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Old February 19th, 2007, 08:18 PM   #1
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Interview Lighting without too much $$$ Restriction (relatively)

I am in pre on my first big (feature-length) project, a documentary on the social, economic and educational realities of Richmond California (a gross oversimplification of the focus, but hey). The over-whelming majority will obviously be one-person interview, so I want to get the set-up right. We are looking to give this as high production value as we can with our budget, and are purchasing either a JVC HD110U or a Cannon XLH1, and an M2 or Brevis adapter. We are looking for a filmic, fairly high-contrast, artistic look. It's not the exact look we're going for or anything (and our look will probably be cooler), but to give you some idea I do really like the look of Phil Bloom's Homeless Portraits piece http://www.cinevate.com/images/homeless2.mov.

I have a teacher who can get me lighting equipment I couldn't possibly afford myself. Most of the threads concerning this topic are obviously started by people highly restricted by budgets, so the suggestions are too. I am very technically ignorant about lighting, but know that it is very key to the final look of a film.

I am basically asking what would be a good setup (within reason) for an artistic HD production with a 35 mm adapter. I can't obviously ask for a kit in the 10,000$ range, but I am fortunately perhaps less restricted than most in this department (lighting). I obviously don't know exactly what I have access to, so if you could just suggest a range of products I can get an idea of what to ask for. I am basically just looking to get a concept of the type of setup that would be appropriate. If it comes down to it, we can also rent a bit.

Long-winded again, but I wanted to cover everything -- sorry.

Thanks a bunch for your help.

Brian
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Old February 19th, 2007, 08:54 PM   #2
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ACDelco (These have stronger clamps that don't fall apart from use) clamp lights $15ish on lighting stands from ebay $35ish with a photobalanced bulb (don't know the price). I use old mike stands instead of lightstands. 2 or 3 lights can fit per stand (I'm also using CFL screw in flourescents...but reconsidering based on RF noise in my audio).

These fixtures also clamp to anything you throw them on...and if you have a balanced (XLR) microphone, the flourescents will let you hand hold them if necessary.

China balls are cheap and avaliable at pier1 and world market.

Coleman makes a halogen worklight 500w or 1000w or something...they telescope to 7' tall :)
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Old February 19th, 2007, 09:56 PM   #3
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Thanks for the great info Cole. I'll be sure to look into these.

I have to admit though that I'm lost as to what "China Balls" are, especially if you get them from Cost Plus. Could you explain? :)

And, I need to know what combination of these elements you would suggest and in what arrangement.

Everyone: I am looking for help in arrangement of the set-up and for combinations of lighting elements, as well as suggestions of individual items.

Thanks a lot Cole :)
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Old February 19th, 2007, 10:28 PM   #4
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These:
http://www.worldmarket.com/Maru-Roun...0000/index.pro

Which look like this only white:
http://www.worldmarket.com/Maru-Roun...0000/index.pro
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Old February 19th, 2007, 10:47 PM   #5
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Cole, are these cheap alternatives to softboxes? For filling in faces? Could you give me some idea of how i might use them? Thanks for the clarification.
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Old February 19th, 2007, 11:24 PM   #6
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cheap, big, soft lights that can be hung from poles or what ever with a bit of gaffer's (or black duct) tape. Any light that is relatively large compared to the subject gives a soft light.

Work light blasted at a white bedsheet 10 feet away will give a really nice full body soft light on the other side of the sheet. If you move the subject away from the light the shadows get harder as the light becomes relatively smaller compared to the subject.
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Old February 20th, 2007, 01:29 AM   #7
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Your primary requirement for technique will likely be addressed here: http://www.efplighting.com/

As for gear, check out Chimera and see where the storage bunker at your school has similar. You mentioned a teacher who has the gear, but you did not indicate if you are enrolled in a media course or if you have any training in lighting for dv or film ... if you are then perhaps the above web site is too elementary for you...

