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Old April 6th, 2003, 02:58 PM   #1
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HELP! Night shooting with XL1

I am working on a short film that requires some night shooting. You know how these things go: no budget for buying one of those image intensifers for my lense, no 10k lights. I basically have my XL1, the VL-10li battery light, and carhead lights.

I shot two locations last night and it was horrible. I tried my best in Premiere to use the proc-amp to bump up the lighting, but it threw off my color and blew out the subjects in terms of lighting. You could barely make out what was in the background, which was important to the whole composition.

What can I do with my current XL1 setup to achieve good foreground and background imaging without spending any additional money in lighting or lenses? Shoot during the day using the ND filter? Help!!
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Old April 6th, 2003, 03:17 PM   #2
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Henry,
There are no magic XL1 settings that will suddenly infuse light into your footage (without the compromises you've already discovered). Light is the paint of the medium. (Even the old b&w film noir classics were bathed in light, despite their dark, high-contrast presentation.)

Shooting day-for-night may be your only alternative if you can't rent, buy or borrow some lighting. George Blair just started such a thread here.
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Old April 6th, 2003, 05:33 PM   #3
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Since you mentioned the car headlights...lining up a series of cars and training their headlights on the background should at least be a start. Some sort of light diffusion will help with the spottiness of the headlight beam (I don't have any household suggestions for the diffusion, try doing a search as I think it has been mentioned prior). There are also 12v handheld spotlights available at most home stores that can plug into the cigarette lighter, these may be a help also (and quite cheap).
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Old April 7th, 2003, 12:19 AM   #4
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How to add more light to your production for free:

Buy as many halogen shop lights and extension cords as you need from Home Depot.
Then take them back when you are done with them.
Simple!
Not very honest though, I think.
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Old May 1st, 2003, 09:23 PM   #5
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How much light is enough? I have a scene coming up just like Henry's (above) that will take place on a highway at night from inside a car. I can use single lights through the front window but how grainy/pixelated/crappy will this be?
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Old May 1st, 2003, 09:25 PM   #6
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The best way to shoot night scenes, that I have found, is to do it right before it gets completely dark outside. Right when the sun sets. At them times, even my little Panasonic DV52 with just 1 1/4" CCD does quite well. I can have the exposure at only +3dB to +6dB (no grain is noticable at that setting) and everything will look pretty good, you can even see the clouds in the sky, and it looks like night.

Rob - To avoid grain, always expose it manually, and don't go over +6dB...
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Old May 2nd, 2003, 07:12 AM   #7
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Halogen worklights from Home Depot cost about $20
Maybe $40 one with a two headed stand. these lights used properly will be as good as a 10k (except for the fact, it would be very difficult to get them up high enough to provide light for a wide outside area.
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Old May 20th, 2004, 09:44 AM   #8
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I realise this post is about a year old, but can anyone tell me the best way to power these domestic lights in a portable fashion?

I.E. - Use a car battery or something equally unlikely, but effective? Cause in my experience of night shooting on location in town, there's never any chance of using mains, and even plugging into the car cigar-lighter socket is a bit too limiting sometimes.

Cheers,

Luke
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Old May 20th, 2004, 11:08 PM   #9
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Yeah, I was wondering about that, I got through that task and learned a little since then. As far as powering from a car, I'd suggest maybe some low wattage lights powered through a power inverter plugged into the car's lighter or just renting a generator, they're not that expensive or even some lantern lights, with those big fat batteries.

I'd suggest that for your background (giving some atmosphere) That's what was missing from my piece. I had 6 cars out there that night and I didn't really achieve what I wanted, so I had to settle on what I got.

I used my camera's light for my subject. (the light that is an accessory to the XL1) If you have a light similar to that, you can defuse it with wax paper and a rubber band to hold it in place. I'm sure you may see other opinions on the post that offer more of an expert approach, so I apologize to you. I just know now how to work around my objections and get the thing done. Hope this helps!
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Old May 25th, 2004, 03:31 AM   #10
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Thanks for the advice Henry!

Some good ideas there! How noisy are the generators? Would they only be practical for lighting non-dialogue footage, unless I loop the dialogue in later?

Cheers,

Luke
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Old May 25th, 2004, 09:17 AM   #11
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It's easy enough to position the generator in the background of a shot, where sound isn't usually an issue, and use it to power lights (shop lights if you like) that illuminate the background. You could use a 12v spotlight that plugs into a cigarette lighter as your front light; I would suggest either diffusing it or bouncing it into card or a reflective disc like a Flexfill as your front source. It doesn't need to be that bright, in fact it will look more realistic if it is a stop or two under key (i.e. what the camera considers "proper" exposure). Car headlights aiming into a big white bounce can do the same thing. If you have any means to get lights up high in the background, such as a balcony or 2nd story windows or roof of a small building etc., having a fairly strong backlight will give you that Hollywood night look, if that is your goal.

That's a lot of stuff, but if you can light in two layers, being the foreground and the background, don't worry about the middle.
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