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Old July 31st, 2007, 03:17 PM   #1
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Lighting an Outdoor Night Scene

I'm going to be shooting a feature early next year that will take place pretty much 99% outdoors in the woods at night.

How would you recommend shooting something like this? We're thinkin about this issue now, so we can become proficient before it comes time to shoot...

Would you get a generator and use Incandescents?
Figure out a way to get the power company to hook power up to the site (this is just a theory, haven't actually researched the possibility of this yet)
LED's or Fluorescents on Batteries?

What would the best set up be for efficiency, quality, and cost saving?

Also, what technique would you use to light something like this? We were thinkin using strong lights and reflectors to light the subjects (actors) and use another light or two just to light the background enough to establish the location. Any pointers?

Thanks so much

Dale
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Old July 31st, 2007, 04:34 PM   #2
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Much depends on how wide you want your shots to be. If you want to film wide shots at night in a wood you can find yourself with a pretty big lighting rig very quickly. On one short I was involved in we had 12k & 6k HMIs creating a moonlight effect. While on a music video, which had a smaller area, 4k and 2.5k HMIs.

An elevated light source will help sell a moonlight effect in a wood.

Generators make life a lot easier, unfortunately, unless you've got the money for a silent film generator they can be pretty noisy. Batteries are OK for localised effect, but you don't really have enough life for a full night's filming.

You do have long power cable runs as well.

Finding a good location will save a lot of problems, because working in a wood at night can be difficult and people can easily have accidents working in the dark. If you can find a wood near a building with a power supply will help if you've a limited budget.

An alternative is to shoot day for night.
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Old July 31st, 2007, 04:52 PM   #3
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Yes, thanks for the info...

That helps a lot in guaging the intensity of lights we'll need...

We'll definitely try to get power out there somehow if possible then...

We're definitely considering DFN, and are actually more proficient in post than production, but are afraid of consistency and it overall looking "real" and believable.

If you know of some secret techniques for DFN, please, share! We're always experimenting... thanks so much!

Dale
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Old August 1st, 2007, 02:03 AM   #4
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Hey Dale,

Costco has a 15kw generator. I don't recall the price, but it seems to me it was under $1,000.. I don't know about the volume level. I know the Honda generators are pretty darn quiet, but more expensive too.

For what it's worth.. :)

Eric
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Old August 1st, 2007, 11:06 AM   #5
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Its worth a lot... Thanks eric. I'll definitely give it a look!
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Old August 1st, 2007, 11:20 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eric Shepherd View Post
...I know the Honda generators are pretty darn quiet, but more expensive too...
Some of the Honda's are very quiet. Some aren't. Their quietest are the EU "super quiet" series; EU1000i, EU2000i, EU3000is and EU6500ISA.

http://www.hondapowerequipment.com/gensup.asp

You'll still want some good 100' 12ga. stingers.
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Old August 1st, 2007, 12:42 PM   #7
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One option I came up with last night for this was if you could find a location behind a store or something. Then you'd get a lot of spill from the parking lot lights into the woods, and maybe with a little bit of fill to add some different colors or shapes with your own lights, you could get away without lighting up the forest on your own. :)
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Old August 1st, 2007, 01:00 PM   #8
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It might be possible to find a location that is adjacent to a structure of some sort that has power (utility building, bathroom, etc). Tieing in to the service there would give you a good amount of juice to work with. You'll need a trained electrician and a lot of cable (and obviously permission), but this would eliminate the sound issues with generators.

Small units cleverly placed that pick out the greenery in the background will give you some depth, while backlight or sidelight with a bit of frontal fill (at least stops under) for the actors will get the job done. Sounds like an ambitious project!
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Old August 1st, 2007, 01:14 PM   #9
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I think we've overlooked the obvious..

Does the camera have Nightvision? :)
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Old August 1st, 2007, 04:28 PM   #10
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The most efficient answer is a generator, a condor, and HMI's of a size to cover the area you are trying to light. I can tell you from experience that trying to make do without a slient generator in a quiet area such as woods at night can be a real nightmare. I have successfully used a collection of Honda 2000ei generators and 1.2K HMIs for night scenes, but they were staged in a pretty small area. Are there any other viable sources of light in your scenes? Car headlights? Fire?

There aren't any big secrets to doing DFN. Depending on what you mean by "woods" though, you may actually have pretty good luck with day for night if you are careful. The trees do a good job of breaking up the sunlight and helping sell it as moonlight if you keep it as back light.
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Old August 1st, 2007, 04:44 PM   #11
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Very good suggestions...

Ralph: DFN is definitely still an option - we have some extensive testing to do yet, but wanted to do all the research on the front end beforehand so we know what our options are... Keeping everything backlit at all times is the part that's scary though, seems like that could get really cumbersome really fast, but who knows - you don't really til you try it right?

And you're right about the Hondas. I was doing some research on that today, and Honda makes those super-quiet generators like the EU3000 that's supposed to have a 52-58dB operating noise level... crazy. And they're amazingly affordable for what i thought they'd be. We're starting to look at this option. We do have a budget... hard to say for sure what it'll be but 30k could be easily reached...

Call me crazy. But I was thinking really hard about the matter, and i remembered i had been building a projector a while back and was using a 400w metal halide bulb in it. The thing was incredibly bright. 20,000 lumens or so i think. So i thought, why not get a 1500w metal halide bulb with a ballast and mogul and all that, and mount it to some type of reflective housing for a very cost effective and high-output light fixture?

We still have to experiment this, but it sounds like it could work. They can make metal halide in color temps from 2700 - 20,000 - it seems like it could work. They're about 40 bucks for a lamp, and 150 for the ballast and mogul kit and all that.

So we're looking at one or two of those 3000w (2k MSRP) honda silent generators with two or three of those 1500w Metal Halide fixtures, and some smaller 500w and less fills... We're looking at 5 grand or close at least, for all this (that's about the cost of 1 Arri 4k HMI alone). Seems like a possibility
... and if we bust a bulb it's not 2k to replace...

That's if we can't find power close by. Seems like it could work - it's all theoretical though...

You're right Charles, it's a very ambitious project! - and we can't wait!

Let me know what you think...

Thanks
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Old August 1st, 2007, 05:02 PM   #12
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One thing to keep in mind this time of year is the flying insects. I'm in Raleigh and have been trying to do a few outdoor scenes recently, and it is next to impossible with all of the bugs attracted to the lights. It has been very hard if not impossible to keep those out of the shot.
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Old August 1st, 2007, 05:04 PM   #13
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Would a blacklight help out with that? And possibly UV filters on the lights?
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Old August 1st, 2007, 05:06 PM   #14
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Hah, good thoughts...

We'll be shooting in late winter probably (March hopefully), so hopefully it won't be too much of an issue...

Would the blacklight thing work though?
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Old August 1st, 2007, 05:10 PM   #15
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Well, they use them with bug zappers because bugs are attracted to UV light (they navigate by the light of the moon but are confused by the invention of the light bulb ;)

Blacklights/growlights are used in the silent bug catchers in restaurants and kitchens, because they give off more UV light than the ceiling lights do.

It seems to me it could work. Or at least help :)

Eric
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