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Old February 14th, 2013, 05:51 PM   #1
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nice lighting, by yourself, short etup time. . .HOW?

I often work with a small crew doing corporate video shoots. We are able to create very nice lighting setups in a fairly reasonable amount of time. However, that's with 4+ people.

I sometimes have shoots where this is expected and I'm BY MYSELF. I know people are able to set up fairly polished setups in, say, 45 minutes, but I don't know HOW.

Here's what has to happen for me to be ready to shoot: load in crapload of gear on cart, find room, decide on background, mess with shot using self as stand-in, set up lights (tungsten kit, softbox and fresnels, grip gear), monitor, generally boom mic on C-stand (don't like to use wireless unless have to or they specify they want it, Especially since my wireless is a G2 with stock mic), tweak everything for actual talent.

THEN I'm ready. I can easily do 2 hours plus on this stuff. I don't know how anyone doesn't. Even if I literally run around as I fetch and place things, that does no real good 'cause I can't THINK any faster.

I realize some of this is simply experience (I don't do these that often alone), but I feel I'm missing out on something. I would like to get flos from coollights at some point which may help speed things along but not right now. Definitely not looking into LEDs. . .too expensive for the payoff and wouldn't use 'em often enough to make it worth it.
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Old February 14th, 2013, 07:13 PM   #2
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Re: nice lighting, by yourself, short etup time. . .HOW?

I've done the same but I get it done in 30 minutes. First, you need to have a set system for setup. 1st, 2nd, 3rd...etc and DO NOT VARY from that otherwise you'll forget something. 2nd, I work FAST. I'm old but I've always walked fast, talked fast and worked fast. You need to speed yourself up a bit. One reason it takes you longer is you don't do it a lot. I understand but you need to practice even if at home. Set up a clock. Give yourself 1 hour to set up ready to go. this is where doing it the same everytime makes a difference.
Once I get into the room, the first thing I do is set up the tripod and camera. Not fineline but it's up.
Then I set up my lights. Whether I'm using my big ol' softboxes (2 or 3 of them) and have to build the boxes or I'm using my LEDs 3 to 5 of them, I get them set up no more than 15 to 20 minutes. then the last piece of gear is my boom stand and mic. Again this is all just set up, nothing finelined. Once it's up and my cases stowed out of the way, THEN I start finelining. I already know what I'm using as a background usually a wall and then I light it. Once that's done I set the boom and then the camera. WB, frame, focus, run a quick test for audio and look on myself then once more quick look around to make sure I didn't forget anything and GO! Even if I'm setting up a background that only adds about 3 minutes. I have 1 stand dedicated for background and only 1 background...BLACK! Pull it on the cross bar, put cross bar into super clamp attached to stand, tighten clamp, raise stand with background and GO!
Don't get me wrong, I hate rushing and if I had more time I'd use it. I like to have 15 to 30 minutes after setup to fax everything out and make sure everything is how I want it and how the client needs it.
If it's taking you 2 hours by yourself you're either working to slow or have way to much to set up in which case you need someone to help you or you just need to get quicker. Either case, do it the same everytime.
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Old February 14th, 2013, 08:52 PM   #3
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Re: nice lighting, by yourself, short etup time. . .HOW?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Josh Bass View Post
I often work with a small crew doing corporate video shoots. We are able to create very nice lighting setups in a fairly reasonable amount of time. However, that's with 4+ people.

I sometimes have shoots where this is expected and I'm BY MYSELF. I know people are able to set up fairly polished setups in, say, 45 minutes, but I don't know HOW.

Here's what has to happen for me to be ready to shoot: load in crapload of gear on cart, find room, decide on background, mess with shot using self as stand-in, set up lights (tungsten kit, softbox and fresnels, grip gear), monitor, generally boom mic on C-stand (don't like to use wireless unless have to or they specify they want it, Especially since my wireless is a G2 with stock mic), tweak everything for actual talent.

THEN I'm ready. I can easily do 2 hours plus on this stuff. I don't know how anyone doesn't. Even if I literally run around as I fetch and place things, that does no real good 'cause I can't THINK any faster.

