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Basic Lighting Information & Tips Needed


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#1 Tom E. Pinkerton

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Posted 26 September 2005 - 02:46 AM

Hi folks!

I, along with several others, am preparing to shoot my first film. I feel like we have a good grasp on things in most areas from sound to editing. But the area where I feel we are still most lacking is in lighting.

We have done some experiements thus far using photoflood bulbs, and we have achieved some decent results, but I still feel we are not where we should be. We are shooting on digital video, BTW, using a Canon XL-1s camera.

I would like some information and tips from any of you who are willing to share on lighting scenes in the following three scenarios:
- Indoor, in a controlled environment
- Outdoor, during daylight
- Outdoor, shooting night-for-night

Any information would be most appreciated, including what types of lights you would recommend using for someone on an extremely low to non-existent budget. Are photofloods the way to go? Or something else? What about positioning of the lights? Can you light an outdoor scene just with natural sunlight, or do you need more? What's the best way to light a night-for-night shot, either close-ups or wide shots?

Any advice and information you can give would be most appreciated!

Thanks!

=Tom=
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#2 Dimitrios Koukas

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Posted 26 September 2005 - 03:16 AM

Hi folks!

I, along with several others, am preparing to shoot my first film. I feel like we have a good grasp on things in most areas from sound to editing. But the area where I feel we are still most lacking is in lighting.

We have done some experiements thus far using photoflood bulbs, and we have achieved some decent results, but I still feel we are not where we should be. We are shooting on digital video, BTW, using a Canon XL-1s camera.

I would like some information and tips from any of you who are willing to share on lighting scenes in the following three scenarios:
- Indoor, in a controlled environment
- Outdoor, during daylight
- Outdoor, shooting night-for-night

Any information would be most appreciated, including what types of lights you would recommend using for someone on an extremely low to non-existent budget. Are photofloods the way to go? Or something else? What about positioning of the lights? Can you light an outdoor scene just with natural sunlight, or do you need more? What's the best way to light a night-for-night shot, either close-ups or wide shots?

Any advice and information you can give would be most appreciated!

Thanks!

=Tom=

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Tom,
First of all do not expect me to tell u what is the best way to do a night to night shot, when u have asked to give you some advises of how u can do it with no budget.
For sunlight or daylight exterios u can choose a nice time of the day to do your scene, so in a way you will have the light (sun) where u want it to be, consider the weather forecast before u do though.
For the exterior close ups, u can use reflectors for fill in. a white foamcore board will help and doesn't cost so much.
Or the lastolite reflectors or simmilar will do the job too.
One other really cheap matterial u can use as a reflector is the things we put on cars windshields (u know the aluminium style ones).
As for night exteriors, wich I do not know what the style is, At least try to do your scene in a road that has many street lights and store lights.
For the close ups choose a background that is lighted with lights coming from a big billboard or something like this, it will add some interesting effect to your frame as it will be soft round circles of colour.
Use either two big Maglights and make a soft box with 250 diffusion in front of them.They have to be really close to the actors for the close ups though.
In case you have somewhere to power up lights, the simpliest way is to use a 2K ''blonde'' with double CTB for a backlight somewhere , and some 500w fresnels as frontlights.
All this is really hypothetical,As I do not know the scene at all, and it looks like I am talking all alone, without knowing anything.
More info on your shots u re plannning to do would be great.

Dimitrios Koukas
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#3 Lars.Erik

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Posted 26 September 2005 - 11:36 AM

As Dimitrios stated, it's difficult to give advice when we don't know the look you're gunning for.

If you have no budget, you have no lights. If you want to make a $5 picture, the chances are high it will look like a $5 picture. You will need some money for lights. You can do it without lights, but it will probably look a bit better with some lights.

But here are some tips...

