough truck you can get a 1500W or 2000W inverter and tap it off of the the engine-- running-- off of set and run some cable. They also have small 100W which'll work on a cigarette lighter. mind you, leave the car on, but not as loud as a putt putt.

 

they also make generators- obviously which has problems with noise unless it's blimped.

 

I have seem Solar tow gennys before-- but I would think those would be very expensive.

 

Another option is lanters-- mantle lanterns specifically like the colemans which run on propane and are very bright. If memory serves, First Blood (rambo) had scenes lit primarily with them on 100 speed film and from my camping experiences, they work really well.

 

There is also Day for Night; but that can be tricky, depending on what you're doing.

Dusk for night is also very tricky, and I really wouldn't try it myself.

 

 

you could buy a bunch of those big flashlight batteries-- or even car batteries, 12V and build a coop light out of 12V edison bulbs. Dunno how well that'd work, though.

 

Kinos are another option-- though I don't know how much sense that'd make honestly, but in theory you could wire up a bunch of deep cycle marine batteries and power up some kinos-- though that'd be costly and I've no idea how well they'd take it (would probably have to run an inverter).

 

There is also torches, camp fires, ect, if scene appropriate; but of course real fire needs to be pumped up with something. Normally I'd use something like a tota or nook light in the fire-ring (not in the fire-- but hidden by rocks shooting through the fire) on a dimmer with some heat shield and CTO or CTS.

 

You could go super creative and up the ISO a lot on the camera and shoot with a 360 degree shutter-- but that would be a very... obvious style-- what I mean is that it would really draw attention to the artifice of filmmaking and may not look too good or anywhere near appropriate.


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#3 Noam Suissa

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Posted 30 November 2013 - 01:54 AM

Thanks. I guess LEDs are the way to go here. Reckon anything I pick up will be battery powered? I just need to flood the scene, but it doesn't need to be super pristine, as it's a sketchy alley that we're shooting in.
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#4 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 30 November 2013 - 01:58 AM

Sketchy alley i'd go with a bunch of LED lights-- get them at the dollar store if you have to-- battery powered and stick them in the background in the out of focus area to give points of light. Then you'd want a backlight of something-- probably something "nice" for this so get a good LED with strong output (Sola comes to mind for a rental) and then for your key light you can under expose a bit as long as you get some light in their eyes with whatever you happen to have.
A lot of the cheap LEDs have a pretty good output, especially if played close in. Try to keep them all cyanish-- and then key they folks with a "warmer" light to try to get some kind of chromatic separation along with edge lighting them and things in the alley. Wet it down too, if you can. The glints will help a lot.
if the characters drive; park the car with the lights pointing down the alley as well.


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#5 Noam Suissa

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Posted 30 November 2013 - 02:10 AM

Funny. I was actually planning to use headlights as well.
Thanks for the tips though. That should help. Will the sola have its own battery, or will I need a solution?
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#6 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 30 November 2013 - 02:12 AM

Depends on who you rent it from. I know when I got it (to evaluate and write a review on) we didn't get a battery. But it's a 4-pin 12V XLR so i just threw it on a film block battery I had and it lasted a good while (we did kill it between set-ups) and I am sure any rental house who carries it will have some kind of battery solution for it for a few bucks more at most. If not you can pick up a sealed lead acid battery with a 4-pin pretty cheap and it's a worthwhile purchase to have for this bit or bob now and again.


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#7 Noam Suissa

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Posted 30 November 2013 - 02:13 AM

Alright. Thanks again. It should go well.
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#8 Guy Holt

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Posted 01 December 2013 - 03:49 PM

Thanks. I guess LEDs are the way to go here. Reckon anything I pick up will be battery powered? I just need to flood the scene, but it doesn't need to be super pristine, as it's a sketchy alley that we're shooting in.

 

Without a doubt LEDs are the best light source to use on batteries, but battery powered LEDs are not the best source IMHO to “flood” an alley way with light. The traditional approach to lighting a street or alley is to wet-down the pavement and rake the alley from an oblique angle with a large HMI or tungsten fixture. Smaller fixtures are then used to light the foreground action area. Where there is no LED fixture in existence that can match the output of a 4k HMI or 5k Tungsten Par in this application, you would be better served by renting a generator than using a number of battery powered LEDs. And, given the cost of renting film style battery powered LED fixtures ($125-$135 each + batteries), using a generator and inexpensive tungsten fixtures may even be more economical if you rent a portable generator rather than a movie blimped tow generator.