I realize some of this is simply experience (I don't do these that often alone), but I feel I'm missing out on something. I would like to get flos from coollights at some point which may help speed things along but not right now. Definitely not looking into LEDs. . .too expensive for the payoff and wouldn't use 'em often enough to make it worth it.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Bloom View Post
I've done the same but I get it done in 30 minutes. First, you need to have a set system for setup. 1st, 2nd, 3rd...etc and DO NOT VARY from that otherwise you'll forget something. 2nd, I work FAST. I'm old but I've always walked fast, talked fast and worked fast. You need to speed yourself up a bit. One reason it takes you longer is you don't do it a lot. I understand but you need to practice even if at home. Set up a clock. Give yourself 1 hour to set up ready to go. this is where doing it the same everytime makes a difference.
Once I get into the room, the first thing I do is set up the tripod and camera. Not fineline but it's up.
Then I set up my lights. Whether I'm using my big ol' softboxes (2 or 3 of them) and have to build the boxes or I'm using my LEDs 3 to 5 of them, I get them set up no more than 15 to 20 minutes. then the last piece of gear is my boom stand and mic. Again this is all just set up, nothing finelined. Once it's up and my cases stowed out of the way, THEN I start finelining. I already know what I'm using as a background usually a wall and then I light it. Once that's done I set the boom and then the camera. WB, frame, focus, run a quick test for audio and look on myself then once more quick look around to make sure I didn't forget anything and GO! Even if I'm setting up a background that only adds about 3 minutes. I have 1 stand dedicated for background and only 1 background...BLACK! Pull it on the cross bar, put cross bar into super clamp attached to stand, tighten clamp, raise stand with background and GO!
Don't get me wrong, I hate rushing and if I had more time I'd use it. I like to have 15 to 30 minutes after setup to fax everything out and make sure everything is how I want it and how the client needs it.
If it's taking you 2 hours by yourself you're either working to slow or have way to much to set up in which case you need someone to help you or you just need to get quicker. Either case, do it the same everytime.
Don is right; standardize your methods. My order is a little different; camera, lighting, monitor/audio recording (field monitor and laptop), audio, and test, that way i can record a quick clip, review it, and reset anything needed, fix shadows, etc.

and organize your packs/gear. i have a case for just cams/lenses, a duffel for lighting, duffel for stands and tripods, a case for monitors (audio and video), and a case with spare cabling, batteries, spare memory cards, bulbs, a/c adapters, etc.

pelican 1600 for cameras/lenses and rod/rails/magic arms (basically all video support hardware). pelican 1600 for field monitor (all cables/batteries/AC adapter), headphone monitors, laptop and batteries/AC adapter, duffels for light heads or LED units, duffel for tripods/stands, and a little case with spare bits/chargers/adapters and misc stuff i may forget.

i also color code cables/adapters and cases; eg my main lights are blue, so all lighting gear has blue hockey tape. canon gear is red as thats their color, monitoring is yellow, etc. all generic connectors/cables/wires are white with the corresponding color(s) next to it; eg a spare HDMI cable is white, yellow, and red, indicating its for camera and monitoring.

saves a TON of time when everything is where it should be, and a simple glance is all it takes to grab the right bit of kit.
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Old February 14th, 2013, 09:10 PM   #4
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Re: nice lighting, by yourself, short etup time. . .HOW?

Definitely some good points in there.

Yes, I have everything separated/organized.

Maybe my standards are just too high for the constraints of those situations. It's really hard to look at a bleh shot and say "well, that'll have to do!".
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Old February 14th, 2013, 10:17 PM   #5
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Re: nice lighting, by yourself, short etup time. . .HOW?

