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Lighting Wide Urban Night Exteriors With mid/low budget


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#1 Albion Hockney

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Posted 21 February 2015 - 01:26 PM

I have a project coming up with some steadicam shots of someone walking around an urban setting at night. maybe walking down an area of about 50-100ft and then standing on a corner. Widest shots are like medium wide or a little wider.

 

Its pretty modest budget, I could probably get a condor and maybe a 5k out but that would be it. I have been seeing a lot of urban work as of late that looks lit mostly with practical light though and I'm just curious what some of the newer practices are other then just edging someone from down the block with a big light. One thing Is that there will be open bussiness they will be walking by so I was going to try to utilize that to motivate/give a lot of the light for the walking scene.

 

I was just watching this drake video/short film....excuse the content haha unless your a drake fan.

 

starting at 6:44 there is a scene infront of a liquor store which turns into a long steadicam shot of drake walking out and getting into a car. I'm just curous how people think this was done. It looks like it could almost just be practical light, but the parking lot retains a pretty strong exposure of the cool blue light. I wonder if there were some other sources going on to do that.

 

 

 

I guess in general I'm curious how much practical light can be used in night exterior. If anyone can think of any examples of wide urban night exteriors shot with practicals I would love to see it.


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#2 Miguel Angel

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Posted 21 February 2015 - 01:56 PM

Answering quickly to your question, you can use as many practical light as you want for a night exterior, you need to know where to place them though and how to use them for them to give you all the light that you need. 

 

Wide urban night exteriors shots just lit with practicals (at some stage) that come to my mind: 

- Collateral

- Miami Vice

- The Cold Light Of Day (We shot 1/3rd of the car chases with 5219 at 400ASA with practical lights)

- The Need For Speed

 

Now, there is a very interesting way to give your talents an exposure if you want to, the only thing you need to have is a Jem light or a China ball which you can move accordingly to the movement of the characters if you want to as well as the open businesses, which you can use to emphasize the colours of the night too.

 

It is very cheap, it is dimmable and it can be shaped and diffused in many ways (well, not in many but in some.. it is a china ball after all!).

 

Of course, it depends on the camera that you are going to use and its ASA. 

 

Have a good day. 

Best.


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#3 Paul Salmons

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Posted 21 February 2015 - 06:01 PM

Another option is to go with something like a Canon c-500. Crank that bad boy up to 2500iso with a pretty fast lens and you can still maintain a good image.


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#4 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 21 February 2015 - 10:18 PM

The scene from the Drake video appears to be all natural light shot wide open. I think that's what most people are doing these days, maybe with a light panel or two and some negative fill to take away the streetlights you don't want.

Sounds like you might be able to get away with hiding some par cans on rooftops, fire escapes, at the base of buildings, behind trash cans, etc. Maybe some smoke pots if you want to to get expressionistic 80's style. One thing I like to do if there's time is to hide little battery powered LEDs around the set to create window glows and wall bounces to create depth and separation. I sometimes add to that a small selection of party gels.
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#5 Stuart Allman

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Posted 22 February 2015 - 12:15 AM

Albion,

 

One insightful trick Shane Hurlbut told us about during his recent seminar tour is that he used Home Depot par cans with strong gels on them down the block to make colorful bokeh highlights - just to pretty up the frame.  If the location lacks some character and you need to motivate some of the odd colors coming from storefronts then you may consider adding this cheap trick.

 

Phedon Papamichael used quite a few film lights hidden in store fronts in Monuments Men (see American Cinematographer issue from last year) along with a strong single source backlight from down the block.

 

I saw a video from an ASC talk last year (Owen Roizman, I think?) who set up a mobile light that travelled with the camera and he would manually flag the light on and off the actors as they walked along with the motivation being the street lamps in the background.  Maybe you could use this technique while the Steadicam op walks backwards if a grip has a battery powered 1x1 (or whatever) on a pole.  Maybe all you need to do is adjust the dimmer on the LED light.

 

Stuart

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#6 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 22 February 2015 - 06:42 AM

There are all kinds of cheap tricks that can be done. The big issue is that if you don't have enormous amounts of money you are also unlikely to have enormous amounts of time or crew. All too often cheap tricks are cheap because they need people to set them up, and can end up not really being cheap at all - especially if they require large amounts of mains distribution, generators, etc.

 

Battery powered lighting can be a huge boon here, although, of course, batteries aren't cheap either!