Just try to avoid home fix-it store supplied lighting and a pile of cobbled bedsheets etc for diffusion. It might get the basic job done but these silly putty and baler twine solutions can be unsafe and just don't look pro. Unless you have a 100 dollar budget for lighting ... just be sure to keep 10 bucks set aside for a fire extinguisher.... to Cole's credit I do like the Chinese lantern technique: A very practical practical.
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Old February 20th, 2007, 11:04 AM   #8
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the example clip you like - to me it looks like natural light ( that's the way the scene was) - they moved persons to where the light was best ...

depending where you shoot in Richmond you may not want to have too much equipment ... if in the triangle kill zone - travel very light - that includes if you are in somebody's house interviewing ... from my experience shooting over there - i would rent a 2 light kino flo (with daylight and 3200k tubes - either 2ft or 4ft ) and a collaspable 36 or 48" reflector ( silver/white) ... put person in best available light at the location - use the praticals in room for accent .....
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Old February 20th, 2007, 12:22 PM   #9
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He asked for a budget solution...not baling twine and cobbled kits. If you give everyone starting out a huge loan for lighting kits, I'll gladly start recommending expensive chimeras and totas, inkies, blinkies, pinkies and clydes. These are not viable solutions for folks trying to start out their learning process or doing their first couple of shoots.

I'd like to learn to drive too, but can't afford a lexus, should I avoid driving?

I've been watching quite a bit of BTS from movies and have learned one thing from them...While the big expensive lights will get what you want...the end result is that the DP throws a piece of folded up printer paper in the book to add fill to the face, they cobbble together something at their local home depot to solve a lighting dilemma that can't be addressed by their Professional lighting kits with all the riggings in their grip truck...and the industry has renamed clothespins to not be an embarassment when invoicing clients or getting budgets ratified.

Bedsheets work just fine, work lights work just fine, china balls from cost plus are used on lots of big hollywood productions.

I would definately recommend that you be careful of things catching on fire on any set where light is used...that includes professional lighting kits. Common sense plays an important role on set...you let your home fixtures cool down before changing the bulbs in them...these kits make heat too...it's physics.

Sorry to be defensive...but I've gotten so many "Spend more money" solutions. Money is not as necessary as you seem to think. You can pick up black spray paint used on the inside of gas grills (very heat resistant) to spray paint your lighting rigs if you're worried about the appearances on set. There are instructions around for fashioning barndoors for worklights and clamplight reflectors as well. When you walk through home depot (or whatever local variant you have access to), look at every thing you see as a possible tool on your film set. Make what you can't afford, borrow what you can't figure out...then build it.

Time=Money

Spend one not the other on set. Your set your choice, but that doesn't make my choice wrong.
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Old February 20th, 2007, 02:57 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cole McDonald
He asked for a budget solution...not baling twine and cobbled kits. If you give everyone starting out a huge loan for lighting kits, I'll gladly start recommending expensive chimeras and totas, inkies, blinkies, pinkies and clydes. These are not viable solutions for folks trying to start out their learning process or doing their first couple of shoots.

I'd like to learn to drive too, but can't afford a lexus, should I avoid driving?

I've been watching quite a bit of BTS from movies and have learned one thing from them...While the big expensive lights will get what you want...the end result is that the DP throws a piece of folded up printer paper in the book to add fill to the face, they cobbble together something at their local home depot to solve a lighting dilemma that can't be addressed by their Professional lighting kits with all the riggings in their grip truck...and the industry has renamed clothespins to not be an embarassment when invoicing clients or getting budgets ratified.

Bedsheets work just fine, work lights work just fine, china balls from cost plus are used on lots of big hollywood productions.

I would definately recommend that you be careful of things catching on fire on any set where light is used...that includes professional lighting kits. Common sense plays an important role on set...you let your home fixtures cool down before changing the bulbs in them...these kits make heat too...it's physics.

Sorry to be defensive...but I've gotten so many "Spend more money" solutions. Money is not as necessary as you seem to think. You can pick up black spray paint used on the inside of gas grills (very heat resistant) to spray paint your lighting rigs if you're worried about the appearances on set. There are instructions around for fashioning barndoors for worklights and clamplight reflectors as well. When you walk through home depot (or whatever local variant you have access to), look at every thing you see as a possible tool on your film set. Make what you can't afford, borrow what you can't figure out...then build it.

