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Old August 11th, 2004, 04:13 PM   #1
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Running @ Night

Hi, I am trying to figure out a lighting setup for scene in the film I am shooting. My camera is an Xl-1s/mini35 rig with Nikon primes(f/1.4). The scene is of a kid running at nightime down a suburban neighborhood street. I am having a problem with figuring out how to light the scene. My only lights requires wall power. And I won't be able to plug into any outlet outside obviously. The other issues is that for many shots, I will be running with the actor. A couple people recommended just using headlights from our cars, but that seems like it would be harsh and would just look like headlights(instead of a natural source of light during the night).

Thanks for any insights into my dilemma.
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Old August 11th, 2004, 05:40 PM   #2
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There really isn't any 'natural' source of light at night so everything is going to look artificial.

I'd place your lights so they appear to be coming from street lights, house lights, etc.

Let the actor run in and out of these light areas and it should look fairly natural.
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Old August 11th, 2004, 10:48 PM   #3
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I agree with Mike on this one. A possible solution to your electric issue (having to plug in your lamps) is that some houses have an outdoor outlet mounted to the side of their home. The problem with this is, you need permission to "borrow" the electricity, which will ultimately lead to having to get the owner of the house to supply the juice to sign a location release contract in order to legally obtain their electricity for your shoot. If you get the contract signed, you only need a long enough extension cord (Make sure the gauge is a good 12 gauge wire if over 100 feet is required. Just to be sure your lights get that much needed juice). Anyway, good luck with your shot, those night scenes can be a little tricky I've heard.
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Old August 12th, 2004, 12:59 AM   #4
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In most movies, this type of lighting setup starts with a massive Musco light that backlights the entire street, often coupled with an extensive wet-down so that the asphalt reflects said backlight.

So now on to reality: barring both of these things, how to proceed.

What if there was a car visible in the shot somewhere that was distance behind the kid, which sets up the concept that the headlights are backlighting him? Even when you don't see the car, you can still use the headlights to rim him, and it will be OK that they are "harsh" since the backlight is much more forgiving. This will give you a nice separation against the unlit background.

I don't know if you want the look to be extremely rough, but there are many shooting options versus running with the camera, and chances are that a "kid" is going to be able to outrun just about anyone carrying a camera. Perhaps you can shoot the preceding shots from the back of an SUV or wagon with the hatch open. This will also give you the chance to attempt to maintain some sort of focus on a fast-moving subject at f1.4! If you are set up this way, you can get an inexpensive 12v floodlight from a local auto supply store and rig it to the camera vehicle. To achieve an "unlight" look, try bouncing it into a white card or reflector. You'll have to mount all of this stuff to the back of the vehicle alongside you, but that just takes some common sense. Keep the front light 1-3 stops under exposure, and it will look pretty natural. Even if you opt to handhold and run alongside, use the vehicle as a lighting platform and have it maintain a constant distance in front of the lad.

One way to avoid the pitch black background is to try and shoot at the end of magic hour, when there is still some ambient daylight around. Balance the camera to tungsten light and let the ambient go blue, it canl look really stylized and interesting. If you have a number of different shots, do the wide ones first and save the closeups for when the ambient light dies.
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Old August 12th, 2004, 10:05 AM   #5
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Thanks for the great input everyone! Charles, your idea inspired me and I think that's what I will do. I wonder about is how much juice I can get from the car to power a light.

The only other concern I had with that idea was that if the person was running behind the car, how would I deal with the big red taillights on the car? Maybe gel them?
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Old August 12th, 2004, 05:58 PM   #6
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electrical tape for a temporary fix, this is of course not exactly legal, but I dont get the feeling you will cruise around town with electrical tape over your tail lights. In any case, just stick something opaque over your tail lights, be creative. :) Good luck Dave!
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Old August 12th, 2004, 08:22 PM   #7
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Can't remember the wattage, but I've seen some impressive spotlights that have a standard cigarette lighter connector. You need to bounce or use a softbox with something like this however, it will be too spotty otherwise. And you'll run your battery down fairly fast using this if the car isn't running (for static shots). Another idea is to get an inverter at Radio Shack or the like which could be used in conjunction with a lower wattage unit like a fluorescent.

Easy enough to knock out the taillights by pulling the fuse.
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Old August 13th, 2004, 07:42 PM   #8
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I did a similar shot, but along train tracks instead of a street, and did not have the luxury of streetlights. After trying it with several battery powered lights and spots, we settled on a 500,000 candle power 12v spotlight diffused off of a white umbrella. We also delayed the shoot for 2 weeks to wait for a full moon on a clear night, fortunately got one at the end of July, and it helped tremendously!
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Old August 14th, 2004, 10:33 AM   #9
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<<<-- Originally posted by Charles Papert : Easy enough to knock out the taillights by pulling the fuse. -->>>

Just remember to make sure everything else you need works after you pull that fuse!!! :)
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Old August 14th, 2004, 06:49 PM   #10
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Haha...thanks guys!
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