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Outdoor interview lighting setup


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#1 Rob Welling

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Posted 02 September 2014 - 04:11 PM

I'm about to start working on a project that will involve a number of outdoor interviews, primarily on golf courses. I'm working with a small budget, which should cover a basic grip truck, a couple extra lights and an 8x8 for the harsh sun stuff. 

 

My question is mainly about the diffusion material, but also the overall setup. There will be several two-shots for these interviews, and I'm wondering people's thoughts regarding preferred diffusion material (silk, grid cloth etc?) for bright sun shooting, w/audio, as well as key light vs. fill vs. backlight combinations utilizing sun, probably a couple 1200 Cinepars (come with the van) and some bounce if needed. Probably can't go much more than that as far as lights as I can't get into generators and such. I realize time of day may play into this as well, so feel free to expound on that, too. 

 

I guess I'd just like to get some basic feedback on what I might be able to do with that kit listed above to create a well-balanced shot. I suppose finding shade for my subject where I would have a little more control might be the easiest option, but I want to be prepared for the time when that's not available. If I'm missing any necessary info, let me know.

 

Thanks in advance for any feedback. Wonderful forum, and having just recently found it it's been very helpful and informative looking through the posts. 

 

Much appreciated,

 

Rob

 

 


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#2 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 02 September 2014 - 04:23 PM

My approach would be an 8x8 1/2 soft frost to cover the talent and a 6x6 bounce as a soft key, probably unbleached muslin. I'd leave the Pars on the truck.


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#3 Rob Welling

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Posted 02 September 2014 - 04:38 PM

Thanks Stuart - I appreciate that.

 

Do you think the soft frost plus the bounce would keep me within range for decent background exposure? I guess that's why I was thinking I needed the pars in my back pocket - just in case I needed to bump up my subject a bit under that 8x8.


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#4 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 02 September 2014 - 05:05 PM

1/2 Soft Frost doesn't reduce your exposure by much at all, and it gives a lovely glow to skintones. With that and a large bounce in direct sunlight, you should have no problems.

 

Only downside is that Soft Frost can be a little noisy if there is a breeze, so you may want to have a 8x8 Silent 1/4 Grid on standby.


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#5 Rob Welling

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Posted 02 September 2014 - 06:47 PM

Stuart - all very valuable info for this particular undertaking. The breeze was definitely a concern r.e. audio and the 8x. Appreciate the backup suggestion.  

 

Again, thanks much!


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#6 Kyran Ford

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Posted 02 September 2014 - 11:48 PM

Agreed with Stuart. 1/2 soft frost overhead, forced negative fill (8x solid), reflected edge (shiny board), small bounce under the lens for eyelight. Shoot the wides at sun rise and leave grip work to control the closeups. ND and Pola if you want to shoot for 2.8 or 2.8/4 split.  


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#7 Rob Welling

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Posted 03 September 2014 - 09:54 AM

Kyran - perfect. Thanks for the add on the small bounce and reflected edge. I was planning on ND and polarizer, yep. Appreciate the additional thoughts.


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#8 Guy Holt

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Posted 03 September 2014 - 05:53 PM

 I'm wondering people's thoughts regarding preferred ... key light vs. fill vs. backlight combinations utilizing sun, probably a couple 1200 Cinepars (come with the van) and some bounce if needed. Probably can't go much more than that as far as lights as I can't get into generators and such. I realize time of day may play into this as well, so feel free to expound on that, too. 

 

These are all great suggestions for “grip lighting”, but what do you do when the sun goes away? As a gaffer in New England (about which Mark Twain famously quipped “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes and it will change”) I don’t go outside without a HMI lighting package. To avoid the sheen on your talent that you will get from a bare HMI you should plan to diffuse the light as well, so 1200 Pars may not be big enough. I find that a 4k ARRIMAX through a diffusion frame is a good key source for a two shot under a diffusion frame. The other nice thing about the 4k ARRIMAX is that you can run it off a Honda EU6500. Of course you will want to keep the Honda at a distance so I would recommend you use the voltage boost capacity of a step-down transformer/distro to compensate for line loss over the long cable run back to the generator.

 

If possible I would arrange to shoot the establishing master shot when the sun position offers the best effect on the background - usually the early morning or evening.  Shoot the coverage under diffusion using the 4k to match continuity to the master. Shooting under diffusion offers a number of advantages. It takes the directionality out of the sun on the talent and knocks down the ambient level, which enables you to use the smaller 4k to model your talent to mimic the establishing shot. The ideal situation is to wait to shoot the coverage until the sun has moved around to a back light position. When in this position, you are shooting into the shadowed side of the talent so the small  4k ARRIMAX will have even more of a modeling effect. Finally, with the sun in a backlight position all the shadows of the silk frame and stands are thrown forward, which enables you to frame wider before picking up the shadow of the hardware.