Time=Money

Spend one not the other on set. Your set your choice, but that doesn't make my choice wrong.
I could not have said it better myself.

Sorry for the ego-crushing language. But there's no need to be defensive. I started out the same way. I think if we get a response from the O.P., there's a bit more (money) to the story.

Also, keep your eyes open for great deals when your local A-V shop is clearing out rental gear. This can be easy on the budget also.
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Old February 20th, 2007, 03:11 PM   #11
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Didn't mean to be defensive, just wanted to get my point across. Sometimes we make do with what we have, other times, what we want is no better than what we can get cheaply.

Lots of professional chefs have benz-o-matic propane torches in their kitchens...simply due to the fact that although a professional brulee torch looks better, it's 2-3 times the price for the same tool. In professional kitchens, I've used chennel locks to remove pans from hot ovens...because they work and are cheap, oil can spouts to get into cans of sauce and juice...the list goes on.

All of the bigger pieces of lighting started with a regular light that someone ran to a hardware store and strapped something on the fixture to do a specific task...then some manufacturer takes the effort out of making it and charges you for that relief.

In the end, light is light...it's a bunch of photons traveling through space. From the point of generation through the air to the Capture plane on your camera is what is important. Learning to deal with light and use it the way you want to will let you work with $15 implements as if they were $150...Buying fancy equipment that looks good on set and not having a clue what to do with it will look like you're using a $15 implement. What ends up in the camera is tantamount...everything else is flexible.
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Old February 20th, 2007, 04:56 PM   #12
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"I'd like to learn to drive too, but can't afford a lexus, should I avoid driving?"

perhaps a situation just might call for you not driving !!!
i wouldn't drive a old beat up auto to drive over to Warner Brothers Studio to take the head of production out to lunch and if i couldn't rent a decent auto then YES i would avoid driving or park the junk on a street nearby the studio and take a cab from there to lunch ....

IMO if you are shooting at a PUBLIC high school all your equipment needs to be SAFE - i wouldn't call a bed sheet used to diffuse hot lights safe? i wouldn't call a 8" paper china latern with 250w bulb in it safe ...

each of us draws a line some where .. - i would use homemade depot lights at home & on many sets BUT i would not show up with them at a high school, corporate office, clients office to interview students, workers, CEO's ...

wrong equipment for a job = more time and more $$
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Old February 20th, 2007, 05:09 PM   #13
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Brian,

Getting back to your original question. May I ask what kinds of things you have done before, and what kind of lights you used for those projects?

In another direction, is there a reason you are fixed on buying vs. renting?
For any given budget, I can promise you higher production values if you rent rather than buy.
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Old February 20th, 2007, 05:26 PM   #14
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I'll reiterate as the argument seems to be getting the better of the information:

Quote:
Originally Posted by me
Work light blasted at a white bedsheet 10 feet away will give a really nice full body soft light on the other side of the sheet. If you move the subject away from the light the shadows get harder as the light becomes relatively smaller compared to the subject.
10 feet away should be safe. A large scrim in a frame from a rental place will be affected by heat in the same way at the same distance. The room will get warm...make sure you read all apropriate safety warnings on the devices you're using and wear gloves when working with them. Keep a fire extinguisher handy whether you use DIY kit or Pro kit...light is caused by a conversion from flowing energy to radiant energy...it is hot, it can heat things up to their flash point or melt them.

On a recent shoot we used a tota light and a gel got to close to it causing it to melt and smoke. From then on, we couldn't use the tota light as it would smoke and throw off rancid smelling smoke everytime we'd turn it on.

As for the lexus...walking a few blocks after parking my rusty '78 chevette to hide it from some studio execs is a perfectly viable option.
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Old February 20th, 2007, 05:28 PM   #15
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Here's an example from another thread...it looks a bit like what you're looking for:

http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthrea...740#post619740
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