Light Quality: What Is The Best Light for the Job?
This month, we’re taking a deep plunge into lighting! Get ready, we’re taking your lighting technique to the next level, including commentary on essential tools, how to light large spaces, power your lights, and work with Chimera soft banks, Rosco LitePads, and DIY lighting.
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February 2015 Podcast
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A Message to Members…
Hello Inner Circle members. I wanted to say thank you so much for everything that all of you are doing and sharing on the Facebook page and all of your positive feedback to me and my team for this amazing content that we have in store for you this year. I am so jacked up about it, it is ridiculous. We added Rode Microphones as a sponsor. You are hearing me at my very best right now. I have this incredible ribbon Rode mic with that disc in front so I don’t pop when I go, “Pop, pop, pop.” This is such a great setup. Thank you, Rode, for supplying all these new mics for our podcast so everyone doesn’t have to listen to my ridiculous headset mic. Enough about audio quality, let’s get to light quality!
Let’s get this podcast started. This is a fun one. This has cinematography, it has lighting, it is really great questions that are coming in and I thank you for submitting those and continuing to do it. Don’t forget to submit those questions because that’s what fuels all of this learning experience, and the content that we really have in store this year for you is like building on top of the IE workshop and master class.
It’s taking you up a level each time, A to B to C to D to E, and the really powerful thing about this is I’m really showing you that it’s not just about throwing light on a scene but it’s understanding light quality, and quality separates the men from the boys and that’s when you truly move into that director of photography status when you can really know the nuances of what type of quality would come in through a window, or what quality of light would be late afternoon sun or dawn or dusk and that kind of snapshots that you want to be taking in your mind and then understanding what tools will recreate that, and that’s what we’re about.
It’s taking the emotion of the scene, taking the light quality that is described in the script, and then morphing them and molding them to be able to deliver your vision. All right let’s start with the first question.
When shooting with different cameras do you light differently to get them to match? I now have a pocket camera and DSLR, I’m not sure if I should be putting more time into getting it to match on set or in post.
I was able to make those all match in the post process, not something that’s done trying to match and light differently for cameras on set. The one thing you can do to set yourself up for success is that I find the color temperature, the Kelvin is very good to try and match different cameras up a little closer, especially lenses, if you’re shooting with different lenses, some lenses are colder than others, some are warmer than others. Like I find when I shoot with a Canon Cinema Zoom it’s very red/yellow. When I shoot with a Canon Cinema Prime it’s white. I have to add, if I like the red/yellow, which I do on the Cinema Zooms, then I add the color temp, I warm it up more to get that red/yellow feel on the Canon Cinema Prime’s, and this is something that’s very subtly done, I’m talking probably three or four hundred Kelvin to be able to go to get that thing a little warmer and a little richer which will then help your cameras match.
The Pocket camera is like raw so it’s going to be very flat and not have any color information hardly at all that you see, whereas the DSLR is going to have a lot of color information. This is something that really needs to be done more in the post process, and something that I’ve done with these picture styles that you can get in Shane’s store, is I’ve taken that into consideration with this warming and cooling of different lenses, like the Zeiss, a little colder, the Nikons are a little yellow, the Leicas are a little yellow, the Canons are a little red, and what I’ve done is I’ve bent the curve and the color so all of them come out the same, so that way you can shoot just like we did on Act of Valor, we were shooting with Zeiss, we were shooting Canon, we were shooting with Leica, we were shooting with Panavision Primo Primes. We were all over the map, Act of Valor, and a lot of the commercials that I do because fitting those nice small formats together it’s very important to be able to have the lenses match.
In post, you can absolutely go in there and cool it up or yellow it or whatever you need to do to make it match, but what I’m trying to do is set you all up for success with the different lenses so when you get the 7D picture profiles, or the 5D picture profiles, or the 1DC picture profiles, all those are gauged to balance you to white, to take the characteristics of the blue or the yellow or the red out of the lens and make it a perfect match so you can cross cut Zeiss with Canon, and Canon with Leica, and Leica with Nikon, and Nikon with Canon, however you make it work, but this is what those picture styles are pretty powerful for.
