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oceansmoon
Lighting Commercial
on Jul 4, 2005 at 7:48:02 pm

I've booked a jewelry spot, and am looking for suggestions on lighting. The shoot will be shot in a tight location around the jewelry bench, and will require two subjects; the owner(foreground) and goldsmith (background). I'll be using DVX100 24p and am looking for depth of field, rich color tones, soft lighting and artistic quality. B-roll will include slow pans of bench tools, diplomas, and upclose shots of goldsmith's hands working on piece.

The bench is located in front of a customer viewing window, which allows for outside light to leak into the bench room. I'm thinking of shooting after hours when the sun is down. Lighting will mean everything to the quality of this spot.

I currently don't have lighting equipment, but am thinking of purchasing. Of course, the first plan is to locate an affordable local (central FL) lighting director.

Any suggestions?


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Leo Ticheli
Re: Lighting Commercial
on Jul 5, 2005 at 8:57:40 pm

Don't buy equipment you don't know how to use!

Hire a Gaffer; you may be able to find one who's got their own gear and save some money on rental costs.

You mentioned an "affordable" Gaffer. As I see it, you have two choices. You can hire a competent lighting person to give you the look you are after; this should result in a happy client and the possibility of future work. Or, you can forgo the Gaffer or hire someone with modest skills and suffer the possibility of unsatisfactory results which may result in an unhappy client and a blow to your career.

Which path is "affordable?"

Good shooting!

Leo
Director/Cinematographer
Southeast USA


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oceansmoon
Re: Lighting Commercial
on Jul 6, 2005 at 12:34:16 am

I agree.

What's affordable? Hourly? What kind of rate for highly qualified lighting gaffer?


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john sharaf
Re: Lighting Commercial
on Jul 6, 2005 at 12:43:40 am

It's a funny thing, but lighting guys, who are called upon to work really hard long hours, lift heavy weights, operate hot equipment, endanger their lives by being near to and sometimes having to attach to high current, and get little credit or recongnition, usually demand a decent hourly rate; in the neighborhood of $35-$50 per hour (ten hour minimum). And they can be worth every penny or more!

Regards,

JS


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Leo Ticheli
Re: Lighting Commercial
on Jul 6, 2005 at 12:46:33 am

Gaffers don't work by the hour, except for overtime, of course.

Contact the equipment rental house nearest you and tell them in detail exactly what you want to accomplish and the style you're looking for. They should be able to help you find the right person.

Rate vary by region, but you should expect something in the range of a few hundred dollars or so for a ten-hour day.

From your description of the job, I would guess your equipment rental should not be too high; I might approach the job with a few Kino Flo's and a small Fresnel or two.

Be sure to explain to the Gaffer your budget constraints so the first suggestion is not for a truck full of HMI's!

Good shooting!

Leo
Director/Cinematographer
Southeast USA


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Rich Rosen
Re: Lighting Commercial
on Jul 6, 2005 at 4:48:53 pm

I don't know guys. I always went for putting the money into my own gear rather than renting or hiring. Yes, this has led to many mistakes, but none (well maybe one) where I wouldn't get a second job.

What it has done is given me hands on in every dept. from lights to sound to post. Five years later (doing it all myself) my skill level is to the point that when I get real shoots with real money they seem like a cakewalk.

Most guys who get jobs with DV cams are getting low end jobs where a few mistakes aren't even noticed by clients.

So I would say get a simple Lowel kit and gels (a softbox is a must too). Practice (and practice and practice) at home and go for it.


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john sharaf
Re: Lighting Commercial
on Jul 6, 2005 at 4:55:19 pm

Normally I wouldn't say anything to a post like this, but I really must advise against purchasing any "Lowell Kit" of lights. They are crude at best, burn very hot and are difficult to control despite a large catalog of accessories. If you must buy a lite kit, look at the many versions sold by both Arri and Mole.

JS


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Rich Rosen
Re: Lighting Commercial
on Jul 7, 2005 at 2:29:56 am

"Normally I wouldn't say anything to a post like this".

A post like what? Not doing it the old school way?


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john sharaf
Re: Lighting Commercial
on Jul 7, 2005 at 3:33:41 am

It's got nothing to do with "old school", to the contrary.

