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Old April 16th, 2006, 02:11 AM   #1
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Moonlight in the desert.

I am filming a desert burial scene. I have two cherry pickers that go up to 60 feet high available to me. I may use these for some shots, but my question is about lighting the desert. It is my understanding that moonlight for a scene like this is usually filmed by putting a large light like a 12,000 watt HMI on one, and a 6000 watt on the other (as the fill)... or some variation of the same but with brighter lights.

My question:
If I purchased 30x 500 watt worklights, rigged them together in a metal frame, and put them on top of the cherry picker... would 30x500 watts give off the same amount of light as one 15,000 watt light would? If not, would it be enough light anyway?

Also, since this would cause a more "orange" light compared to a tungsten balance, and definitly not a blue light like movie moon light, what is the best option to make it blue? A very large gel for the worklights? A blue gel on the lens? Simply white balancing to off white to make the light blue? Or white balancing to the light, so that it is "white", and then adding the blue tint in post?
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Old April 16th, 2006, 06:19 AM   #2
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The moon is reflected sunlight, so use HMI lights that are about 4x as efficient and put off daylight-balanced light. In my area, a flicker-free (electronic ballast) 4K HMI (almost as bright as 15K tungsten) rents for $425/day and will actually be brighter than a 15K tungsten that is gelled with CTB to balance to sunlight. I doubt that Las Vegas is more expensive than Honolulu. $4-500 is about the same cost as a bunch of worklights and will be safer, more convenient, and won't require you to dispose of 30 worklights after the shoot. Also, with a really bright light, you can probably skip renting the second lift. Just use a reflector on the ground as the fill. Night scenes use much less fill and have a backlit look.

Put your light above and slightly behind your scene and have a big (12x' maybe?), soft reflector near/beside the camera. Prevent spill from the big light from lighting your background too much as that would reveal the position of the light. All the light from the "moon" should be coming from the same direction. If you have shadows in front of some things and shadows behind others, it will give away the source of the light. Have the shadows all pointing in the same direction as much as possible. Another way to say it is to keep everything backlit with a fill from the front. Treat the "moonlight" as a big high-angle kicker/hairlight.

If you use daylight-balanced light for your "moon", you can then supplement with 3200k tungsten practicals that will keep their appropriate low-temperature look. A lantern or flashlight wouldn't seem out of place in a shot like this.

Before you spend a bunch of money, you might want to make a simple model of your shot. Light it in a dark room with a small, narrow parabolic light to get an idea of the look. Models and rehearsels will save a bunch of money because they can prevent the need to shoot more than one night.

Unless you have the crew, I wouldn't try this: another way I have seen this done is with a HUGE diffuser hung above the entire scene from a crane. A high backlight "moon" with a reflector fill is easier and will probably add the appropriate darker tone to a graveyard shot.

I'm sure others will have even better ideas, but a huge bank of searing-hot worklights doesn't seem like it will be something you will enjoy working amidst. Any time height is involved in an endeavor, danger is also present. Don't make it more dangerous with a huge hot rig that is not UL approved. You will very likely save money by shooting with a professional rental. If the company doesn't want to trust you with an expensive light, hire them to operate the lights.

If your scene is small, you could do this with daylight-balanced fluorescents hung lower than the full 60' of the lift.
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Old April 16th, 2006, 06:47 AM   #3
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http://www.panavision.com/product_de...ode=c0,c88,c11

It looks like they actually have something like what I was thinking... I wonder if this would be a good approach. I think you're right about just renting the gear though. JR lighting gives 50% off to UNLV students. I think I'll stop by this week and talk to them.

The 24 light dino would cost me about $175 a day. The 9 light, $62 a day.
If they have a daylight version, it might be the way to go.

A 4K SINGLE ENDED PAR would cost me about $225 a day. That might be the way to go too. Maybe some others could advise which would work best.

I'll also need whatever is required to power these. I know some kind of converter is used, but I don't k now anything about it.

edit: Apparently, the converter is called a ballast.
http://www.jrlighting.com/catalog/section.php?cat=019 JR apparently includes this and the cables in the pricing. I think a 4k HMI sounds pretty good. Is the 4K SINGLE ENDED PAR COMPLETE what you were talking about? Is there something I should use with this to diffuse it at all, or should the light be hard?
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Old April 17th, 2006, 05:03 AM   #4
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"The 24 light dino would cost me about $175 a day. The 9 light, $62 a day.
If they have a daylight version, it might be the way to go."

There is no daylight-balanced tungsten source. I believe tungsten will melt before it approaches 5600K. Arc lights are the way to go for high-frequency light. Fluorescents and HMI are a type of electric arc lighting. Also, it is easier to fly a single light. Those maxi-brutes can get pretty big.

That 4K HMI par you mention sounds like the way to go. I have only worked with up to a 1.2K HMI, but they were quite bright. I guestimate them to be as strong as a 4K tungsten. If you want to use tungsten, you must gel the heck out of them with CTB and lose probably 2/3 of the light to the filter. Couple the filter factor with the inherent inefficiency of tungsten and HMI ends up being about 10x more efficient per watt to generate daylight-balanced light. Don't forget that you will need to use a generator and a 5 kilowatt generator is easier than a 20 kilowatt generator. There is also a price differential.