This has been bugging me for a while and now I finally have someone to answer it. With so many choices of lights, how do you choose them for a specific setup? Mainly in terms of softer diffused light. For example, why bounce a light into something versus using a fresnel with diffusion in front, or a kino or some type of chimera or china ball? I know they will all produce slightly different qualities of light but the difference seems minor so I don’t know how to choose. Does the type of light make much of a difference when bouncing it? Open face v fresnel v par, etc? I have a million more questions but will save them for later. I can’t wait for the podcast. The inner circle is a long-awaited gift for this gaffer. Thanks for all you do! Patrick
Patrick, thank you for being an Inner Circle member. These are amazing questions and I cannot wait for you to continually barrage me with these types of questions because I absolutely love them. What I intro’d the podcast with is this is what separates the men from the boys. Light quality and understanding your tools. A Chimera China ball is going to be different than if you bounce something. It’s so hard to really go into this without being able to show it to you and showing it to you is what all this new content that we’re creating on the Inner Circle is doing exactly that. Why bounce a light into ultra bounce or why bounce it into a silver card? What’s the difference in that quality? Well, if you don’t do it regularly you’re never going to know. I’m in this new series of learning through the IE extension, you’re really going to understand the light quality and what tools do it well and best.
Let’s take your first part of the question which was with a bounce light using a Fresnel or an open face or a PAR. Every one of those things is going to create a wonderful bounced light quality. A Fresnel, you’re going to get less out of. A PAR, you’re going to get more out of. An open face is going to be much of a let’s say a smoother light source because you can spot and flood an open face but it’s more of a “blam’ kind of a light, so it really fills that card effectively, much more than a Fresnel or a PAR would do because the PAR is the obviously got the lenses. Unless you want to go super wide, which is going to fill the card very effectively but won’t have the punch that you might want. I’m a big open-face bouncer as well as a PAR bouncer. I go either or. Sometimes I want the source to be a little harder and quality, even if I book light or bounce light so I’ll use a PAR. That’s a very hot spot on a light card that has a hot center and falls off.
Open face is a much softer light quality. You’re going to hit it in the center and it’s going to be a much even field, and then the Fresnel is probably the softness of that light because the Fresnel is already a softer light going through the Fresnel lens if you are then keeping it controlled so it just working the bounce it’s just not going to have the output that an open face would have or PAR light.
A lot of this is a balance. You’re finding that light quality as well as you’re finding the quantity and understanding, “What quantity am I going to need to be able to fill this room so my actors can move around it and it feels natural or it feels contrived or it feels surreal or whatever you’re going or in your creation, but the big thing is really starting to understand those things and it only comes from practice. I did not know any of these values or any quality and quantity thing until I really start gaffing and started to put up these lights and understand, “Okay, that wasn’t enough. I need to add another,” and the thing that’s really funny is you find that people say, “If I have a 1K open face and then I add another 1K open face everyone things that you’re going to get double the light,” you don’t. You’re only going to get another stop.
If you had a 5/6 it’s going to jump up three or four stops. Every time you add a light it will bring it up one more stop. If you add a light that is half the quantity of the one that you have that’s only going to bring it up a half a stop. It’s photometrics and a lot of times you forget it and I’ve forgotten it many times as well. I’m like, “Okay yes.” If I had a 10K bounce in, “Get that 5K.
That’ll get us another stop,” and then you’re like womp, womp, womp, “Oh no.” It’s like you have to add another 10K, or if you have a 1K and you want more out of it, you got to double the light source to bring it up and I find that so many times I use a lot of multiple lights. I won’t use just one big light because I know that we’re all working on limited budgets and you might have a lot of small lights. The most efficient lights you can buy are open-face and par lights. Those lights bounce very well, they diffuse very well. An open-face light is going to be a great thing to push through a diffusion as well.
A PAR light is great to bounce, a par light is great to fire hot streaks in the background. Those lights are my go-to. Fresnel’s, I absolutely have as well, but I don’t use them as much. I’m more a Leko, which is like the theatrical ellipsoidal, the PAR guy and the open-face guy. Those are the euro lights that I use if I was going to do kits, and then obviously move on to Kino, Celeb 200’s and 400’s and some of the newer LED light technology I’ll use every once in a while. From LED’s perspective, there are only a few companies that are really doing it right, and Kino Flo right now and Felix I think have really got a grasp on full spectrum light quality, and I know that Kino is working more forward to making the Celeb so it’s not as magenta as it is. If you’re working with the Celeb I always put eighth or quarter plus green on that light because I find that it’s a little too magenta. That’s just a practice that I have with that.
Hi Shane, I’ve got a shoot coming up in which I need to light the subject’s face (medium closeup) in a moving car shot. It’s a night scene and I want it to look natural but light nicely enough to see her features. What would you recommend?
