Remote location shoot. Lighting ideas?
I'm new to the forum though I've been hanging around getting Post Pro tips for a long time. My background is in Post bu I've recently been asked to shoot some location video for broadcast and I'm looking for tips. I'm in chrage of lighting and camera and will have two or three crew.
Daytime (avoiding noon)
Harsh sun (most likely)
Remote location (no mains power)
HD (probably DSLR)
Kids TV (so even, simple lighting, not moody)
Long shots (up to 8 performers)
Reflectors I don't think will cut it given the scale so I'm thinking more along the lines of a small generator and two large flood lights either side of the camera. (I just need to lose the shadows really) I just have no clue as to what to rent. Minimal crew as well so weight is an issue.
I'd also appreciate any ideas on lightweight jibs/dollys that'll support a DSLR or F3/Canon C300. There seem to be a few options but what's good?
Outdoors you want HMI lighting, but that sucks up a lot of power. It will require a generator. As I understand it, there's a certan Honda generator that's pretty quiet, seems popular. You might try the Joker Bug series of HMI lights.
You'd be surprised how much can be done with only reflectors and silks. The silks, (translucent material like organza from a sewing center, or evenr plastic shower curtains can also work) you fly overhead on butterfly frames (you can make from PVC or conduit) to reduce the harshness of the sunlight, which is your keylight. The reflectors, you use for fill light, to reduce shadows and contrast.
I remember one outdoor job, we needed a BIG reflector, but it had to be cheap and easy. Went to the home improvement store, bought a 4x8 sheet of foam house insulation with a foil layer laminated on one side, I think it was $10 a sheet. This makes a light and rigid reflector that can be held by one grip, or staked out with a spare mic stand or boom. You can cut it into smaller sections, hinged with gaffer tape or it's own foil backing, and fold it up like a big wallet, to transport it, or to make a curved reflector. Or use multiple reflectors cut from the one big piece.
MarkerTek catalog offers a lot of different portable reflectors and scrims and accessories. I like the Markertek catatlog because it is like the Warshowski's or J.C. Whitney's car parts catalog of the video biz. Digital Juice sometimes has these items on sale as well, and I like their stuff, when it's on sale.
It might help to know a lot more about the scene you are trying to shoot, but I'll make some guesses about the lighting based on what little we know.
I'm mostly with Mark and his very good observations.
As for "a small generator and two large flood lights," well, for exteriors in full sun that is going to do bupkus. If you need supplemental artificial lighting, you'd absolutely have to go with HMIs... nothing short of that would even read on camera in that situation. When I use HMIs for daytime exteriors, sometimes I can get away with as little as a 1200w instrument if it is a dark/cloudy day, in the shade, or for a heavily silked scene. When you are talking about a fairly full-sun scene though, and shots wide enough to include 8 people, you're probably then looking at 4K HMIs... and a couple of them. I love the JokerBug 800 that Mark mentioned (it's one of my all-time favorite HMIs), but it's way too puny to have any punch at all in this situation. And all of this is no "small generator" job, either... if you have no mains power and must use a genny, then you'll be needing a big 'en. Preferably a silent cine generator.... big money, if you can even rent one in your area (don't know where you are).
So, I'm with Mark... silk and reflect. Again, I don't know what your scene or your location is, but if you can block it with the sun at the talent's back (or rear side), silk it when needed, and use some LARGE reflectors (either 4x8 whiteboard or as Mark excellently suggested the foil-coated construction sheathing) then you should be ok. Oh, and pray for no wind.
More details might lead us to some better solutions.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
If going with generators, budget for ADR looping all the dialog in post. Looping with kids is not a fun job.
Yeah if there are kids and you need dialog recording and MUST have a genny, going with a real silent cine generator is the only way. No Hondas from Home Depot, for sure. They wouldn't pack enough juice, anyway, to pull the lighting that was needed if going the HMI route.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
I like to watch old episodes of the original "Hawaii Five-O" for fun: a LOT of the location stuff, you can see, was lit entirely or mostly by reflectors, which becomes evident in wind-swept beach and cliff locations where the poor grips must have been about to turn into hang-gliders... you can see the focus of the light wobble and swing with the breeze. They kept shots from those camera angles short:-)
But what it tells me is, if you can manage to anchor and hold them solidly, reflectors CAN work very well outdoors. I use the QWescott style circular folding reflectors and love 'em. But the slab of aluminized house insulation is very stiff, though not much heavier than the Wescott. Put good grab handles on it, however you like, and it should serve well.
