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Lighting a beach scene at night with no generator


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#1 Vadim Joy

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Posted 18 April 2014 - 05:23 AM

Possible? I'm shooting a night scene which takes place on the beach. Will be shooting on BMCC 2K in RAW. We cannot bring generator with us to power the lights for legal reasons. Most of the shots will be handheld, on the tripod and track dolly. Characters will be sitting around natural fire, at the moment that's the only light source I can think of. In the past I put some small lights around the fire facing actors to add more light but in this case I can't use them.  Any ideas?


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#2 Miguel Angel

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Posted 18 April 2014 - 06:37 AM

Well, If you cannot put any kind of generator at all, why don't you try using the real fire to light the actors?

 

You can use the real one in the wide takes and then use the fire from your FX person to light the close ups (and maybe a polyboard to bring some fill if wanted)

 

If you want to use lights, then you can buy some construction lights and use them gelled and bounced, or direct or.. there are some of these which can be plugged into batteries.

http://www.china-led...lood-light.html

 

Kindest regards.


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#3 Chris Millar

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Posted 18 April 2014 - 06:54 AM

Could be cost prohibitive in purchasing the amount you'll need but car/truck batteries and an inverter (of the appropriate wattage) ...  or go DC...


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#4 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 18 April 2014 - 07:02 AM

Seems the problem is keeping the background from going totally black. Maybe you can have a small genny off-site that can charge some batteries that can run some pocket pars, which could kind of look like moonlight. Also, there are now all sorts of battery powered LED lights that you can distribute in the background. (Maybe there's another group of people who are lit by a couple of LED lanterns.)


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#5 Vadim Joy

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Posted 18 April 2014 - 07:43 AM

I'm going for this kind of look. 

alg-campfire-jpg.jpg


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#6 Vadim Joy

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Posted 18 April 2014 - 07:44 AM

stock-footage-girl-standing-at-warm-camp


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#7 Vadim Joy

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Posted 18 April 2014 - 07:45 AM

DC is not an option. Trucks will be parked far away from actual beach. I can bring small battery powered LED lights but how effective are they?


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#8 Vadim Joy

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Posted 18 April 2014 - 07:48 AM

By the way are those CN-160 LED lights any good?


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#9 Chris Millar

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Posted 18 April 2014 - 07:51 AM

LED lights are DC ...  (?)

 

And I mean, getting 24v 'truck' batteries fullstop, as opposed to using your trucks battery - and inverters - that is, if you need AC  


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#10 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 18 April 2014 - 07:52 AM

There doesn't seem to be much background visible in that shot, it looks rather like the fire itself is doing the illumination.

 

For a wide landscape, shooting at twilight will usually give you a dark background and then you adjust your foreground lighting to match. It's a good idea to use NDs to maintain a fairly constant stop by removing/reducing these filters as the light levels drop. You do need to be quick, but your working time increases the further north or south you are. .  


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#11 Vadim Joy

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Posted 18 April 2014 - 08:14 AM

I think it would be easier to move night beach scenes to controlled environment and light them there. I don't need sea on the background anyway, just trees. 


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#12 Joe Arnao

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Posted 18 April 2014 - 09:06 AM

Vadim;

 

Sounds like you need a few Zylight F8s.  Fresnel that can run off of a standard AB or V mount brick for more than an hour.  It will give you the punch of a 1k and you can bounce it into a card to soften it.  Full disclosure - I run the company, but it sounds like the perfect light for your scenario. See if it's something that will work for you - www.zylight.com. 


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#13 Stuart Allman

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Posted 18 April 2014 - 01:38 PM

Vadim,

 

I back what the others are saying.  Battery powered LED lights are probably your best way to go.  A couple bi-color litepanels 1x1's, or some tungsten colored LED Fresnels would do just fine.  With enough batteries you should be good for a couple hour shoot.  Check with your local rental house and see what they have.  I would add another full CTO to the lights to make them look more like campfire color.

 

One thing I did to create a fire light look on the cheap is use a Fresnel light shined into a handheld beauty mirror.  If you wiggle the angle of the mirror so the light flickers on and off your subject it's pretty convincing as fire.  Have two to three grips so this and you should be able to light up the circle of actors.  Works great with LED lights because you can wiggle the mirror or wiggle the light while handholding it.

 

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#14 Guy Holt

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Posted 19 April 2014 - 09:43 AM

Well, If you cannot put any kind of generator at all, why don't you try using the real fire to light the actors?