First off, the camera plays a big deal in this in regards and the location that you’re trying to drive in a shoot. If you have street lights, if you have urban textures outside that it’s not like a dark, desolate road then you are going to want to shoot with a camera that has a nice high ISO setting. You can go with a lot of natural light. I shot Need For Speed at 2500 ISO inside all the cars and I let all that natural street light and ambient light from bouncing all off the asphalt and the buildings and everything to light the characters while I they were driving.
What I did add was a little dashboard light, and the dashboard light I used was a Rosco LitePad. I used the little 3″ by 6″, put some egg crate material, the hard egg crate that you see on Kino Flo’s, I cut those so they would go and fit right on to the three by six and then I taped the heck out of it and diffused it by putting rough Rolux on it, the thickest diffusion possible. Rosco Tough Rolux, then dimmed them down and added actually a little green on them so to match the dashboard lights.
Depending on what kind of car you have, if it has a daylight-y iPad, iPhone dashboard quality then you would make it more daylight balanced. I actually take my color temp meter and I just stick it right in the dashboard and then I try to match it. It’s the best day, and once you have that then you hide that light so you can’t see it, and then that gives just enough level on the actor’s face, it just doesn’t go jet black when you’re moving under the street lamps and through the ambiance of the night street.
If you’re doing a moonlit scene where there’s no other light on whatsoever then that dashboard light is going to become your main key light. There’s not going to be any additive of quality and that’s always kind of a cheat obviously. We’re really increasing the volume on the dashboard to illuminate the face. Realistically does it do that? No, or we wouldn’t be able to drive and actually see that, but for cinematic reasons we have to put some light in there so we can get the emotions of the characters and understand who they are and what they’re about and where they’re headed and all those good things.
I would suggest that approach and obviously, if it fits the story you have to gauge it poor mans wise and it works like a million bucks. This is a huge key to the castle kind of secret here. If you want to go down a moonlit road that you don’t have the money or anything to obviously miles and miles of moonlight, you go in your car, you put the dashboard light as I described, the Rosco LitePad, you diffuse it, you control it.
The biggest thing is a giveaway is when that stuff flies all over the ceiling. You don’t want it flying all over the ceiling. You want that contained so it’s just lighting the face. Then, you take a suction cup and put it on the back end of the car and you put a small light source on it. It could be LED if it’s full spectrum, anything that you can dim up and down and that will light the side of the road.
When you’re driving in a profile shot you see all of the texture of the trees moving in the background by using a nice shallow depth of field that’s just going to become like a beautiful watercolor painting out there at night. I usually set my camera at 2900 degrees because that takes a tungsten source. You don’t have to get crazy and don’t have to HMI. I hate HMI night moonlights. Moon is not blue. It is gray and gray is tungsten with just a tinge of blue like quarter blue, or you can do it with your Kelvin wheel and I go to 2900 degrees and it just slightly blues than tungsten.
What kind of light would I stick on the back end? You want something that’s going to not require a lot of power, that could be battery operated or whatever. You could put a light panel, LED. You could do a jab light. Anything that’s going to do not require a generator, and inverter or all that kind of stuff that you can do off of batteries that gives you something around anything that’s 32 or 3400 Kelvin then you go 2900 Kelvin on your camera, that will slightly blue up and make that light gray in the background and this is awesome because you can drive anywhere, and then when you flip to the other side if you have to go hostess tray because obviously you can’t be driving and doing the camera at the same time. Hostess tray is shooting over the driver to whoever might be in the passenger seat, then you just flip your light to the other side, and Bob’s your uncle. You are lighting all these profiles beautifully.
Now, another cool thing to do is if you want to go back behind their head and shoot over their shoulders, then you got to position that dashboard light where it’s out of frame so you don’t see it and then you have the headlights that are lighting the road and then what I’ve done also is I’ve taken whatever that light that is that you use to light the side profile shots, I’ve already taken it, wasted it off up into the sky and just give the most subtle cool coolness into the shadows, cool it up just a little more than 3200 or 3400 so the headlights become this white source and there’s a coolness around the edges and it’s waste off the road so it just fills in so it’s not so contrasty, and again, I mount that, I suction cup that to the roof of your car and you are good to go.
