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Old November 19th, 2010, 05:04 AM   #1
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Lighting advice for night shoot under street lights


I'm shooting a scene in my film which takes place at night and am looking for some lighting advice.

The location we have has orange street lights and I'm not sure of the best way to deal with them or how to increase the light effectively to make sure the actors can be seen but so that it doesn't look false.

There will be 6 actors in the scene and a stabbing takes place so i would like to be able to see the colour of the blood.

Should I be gelling all lights with orange gels to match the streetlight and then changing the white balance in post? or is there a better way to do it.

I will be shooting on the following kit:

Canon 550d
Canon 50mm f1.8
Tamron 17-50mm f2.8
Tamron 90mm F2.5

Lighting available:

3x 800w redheads
3x 300w gullivers
3x 150w Dedos

The shots below were taken at 1/50th shutter f2.8 with the Tamron 17-50mm and at ISO 6400, on the tungsten white balance setting. I would like be able to shoot at a much lower ISO if possible to avoid the noise in video mode.

I'd be grateful for any advice anyone can give.


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Old November 19th, 2010, 05:47 AM   #2
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Don't forget Orange streetlights are not just orange. Sodium discharge lighting has a spectrum that only has some bits in it - so your red blood will be much darker than you think - probably almost black with the common sodium lights. Your add in lighting isn't like the sodium lighting so you can play with it a little. The street light 'orange' needs to be assisted by something that lets the blood be seen. It's not going to look red unless you experiment - but, black blood at night often looks more realistic. White balance won't really be what you're doing in post - just colour correction. The problem is that to remove yellow/orangey colours means boosting blue ones - and sodium lighting has very little blue output to boost - so you can't pull it very far. It's worth printing out a white card with some coloured bars on it and then doing a test shoot of it under the street lighting, then seeing what happens. You're only going to get real colours if you use white light, but I don't think you actually want that - just controlled matched colour. Lee 650 Industrial Sodium is a useful one to try - but its a bit lossy - Lee Filters Industry Sodium
There's almost no blue in it, and it's not too orangey. Should work ok for facelight - but needs to be fairly high angle or looks false.
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Old November 19th, 2010, 06:05 AM   #3
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Thanks for that, I hadn't realised that about the sodium lights and their limited spectrum. I'm not a fan of the orange streetlight look, I would rather minimise it if possible, can streetlights be gelled blue or do they run too hot?

I am also considering day for night but from what i have seen, it tends to look false.

The other option is to shoot in a completely dark location but then there's no motivation for the light.
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Old November 26th, 2010, 03:03 PM   #4
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I would suggest an establishing shot using just the streetlights, with the talent standing around or approaching the location.

THEN, once the idea that the action is taking place under the streetlight having been firmly established in the audience's mind, I'd do all the close-up and mid shots using whatever lights that are available to you, placed up high and shining down at an angle to mimic the streetlights, with the stands and supports positioned out of the shot.

As long as your sequence begins with an establishing shot of just the street-lit location, and possibly ending with the same type of shot (streetlights only, maybe with a body lying in the street), as long as you keep the additional lights OUT of the shots (watch the reflections), you should be fine. The downside is that you will not be able to shoot in one continuous take. You'll have to break down the shots, set up and shoot those shots lit from one angle, then shift the lighting and shoot from the other angle where the lights would have been visible in the first series.

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Old November 26th, 2010, 06:14 PM   #5
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As one poster has said, use the Lee gel made to mimic the yellow sodium lamp. Note that there are slew of Lee gels for various industrial lighting sources, as well as gels to getting to those sources from 3200 or 5600, etc... So pick the right gel.

An alternative, is to ask the city to turn off that particular street lamp. Then, add your own lights from up high. Now you can match lighting and white balance to your hearts content. Cities do it all the time, you just need to fill out the paperwork, etc. Of course, if this is guerilla filmmaking, then go with #1 and do the test shots

And then give the test footage to the editor/colorist so they can develop the skills to adjust!!!!
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Old November 29th, 2010, 02:18 PM   #6
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How you light probably would depend on what look you are going for. I would tend to avoid allowing the sodium vapors to play too much to avoid distracting skintones and excessive noise. On the other hand if the content is a bit more gritty and real, the approach of gelling your tungsten fixtures to match the sodium vapor streetlights may be more appropriate. It also depends how monochromatic you want your images to be.

When I've been in that situation (shooting night ext with sodium vapor streetlights overhead), I have used dimmed tungsten as key and daylight fixtures backlighting. Of course with all of this, what kind of output you need depends on how wide you will be seeing and how fast your lenses are. The suggestion someone mentioned to have the streetlights play in the wide but not in closeups is a good option as well. You might even be able to get away with a slower shutter in your wide but id be very careful with this depending on blocking/movement and your tolerance for the openshutter look if it does become visible. I wouldnt consider going much over iso1250 to be an option unless as a last resort. I've had reasonably good luck with a similar size light package, f2.8 zoom lenses, and still allowing existing light to play in the scene. Of course if you really are worried about noise, I do recommend adding at least one nice f1.2 or f1.4 prime to your package, since they can really save the day.
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