 

Guy Holt, Gaffer

ScreenLight & Grip

Lighting Rental & Sales in Boston


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#9 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 03 September 2014 - 10:01 PM

 

These are all great suggestions for “grip lighting”, but what do you do when the sun goes away? 

 

You shoot in overcast and use a 4x4 beadboard to bounce some light up into the eye sockets.

 

The OP has a limited budget for lamps and manpower and is shooting on golf courses, where it would seem impractical to lug a 6500w generator. It's perfectly possible to get good results with just available light. Documentary shooters do it all the time.


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#10 Guy Holt

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Posted 04 September 2014 - 05:57 AM

 

You shoot in overcast and use a 4x4 beadboard to bounce some light up into the eye sockets.

 

The OP has a limited budget for lamps and manpower and is shooting on golf courses, where it would seem impractical to lug a 6500w generator. It's perfectly possible to get good results with just available light. Documentary shooters do it all the time.

 

I don’t deny the OP can get good results bouncing light with beadboard, but it is going to be a very different result than what he gets when the sun is out. When he goes to cut the footage together, he will have a continuity problem. A 4k Arrimax will even out the discrepancies between when the sun is out and when it is under cloud cover and so his footage will cut together much more seamlessly.

 

The OP had it in his budget for two 1200 pars. 1200 pars don’t run off batteries, so he had it in his budget for a portable generator like the Honda EU6500. If he rents one of the modified 7500W Honda EU6500s he will have no difficulty operating both a 4k ARRRIMAX and a 1200W Par on the true 60A circuit provided by the transformer/distro. An since he was planning on using a 8x overhead, reflector boards, 2-1200 Pars, and a generator anyway, substituting one of the 1200 pars with a 4k ARRIMAX would not change his crew requirements. And where a 4k ARRIMAX should only cost a couple hundred more than the 1200 par it is replacing, it is not adding appreciably to his budget. IMO that couple of hundred dollars is well spent if it eliminates the continuity problems he will otherwise have.

 

I have done a lot of work for The Golf Channel on Golf Courses, as well as for Good Morning America in Apple Orchards, and the package I suggested is low budget by comparison. What most producers don’t understand is that the sun generates 80’000 FC. While a 4k ARRIMAX is a big light, it is like spit in the ocean on a sunny day.

 

Guy Holt, Gaffer

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Lighting Rental & Sales in Boston


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#11 Albion Hockney

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Posted 05 September 2014 - 11:42 AM

I think you can make a nice argument that for logistical ease and consistency you need some 4k's or nice size HMI heads to do day exterior work, but in all honesty with modern camera technology you can get away without that stuff and generally will result in a much more pleasing image.

 

4K's through diff to get exposure is a much harsher source then an 8x8 or 12x12. It's one thing if its a big production thing and you have big guns out there ....and I guess it is another thing to if its an interview for the golf channel and you just need consistency but for the most part I much prefer the image working with overheads then HMI's ....maybe if I had opportunity to be on a bigger sets with lots of crew and bigger heads ....but really it just doesn't seem super necessary.


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#12 Rob Welling

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Posted 05 September 2014 - 01:39 PM

This is all great info - I appreciate you guys batting around the options/ideas.

 

After speaking with our local rental house, I think I"m going to end up going with an 8x overhead, and an Arrimax 1800 w/a 1200w spare bulb. They said they've had some good luck with that new 1800 fixture putting out nearly as much as a standard 4K, and if the 1800 can't have a dedicated circuit, put the 1200 bulb in and you're off to the races.

 

Will diffuse that down and hopefully that will solve any continuity issues - and the other side of it is I will hopefully be able to maintain a somewhat consistent look/feel across episodes.

 

Maybe knock it down on the side a bit with a 6x solid to round things out and hopefully it will start to look pretty decent without too much fooling around.

 

I never really had the budget for or intent to use a generator - plan was to always try to shoot near the clubhouse or some other structure with electric close by. (Standard circuit - hence my limitations on lighting size - I should have mentioned that in the OP - sorry)

 

If anyone sees any significant holes in that setup (other than lighting size - I know it's a little on the low side, but I'm kinda stuck there) - feel free to let me know!

 

 

Again, thanks to all.