The old addige “It all starts with the script” is true, but for your process, can you do extensive, early prep (beyond the obvious INT, EXT, DAY, NIGHT) without the contributions of, and collaboration with, the art department? My background is theatre lighting, and I always find my process begins much later than everyone else’s because I need to know WHERE I’m lighting, not just WHAT. Thank you, -Jeff Woods
Jeff, you are so right about this. It’s a weird anomaly in this movie business that the director of photography is literally the last guy on payroll. It’s unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s like the art department, the production designer, the location manager, the wardrobe, the stylist, everyone is on and then they’re like, “Okay, time to hire the director of photography,” and then you have three weeks to be able to do the movie and prep. No, sometimes that’s extreme, that’s what Fathers and Daughters were like. I had three weeks to prep it. Terminator Salvation obviously I had 25 weeks to prep it and that was me starting when the production designer started and that is very, very rare.
Right now I’m prepping to do Badlands, which is a new AMC series that is going to be unbelievable. It’s a world that none of you have ever seen and I’m going to be able to create that and I’m so excited and the on set series with the Badlands is going to blow your mind. The lighting that I’m going to be doing on this show and where I’m coming from and all this stuff and how it’s going to feel, it’s going to be something that I’ve never done before so it’s really taking my creativity and my lighting to a whole other level and really a whole different world. I cannot wait to share that with all of you.
Getting back to this question, it’s so true, the production designer and the stylist, the wardrobe, they’ve all been on for months and I don’t start for another week. Yes, it’s different, but you have to do it. You have to prep. I’ve been on this for about a month and a half, not physically being paid but now that I have the job. My assistant and I are working every day coming up with a vision of what the camera should feel like and what each fight should feel like and it should be different and the style of shooting and how the camera should move and what’s that mood, and the composition style and all these different things, we are already planning out.
We’re already planning out colors and tones and all that stuff even without meeting with the production designer, the wardrobe stylist, none of them, the costume designer, none of that. You have to do it in your head. You’re making your own movie until you get with all of them and then you make a movie together and I just find that it’s a process that I do and it’s something that in the IE tour if you weren’t a part of that or you haven’t gotten the HD download, this is something that I really go into.
It’s my prep process, and this prep process is something that no one really ever shares. It’s taken me 20 years to master this and to really understand how to get everyone quickly up to speed and everyone making the same movie. It’s all in this HD download and what we’re actually offering in March in Shane’s store is I’m going to be cutting the workshops into four blocks and one of them is going to be the prep process, and that will be offered at a much lower price point than the IE workshop.
If you just want to sample exactly the prep process there is going to be a whole module that is just on that and it really puts you in the head of what’s taken about 20 years to really master and understand.
Dear Shane, Thank you for putting this site together and sharing your knowledge – it is much appreciated and great value for money. I especially appreciate the information about the bigger lighting setups, such as the Vardon Cottage and Old Montreal Ballroom from The Greatest Game Ever Played. So, counter to the requests for smaller lighting setups, I’m going to ask for more information on bigger lighting setups. Very briefly, I mainly shoot corporate, doc, and music videos but have started shooting commercials this year.
My lighting kit includes Kinoflos, Arri 300/650/1k’s, and am regularly renting 400/800 jokers, 1200W HMI Par lights, and Source 4s. I generally run a small crew, either in a studio or field setting, and I’d like to start going after larger projects but don’t have much experience on film shoots, car commercials, or larger studio shoots. As such, I’m curious to know about the pre-production for you as a DoP for these types of shoots? Do you know exactly how much light you’ll get out of an 18k – is this a go-to larger light for most films or are there other options?
I like your ‘Shane’s Gear Bag’ article and was wondering if you could do a ‘Shane’s Grip/Lighting Truck’ to match. Another aspect that I’m finding intimidating, particularly around here, is the number of shots/setups we’re expected to pull off in a day. I’ve spoken to production managers and producers, and they are looking for close to a 100 setups a day for film shoots.
This figure is currently intimidating and I’m wondering, other than adding more muscle, how do you approach shoots that require a lot of setups – hopefully, the question is not too vague. And my final question – for the lighting set-ups, could you post some camera information for the scenes that you reference, please? Knowing the camera, ISO, lens/aperture, and diffusion would help to understand what level of light is coming out of the bigger lights. Once again, thanks for sharing your knowledge. Cheers, Craig Hall
Wow, he’s got so many questions here. I’m spinning my head already but these are so good. I’m going to just stop right there for a second and try to answer that first part of the question. Right off the bat I want to thank this person so much for this question and I’m trying to find out who this was. Oh, there it is, Craig Hall. Craig, this is an amazing question and I want to make sure everyone understands how powerful this question is. You notice that he said that everyone is saying, “Shane, dumb it all down. Tell me how you can use all these small lights that I have access to and forget about you having millions of dollars of lights at your disposal and you being able to light with those that I cannot use or cannot afford.”
