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Lighting hotel room Crime scene on a shoestring


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#1 Alexandre de Tolan

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Posted 02 February 2014 - 03:24 PM

Here's the details:

 

1. INT. NIGHT. - Hotel room where all the action happens. (90 minute film inside a small division remembers me TAPE from Linklater for instance).

 

2. It's a 5 star Hotel so we do have to let things as we found them (so no drills and bolts).

 

3. It's a Crime genre film. Been talking with the Director and suggested him some films from John Alton and a Caravaggio punctuated lighting style which he agreed.

 

4. This is an auto financed film with a veeeery low budget. The highest expense will be the hotel room. We are going to have it for 12 days straight at 1/3 the usual cost referring the hotel in final credits as a sponsor. Actors (2), are going to participate with an almost insignificant fee.  Crew is made of Director, Sound director, Make-Up and Wardrobe artist and me as DP.

 

5. The initial idea was to replicate a NY city night outdoors (from the window), which I presume will be impossible after seeing the set today.

 

Here's the challenge:

 

Light the room and Bathroom in a way that all the wide shots can be taken with minimal lighting adjustments preferably with no stands on sight for great actor mobility. Augment/shape/punctuate the general light with some floor lights in tighter shots.

 

My first thought about a NY skyscraper look when I didn't had the smallest idea where the Director planned to shot was to fly an outdoor board with a NYC image at night but this will be impossible. We are 20 floors above ground and have no means to fly a billboard whatsoever. We also don't have the money to spend on post FX so greening the windows is out of question.

 

About lighting. I'm thinking on buying some Alzo Drum Overheads and planting 2 of them on the ceiling to elevate base lighting and achieve a decent f-stop at 800ISO (shooting with BMCC ProRes). I've to look how I can achieve this without messing with the ceiling (Manfrotto Aupoles?).

 

The room's wallpaper is yellowish so very near usual caucasian skin tones. That's my main concern right now because I want to create some separation from the walls and I fore-come some difficulties here. If I decide to go for the diffused top light I'll probably flag the sides trying to get some light out of the walls only punctuating them with the table lamps.

 

The Director wants a "blood" light feel. Warm in the sense that it's Red. Not warm/cozy but savage bloodish instead. I've thought to wrap some orange fabric inside the lamp shades and switch the lamps for halogens. I don't know what to do with Color Temperature from the top light if I decide to go for it though but I'm not liking the fact that all's red and there's no separation at all from the various light sources. If we had the opportunity to place an outside light I'll probably gel it blue creating some contrast with the interior light but now I just don't know...

 

I'm attaching a still from the room. All suggestions will be very appreciated. Thanks in advance.

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Edited by Alexandre de Tolan, 02 February 2014 - 03:28 PM.

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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 02 February 2014 - 06:16 PM

I think you're going to have to green the windows-- or just leave them shut. Another option would be to get a print out of the skyline and mount it inside the window-- keeping the sheer curtains closed-- and perhaps installing Christmas lights which blink to suggest the tops of skyscrapers-- basically then building a light-box so that you can have "windows".

 

As for lighting-- I would get a lot of black fabric and cover everything off screen to kill bounce-- so as to keep some contrast. For the wides, I'd re-globe the practicals in the room-- and throw them all on dimmers-- to motivate the light-- and then I would augment with china balls and kino flos on stands from the floor as needed. I would also maybe use a Black Pro Mist-- a light one-- so that you can "glow" a bit the sources-- which'll help make it ok when they blow out-- and they probably will on the wides.

 

Savage and bloodish is a bit of a problem-- I would perhaps speak to him/her to see if you can do this through production design aside from lighting as I think the lighting will make itself very apparent if it goes all red-- but that is just me. Perhaps if you want some "blood red" punctuations-- you could have a blood red clock-- one of those LED ones-- which can be the "source" in a scene inasmuch as you do an overall base "darkness" which is really a low level of light and then motivate a red wash on the talent with the red clock-- if all the other lights in the room are out.

 

You can also go to Ikea and I would and i'd buy a few lamps you can put in the set. Also pick up some CFL daylight Kino Bulbs-- incase you need to match daylight.


