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lighting a night walking shot


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#1 freddie bonfanti

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Posted 09 November 2005 - 07:01 PM

hi all

really quickly i need to light a character walking into a dark alleyway just showing his torso and face, but at the same time trying to keep all the rest in dark. its a walking shot and our low budget limits us having not powerful lights, no HMIs. where would the best place be to light this character? should someone carry a small sungun light close to the camera or something like that? just to have the light constantly on him...

thanks a lot

federico bonfanti
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 09 November 2005 - 09:03 PM

should someone carry a small sungun light close to the camera or something like that? just to have the light constantly on him...


Isn't that going to look weird and unmotivated, like someone is following him around & pointing a light at him? I think that would only work as some sort of underexposed fill light that is constant but doesn't call attention to itself. As a key light, you really risk it having look like what it is -- a light that is following him around. If it is soft enough -- like from a Chinese Lantern -- you may get away with it.

Seems better to actually rig lights above the alley that create pools of light that he walks through, maybe Source 4's if you really want to keep them narrowly focused.
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#3 Joseph White

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Posted 09 November 2005 - 10:06 PM

i think maybe a combination of a few small units peppering the streets as mr. mullen is suggesting is a great idea - have you also considered using a kamio ringlight? kino-flo makes them (although other companies do too) and they're battery powered so you don't need to run cable (or you can power them off your camera's accessory block). it's nowhere near as spotty as an hmi sungun - even if you diffuse the hell out of it it's going to be a very strong spot. also are there any practical lights in your location? (ie mercury or sodium lights) if so you can gel small-medium size tungsten units to match the streetlights, and in doing so be creative with where you throw them (maybe make some nice hard backlight with some gelled par cans).
also - are you shooting video or film?
i shot a music video about a year ago where we did the hand-held sungun flanking the steadicam as a singer wandered through the woods at night but it was an effect - a strong choice - not really motivated by anything in reality. it was a music video, so you can usually get away with this a little more. it's an interesting look, but people will immediately say "hey there's a light on the camera". although ellen kuras got AMAZING results with this on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (which was the primary influence for the music video i shot), but again that was a bold stylistic choice not for every project.
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#4 freddie bonfanti

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Posted 10 November 2005 - 07:05 AM

hi

thank you for your replies, its basically what i suggested the director, i hope we can get away with it. its just amazing to work stuff out with small money and few lights...

i believe thats how im learning
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#5 fstop

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Posted 10 November 2005 - 07:59 AM

There's a Disney movie from the early 1960s shot by Paul Beeson, BSC called The Three Lives of Thomasina. The squeaky clean film is about a little cat and I think it's relationship with some children and some adults. The star of the film's title is played by a real, trained cat. There's an opening shot of the cat running across a fence, through some hedges and alongside a wall, all tracking on a dolly from what I remember. The operator must have been literally speeding alongside this little cat and is runs along hitting all of it's marks over a hundred metres or so. Photographically this is all happening in shade from what I remember, but it's suppose to be a sunny day with blue sky. The cat is keyed from behind the left of the camera by what appears to be a single enormous incandescent lamp with a harshly focused fresnel. As the cat moves in and out of shade and brightly lit areas, the lamps presence is sometimes offering tasteful fill, while seconds later drawing attention to it's hard and unnatural form when all other available lighting dies off. Poor little fried kitty!

