....I assume its better than lugging a 12K and stand through the forest and in addition it wouldn't require as much repositioning as you moved though setups.
Another option, though not a necessarily cheap one, is the use of a large HMI in the basket of an aerial lift or “condor.” While the Condor itself doesn’t cost that much (about $175/day), the ancillary costs can add up very quickly. In addition to the cost of the Condor, you will incur transportation costs to get it to set (typically $125 each way.)
A large HMI, like an 18kw Fresnel, will cost about $1000 and then there is the cost of the blimped movie generator to power it (about $795.) The generator comes with hidden costs as well. Since rental trucks like those from Ryder or Penske are not equipped to tow, you quite often have to hire the rental house's grip truck to tow them. And, since most rental houses require that one of their employees drive their trucks (for insurance reasons), the production has to hire a driver at roughly $575/10hrs - which is probably more than anyone else on a typical indie crew is getting paid. All of this makes the use of an 18k Fresnel in a Condor very expensive.
There are several things about the use of aerial lifts that you should be aware of. The first is that the lift manufacturers are finally supporting their use in motion picture production. The upside to this development is that they now provide them painted black (see picture above) and they have endorsed the rigging of lights on their baskets, which is a good thing except that in doing so the manufacturers have set strict weight restrictions that vary depending on the height and reach of the basket and how far off the basket pivot point the light is rigged (see representative illustration above.) When rigging lights with a condor bracket on the front rail of a condor basket (as pictured above), the endorsements are in fact so restrictive that electric trailers now carry shipping scales to weigh the equipment and only the smallest guys on a crew qualify for “condor duty.” Quite often the lifts have to be sent up unmanned, and the lights focused from the ground by panning and tilting the basket with the ground controls because there is not sufficient capacity in the basket for an operator.
Fortunately, there have been several recent technological developments that make the use of Condors a lot more affordable for indie productions. First, because of the weight restrictions of Condors, Arri has incorporated their new MAX reflector technology into a new power class of HMI light: the M90.
(The light generated by the CAD designed Max Reflector of the
new M90/60 is incredibly bright and sharp.)
Utilizing a new 9 kW HMI lamp, the unique MAX reflector of the M90 creates diverging parallel rays to produce a crisp light with even distribution through a wide spot/flood range. The result is a lens-less open face fixture with a quality of light close to that of a Fresnel. The elimination of spread lenses like those used on HMI Pars, makes the ARRI MAX reflector lamp heads comparable in output to par configurations of a higher wattage. In fact, the M90 is brighter than some 18K Fresnels on the market, yet weighs 67lbs less. Weighing only 87lbs, verses the 154lbs of a their 18k Fresnel, two M90s can be rigged into a condor basket and operated by a technician where only one 18k Fresnel could before.
(The Active Line Filtration (ALF) of the new ARRI EB 6000/9000 ballast makes it an incredibly efficient and clean load.)
To power the new M90 head, ARRI has engineered adual wattage ballast. The EB 6000/9000 will operate either the traditional 6kw SE globe in the M90 head, or the new 9kw SE globe, on supply voltages ranging from 195-250V. With Active Line Filtration (ARRI's system of Power Factor Correction) built in, the EB 6000/9000 ballast is incredibly efficient and generates virtually no harmonic noise.
The combined 100A output of paralleled Honda EU6500s is sufficient to
operate the new Arri M90 as well as additional set lighting.
Which brings us to the second technological innovation: drawing only 84 Amps, the M90 can operate on the combined 100A output of paralleled Honda EU6500s. Not only is this approach a lot less expensive, it is also a lot easier and offers more versatility. It is a lot easier because you don’t have to tow a diesel generator into the words or run heavy feeder cables through brush. It is more versatile because when you don't need the punch of a 18kw Fresnel, you can swap the 9kw globe for a 6kw globe making more power available to run additional lights on the paralleled EU6500s. For example, you save 27 Amps when you swap out a 9kw bulb for a 6kw bulb. The 27 Amps you save by burning the smaller 6kw globe will power quite a few more lights when you consider that both the ARRI L7 LED Fresnel and Kino Flo Parabeam 400 use approximately 2 Amps. In fact, such versatility now enables the operation on portable putt-putt generators of just about all the lights needed to shoot a night exterior on a digital cinema camera. This combination of smaller, brighter, more efficient lights, with more sensitive digital cameras, and parallel operation of portable generators makes it now possible for indie productions to achieve, at a fraction of the cost, the big budget production values that come from rigging HMIs on condors.
Guy Holt, Gaffer, Lighting and Grip Equipment Rental & Sales in Boston