Thanks so much for the feedback. I should have mentioned a couple more details. For the wide shots there will be no dialogue which is great. The bulk of it is dancing to songs so I'll have playback for post syching only, no quality sound needs recorded except for short links between songs which will hopefully be limited to mid shots of two to four people, in that instance I'll be able to difuse the light coming through from above as described above. Sound should be okay as I have an experienced sound guy with a good range of mics.
My main concern is lighting those big wides. I don't see that I can really rig above and around the cast for these shots so I really do need to try to balance against the sun as best I can. Do you think I'm better with some kind of gigantic reflector set up vs lights? I'm praying for some overcast weather but shooting in outback Australia so I'm pretty much screwed.
Several big reflectors will be your friends.
I don't think you have to worry about filling in the shadows on wide shots quite as much as you might think. People are used to seeing shadows, and as long as it doesn't make people's faces look too harsh that's ok.
You see this all the time in feature films... where an extreme wide shot exterior is just available light (maybe a little reflected in), and closeups are silked for a more diffused look.
I certainly wouldn't try to power HMIs in the outback. It would take very large instruments and quite a big generator to power them to get enough firepower to do any good. Just go with reflectors as best you can.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
If you're using the F3 or C300 they have great exposure latitudes that will help with your contrast issues. I'd definitely go with them over the DSLR.
Is it possible to stage this with the sun at the performers' backs. It would make a nice back light and great for bouncing in fill.
I don't know about your rental places there but here, Syracuse, NY I've been able to rent a 20KW genny -Airman PowerPro25 with Quiettech Sound Reduction - for $150/day and the guy delivered it for 30 bucks. These guys normally rent to road construction crews. I parked it a couple hundred feet from my actor and was able to record clean audio.
However, I agree with Todd's last comment unless you have the budget for the big stuff.
Like many, i'd say Butterflies and Bounce Boards.
A couple notes
1) if you're a post guy, please don't go trying to run 100-200 amps out of a 3-phase genny with distro unless you know what you're doing (or have someone there who does). If you don't know what a whip or a bates plug are, you should probably think twice before planning on 4k/6k/12k HMIs.
2) for a group of 8 people dancing in a wide in direct sun, 1000 watts or two will get you absolutely nowhere. For comparison, direct sun is gonna give you 30-100k lux (think of this as brightness). A 1.2k HMI at 12 feet will give you about 1k lux(5k if you spot it and hit one person). For those of you at home, that's at least 5 stops under, and probably more like 6 or 7. If you've got a camera with the latitude care about an additional fill source that's 6-stops under key (when the bounce off the ground will probably be 5 times that) then please don't tell anyone...because all my years of knowledge would be made totally worthless.
3) my gut would tell me to shoot into the sun, butterfly above and bounce for your key from the front. You shoot into the sun so you get a nice rim for depth, and the background will be darker and be more interesting texturally.
Pull the butterfly for the wide, and get more bounce boards...a lot more. The 4x8 insulation boards are a great place to start. I've used them tons of times. They're cheap, and bigger and more rigid than pop-out reflectors. 3 or 4 of them is not too many. I'd use the shiny side for the wides, the white side for the MS and CUs.
4) Depending on how sunny it is, i would recommend thinking about some 252 or 452 so you can spread the bounce off the silver side. The insulation is pretty slick, and can look a little like a mirror. The potential problem with a mirror is you'll get a perfect beam of 4'x8' light coming back. The white side probably won't give you the throw you want, so ideally you want to split the difference. You don't have to set the diffusion up on a separate frame, you can tape it right to the reflectors. It'll break up the mirror a little bit, while retaining some punch. 252 is 1/8th diffusion and 452 is 1/16th diffusion...but if you tape it right to the silver side, remember the light is going through it Twice, so 252 will act like 1/4 and 452 will act like 1/8th. They sell rolls of it for about a hundred bucks, and the rolls are 4'x25'. That sounds like 3 boards and some gaff tape to me...all for about $130 bucks ($140 with the tape). That's less than the rental on a single HMI...and you didn't even have to power them. If it's really sunny, those bounce boards will act like cannons, and you'll get a ton more light out of them than you ever would have gotten out of a couple little HMIs. (if you wanna do the calculation, it'd be the refractive index of the shinny side times whatever the sun is...and i'm guessing that's a lot more than 3%)
5) If it's windy....watch that butterfly. It's also a sail. Bag the hell out of it, or have your crew stand on it. If it gets really windy, just ditch it.