 

... Battery powered LED lights are probably your best way to go.  A couple bi-color litepanels 1x1's, or some tungsten colored LED Fresnels would do just fine.  With enough batteries you should be good for a couple hour shoot.  

 

The problem with using only the firelight, or the firelight with LEDs, is that you are not able to compress the contrast range of the scene into the dynamic range of the camera you are using. That is because the fire is such a hot spot in the scene. If you expose for the actors around the fire, the fire flames are overexposed and blow out and lose all detail. And since the light from the single source (the fire light) falls off rapidly, the deep background is under lit and blocks up. As a result, the actor’s faces look disembodied like they are floating in a black void.

 

campfire_poor_contrast.jpg

 

In order to maintain detail in the flames of the fire you must bring up the surrounding environment a lot and you can’t do that with battery operated LEDs. For example, contrast the beach campfire scene below to the sample above.

 

EB_Gasp_ScreenShot_1.jpg

 

Campfire scene on the beach powered by a Honda EB10000

 

You can clearly see the subtle differences in color in this fire because the production used 1800W Arrimax HMIs to rim light the actors around the fire and a 4k Par to light the deep background. In doing so, they have compressed the contrast range of the scene and pegged the exposure value of the fire so that detail is held in its’ flame. You can’t do that with the still anemic output of LEDs. It requires minimally 1200w-4kw HMIs.

 

If you can’t get a generator onto the beach, one solution is to use a portable generator like the new 10’000W Honda EB10000 with a boost transformer at a distance. 10’000W is just enough to power a good size HMI (say an Arri M40 4kw Arrimax HMI) 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.

 

The problem with this approach in the past was the significant "Line Loss" (often referred to as "Voltage Drop") from the long cable run 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. The trick to using portable generators, like the EB10000, at a distance is to use the generator with a transformer that will enable you to boost the voltage to maintain full line level on set.

 

EB10000_w-Trans_&_Caddy_Sm.jpg

 

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/Distro. 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_1Sm.jpg

 

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 Transformer/Distro makes it possible to operate portable generators at a distance and maintain full line level on set 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.   

 

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.)

 

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.

 

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

 

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 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.)

 

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, ScreenLight & Grip, Lighting Rentals & Sales in Boston


Edited by Guy Holt, 19 April 2014 - 09:47 AM.

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#15 Stuart Allman

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Posted 19 April 2014 - 01:11 PM

Guy,

 

I certainly don't mean to intrude on your very helpful advice - I appreciate reading it myself - but Vadim's examples show the fire light being blown to near white in the center of the flame, so I assumed he was OK with that.  How blown out it is depends on the intensity of the camp fire, so a simple solution might be to use a smaller camp fire.  I was able to hold a small camp fire even on a 5Dm2 when I followed a group of 24 hour mountain bike racers a few years back.  The kids in the example photo are all under exposed by 1-2 stops, so that should give Vadim latitude to hold the fire better, especially with a 13-stop BMCC. He could also use framing to just show the upper tips of the fire, which is simple to hold, or use a 2-stop grad ND on just the center of the fire.

 

Just for the record, I like big lights and have nothing against them.  Tim "the tool man" Taylor grunt inferred.

 

Stuart

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#16 Guy Holt

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Posted 19 April 2014 - 05:23 PM

... A couple bi-color litepanels 1x1's, or some tungsten colored LED Fresnels would do just fine. ... I would add another full CTO to the lights to make them look more like campfire color.

 

You have to be careful putting Color Correction gels like CTOs on LEDs to create effects. Another problem with LEDs like those mentioned here is that color correction gels are not calibrated for their discontinuous spectrum and so you get unexpected results from their use on LEDs. Where you know what to expect when you put a color correction gel, say CTOs, on HMI or Tungsten lights, you don’t know what you will get putting that same gel on an LED light. The reason is that because of their discontinuous spectrum, the use of CC gels on LEDs have unintended and undesirable consequences.

 

LED_CC_34CTO_Day_Conv.jpg3/4 CTO gel passes only certain wavelengths (represented by the spectral transmission curve (center)) of daylight (left) to create the color spectrum approximating that of  a 3200K tungsten light (right.)

 

LED_CC_34CTO_LED_Conv.jpgThe same 3/4 CTO gel on a daylight LED (left) passes the same wavelengths (represented by the spectral transmission curve (center)) to create an unknown color spectrum that does not approximate a tungsten light.