It has to do with the fact that motion picture and televsion lighting is often best when pursued with the ideal of finding "elegent" solutions to otherwise impossible problems. This is why there are so many unique types and varieties of lighting equipment that have been developed over the years and are still being improved on.

The Lowell kits you mention are if anything "old school", developed in response to the lack of portable location lighting equipment thirty years ago. In the interim there have been many more "elegent" solutions put forth in the market both by full line lighting companies like Mole and Arri and also by innovators like Kino Flo.

If cheap and portable is what you want, for example, Mole makes a great starter light in the teenie-weenie mole. This is a small open faced quartz unit that takes a 600 watt bubble and can be used directly as a "hard" source or diffussed with a light box (like a chimera) for a soft source. It can also be lamped to be powered by battery and three of them fit in a tiny kit box offered by the manufacturer.

Mole's designs are well thought out on terms of safety and handling such that they can be touched and operated without gloves if necesssary and gels don't burnup and singe on the doors. These things are important for new DV shooters and old hands too.

I'm sorry if you were insulted by my comments, but I thought I'd try to counterpoint your suggestion so that Oceansmoon and others in his/her position do not make the mistake of buying a light kit that will burn their fingers, maybe start a fire or cause other unknown suffering later on. For the same price or a little more there are other alternatives which I feel will provide better longterm usefulness. Take it or leave it!


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Rich Rosen
Re: Lighting Commercial
on Jul 7, 2005 at 4:32:06 am

What I really wanted to say is go to Home Depot and do it that way. I know the Home Depot solution has been discussed a thousand times and yes I would rather have twenty grand in lights, but for the life of me I can't see any difference on screen whether a worklight is inside a softbox or a Mole. I have designed and built my own speedrings for work lights, bought 6 Photogenic frezzis on ebay for next to nothing, made flags out of black poster board, scrims out of kitchen stuff, sandbags out of hiking water holders and on and on and on...

Yes, if I were shooting a BMW commercial in the desert I don't think my kit would cut it, but again, anyone with a consumer or prosumer DV cam (the majority of people here) ain't shooting no high end stuff anyway so why not learn it all? I've always learned much more from my mistakes than anything else. I've watched big time DP's for days on Hollywood soundstages and didn't learn a tenth of what I learned screwing up in the real world doing it myself.

Old pros always say hire and rent because that's the way it had to be in years past. Hire a gaffer. A sound guy. Rent the lights. Pay a DP. That's the SAFE way. I say buy what you can afford in every department. Learn how to maximize your gear and learn it all. Teach some non-pros how to use the stuff. By the time you can produce a professional product with your own innovation you'll be so much more ready for the big iron. I know camera. I know lighting. I know sound. I know color correction.

When I was hired to direct a big three camera infomercial it was a pure breeze and delight working with the crew because I had done EVERYTHING they were doing. The cameras just came back from the Superbowl, the grip truck was as big as my house, but ya know something....at its core it was really all the same stuff that was sitting in my garage.


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Frank Otto
Re: Lighting Commercial
on Jul 7, 2005 at 4:41:25 pm

Begin .02...long .02

As long time readers may know...I'm a strong proponent of DIY lighting. The cost savings in the initial purchase compared to a "brand" light kit is enourmous. The catch is always in what you add to shape and form the light...in the end, you're still going to have to use cutters and gels and diffusion and ultimately an attempt at a home made softbox you read about in AC. I have modified these lights in the past to accept Lowell accessories...the Tota series of gel holders and parts can, with little work, be mounted to the 500w work lights.

The thing about the 500w "safety-work" light is that they're dependable, rugged, have a stand and the lamps are cheap to replace. They're also very adaptable as long as you have a modicum of intellect and skill with tools. The biggest issue is one of sophistication - you're limited to 300, 500 and 1k watt sources and they're all broads, or pan type lights - must use doors, cutters and the like to control and have no way of changing focus.

John brings up a most valid point...Lowell was designed for the first time user and comes with many of the bells and whistles in the kit as are needed for control of the light. HOWEVER, Lowell hasn't made any advances in the safety and ergonomics since 1968...they get hot, they burn hands, clothing and sets, they suffer extreme wear early on (the DP is the WORST unit ever made, followed by the Omni-lite as far as falling apart). I've always said it's like a Fiat...buy two 'cause you'll need the other for parts and spares.