If you're talking about promos, training, anything other than talking heads (which is what I do a lot of) then yeah, it's going to take longer to setup and of course if you're going in with a whole lotta lights, seperate audio recodeing gear then sure, it's going to be a more complicated setup but IF you're doing that, you gotta have more than just YOU doing it. It's too much gear to set up for one person.
A few months ago, I worked with a crew to do a seminar. We started setting up at 9:45PM for a crew call of 7AM the next morning. At 4:30AM I left to go and get changed for the 7AM call. Noone had any idea that the setup was going to take as long as it did and since I was running camera I had to go to get back. Why did it take so long? Well we had 4-4k projectors, 4 fast folds, 2 lighting trees, all kinds of stage lighting, all sorts of audio plus 2 switchers, laptops, recorders etc. and 1 camera. We should have started 3 hours earlier or had 4 more peole but the av company I hired out to, misjudged badly and I told them that.
Point being, if you need too, get someone to help do some of the grunt work and systemize your setup. I think you'll find you spend less time setting up with less stress.
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Old February 14th, 2013, 11:19 PM   #6
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Re: nice lighting, by yourself, short etup time. . .HOW?

Im generally talking about stuff that can be done by one person. More hands would be great but...you guessed it, budget generally doesnt allow. I think the overall message here is: 'Get faster, Bass(ter)".
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Old February 15th, 2013, 12:05 AM   #7
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Re: nice lighting, by yourself, short etup time. . .HOW?

Hey Josh, going LED is mighty tempting, even with the cost esp. battery powered. Built in dimmers, no worries with running power cables, less gear to haul around. I'm still using a tungsten kit, but I could see passing over Flos and going directly to LED. Not entirely convinced yet, but getting there. Seems like there would be major time savings, what do you think?
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Old February 15th, 2013, 03:45 AM   #8
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Re: nice lighting, by yourself, short etup time. . .HOW?

Don't get me wrong. For convenience/speed, LED is king!

Just not for anything else, in my opinion. I'm not saying they're terrible or anything but compared to the look of flos/tungsten and the price issues (I know the Chinese knockoffs exist but that's a slippery slope), they would be my last choice. Especially given the infrequency with which I would likely be using them.
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Old February 15th, 2013, 10:01 AM   #9
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Re: nice lighting, by yourself, short etup time. . .HOW?

I do these all the time. My setup time varies from 20 minutes to 45 minutes depending on
the room and distance from my car that I have to 'load in'. One thing that has helped a lot
is these inline dimmers I bought. I have enough for all my lights, they plug into the
wall and my lights plug in to them. Then I can dial in the desired intensity of the lights,
without having to scrim them and such. At a certain point, no matter how fast you are,
it just takes how long it takes. That's part of being a one man crew. Make sure your
rates are high enough to be worth doing it. You might not be paying other people,
but you are doing more work yourself, don't 'save the clients budget' on your back.
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Old February 15th, 2013, 11:01 AM   #10
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Re: nice lighting, by yourself, short etup time. . .HOW?

All good ideas so far. One more suggestion I might add is to substitute one hot light for a reflector. The pop-up 5-in-1's are portable, versatile, and save you the hassle of setting up a second soft source. I still bring more than enough lights, but if I can get the same results from a reflector, then I've saved a few minutes of cord wrangling and light fiddling. You'll want to invest in a reflector arm, but those are cheap enough and last forever.
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Old February 15th, 2013, 12:16 PM   #11
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Re: nice lighting, by yourself, short etup time. . .HOW?

I do these types of shoots all the time. One thing that is key for me is to only bring what you need. That means there's less equipment to haul and less to sort through. First thing I do is setup the camera on a tripod with an external monitor. Then I setup the lights - check the lighting with myself as a stand in - and adjust as necessary. Add in the boom and lav and test the audio and lighting one last time and I'm ready to go. A setup like this, once I have all my equipment to the location, will take me about 30 minutes. I guess my time in live sports and news has helped me be able to setup quickly and have it still look good. But as has been mentioned, the more practice you get, the quicker you get.
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Old February 15th, 2013, 03:08 PM   #12
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Re: nice lighting, by yourself, short etup time. . .HOW?

Yeah, have the dimmers, have the 5 in one.