Let’s break that down for a second. Stop that thought process. It’s pretty much ridiculous because what I am going for and what I am talking about and showing you using 18K’s, this is something that you are going to have in your arsenal, this is something that you are going to understand because right now he’s saying he’s already starting to move up. Craig is starting to move up, he’s starting to do bigger shoots and he needs that knowledge. As much as I want to dumb this down to talking about small lights and everything you really need to see the big picture and not be obsessed with, “I don’t have this,” or, “I’m never going to afford that and this can not be in my toolbox.” It’s eventually going to be and you have to get in that thought process of positive thinking knowing that as you move up and you become a better cinematographer and a better film maker you are going to have access to these lights and you’re going to need to know how to use them. Think of it as more career building and now, “Oh my god, Shane. You’re already telling us about 18K’s and 6K pars and I’m never going to be able to afford those.” Look at Craig, he didn’t think he was going to be there and smash, bang, boom, the dude needs to understand how to use all this stuff.
Craig, I’m seeing the lights that you’re using and you’re going to start to use bigger lights and you talked about pre-production. Pre-production is something that on commercials and music videos there’s really never much pre-production. You might get a tech scout. What I’ve started to do on commercials is the production company calls me up, the director wants me to shoot the commercial. I will then, the minute I get the job, I will call the director and say, “Are you going to do any location scouting,” and he goes, “Yes, I’m going tomorrow. We’re going to head down to the McDonald store and then go to the other location that we’re shooting.” “Okay, cool. Do you mind if I come along and help.” They’ll always say, “We would love you to come.” Now, I’m not getting paid for that. I’m giving of my time because I know two weeks before we’re actually going to go the commercial, what we figure out, the director and I, is a collaboration. It’s not something that’s already been baked in. By the time you come you’re locked and loaded.
This is a collaboration process and I love collaborating much more than just being told where to put the camera and what the lens is and then just light that area. What I’ve done is been giving of my time in these situations and it’s powerful as heck because you start to formulate this amazing relationship with the director. You’re always giving more than other Director of Photography because you’re giving of your time. Look at where I’m at, at my level and I’m still giving everything for free sometimes, and this is what sets you apart. There are so many people out there that can do exactly what you do and you have to set yourself a part from there. “You know what, I could use this guy and he’s unbelievable and he’s probably a little bit but boy, this guy comes in and he’s so there and he collaborates and Christ, he brought a movie on the location scout last time so we could really figure out the shot. I’m going to go with him because he’s much more bang for his buck.”
This is the kind of thought process that you have to think in the pre-production process of shooting music videos and commercials because they don’t have the money to bring you in for a week before, so I do it in this process and it reaps huge benefits. It’s starts a relationship with a director that is unsurpassed as well as with production company because they know you’re there for free and they know you’re giving this amazing gift of your time and your expertise and they appreciate you so much. This is huge. Take this little gold trinket right here and run with this because this is something that you don’t want to always get on your high horse and saying, “If I’m not getting paid then I’m not showing up.” It couldn’t be further from the truth, you have to give of your time. Even where I am in my career I’m doing this all the time. On movies I’m doing it as well. They don’t have enough prep, I’ll still come in and prep because I know that my collaboration and a lot of what I’m thinking will actually end up on the screen, where if it don’t do it, it won’t.
From a creative standpoint and an artist, that’s what fuels me so I seek that fuel. Getting back to your question Craig, there’s going to be a ton more learning and showing you how to use big lights. 18K is my to go source. If you are outside you need an 18K. If you are instead and creating daylight you need 18K’s, to bounce, to drive straight through windows for sun, to bring up ambient in a room, bouncing off the ceiling or 12×20′ Ultra Bounces, or 12×12′ or whatever. Those things are essential. The way I broke down the Varden scene is being able to fire that 18K through those windows and firing it at two different angles, one steep that just grasped over the top of the family sleeping, and then the other one driving deep into the room to light the stuff on the table as well as a hop spot in the corner.
These are things that you will eventually be using and you got to know how to wheel these things around par lights, the M4’s from Arriflex, m18’s. I’m not a big m9 buy, I’ll use M4s and 18K’s and I think they’re coming out with an M6, which will be a really great light as well, but there are par lights that spot and flood and then you have your 18K for now. I usually don’t use anything in a Fresnel category below an 18K. I don’t use the 6K Fresnel, I don’t use a 4K Fresnel, I don’t use a 2500 Fresnel.
