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Lighting a Forest with No Budget


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#1 Antonio Polito

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Posted 09 April 2018 - 07:39 PM

Hi, first post here! I've got a student film that I'm aiming to shoot this summer. I'm gonna direct and light it as well. Problem is I have like maybe $1000 to spend on lighting a forest at night. I've read a few of the posts on the site, but they all seem to require expensive lights and generators. I was thinking of renting 2 Joker 800's or some Aputure 120ds and 300ds. Or either a Light bar like Shane Hulrbut talks about with daylight bulbs or a Kino flo with quasar tubes? And then a generator like this one to power it? 

https://www.homedepot.com/tool-truck-rental/2000W-Inverter-Generator/EU2000T1A1-705515/index.html 

 

 I've been testing out day for night, but I really don't like the look. It looks too blue or purple, and you can't register any emotion from the actors. I mainly want medium and close up shots, and one running shot. I'm considering giving my characters a flashlight, but the problem is the that they're supposed to be running from the cops. What do you guys recommend for a student like me? 

 

night time.JPG

nighttime2.JPG

It-Comes-at-Night-2017-Movie-scene.jpg


Edited by Antonio Polito, 09 April 2018 - 07:45 PM.

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#2 Darrell Ham

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Posted 09 April 2018 - 10:31 PM

Any way of getting vehicles onto location?
 

If you aren't able to rent the Aputure lights, you can always try using car headlights or look into using LED work lights from home depot(there's always the whole buy&return trick to get your money back).

 

Either way, I'd hit the light thru some sort of diffuser and add a bit of smoke/haze to spread it as much as possible. 


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#3 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 09 April 2018 - 10:49 PM

I'd look into getting a 6500 honda with 60a bates and then running as much LED as you can as it'll be the most efficient. A bunch of Aperatures bounced into a 12x ultra bounce or something for the "ambience" and some strong kickers and atmosphere.


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#4 JD Hartman

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Posted 10 April 2018 - 05:16 AM

Any way of getting vehicles onto location?
 

If you aren't able to rent the Aputure lights, you can always try using car headlights or look into using LED work lights from home depot (there's always the whole buy&return trick to get your money back).

 

Either way, I'd hit the light thru some sort of diffuser and add a bit of smoke/haze to spread it as much as possible. 

 

Very professional advice....


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#5 Darrell Ham

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Posted 10 April 2018 - 12:48 PM

 

Very professional advice....

 

Sorry, I saw that he's on a student budget and know that this is a thing Art Dept constantly does.

 

If you want a more sound professional advice, then ShareGrid/KitSplit is your friend. Aputure 300Ds can be rented for about $50-100 a day/weekend. As for batteries, I highly recommend trying to rent an extra set of v-mount batteries to eliminate the need for a genie/suitcase. As mentioned before, use either a bounce or diffusion for an atmosphere light. And again, haze/smoke is your friend in this type of situation.

 

Also forgot to mention in my first post, have some sort of chinaball/light dome set up to help key the talents faces. 


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#6 Antonio Polito

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Posted 10 April 2018 - 01:48 PM

I'd look into getting a 6500 honda with 60a bates and then running as much LED as you can as it'll be the most efficient. A bunch of Aperatures bounced into a 12x ultra bounce or something for the "ambience" and some strong kickers and atmosphere.

So would I bounce all the lights from above or below into an Ultra bounce. I assume the ultra bounce would be an angle and also as high as possible? Now is this to light the overall scene,like background and characters? Or just the background?

 

What do you guys think about a space light acting as a light for the background and a back light for the actor. Then another light as the key.


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#7 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 10 April 2018 - 02:04 PM

It would be high and at an angle and yes light the over all scene, and to some extent the actors, The back-lighting acts to separate them as well as highlight the atmosphere, and then you can bring in another source-- whatever you can get away with, hell, even a small battery powered LED cheap-o light, right off of frame to give them some definition.

I don't think  space-lights would work as well as they aren't as large/soft/ as a large frame, so they fall-off won't be as good, but you could probably get away with it a bit if you had to.


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#8 Antonio Polito

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Posted 10 April 2018 - 02:26 PM

What do you guys think about renting a DS6. I know Shane Hurlbut used a 9 light to create moonlight and the DS6 seems to be the led version of that. Would that run off the generator I posted. 


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#9 JD Hartman

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Posted 10 April 2018 - 08:48 PM

What do you guys think about renting a DS6. I know Shane Hurlbut used a 9 light to create moonlight and the DS6 seems to be the led version of that. Would that run off the generator I posted. 