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#13 Guy Holt

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Posted 06 September 2014 - 03:49 PM

I think you can make a nice argument that for logistical ease and consistency you need some 4k's or nice size HMI heads to do day exterior work, but in all honesty with modern camera technology you can get away without that stuff and generally will result in a much more pleasing image.

 

I have yet to find a camera that can create a nose drop shadow, a high cheekbone, or chiseled chin - all of which can be created by sun through overhead diffusion. All of which goes away when the sun goes behind a cloud.  Rob is correct that using HMIs  outdoors will not only give him more consistency during an interview, but it will also give him a more consistent look between shows.

 

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


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#14 Guy Holt

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Posted 06 September 2014 - 05:03 PM

I think I"m going to end up going with an 8x overhead, and an Arrimax 1800 w/a 1200w spare bulb. They (the rental house) said they've had some good luck with that new 1800 fixture putting out nearly as much as a standard 4K, and if the 1800 can't have a dedicated circuit, put the 1200 bulb in and you're off to the races..... plan (is)  to shoot near the clubhouse or some other structure with electric close by...  If anyone sees any significant holes in that setup (other than lighting size - I know it's a little on the low side, but I'm kinda stuck there) - feel free to let me know!

 

An M18 is a good choice in this case, but I can foresee a couple of problems none-the-less. 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. 1800W ballasts will trip 15 Amp breakers and 20 Amp breakers 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 an 1800W HMI into the wall. 

 

 

iRobot_Master_Shot.jpg

Master shot of an iRobot commercial lit with a 4kw HMI Par (outside) & 1.8kw HMI Par (inside) powered from a 30A/240V dryer outlet through a step-down transformer/distro. Note: Sunny feel created by 4k Par on an overcast day.

 

 

Even if you were to find a dedicated 20A circuit (by unplugging a soda vending machine for instance) you may still have problems. The Arri 1800W ballast has an Apparent Power of 2250VA (2600 Max according to the ballast manual) which means it will draw 19.5 amps at 115V. Operating this close to the threshold, 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 will climb over 20 Amps. More often than not the stinger plug-ends overheat first 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 and the breaker is next to go. For this reason avoid running a lot of stingers from the club house - it is a recipe for disaster with M18s.

 

 

iRobot_Comp_1.jpg

Left: Transformer/Distro plugged into a 30A/240V dryer outlet. Right: 4K HMI Par under rain protection powered by Transformer/Distro

 

It has also been my experience that M18s work 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 you try to run multiple stingers to plug into a wall or generator outlet, you will likely have problems with the plug ends or receptacle overheating. 

 

 

iRobot_Comp_2.jpg

Left: Arri AS18 1800W Par powered from Transformer/Distro. Right: 4Kw and 1800W HMI ballasts powered from Transformer/Distro.

 

I have also found that the only full proof way to power an M18 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. If you outfit the transformer with a 60A Bates receptacle, it enables you to use a real film style distro system that will enable you to minimize line loss over a long cable run and provide plug-in pockets close to the ballasts.  For more detailed information on using transformers on set, I would suggest you read an article I wrote on the use of portable generators in motion picture production.

 

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


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#15 Rob Welling

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Posted 07 September 2014 - 10:03 PM

Guy - thanks for the detail above. All makes excellent sense. Our rental house here said much the same thing about the M18 potentially having issues on anything other than a dedicated circuit (and even then, as you say, if a 15A circuit can't handle it, we may be in trouble regardless.) This is what brought up their suggestion for bringing along the spare 1200 bulb as a replacement in case we started tripping breakers all over the place.

 

He felt the M18 fixture, with the 1200 bulb, would give us the best results in terms of bang for our buck at that wattage, and hopefully step us down to where we're not popping breakers. So if we get away with running the M18, we're good to go. If not, drop in the 1200 bulb and hopefully we're still able to function. 

 

What are your thoughts on that avenue?

 

Thanks,

 

Rob


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#16 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 08 September 2014 - 03:38 PM

I also carry a Westcott frame and "silk" package with me.  They have a double-net which can help quite a bit behind the talent and isn't seen in most setups (depending upon where the Sun is). 

So I'll look for my A shot to build off of that is hopefully looking into a darker background that'll stay that way for the duration of the interview.  Then with any luck, my B shot would be handled by the double net.  Both talent would have some kind of silk or solid flown over them to take out ALL shadows.  Then I fill with an 800K Joker and/or bounce.  

It's not often that I have the equipment, budget, or time to deal with larger units so working with the environment that exists first then adding lights and other grippary to it keeps us moving.


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