One thing that you should look into is if it has a flicker-free electronic ballast instead of a magnetic ballast. If the lights generate a frequency that shows up as flicker on your camera, you probably won't be happy. I'd call the rental place and ask for advice or a test with your camera. While you are at it, ask for rental suggestions. If they are a decent company, they will be very helpful.

"Is there something I should use with this to diffuse it at all, or should the light be hard?"

That is up to your personal preference and the look you want. There is a quirk with our perception with moonlight and candlelight. Dim light is perceived as "soft" even though the moon and a candle are hard sources. A diffuser for a light 20-60' up in the air would have to be huge. I think it would be easier, and just as effective, to keep the "moon" light hard and controlled and get the soft aspects of the light from a big diffuser.

Watch some TV or movies with night scenes and you will notice that they keep faces mostly in shadow with just enough fill to barely see details. A hard rim light (hair light/kicker) is almost always the primary light.

Considering that you can have a $12,000 light for $225 a day, I would go for it and get the best. Of course, if your scene is small, you can go cheaper, buy why not go big since you can do it so affordably? If this is a big/important scene in your movie, you can learn a lot using professional equipment and see the results onscreen. If this is a less-important scene and money is really tight, I would light it with a practical (lantern) and maybe put a daylight-balanced fluorescent on a really tall light stand as a kicker.

I just thought of something. If you use both a daylight "moon" light and tungsten practicals, you can white-balance between them and the moon will be a little bit blue an the tungsten will be a little bit amber. You can use colored filters or cards to achieve this white balance trick.

I just thought of something else. Check into the insurance requirements for expensive equipment.
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Old April 19th, 2006, 03:17 PM   #5
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I'd vote for the single HMI as well. A 4kw will light a surprisingly large area especially if you aren't fighting any other lighting.

And don't forget the power requirements when you start talking about 4K HMIs and up. IIRC, you need over 30 amps for one of these guys, and most of the ones I've used have 60amp Bates connectors on the ballast.
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Old April 19th, 2006, 03:34 PM   #6
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The type of lighting setup you describe is relatively high-end, meaning that you should probably hire at least one properly experienced lighting technician (i.e. gaffer) who can advise and set up the package you need.

However, if you are working on a budget where you may not be able to afford the $1-2K this sort of setup and personnel will cost, there are other, simpler approaches.

Rather than lighting a huge area with moonlight, consider lighting smaller areas. A series of small putt putts and minimal tungsten units strategically placed through the landscape may deliver a great look for far less money. Treat your shooting area as a series of planes--focus primarily on the lighting you will need in the foreground plane, then add a few 'tastes" of light in the background planes (lower intensity than the foreground) to add a little contrast to the scene.

You may actually prefer the results!
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Old April 19th, 2006, 04:54 PM   #7
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D & N

How about shooting Day for Night?
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Old April 19th, 2006, 06:35 PM   #8
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I saw an independant-type movie at a film festival shot day-for-night. I wanted to see how a someone with a bit more funding than myself would do things. I decided I will NEVER, EVER shoot day-for-night after watching that piece. It is NOT convincing. The only part that didn't look bad was a "shaded day for evening" look. If trees obscure the sun and the video is underexposed, it looks like the time just after the sun goes down. When it was time for the movie to be actually night, I couldn't understand why it was still daytime when they were talking about night time in the dialog.

I like Charles' suggestions. That is how I plan to do some upcoming scenes. I can't even afford to rent a big HMI, nevermind a 60' lift. I also agree that it is a good idea to have a seasoned professional gaffer around. I'll bet you can get someone for a few hundred dollars if you explain what you are doing and beg politely. Having a professional gaffer will probably save you some money instead of cost you. You can learn a lot by watching a pro work for a shift or two.
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Old April 20th, 2006, 11:39 PM   #9
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60 ft is pretty high !!!
if you can get a 6K HMI par on a cherry picker as back or 3/4 back light & then work with the smaller units as Charles P suggested ...

dayfor night works OK if you can keep the sky out of shot ...

if this is a short shot you could shoot in AM just before/during Magic hour and again in PM during and after magic hour ...

shooting moonlight is a illusion

any chance you can have a few small fires along path/at burial which would be source of some small tungsten lights ?

what are you shooting on/with ?
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Old April 20th, 2006, 11:50 PM   #10
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I'm shooting on a Canon XL1s.
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Old April 21st, 2006, 05:05 PM   #11
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To complement Charles' excellent suggestions, it's also surprising what you can get away with if you can keep your shots fairly tight. We once shot a "bad guy buries the body in the desert" using nothing but battery powered tungsten. A couple of 100w units gelled 3/4 blue to side/rim the subject and some background sage brush. An couple of 50w units to be car headlights. Our working area was only about 10ft sq and there was a lot of black in the frame, but it worked just fine.
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