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#3 Alexandre de Tolan

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Posted 02 February 2014 - 07:25 PM

I think you're going to have to green the windows-- or just leave them shut. Another option would be to get a print out of the skyline and mount it inside the window-- keeping the sheer curtains closed-- and perhaps installing Christmas lights which blink to suggest the tops of skyscrapers-- basically then building a light-box so that you can have "windows".

 

As for lighting-- I would get a lot of black fabric and cover everything off screen to kill bounce-- so as to keep some contrast. For the wides, I'd re-globe the practicals in the room-- and throw them all on dimmers-- to motivate the light-- and then I would augment with china balls and kino flos on stands from the floor as needed. I would also maybe use a Black Pro Mist-- a light one-- so that you can "glow" a bit the sources-- which'll help make it ok when they blow out-- and they probably will on the wides.

 

Savage and bloodish is a bit of a problem-- I would perhaps speak to him/her to see if you can do this through production design aside from lighting as I think the lighting will make itself very apparent if it goes all red-- but that is just me. Perhaps if you want some "blood red" punctuations-- you could have a blood red clock-- one of those LED ones-- which can be the "source" in a scene inasmuch as you do an overall base "darkness" which is really a low level of light and then motivate a red wash on the talent with the red clock-- if all the other lights in the room are out.

 

You can also go to Ikea and I would and i'd buy a few lamps you can put in the set. Also pick up some CFL daylight Kino Bulbs-- incase you need to match daylight.

 

Hi Adrian. Thanks for stepping in.

 

Green is out of the question as I said but I very much like your idea of a "light-box window". It's a clever one and I'm gonna give it a try at my house and see if it works.

 

As for lighting… I forgot to say that the Director wants to shoot in continuity so I guess it will be hard to cover everything on black fabric since there's plenty and constant actors movement from one place to another inside the room.

 

The prop as a lighting source (motived) is also clever. Don't know about a digital clock in a super chick Hotel room but I'm going to do some research on what luminous objects do higher rate hotels have (can you give me some clues on what is used on that side of the Atlantic?).

 

Forgot to mention that we are also going to shoot at night, completely dark (from 20pm to 5am so after sun's go down and before it goes up), so no need to match daylight.


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#4 Toby Orzano

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Posted 03 February 2014 - 12:18 AM

I think Adrian's right on. Even if you don't have a red light source, having red elements in the production design being hit with tungsten or slightly-warmer light in a low key setting will still hit the subconscious of the viewer. The whole scheme makes me think of David Lynch films, especially red-glowing lamp shades and such.

 

However, I'm wondering how the cost of a five-star hotel room compares to the cost of renting out a stage and building a set. I don't have much experience with five-star hotel rooms personally :D . Even renting a warehouse space that is not an "official film soundstage" would give you a lot more options, as long as there is usable power. Then maybe you could put your city image outside the windows and build some goalposts overhead for lighting. This just makes sense to me if you're not going to be able to see out the window in the real hotel anyways. I suppose in addition to the cost of the space there would be added costs for production design, but maybe it's worth raising a little more money if the final product can be that much better? I know easier said than done. Bu then you wouldn't have to destroy everyone's sleep schedules by shooting overnights for 12 days either!

 

Side question for Adrian: I've been eyeing those Kino CFLs. How well does the color match the regular Kino tubes? Any issues with flicker? It states right on the product page that they are not flicker-free.


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#5 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 03 February 2014 - 12:30 AM

Well most hotels will have some form of a clock on the table-- granted I'm not at 5 star hotels but most of the ones I'm at have either red or green LED clock radios. Some of the nicer ones have blue as well and they look rather sleek. They used to make "Laser" clocks as well which would project the time somewhere. It all depends on the design of the place you want to go to.

 

Sound stage would be much better, of course than a real hotel-- having shot in a few myself it's never a fun experience.

 

As for the CLFs, Toby, They're much better than anything else out there I've used in that form factor. I don't much like kinos as a general rule, but I think these may be a new love. CRI is good, i haven't put my minolta on 'em but i've also not noticed too much of a tint/tinge (only shot them digitally as of yet). They haven't flickers for me, yet, but I also haven't been shooting offspeed or in extremes of cold-- which is where I would suspect they would be the most trouble. I like to use them as a replacement for photofloods-- longer lasting too ;) and in China balls and so far no complaints. Well worth the $25 of so to pick one up and play with it.