 

P


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#7 Dylan Sunshine Saliba

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Posted 22 February 2015 - 07:52 AM

The scene the OP wanted broken down looks like completely natural light. The balance of the interior store lights gives it away I think. There was some kind of mercury vapor or some such on top of the store though. I would guess a fast prime stopped down a little and the ISO was cranked up.
Myself, I love a china ball on a fish pole with a dimmer combination. I do like Satsuki technique ideas...I'll be tucking those away in my little notebook, thank you Satsuki Murashige!
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#8 Guy Holt

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Posted 22 February 2015 - 09:08 AM

The scene from the Drake video appears to be all natural light shot wide open. I think that's what most people are doing these days, maybe with a light panel or two and some negative fill to take away the streetlights you don't want.

 

Have to disagree.  He is lit consistently from the side when the only motivated source is the store window, which is directly behind him. That and the cool color temperature tells me there is a large soft source to frame right. One new approach to lighting night exteriors that Gaffer Tony Lullo does on “Chicago Fire” is to use Mactech 96 LED panels rigged under a condor basket to create just this type of soft ambient light.  

 

MacTech_ChicagoFire_Logo.jpg

 

The production stills below are from an episode from season two where a car has crashed into an electrical pole causing a black out.  To create a soft ambient top light, he rigged several Mactech 96 fixtures with 5500K tubes under a condor and flew it over the scene. 

 

MacTech_Condor_Rigging.jpg

 

He then used another Mactech 96 on a rolling stand with 3200K tubes to create the warm glow from the resulting electrical fire. Since the Mactechs draw only 8.4 Amps each this approach can be very cost effective because it means you can run your entire set off of a couple of paralleled Honda EU6500s.

 

MacTech_CF_Scene_WS..jpg

 

One of the biggest hurdles to obtaining good production values in low budget digital cinema productions is the high cost of the blimped studio generators required to power large HMIs for wide night exteriors (the signature of high production values.) Not only are blimped generators expensive to rent, but they also come with hidden costs.

 

MacTech_CF_On_Stand.jpg

 

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 traditional approach of an 18k Fresnel in a condor very expensive.

 

MacTech_CF_Scene_CU..jpg

 

Now that you can parallel two modified Honda EU7000s or EU6500s for a combined output of 120A there is a more cost effective alternative. A complete paralleling system consists of two generators, a Paralleling Control Box, and a Transformer/Distro (either 60-, 84-, or 100 Amp.)

 

Paralleling_Copy_HMI_Reverse_Master.jpg

Parallel operation of two Honda EU6500 generators made possible by our new Paralleling Control Box)

 

The EU7000 generators require modification to interface with the Paralleling Control Box, which syncs the frequency and equalizes the load between the generators. The paralleling control circuitry uses the Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) of the generator's inverters to control the load sharing. The phase angles of the two generators are synchronized using open loop architecture. The final function of the control box is to switch the outputs of the inverters to a common bus after their frequencies are locked in step (same phase angle and time base.)

 

Paralleling_Copy_HMI_Master.jpg

(As demonstrated here, our new HD Plug-n-Play Paralleling System can power a 6K HMI as well as 2-2k and 2-1k Fresnels)

 

To provide power that is readily accessible in industry standard outlets, the Paralleling Control Box is outfitted with a 240V Bates receptacle. The 240V Bates pocket enables you to power larger HMIs than has ever been possible before on Hondas (4k - 9k ARRIMAXs) power a Transformer/Distro. The Transformer/Distro serves several important functions in this system that enables two EU6500/7000s to be paralleled, but its' primary function is to step-down the combined 240V output of the two generators into a single large 120V circuit (either 60-, 84-, 100 Amps) that is capable of powering more small lights (it can power up to 10k Quartz). The Transformer/Distros are outfitted with the industry standard 120V Bates receptacle so that you can use standard distro equipment, like Bates Siameses, Extensions, and Break-Out boxes to distribute power around your set, breaking out to U-Ground Edison Outlets where ever needed.

 

Paralleling_Copy_HMI_MidShot.jpg

Our 60A Transformer/Distro provides 120V power to smaller lights while a 6K HMI operates at 240V) 


 

An added benefit to using a Transformer/Distro to distribute the combined power of the two generators is that, no matter where you plug into the Transformer/Distro on its' secondary side, it automatically balances the load on the generator's two legs (which is critical for successful paralleling of two machines – use this link for details.)