 

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

 

Portable gas generators have come a long way.  Honda has just come out with a 10000W generator (the EB10000), which can be modified to use an external fuel tank (you will no longer have to refuel every 4hrs) and can provide 84 Amps of power in a single 120V circuit when used with a transformer/distro. That 84A/120V circuit cannot only power larger lights, but also more, smaller lights than was possible before on a portable Honda.

 

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A feature film production  powered by a Honda EB10000

 

10’000W is just enough to power a good size HMI (say a 4k) 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. 

 

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Campfire scene on the beach powered by a Honda EB10000

 

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 to small generators, their voltage drops (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 tungsten lights. For these reasons, portable gas generators are typically operated too close to set where they are picked up on audio tracks.

 

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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.

 

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.  A boost transformer will enable you to add 300'- 400' of larger gauge 250V twist-lock extension cable between the generator and the Transformer/Distro. 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 standard electrical 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.

 

EB10_Paralarva_Comp_2Sm.jpg

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.)

 

The indie films “Paralava” and "Gasp" (pictured above and below) are good examples of how the voltage boost capacity of a Transformer/Distro makes it possible to record clean audio tracks with the EB10000 even under the worst of conditions.  “Gasp” takes place at an idyllic beach house and its’ surroundings including a campfire on the beach (likewise for “Paralava”.) To record sync sound without picking up the noise of a generator, on both films the crew ran a modified 10kw Honda EB10000 out of their grip truck 500 ft from their beach set. To assure full line level on set, the productions used the boost capacity of a 84A Transformer/Distro to compensate for the line loss over the long cable run.   

 

EB_Gasp_ScreenShot_2.jpg

Opening scene of the feature film "Gasp"

 

From the Transformer/Distro they then ran 4/3 Bates Extension to set where they broke out to 20A Edison receptacles using 100A gang boxes. On “Paralava”, the crew ran 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. Even with a sizable load, they experienced no appreciable voltage drop on set even after a 500' cable run because the Transformer/Distro compensated for both the line loss of the cable and voltage drop of the generator under near full load.

 

EB_Gasp_ScreenShot_4.jpg

          With nothing more than a Honda EB10000 and house power the crew of "Gasp" was able to maintain the look and feel of a

sunny summer day even when filming in the midst of a hurricane in October.

 

By comparison, had the crew of "Paralava" 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.

 

On “Gasp” the crew ran a 6k Par to light the deep background, as well as an assortment of smaller tungsten fixtures to simulate the firelight. To light interiors of the beach house, the crew of “Gasp” used the Honda EB10000 to power two 4k Pars coming in from the outside, and house power to power an assortment of smaller HMI and Kino fixtures. This approach (combining house with generated power) gave them enough power to maintain the feel of a sunny summer day even through the crew was hit by a hurricane half way through production.  

 

 

EB_Gasp_Composite.jpg

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.

 

These two films clearly demonstrate 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 assures that the supply voltage on set does not drop too low (use this link for information about Line-Loss and how to combat it.) Unless you have to shoot in a moving car, battery powered LEDs are usually not your best bet.

 

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


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#9 Mark Kenfield

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Posted 01 December 2013 - 09:41 PM

Honestly, I don't think it matters how tight your budget is - you can rent a little highly-portable gennie (around 3.5kw) for $60-odd a day. That's enough to run two 1.2k HMIs or one HMI and some Kinos/LED/small tungsten - enough to scrape by on a night exterior if you plan your lighting well.

It's $60.

The time, effort and energy that goes into planning and organising every other element of your shoot deserves that tiny investment to allow those other elements to actually be seen.

It's $60.

If production isn't willing to spend that tiny amount, then the production isn't ready to be IN production.

Tell them that.

I've had this argument with producers many times before, and you can always swing it - you just have to be persistent. Whatever argument they put up, just keep hammering on - "It's $60."
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The Slider

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