Indoor (at night):

Use the practicals in the house. Exchange the bulbs with stronger ones. 200w and up. Make sure they're not on when your not filming. As regular household wires aren't built for these lamps. (may overheat)

Go to IKEA. Get some china lanters. They should be the same size as a basketball. Use bulbs arounf 150w. This is a inexpensive way to get more light. Control the light with black plastic bags.

Indoor (at day):

Use the windows. Use reflectors.

Exteriors (daytime):

Use reflectors. Either white foam board as stated by Dimitrios or the LastoLite. Beware of the LastoLite though, if it's windy your fill light will be "moving" around.
Stay clear of high contrast areas. i.e. walking in and out of sun and shadow.

Exteriors (night):

Look at Dimitrios tips. All good ones. For some more flashy pictures, try watering down a street with many shop windows in it. The wet streets will reflect the light from the shop windows nicely.


One last advice. Study "Clerks". I know this is a film that's mentioned often, but it's a very low budget film, even though it's shot on film.
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#4 Keith Blankenship

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Posted 04 October 2005 - 11:06 PM

The car shade is a good idea. I may have to try that sometime. Handy and functional and not a complete loss when shooting is done. Plus, they would be easy to store.

Along the same lines, we made some out of cardboard and/or plywood covered with aluminum foil. Depending on the mood, we would have foil (crinkled or uncrinkled) taped or glued with the shiny side or the matte side out. Later, we discovered they had some stuff called cinefoil; wow! :o

For the night shots, you could always get some buddies together and try to use their cars headlights. You can always tape some gel in front of them if you like; the lights, not your buddies. A 4x4 with a roll bar topped with lights may be helpful. You will find you will be limited to certain angles, to keep the background from looking like it is lit by headlights, but it may work for you. Just a thought...

For indoor lighting, another idea which is cheap but a little more permanent and costly, is to use coffee cans or the large food service tin cans and mount a lighting socket in them. You can use a variety of lamp types in them but I wouldn't suggest a lamp of more than a couple hundred watts. Each light is fairly limited but you should be able to afford to make a few as they are still cheap (about $15 each). Just make sure you over-insulate (read taped) where the wires enter the can as the tin will cut into the wires in a heartbeat! Of course, you will ultimately be responsible if anything bad should happen. Just some advice and a warning!

Good Luck!
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#5 Paul Bruening

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Posted 05 October 2005 - 09:28 AM

Hey Tom,

You are barking right up my tree. You can get utility clamp-on lights at the hardware store for about $7 per. They are light in weight and clamp to everything. I cut the cord and patch in 25 feet of heavier zip cord extension. JB Weld the reflector to the base. There are three reflector sizes available, but you have to go to different stores to find them and they have to match the base. If you use them in day, indoor scenes you can't frame windows in the shot due to color temp differences. Other than that, you can use the standard, cheap bulbs in varying wattages. You cvan gel and diffuse the broader reflectors using cloths pins but the diffusers and gels are pricie compared to the lights.

Also at the hardware store are 500 watt work lights. You can get them for around $20 per. They use easy and cheap halogen lamps. They're floods so they serve well to splash the scene to get stops up, then use the clampers to shape subjects.

Stands are your next hassle. 2" x 2" x 8' sticks of wood with a cross over base work and are cheap. Put then together with screws and use bits of plywood to reinforce. Predrill the holes so you don't crack the wood. Fill the holes with JB Weld to make them hold better.

All of this rig can be flimsy and you'll bust up a few of the units as you go. They are cheap to replace.

For your day exteriors, 8' x 4' sheets of 1", single sided styro work great. They are white styro on one side and silver foil on the other. You need a crew guy for each unit due to their floppiness in even light winds. You can cut them down, buff them with steel wool, tint them for colors, yada, yada, yada.

The 500 watt shop lights can handle night exteriors. A compliment of six can usually cover most scenes if the scene is not too big. That's enough to light the BGs and actors and still able to wall power off two seperate breaker locations.

The rest is a matter of 100ft and 50 ft extension cords. You can't get around feeding your lights, especially in night exteriors.
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