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#6 Toby Orzano

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Posted 03 February 2014 - 09:33 PM

Sounds good Adrian, thanks! I was thinking of using them primarily in china balls as well. I wasn't big on kinos at first either…until LEDs reared their even uglier heads. 

 

 

…And back to the hotel topic, sorry all.


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#7 Alexandre de Tolan

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Posted 04 February 2014 - 05:22 PM

I talked with the Director today and asked him about renting a stage for this project. He told me that the cost of gathering all the furniture and crew to arrange all the stuff on set would be more expensive than paying for the hotel (don't forget we are paying a third of the regular price).

 

As you can see the room decoration flows between yellows and greens. I've asked the Director to arrange a meeting with the wardrobe artist. I'm going to see if both are willing to use some red props/wardrobe on actors.

 

I fore come a great deal of effort since the Director not only wants to shoot all this in continuity (forcing me to change the lighting in every shot), but also wants to throw dolly tracks on such a tight space to make travelling shots on 90% of the film that he didn't storyboard!

 

He comes from a documentary background so he's used to 2 or 3 member crews. So you can imagine why he has replied me that he's going to do the focus pull when I asked for a puller!

 

I've stepped in in a early stage and committed because the Sound Director is a very friend of mine but I'm thinking that I'm digging a grave here...


Edited by Alexandre de Tolan, 04 February 2014 - 05:25 PM.

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#8 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 04 February 2014 - 05:30 PM

Perhaps. But even if you dig a grave, it can be a fun thing to get yourself out of it. Perhaps, look into a Dana Dolly like system. It'll be much better for a small crew and smaller moves.

I would mention to the director that it may be important for him/her to watch the performances and not have to focus on focus-- though that may be you pulling yourself. But at the end of the day, it's their ship do what you can to man you post admirably.


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#9 Alexandre de Tolan

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Posted 04 February 2014 - 06:10 PM

Perhaps. But even if you dig a grave, it can be a fun thing to get yourself out of it. Perhaps, look into a Dana Dolly like system. It'll be much better for a small crew and smaller moves.

I would mention to the director that it may be important for him/her to watch the performances and not have to focus on focus-- though that may be you pulling yourself. But at the end of the day, it's their ship do what you can to man you post admirably.

 

Yes you're right about that.

Regarding the Dana Dolly. It's a neat system. I have to search for a similar option to EU customers since I've looked into Dana and they only ship to US and Canada.


Edited by Alexandre de Tolan, 04 February 2014 - 06:11 PM.

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#10 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 04 February 2014 - 06:17 PM

I'm sure there's a few you can find in the EU-- perhaps not Dana Dolly-- but I'd call around rental houses and the like to see what's offered. There are also a few bearing based sliders out there which are nice but I personally like the dana dolly systems.


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#11 Stuart Allman

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 08:06 PM

The Matthews motorized slider is another option as well.  I've used the Dana and like it too, but the Matthews slider sits on a single tripod and has more travel than a Kessler slider (maybe double?) - less than the Dana can do with long pipes.  You can also do smooth motorized moves, jib moves, and vertical/diagonal moves since the sled is counter balanced.  I know about fitting into tight locations!  Fighting one less tripod is likely a good thing.  The Matthews slider has much less track depth than the Dana so it fits in tighter spots and closer to walls than the Dana will.

 

There are probably similar solutions from other manufacturers out there.

 

S.

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#12 Alexandre de Tolan

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 12:47 PM

The Matthews motorized slider is another option as well.  I've used the Dana and like it too, but the Matthews slider sits on a single tripod and has more travel than a Kessler slider (maybe double?) - less than the Dana can do with long pipes.  You can also do smooth motorized moves, jib moves, and vertical/diagonal moves since the sled is counter balanced.  I know about fitting into tight locations!  Fighting one less tripod is likely a good thing.  The Matthews slider has much less track depth than the Dana so it fits in tighter spots and closer to walls than the Dana will.

 

There are probably similar solutions from other manufacturers out there.

 

S.