I do bring a lot, but that's 'cause I've learned from past incidents that trying to bring only what you need is only good if the universe doesn't feel like screwing you that day. Bringing extra audio gear/lighting/stands/grip gear is necessary to deal with the unexpected ("Oh, I didn't realize we were interviewing him in a mine field. Glad I brought those extra gels.").
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Old February 16th, 2013, 09:45 AM   #13
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Re: nice lighting, by yourself, short etup time. . .HOW?

There's some great advice here. I've shot perhaps 500 people in 200 locations through the years. Presently, I'm working on a self-funded doc where I have to be in people's homes and grab interviews in the least amount of time possible. In eight weeks I've shot 30 interviews. Up until this week, my lights were two Lowel Omni, shoot-thru umbrellas, and a 150w hairlight/ kicker. Sound is a wired lav. Single camera, a DSLR and JL preamp. Setup takes between 20 and 30 minutes. A long lens wide-open forgives a lot of visual sins with backgrounds and lighting.

Here's a still showing part of a recent setup: Timeline Photos | Facebook
And the video result: Greg Hurt: "What'd I Do?!" | Facebook

I won't win any Oscars or Tellys for cinematography with these interviews, but I'm amassing enough archival footage where I won't stay on anyone's face for very long, anyways, in the final production.

Just this week I finally invested in some portable flos from Alzo Digital, based upon a recommend here on dvinfo. These units are nicely built and set-up much more compactly than an Omni/umbrella combo. I went with daylight-balanced tubes, and no longer have to shy from windows and "blue light" like a vampire! I've only shot one interview with it, so far, and looks like I'll have to pull a bit of green out of the light either with a magenta gel or CC in post:
Ski Ranger Bob Krear: "I can do that... I'm a Doctor." | Facebook

For doing location lighting and filming, like with anything else, there's no substitute for practice, practice... The general public has no idea why anything should take more than five minutes to set-up, but I always insure that they KNOW it will take me 30 minutes on both ends of a shoot to setup and strike. Once they see the setups, they understand, and they say something like "I had no IDEA how much stuff it takes..." And I say, "it's all to make sure you look and sound your BEST."

I always believe that capturing clean, intelligible audio is so much more important than recording beautiful pictures for projects with sync sound. Especially corporate, industrial, or documentary projects where a lot of the visuals are b-roll... who wants to stay on a talking head for long? I'd rather SEE what they're talking about.

You can see most of my corporate work on my YouTube channel. Again, not award-winning stuff, but it pays the bills:
BrownCow Productions - YouTube

Hope this helps,
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Old February 16th, 2013, 12:46 PM   #14
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Re: nice lighting, by yourself, short etup time. . .HOW?

Some very interesting workflows and all good advice. I have a slightly different one that's based more on shoots for indie movies. Last thing to come out for me is my camera because that's the most delicate and most expensive single piece of equipment. First thing is to establish the location. Where the subject will be. Set up lights. All lights I think I'll need are pulled out and put on stands, plus at least one in case I need an extra source or if one of my original lights is not functioning. Lighting is roughly setup. All dimmers, scrims, flags or black rap is set next to the lights. Then sound comes out, If it's a single mic going into my camera just placing it on a boom or wiring the talent with a wireless is quick. The mic is then set close to where the subject will be. Then I do camera build which includes monitor placement. On small shoots I generally only use a 5" attached to my tripod. Always on the tripod, and away from the set. Then I bring camera into position, talent is placed or a stand in used. Lights are more carefully set, close to final framing established, mic lowered into place. If a stand in was used I get the actual subject, then final light setup and framing. Set exposure and WB. Final position on mic, Sound check, set audio levels. Ready to shoot. After interview is done request all quite and pick up 30 seconds of room tone. Then strike set

As everyone so far has said the key is to get into a very good routine. From first getting at the location to rolling I can be as quick as 20 minutes for a simple setup but I like to allot for an hour.

A couple of keys to being able to get in an quickly be ready to shoot.