 

A good example of this is what happens when you try to convert the 5500K out-put of Phosphor White LEDs to 2900k with Full CTO gel. Where you can do it with some success with HMIs because there are long wavelengths in it’s continuous spectrum to pass disproportionately to the blue part of the spectrum to achieve a nominal 2900K, since LEDs don’t put out much beyond 625nm, there is not much for a filter to pass to rebalance the light output to 2900K, so the “corrected” light is too cool. Another undesirable consequence comes from the fact that Full CTO is designed to pass extra green (there is a bump in the spectral transmission curve of Full CTO in the green portion of the spectrum) and so it creates, given the amount of green inherent in Daylight LEDs to begin with, a disproportionate amount of green (creating an overall green bias) to the "corrected" light when used on Phosphor White LEDs (link to test results demonstrating this with a Lightpanel 1x1 Daylight Spot.)

 

The results of putting color gels designed for continuous light sources, such as tungsten lights, on LEDs of the type being discussed here can be so unexpected that it is worth testing before hand.

 

LED_Lee_Conver_Gel_126_sm.jpg

 

For instance, the results you get from Lee 126 on a tungsten light (left in the picture above) is very different from the same gel on an LED light (right in the picture above) for the reasons I cite above.

 

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


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#17 Vadim Joy

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Posted 19 April 2014 - 07:48 PM

 

The problem with using only the firelight, or the firelight with LEDs, is that you are not able to compress the contrast range of the scene into the dynamic range of the camera you are using. That is because the fire is such a hot spot in the scene. If you expose for the actors around the fire, the fire flames are overexposed and blow out and lose all detail. And since the light from the single source (the fire light) falls off rapidly, the deep background is under lit and blocks up. As a result, the actor’s faces look disembodied like they are floating in a black void.

 

campfire_poor_contrast.jpg

 

In order to maintain detail in the flames of the fire you must bring up the surrounding environment a lot and you can’t do that with battery operated LEDs. For example, contrast the beach campfire scene below to the sample above.

 

EB_Gasp_ScreenShot_1.jpg

 

Campfire scene on the beach powered by a Honda EB10000

 

You can clearly see the subtle differences in color in this fire because the production used 1800W Arrimax HMIs to rim light the actors around the fire and a 4k Par to light the deep background. In doing so, they have compressed the contrast range of the scene and pegged the exposure value of the fire so that detail is held in its’ flame. You can’t do that with the still anemic output of LEDs. It requires minimally 1200w-4kw HMIs.

 

If you can’t get a generator onto the beach, one solution is to use a portable generator like the new 10’000W Honda EB10000 with a boost transformer at a distance. 10’000W is just enough to power a good size HMI (say an Arri M40 4kw Arrimax HMI) 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.

 

The problem with this approach in the past was the significant "Line Loss" (often referred to as "Voltage Drop") from the long cable run 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. The trick to using portable generators, like the EB10000, at a distance is to use the generator with a transformer that will enable you to boost the voltage to maintain full line level on set.

 

EB10000_w-Trans_&_Caddy_Sm.jpg

 

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/Distro. 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_1Sm.jpg

 

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 Transformer/Distro makes it possible to operate portable generators at a distance and maintain full line level on set 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.   

 

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.)

 

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.

 

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

 

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 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.)

 

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, ScreenLight & Grip, Lighting Rentals & Sales in Boston

Guy that's a hell of advice, thanks! Definitely will be helpful. 


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#18 Vadim Joy

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Posted 19 April 2014 - 07:52 PM

I certainly don't mean to intrude on your very helpful advice - I appreciate reading it myself - but Vadim's examples show the fire light being blown to near white in the center of the flame, so I assumed he was OK with that.  

Well, that picture is an example only of something my eye likes. I agree the fire color is overexposed, I'd like to show it in its vivid colors. 


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#19 Stuart Allman

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 01:42 PM

After you shoot it, please post something about what exposure you had to use.  My instinct is this is largely going to depend on the size of the camp fire your director wants.


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#20 Vadim Joy

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 01:57 PM

After you shoot it, please post something about what exposure you had to use.  My instinct is this is largely going to depend on the size of the camp fire your director wants.

No problem. I don't think there will be big campfire, the place is not that big itself and they won't risk being spotted filming without permit there. But who knows. 


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