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Ouch! 6000 pounds for the DC dolly. I've looked at Kessler shuttle Pod Mini. It seems really great for tight spaces, has the advantage of the grabber wheels (so multiple angles allowed), and it sells near me. 

 

Regarding the project. I'm meeting the Director this weekend. I guess I will find what he thinks of my ideas then.

 

I still have to find out to solve some issues like flying some overhead light without tripods, buy some dimmers and so on... 


Edited by Alexandre de Tolan, 07 February 2014 - 12:47 PM.

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#13 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 12:48 PM

China-Balls on Painters Poles handled by someone over camera like a boom mic. Or if you just want some kind of base ambiance, one of the older tungsten on camera lights, which power off of battery belts, pointed straight up and rigged off of the camera kinda like a traveling bounce top light-- not super powerful but may give you a little something something.


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#14 Alexandre de Tolan

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 03:26 PM

China-Balls on Painters Poles handled by someone over camera like a boom mic. Or if you just want some kind of base ambiance, one of the older tungsten on camera lights, which power off of battery belts, pointed straight up and rigged off of the camera kinda like a traveling bounce top light-- not super powerful but may give you a little something something.

 

Thanks once again Adrian for your helpful tips. Yes. China-Balls were in my to use list and they will surely help to create the look I'm after. 

 

The story's not only a crime scene but a passionate crime one so soft light will be in order. Besides that, they can be used very close to subject so the inverse square law will help to throw the background darker assisting me to crete layers of light and shadow on such a tight space (or so I think since I did not use China-Balls before).

 

What I'm concerned is base light. I think it's best to have some overall light to just raise the light levels (sensor wise), or I'll be pushing the limits on it and I'm afraid to end with a noisy image. If I had the chance of flying some overheads just to raise f-stop and augment/shape from there with floor fresnels or China-Balls would be great.


Edited by Alexandre de Tolan, 07 February 2014 - 03:30 PM.

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#15 Alexandre de Tolan

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 03:37 PM

A couple of questions also comes to mind (besides the ones posted above): 

 

I saw that you replied a Toby's question about CFLs. Is there any tutorial on how to arrange a DIY fixing scheme to use a CFL on a boom pole? Or are there any cheap made CFL heads to attach to boom poles?

 

And China-Balls. The ones I can sort out have 2 holes on them (top and bottom). Are there any with only the top hole?


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#16 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 03:39 PM

Well CFL is just a floro with a screw mount so it'd work in any typical screw in fixture. Ikea, here at least, sells cheap 15' cord with the edison base on it for a few bucks.

There are gem balls which are bottom covered, but I find a normal china ball with a little 216 cut and laid on the bottom to work fine-- should it ever become a problem.

 

Lantern locks,by the bye, are expensive, but wonderful.


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#17 Alexandre de Tolan

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 03:45 PM

Well CFL is just a floro with a screw mount so it'd work in any typical screw in fixture. Ikea, here at least, sells cheap 15' cord with the edison base on it for a few bucks.

There are gem balls which are bottom covered, but I find a normal china ball with a little 216 cut and laid on the bottom to work fine-- should it ever become a problem.

 

Lantern locks,by the bye, are expensive, but wonderful.

 

Lantern locks! So simple and so great! Well worth the money IMHO and I didn't knew them. Great great tip. So many thanks.


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#18 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 03:47 PM

Aye the really are. I keep meaning to pick more up-- but every time i have the money to spend I wind up thinking-- hell I could build that-- and then I don't.


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#19 Alexandre de Tolan

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 03:53 PM

Aye the really are. I keep meaning to pick more up-- but every time i have the money to spend I wind up thinking-- hell I could build that-- and then I don't.

 

I know the feeling!

 

Now I'm surfing through EU dealers to see if I can find any and it seems hard. IIRC you said that those CFLs can be dimmed without flicker right? Do you recommend any type of dimmer for them?


Edited by Alexandre de Tolan, 07 February 2014 - 03:53 PM.

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#20 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 04:06 PM

I don't know if they can be dimmed-- most CFLs can't. I certainly have never used them on a dimmer, if you're talking the kinos. I feel for dimming, anyway, you're best off with a halogen bulb.


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