I never want to walk into a location cold. I've at least gotten pictures sent to me but more importantly I've already done a location tech scout. That is very important. You need to know where power is, what problems you might encounter, and where you can stage your equipment. You also want to have a preliminary setup of where your lights, camera, and audio will be. On your tech scout take measurements. Go during the same day and time as the actual shoot. You never know if the buses start to run more frequently on that day or if a processing machine happens to kick in at the time you are shooting. Check for lighting condition if the location has windows. On that note, the app SunSeeker is one of the most useful apps I have for cinematography. I also have a directors viewfinder app (I use Artemis) is very useful so you know what lens or focal length you will need.

Have your equipment neatly organized and labeled. I have separate storage containers for my lighting an grip gear, camera gear, and sound. All cables are CORRECTLY rolled and secured and again separated into video, audio, power. All connectors, adapters, etc are in separated storage containers clearly marked.

When I move equipment in I set it up so that each department, camera, lighting/grip, and audio is placed together. It might be only one box for each or it might be ten for each. In any case I have them separated.

I generally load anything I could remotely, possibly need in my production vehicle. I've come to realize that if I bring it to the location, I might need it, but if I don't bring it, I will absolutely need it. I've had to run out and buy a cable or connector before. Very much a waste of time and money. And, it looks bad to your client. I may not bring it into the set, but I've got it at the location.

And, I use a cart or carts for haul in. That allows me to move quickly and usually bring in all of my equipment in one or two trips.

One last thing I learned was to use C-Stands. They are in my opinion the greatest thing on set. I've been able to solve a lot of problems with a C-stand, grip head, and a couple of clamps.

You also need to know what is appropriate for that shoot. If I'm lighting a corporate interview, I know I can do it much quicker than If I'm having to light a scene for a movie. Corporate interview, I can be in and shooting in 20 minutes by myself. Shooting an somewhat elaborately blocked scene for a movie, haul in, lighting, camera and sound placement, 3 to 5 hours. Very elaborate setup, two days, and that was with a 5 person crew. That's been my range so far.
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Old February 16th, 2013, 12:54 PM   #15
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Re: nice lighting, by yourself, short etup time. . .HOW?

Lots of good, proven methods here!

I'll add that my favorite lights for quick interview setups are Lowell Rifas. A full tungsten softbox that opens like an umbrella, velcro the diffuser on the front, done. I absolutly hate messing with convetional softbox rods and speed rings as the minutes tick by. The Rifa 55 is a 500w fixture, two of these, 1/2 and 1/4 CTB, a couple 14ga 25' stingers, a 32" 5-in-1, and a small fresnel back light and I've got everything I need for lighting fast.

Except, I really like to boom the backlight if I have time.

Several people have mentioned "tweaking the lighting with me standing in". I don't do that much. Experience tells me where these lights need to be roughed in, I'll save the fine tweaks for what the real talent looks like. Tweaking the back light for my thinning dark-brown to grey hair isn't going to help much when long blond hair walks in the door. Tweaking the fill for my shallow eye sockets and rounded cheeks will be wasted time when a heavier eyebrow line with deep eye sockets comes through the door.

But my favorite technique to quick and easy setups and strikes involves quickly assessing and making use of what's already in the room. To do this my lights are tungsten with light CTB standing by (full cuts too much output). The light CTB might not fully correct for daylight, but it gets close enough that if I white balance at the face position the windows really aren't going to be blue, and even fully mixed lighting doesn't seem to be much problem.

Use the windows - are they fill, or back? Use the existing lighting, is it fill or back? Grab my trusty clamp out of the bag and use that hatstand instead of a light stand. Get a reflector in there instead of a light if it will do.

I have some Diva-like flos with apx. the same diffusion as my Rifas. For light-on-the-run location interviews they're too heavy, too fragile, it takes too long to change bulbs. But I use them all the time for everything else.

Then there are some lighting styles that are more 2-point than 3, kicker plus soft key for example. If I can use windows for a kicker and put up one softbox that's pretty darn fast.

Organization, assessing the location, versatile work methods - establish a core routine, add and subtract as circumstances dictate.
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