 

The 2000W Honda will produce only 1600W continuous output.  Not nearly enough to strike the two 800w Jokers you mentioned in your first post.  1600W of LED lighting might be more than enough for your shoot but can you afford the rental costs?  Might be cheaper to rent a larger generator and use cheaper, more easily sourced Tungsten lighting.


Edited by JD Hartman, 10 April 2018 - 08:51 PM.

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#10 Antonio Polito

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Posted 10 April 2018 - 10:31 PM

 

The 2000W Honda will produce only 1600W continuous output.  Not nearly enough to strike the two 800w Jokers you mentioned in your first post.  1600W of LED lighting might be more than enough for your shoot but can you afford the rental costs?  Might be cheaper to rent a larger generator and use cheaper, more easily sourced Tungsten lighting.

Tungsten lighting gelled blue? 


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#11 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 11 April 2018 - 09:35 AM

You don't even need to gel it blue; you can cool it in camera if you wanted, or do it in post. If you just want EVERYTHING blue-ish, you can set your white balance to say 2700K.


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#12 AJ Young

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Posted 11 April 2018 - 01:18 PM

Sounds like you actually have enough lights to get buy. Two Joker 800's have considerable output, even when shooting them into a large bounce.

 

Check out this still from Blue Ruin which only used two lights:

621.jpg?w=2000&h=

 

Also, which camera are you using?


Edited by AJ Young, 11 April 2018 - 01:19 PM.

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#13 Antonio Polito

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Posted 11 April 2018 - 11:35 PM

Sounds like you actually have enough lights to get buy. Two Joker 800's have considerable output, even when shooting them into a large bounce.
 
Check out this still from Blue Ruin which only used two lights:
621.jpg?w=2000&h=
 
Also, which camera are you using?

 

I actually like that alot, how would you go about lighting that? I assume one light for the background and another for the key?

 

As for camera, it might be a T3i for now. 


Edited by Antonio Polito, 11 April 2018 - 11:38 PM.

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#14 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 12 April 2018 - 01:10 AM

That's fine for your medium and close shots -- the problem is the running shot.  Two small lights doesn't give you much of a run through the woods.  Your best hope is to repeat the move in the short amount of lit area in different focal lengths and shot sizes and extend the run in cuts, no one is going to notice the same trees passing by in a quick cut.


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#15 Mark Kenfield

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Posted 12 April 2018 - 11:32 AM

How fast are the lenses you'll have? And what's the highest ISO you can comfortably rate the camera you'll be shooting on? 

Those two questions will have a big impact on how small a lighting package you can get away with.


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#16 Guy Holt

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Posted 12 April 2018 - 07:56 PM

That's fine for your medium and close shots -- the problem is the running shot.  Two small lights doesn't give you much of a run through the woods. .....

 

You can always take the approach that Shelly Johnson did in Wolfman:

 

wolfman1.jpg

 

But instead of using large lights down an embankment to light smoke to separate the layers of trees and characters over a large area, use instead a ground row of highly efficient color changing LED lights, like the Color Kinetic ColorBlaze 72 fixtures.

 

 

CK_ColorBlaze_LG.jpg

 The 6' Color Kinetics ColorBlaze 72 RGB LED 

 

Each fixture is 6 feet long and can be strung end-to-end to cover a long distance. Use a location where the lights can be down an embankment as in these frame grabs from Wolfman. If you use the newer dmx four channel RGBA fixture, you will be able to dial in the color blue you want without losing output to color gels as you would tungsten lights.

 

wolfman2.jpg

 

I'd look into getting a 6500 honda with 60a bates and then running as much LED as you can as it'll be the most efficient. ...

 

There is no 60A Bates modification for the Honda EU7000. The latest edition of the NEC mandates that any portable generator under 10kw with 240V output be GFCI protected. To make it code compliant Honda has put GFCIs on the new EU7000 leaving no room for the Bates modification on the redesigned power panel. Besides, that modification provided only a 50A/120V circuit, not a real 60A/120V circuit.  The only way to get a full 60A out of the EU7000 or EU6500 is to use a portable transformer as a distro.  This approach offers a number of benefits over the Bates panel mod, including voltage boost to compensate for line-loss, the ability to parallel two EU6500/EU7000s, as well as bring the EUs into OSHA compliance.  It is an all around more versatile approach and given that many HMIs like the Jokers generate residual currents on the ground that will trip GFCIs, it is now the only means of using these lights reliably on Hondas.  

