..... 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.
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.)
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.
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
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