 

Where the four Mactech 96 LED fixtures lighting the action area of this crash scene from Chicago Fire draw only 34 Amps total, there is plenty of amps remaining on a couple of paralleled Hondas to power more lights to light the deep background when you consider that both the ARRI L7 LED Fresnel and Kino Flo Parabeam 400 use approximately 2 Amps. In fact, with the efficiency of lights today there is enough power on a couple of paralleled Hondas to power just about all the lights needed to shoot a night exterior on a digital cinema camera.  This combination of brighter, more efficient lights, with more sensitive digital cameras, and new more powerful portable generators makes it now possible to achieve remarkable results on a tight budget.

 

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


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#9 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 22 February 2015 - 09:53 AM

use Mactech 96 LED panels rigged under a condor basket to create just this type of soft ambient light.  

 

Yes, Guy, sounds like a really low budget approach.


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#10 Phil Connolly

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Posted 22 February 2015 - 10:27 AM

I've been seeing these sort battery powered up lighters being used at events:

 

http://premier-event...-uplighter-hire

 

Some can be pretty bright and they can change colour by wireless DMX control. That might be something could be put to work on a large night exterior - to provide splashes of light and colour in the background. Your main problem with wide night shots is the time taken to run cable - so anything that allows you to avoid that is good. 

 

Also pick your locations well as you can do a lot with available light and a fast camera. I directed this shoot:

and its mostly available light (and video projectors). This was on an Panasonic SDX 900 and F2.1 lens - which is quite a bit less light sensitive then more up to date cameras. Lighting wise we he had a 1.2K HMI and a 575W HMI and a couple of red heads. That was more to provide coloured glows and give the walls some texture. 

 

We did spend a lot of time looking for a location that would do the work for us in terms of layout and available light 


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#11 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 22 February 2015 - 12:25 PM

Check out the 2014 November issue of American Cinematographer Magazine.  There's a great article on Nightcrawler.  It was a 26 day shoot with no big lights at all.  Mostly battery powered smaller units. Shot on an Alexa.  The article might give you some ideas on how to get by on an ultra low budget. 


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#12 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 23 February 2015 - 01:30 AM

Hi Guy, do you know roughly how many footcandles Tony Lullo is lighting to on those 'Chicago Fire' setups?
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#13 James Compton

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Posted 23 February 2015 - 10:16 AM

Hey Satsuki,

 

    Have a look at the photometric chart at the bottom of this page. That should give you a good starting point.

 

http://www.mactechle...s-led-sled-dmx/


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#14 Albion Hockney

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Posted 23 February 2015 - 12:02 PM

Thanks for the replies everyone.

 

As for the drake seen after watching it several times. I agree with Guy, I think there is some sources for sure that edge carries way too far. but I can sorta see how that could be done in my head now.

 

 

Satsuki, can you explain what you mean by hiding LED's around set....are you saying having the lights in frame? or are you just talking about tossing LED's in interior locations to give the apperance of rooms with lights on.

the other question was what is a "smoke pot" I do want some smoke....kinda like the look of steam heating pipes leaking through the sewer coming up in the background basically. Was trying to figure out the best way to do that.

 

 

Phil, I think you have to understand low budget is for sure relative. Guy explained and I know he is right the biggest expense of night exterior in the past is a huge generator and all the crew that comes along with that along with cost of big lights. His solution is "low budget" in a sense and actually that information is really helpful. Although that is still a high end production world I'm curious about those sources. In the past one thing I have done is just put some 2k open face lights on cheap condor style lift. and fortuently I am not lighting up near the size of an area as they are on a show like "Chicago Fire"


Edited by Albion Hockney, 23 February 2015 - 12:04 PM.

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#15 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 23 February 2015 - 04:35 PM

Thanks for the link James.

 

Albion, I have a few small battery powered LED's that can be hidden to give little accent lights. For example:
Alogrithm_Night-EXT.jpg

 

Available light night exterior from a feature I shot a few years ago. I wanted to bring up the foreground plant so that it didn't melt into the background so I put a Dedo Ledzilla under the foreground bush pointed straight up. You can actually see a bit of the lamp at the bottom of the frame, should have hid it a little better. I could have also placed another small light behind the tree on frame left to edge it out a little, or bounced into the car parked behind it for separation. But this shot was a 270 degree pan and I needed my other LED for action happening 150 degrees to camera left. I think this kind of lighting is becoming more common with the lower light levels we are shooting at these days. The LED Dedo series is great since they are fresnels and not just soft lights.

 

A smoke pot is just a self contained smoke generating device: http://en.wikipedia....ki/Pyrotechnics. If you can't get a special fx guy, you could make your own by getting a party fogger and making a tube for the nozzle out of Home Depot HVAC hardware so that the smoke goes straight up. Hide the whole thing behind a parked car. Of course, if it's windy then it's not gonna work.


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