 

Using a small 7.5 kVA transformer to step down the 240V output of a modified Honda EU7000, you will be able to use up to 15 Color Kinetic ColorBlaze 72 fixtures to light haze - enough to cover 120 linear feet of woods. To use a larger generator requires running feeder cable through the woods (there is nothing worst than running cable through woods at night.)

 

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


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#17 AJ Young

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Posted 13 April 2018 - 12:46 PM

 

I actually like that alot, how would you go about lighting that? I assume one light for the background and another for the key?

 

As for camera, it might be a T3i for now. 

 

 

That's fine for your medium and close shots -- the problem is the running shot.  Two small lights doesn't give you much of a run through the woods.  Your best hope is to repeat the move in the short amount of lit area in different focal lengths and shot sizes and extend the run in cuts, no one is going to notice the same trees passing by in a quick cut.

 

I completely agree with David; the running shot will be your biggest challenge and David's approach will probably be the best.

 

If you've got noise reduction software, then you can pump the ISO way up on the T3i at least.

 

Guy's suggestion looks beautiful too; I'm totally going to try that.


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#18 Antonio Polito

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Posted 13 April 2018 - 09:46 PM

Right now I'm leaning towards renting a few 300ds along with the 120d I already have. But I was also thinking of renting a low light camera like the A7s or Gh5s cause then I'd be able to use smaller and more portable lights. What do you think.
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#19 Guy Holt

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Posted 14 April 2018 - 08:08 PM

..... I was also thinking of renting a low light camera like the A7s or Gh5s cause then I'd be able to use smaller and more portable lights. What do you think.

 

Using a low camera like the A7 will greatly reduce the number of foot candles required. Cinema 5D posted some pretty amazing demo footage shot in near total darkness with a Sony A7S II with a Sigma 20mm F/1.4 Art Lens. 

 

Milestone_City_Scape_MoonLight.jpg

 

As you can see in the grab frames, at an ISO 50’000 the camera/lens combination is capable of getting an image under nothing but moonlight (use this link to see the complete video.)

 

Milestone_Towers_MoonLight.jpg

 

The low light capability of cameras like the A7 does not mean that you will not have to light night scenes.  The problem with working with available light, including moonlight, is that it is not always what you want for a scene. A scene lit in a style that furthers the narrative is much preferable to shooting under available light, even if it is moonlight.

 

This trend towards making pictures “without too much help from the electric department” is IMO troubling because the DOP is giving up authorship of the image. If his/her options are limited to what the great Gaffer in the sky happens to provide, the creative options are limited.  And if by chance the available light does happen to coincide with what is creatively desired, it will invariably change in the course of the production, leaving the editor with a continuity nightmare.  IMO, it is better to tame the available light, and use lights to create a consistent and aesthetically appropriate look that models your set and talent as you wish, than to limit yourself to what your dealt.

 

Fast cameras like the A7 have a downside as well. At an ISO of 50’000 the moon is what the sun is during the day – something that has to be reckoned with.  The moon rises and moves through the night sky, which means that you will need to chart its position in the sky and stage your action accordingly as we do with the sun.  If not, you will need to fly overheads to diffuse or block moonlight as we do sunlight if it is not optimum for the effect you are trying to create. And, because it too will go behind a cloud, you would be better off lighting your scene for continuity.

 

 

Milestone_Volt_Set_WS.jpg

Set of Chevy Volt Spot powered by nothing more than a Honda EU6500

 

But it is pretty amazing what can be done with the new high ISO cameras. Something of a milestone was recently set when a commercial for the Chevy Volt was shot with nothing more than Hive Plasma lights operating on batteries and a 60A generator. Normally, sets for car spots are cluttered with diesel generators, large feeder cables and the multiphase distribution boxes required to power big lights, cameras, and basecamp trailers. A proof of concept spot for Hive, the spot was the first car commercial ever made where everything was powered by batteries and a 60A Honda EU6500is generator. Use this link to see the commercial and the behind-the-scenes “making of” video.

 

Guy Holt, Gaffer

ScreenLight & Grip

Lighting Rentals & Sales in Boston


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#20 timHealy

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Posted 15 April 2018 - 09:32 PM

I think its all about what your shot sizes are and the locations you choose.

You can light a largish location (for a student film) with one or two Honda eu 6500/7000s and bunch of 1k par cans or Etc 575/750 watt pars. You can get a lot of punch with relatively cheap tungsten pars.

You can easily light actors near the camera with led lights or cheaper tungsten lights.

Im in and around the NYC area.

Where are you shooting?

Tim
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