Would this all go under cruelty to animals today? I doubt they'd even let a frontal mini-flo bar on a tiny animal these days, and with good cause.
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#6 dancordle

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Posted 10 November 2005 - 11:25 AM

hi

thank you for your replies, its basically what i suggested the director, i hope we can get away with it. its just amazing to work stuff out with small money and few lights...

i believe thats how im learning


I suspect you, and your director, want the walk through the alley to be somewhat disturbing, frightening, or foreboding. There may be creative ways of enhancing the scene and at the same time compensating for the lack of lighting instruments. Not having read your script, it's impossible to say, but I would consider ideas that would not only compensate for your lack of instruments, but could strengthen the scene. Figuring out how to do this is interesting. You might put a burning trash container in the alley. You wouldn't need to explain why it was there. It could just be this strange element that the character encounters and passes by. Another idea might be to to put a couple of strange kids with flashlights on the roofs that border the alley. The kids could flick on and off their lights toward the pedestrian as he walks through the alley. You wouldn't have to see the kids, although you might hear them running along the roof. These elements could add a lot of tension to your scene. Again, they wouldn't even need to be explained. They could just exist as part of the character's passage through the alley. Together with sound, they might add significance to the alley while at the same time providing a way of using fewer lighting instruments. Obviously, the best solution is the one that contributes to telling the story in the most effective way. Working within budgetary limitations can create interesting situations. I recall hearing about a David Lynch film where a sudden rain shower threatened to shut down production for the several hours. A parking lot that had been shot as being dry, was suddenly drenched. Not having time, or money, to wait, or reshoot, Lynch solved the problem by having a couple of extras grab water hoses and pretend to have a water fight in the parking lot. It was just enough to explain why the pavement was suddenly wet. It's kind of a dorky solution, but also kind of strange, and, well, very David Lynch.
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#7 Raymond O'Neil

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Posted 22 December 2005 - 06:41 PM

Hi, I did not want to open another thread since this one is very similar.

I would like to film a night scene in a New York city alley - using Super 8 camera. There are city lights that project pool type light and then after the sidewalk there is basically nothing... a cityscape/city view. So, I guess I am lucky in a way since there are existing lights, but I was wondering if I should be aware of anything... like

1. flickering, or special "rings" that such lights would produce during filming. I don't intend to point the camera directly at the lights, but I am planning long shots which will include the lights in the frame.
2. Should I maybe use some kind of filter?
3. I am planning to use either Kodak Vision 200T or 500T films. Would that work? Would I need filters? What would other options for crisp night shooting?

I would like to shoot another scene in the subway. I heard that there are special lights in subways. How would that affect shooting? Should I use specific film stock? How does subway lighting affect flim stock?

Thank you very much in advance,

RJ
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#8 Hans Kellner

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Posted 28 December 2005 - 01:40 PM

Seems better to actually rig lights above the alley that create pools of light that he walks through, maybe Source 4's if you really want to keep them narrowly focused.

If it's not possible to rig lights overhead, what about using a single light rigged on the end of a boom and controlled by a dimmer? The light would follow the character but the intensity would be adjusted to simulate movement past a light.
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#9 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 28 December 2005 - 06:08 PM

If it's not possible to rig lights overhead, what about using a single light rigged on the end of a boom and controlled by a dimmer? The light would follow the character but the intensity would be adjusted to simulate movement past a light.


Yes, that would be one method, and not uncommon for a nice key light (like a Chinese Lantern on a dimmer at the end of a boom pole, ala Phillipe Rousselot), but you'd then want to add some permanent lights raking the alley walls or something, lest as the actor walked deeper into the alley, you'd notice the background plunging into blackness even as the actor seems to be lit.
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#10 Michael Collier

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Posted 28 December 2005 - 06:35 PM

like a Chinese Lantern on a dimmer at the end of a boom pole, ala Phillipe Rousselot


Get the 'gone in 60 seconds' DVD. In the behind the scenes feature they show a PA doing just that. Chinese lantern on a boom. It was about 4ft forward of the actor and at least 10ft overhead. (the farther you place the lantern, the more leway you have in its placement reletive to the actor, what I mean is that the farther it is the less noticable light movement is. a 2 ft. drop from 10ft. will not raise levels on the face as much as if it started 3ft over his head and droped to 1ft.

I have done this before as well. Its a pain in the ass to actually do, (heavy lights on long poles, plus lot of cord to be pulled) so make sure you have a few extra people to work just that light.
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