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Lighting Equipment for Short Films

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Tom Martin
Lighting Equipment for Short Films
on Jul 22, 2008 at 9:16:19 pm

Hello,

I had a quick question regarding lighting for short films. I've done mainly camera and editing for years and never did a lot of light work in the past but recently have started a production company with some friends. We are scripting multiple ideas and getting ready to shoot. We'll be using a Sony VX2100 and doing a lot of shots, varying from everywhere to inside a house, out in a field, inside a car, etc. Shots will also vary from stationary to moving. I'm a huge novice in lights and what to use (I've field and studio lights in the past, I can set them up when given to me) and figured I would ask for some input. I'll need to purchase whatever is decided so I want to be sure first. What would you recommend looking into for the work will be looking to do? I've been checking out bhphoto and their lighting kits, but I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little unsure of which direction to head. If anyone has links to affordable (on a college students budget) equipment that will get the job done it would be a tremendous help as well.

Thanks ahead of time for any help or input you might have.


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Rick Wise
Re: Lighting Equipment for Short Films
on Jul 22, 2008 at 11:05:07 pm

Your question may be quick, but any serious reply could be very, very long. In fact, to reply fully would be to give you a 45-hour class in lighting with tungsten, fluorescent, and daylight units, and all the grip equipment we use to shape, block, and augment light. That would be just the beginning.

The bottom line is: to light well, you have to learn to see light and shadow and color well. When you can do that, you can shoot beautifully in available light -- you move the action to where the light is "right." You can also shoot beautifully with very little equipment -- again, taking advantage of what's there.

First off, be exact about how much you can spend. Don't be coy. Just the facts, please. Then we can at least point you in a few directions. After that it's up to you to experiment, experiment, experiment.

Rick Wise
director of photography
Oakland, CA
http://www.RickWiseDP.com
email: Rick@RickWiseDP.com


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Michael Palmer
Re: Lighting Equipment for Short Films
on Jul 22, 2008 at 11:29:49 pm

Rick is right learning to see light is the key and in most cases less is more. I would start with a solid 4x4 flag and learn to take light away with exterior shots and only add small amounts of a 4x4 white foam-core bounce for a side fill working tighter shots to learn from.

I'm only going to recommend 2 units, the first would be a china ball for interior shooting together with a wall/hand dimmer and the second is a wonderful new LED 500 & LED 1000 for daylight fill needs. Both of these types of lights are extremely inexpensive as far as lighting going.
China Ball w hand dimmer under $25 (some assembly required)
LED 500 =$499 http://www.prompterpeople.com/led500.php
LED 1000=$849 http://www.prompterpeople.com/led500.php



Good Luck
Michael Palmer


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Richard Herd
Re: Lighting Equipment for Short Films
on Jul 24, 2008 at 11:41:31 pm

For <$50, you can piece together a very decent lighting rig used in many big budget Hollywood movies: "the china ball."

Round paper lantern from World Market: $7.99
500w photoflood from local store: $8.00
660w rated Leviton porcelain fixture from home depot: $3.27
Switch: $0.65
Pwrtool cord: $5.97
1-7/8" Handy box: $0.94
Connector: $0.29
Foam core "posterboard": $1.50

This says nothing of where to place it or how to control it, but with DV it's very cheap and easy to experiment, assuming there's time to test the camera.

Also DV presents a funky little problem: the minimum luminance value. According to the manual (which I just downloaded), your camera has a minimum illumination of 1 lux. I find that very hard to believe. I'm sure there's fine print I missing.

Here's a simple experiment to try: Using manual modes, video a subject--sitting in a chair, nice wide shot a few feet away so the light only hits one side of their face, half the face is lit, the other half is dark. Then move the light nearer the subject, then move the light five feet away. Then five more feet. Then five more feet, etc. Move it all around. Don't block the light or cast shadows on your subject.

Record this, and bring the footage into your editing suite to try and find some kind of sweet spot. I surmise you'll find that "the more light on the subject, the better the image looks and is easier to manipulate/time in editing." Seems obvious, but I'll say it anyway: If it a subject isn't lit, then the camera cannot store the color data.





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Rick Wise
Re: Lighting Equipment for Short Films
on Jul 25, 2008 at 12:38:36 am

Richard, great details! Placing the light to the side is a great way to introduce the fundamental ideas that the key can be anywhere, and is often at its best when much, much more to the side than beginning filmmakers ever think.

One other notion: you can mount the China Ball on the end of a wooden pole (another hardware item) and have an "assistant" move it with the action as needed. A traveling key.

Rick Wise
director of photography
Oakland, CA
http://www.RickWiseDP.com
email: Rick@RickWiseDP.com


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Richard Herd
Re: Lighting Equipment for Short Films
on Jul 25, 2008 at 1:20:24 am

Thanks Rick!

I guess he ought to wrap the china ball in CTB, though, for EXT. DAY.

PS I graduated AAU,SF in 2005 :-)



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Rick Wise
Re: Lighting Equipment for Short Films
on Jul 25, 2008 at 2:42:18 am

Actually, 1/2 blue will work just fine. But mostly these China Balls work best in tungsten environments. With daylight, they are not going to have enough intensity, unless you are in a dark but daylit room.

Richard, did you take one of my classes? I should remember, but as you may remember, if you did take one of my classes, I have a devil of a time remembering names. Which is why I take pictures of my students and put them on flash cards. Still, three years later, the little gray cells are mostly empty on this topic. Fortunately I still function well on others....

Rick Wise
director of photography
Oakland, CA
http://www.RickWiseDP.com
email: Rick@RickWiseDP.com


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