Lowell kits are in the low end of the price range to be sure...some under a thousand bucks...but the majority of the kits you'll find useful are in the $1100-to-$1900 range. For that money, you can buy an Arri kit (used are cheaper) or an Altman (sort of an Arri style of kit) or a basic Mole kit. I still have one personal Mole kit that I've kept intact for nearly thirty years and it has seen major use world-wide - some of the paint has chipped and doors have been bent back into shape from time to time, but I've never had to replace a fried socket or chip out a lamp or replace a cable or switch(as I have on every Lowell I've owned).

It's not "old school" to be safe and to use instruments that are not going to burn you, talent or the set. Kits do give you an advantage of having the tools at your disposal to shape the light without having to modify the light housing. They also have the advantage of looking more professsional...but then again, your standard man-on-the-street is still asking you "are you shooting a movie?"...so in reality, we're only looking professional for each other. And I agree with Rich in that you absolutley need to experiment with low cost equipment in order to arrive at what John refers to the "elegant solution" or to even understand what the elegant solution is. As you grow, you'll gravitate to the more "professional" gear.

John and Leo also make a vaild point about hiring lighting pros, especially when your rep as a shooter is on the line. If you're a relatively inexperienced shooter who just got a lucrative gig, it's really in your best interests to hire outside skills (and pick their brain)for your shoot. For those of us who started with homemade "coffee can" pars and worklights (talking about those "droplight" types...yup, really dates me) we learned by burn and error and watched and observed all the pros we've come in contact with until we felt secure in going with the big guns ourselves.

But the real thrust of lighting isn't the instrument...it's the eye...if you don't see the possibilities in your vision, then a 20 ton grip truck with all the latest gear won't help. It's still a world of dark and light, bright and shadow and we use light to paint a 3d image on our 2d screens. My most memorable images were shot in a room with no power, one window in the room and a subject and story that was compelling.

And as an aside, I'm still learning. In over thirty years in lighting I've used everything from a bare bulb to a Silver Bullet...but I'm still weak with Kino-Flo types and I've not had the need to use many of the hardcore gaffer and grip devices like meat-axes, plates, offset arms and trombones. Now I'm using almost exclusively Arri and Mole lights...I still have a few homemade units - they are machined and professionally designed - but still homemade.


end .02




Cheers,

Frank Otto



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rich rosen
Re: Lighting Commercial
on Jul 7, 2005 at 7:58:43 pm

One more thing I must say re: DIY. In the past shooters were very rarely editors. Now that's all changed with "home" editing software. I implore anyone gettting into this business to edit what they shoot. I now shoot to edit and it's made a world of difference. Any of the programs work. I like Premiere much better than Avid, but Avid is still what the people think makes you a pro so if you're starting out get Avid Xpress. Final Cut is also accepted for the Mac. Adobe needs to do a much better job of marketing for perception.

I am now going through 90 hours of tape I've shot so far for a show I'll be pitching. What an education watching that much of my own stuff. Besides all the camera techniques in harsh settings I'm learning I'm also learning to shut up and let my subjects speak. I guess I fear that if I don't keep the conversation going they will say nothing. WRONG. People tend to be uncomfortable with long silences so they'll keep digging deeper just to break the silence. I'm becoming a much better filmmaker by editing everything myself.

Can I light a big feature....no. For that you need to spend a few years or more working for the people who do it, but for docs/reality, corporates, commercials up to a certain size no problem. You can learn it all yourself for about $20,000 in gear. That's camera, lighting, sound, post. Go for it. You'll end up a much more valuable commodity. Of course I'm talking technically. It ain't gonna lead to Citizen Kane. For that all you need is a pad and pencil.


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Frank Otto
Re: Lighting Commercial
on Jul 7, 2005 at 8:45:09 pm

[rich rosen] "What an education watching that much of my own stuff."

Brother, you ain't kidding.

I spent ten years as a "union" shooter in the days when one man = one job. It wasn't until I started working freelance and for non-union shops that I finally had to confront the issue of making 3:30 out of 1:05 worth of shots.

And all you can do is curse yourself...



Cheers,

Frank Otto



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rich rosen
Re: Lighting Commercial
on Jul 7, 2005 at 10:16:30 pm

"And all you can do is curse yourself..."

Don't want to admidt how many I've said "DAMN IT."


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