Fresnel’s are dead to me from a 18K below, and obviously when you get into tungsten, yes, I’m using 20K’s, I’m using 10K’s, I’m using 5K Fresnel’s, 1K, 2K Fresnels. The way I light is either a big Fresnel source and then PAR lights or Maxi Brute’s or all these different things to be able to bounce and this is why I am taking all of you on this bounce series in the Inner Circle content because it is the power of everything, bounce light is where it’s at and you really understanding that and starting to understand the different qualities and quantities that you can create with bounce light is where I’m taking all of you down.
He had another part of this question. Another aspect that I’m finding intimidating, particularly around here, is the number of shot setups that are expected to pull off in a day. I spoke to production managers and producers and they are looking for close to 100 setups a day for film shoots. This figure is currently intimidating and I’m wondering other than adding more muscle, how do you approach shoots that require a lot of setups? Hopefully, the question is not too vague.
Jesus, you got so many questions in here Craig, I love it. That’s another aspect, 100 setups a day. I think back to my past movies and I think I’ve probably only done that probably six times in my 20 years of shooting. 100 setups is pretty ridiculous. That is the Greatest Day on Earth. If you have 50 cameras as I had on Need For Speed I was able to do those a lot, but taking Need For Speed out of it with that volume of cameras and just saying I have three or four cameras it’s difficult to do 100 setups a day.
The way you set yourself up for success is pre-production. There is a post that I’m going to do where I go inside how I prepped Need For Speed with my assistants, Po Chan and Derek Johnson. We worked together to formulate the plan, what we called the bible, which was this big thick story board book that had every nuance required to be able to pull off the daunting task of Need for Speed. 80 two-day schedule cut to 67 days four weeks prior to shooting. You had to cram 15 days into that 67-day schedule that were already ridiculous days.
Director Scotty Waugh, my assistants, and I had to come up with this whole process to give all the teams, camera, grip, lighting, and rigging, as much information as possible so they could really move forward as their own entity and not have to ask questions because questions slow down the process. If you can create a document that answers 97% of the questions you are going to increase your speed expediently. Pre-production is so much a part of speed and increasing setups and a great document that can education everyone.
Here’s the final part of your question, your three-part question, Craig. For the lighting setups could you post some camera information for the scenes that you reference please? Knowing the camera, ISO, lens, aperture, and diffusion would help to understand what level of light is coming out of the bigger light. I will be doing that. I will start to include all of that camera information as well as lens information as much as I can in all of these posts so you guys can really start to see what it takes and how much light is required to be able to balance all of that. That was a very cool question and I thank you so much Craig for doing that. All right, here we go, here is our next question.
What software do you use for your storyboarding and lighting diagrams that you share on your blogs?
The software that I use is very simple, it’s iDraw. I looked into all these cad programs where you can spin everything around in this 3D world and all this stuff and I just found that it was; one, daunting as hell to be able to go through and figure it all out, I got enough on my plate, and it was very difficult to use.
I just took iDraw, I started to make little icons and saved them into my little toolbox, so I have little people I can move around and I have cameras that I can move around, just V’s, and I have little light icons that I can move around that are different colors, and I just pull from that little toolbox and I put together all these little diagrams that you see on the inner circle, and it’s just iDraw. It’s quick, it’s easy and it’s kind of five-year-old could figure it out and that’s where my mentality is when I’m looking at cad drawings and all that other stuff. It’s got to be simple. Keep it simple stupid, KISS. That’s what I use.
Hi Shane, when you shoot a scene with some 18k Arri lamps, do you have a truck with a generator to power it or where do you draw the electricity? Regards Kristian
All right, that’s a great question. When I use 18Ks it can be two different ways. You can have a truck with a generator on it that is able to drive wherever you need it and you obviously run band-it, or two-aught, or four-aught cable to your distro boxes and you power up your 18Ks that way.
Another is a tow plant, is what it’s called, which a truck tows it or the grip truck tows it or the electric truck tows it and then drops it off at your specific location and it sits there and there’s not a truck that the generator is attached to, it’s towed to each location, and this is what most people do in Los Angeles and around the movie business. Truck generators, unless it’s a semi tractor trailer truck, the tow plants are used a lot more often in the movie business along with these tractor-trailer trucks that have dueling 1500 amp generators on them, or you can get 1500 tow plants, 1200 amp tow plants, 750 amp tow plants, 500 amp tow plants, 300 amp tow plants. There’s a whole range to work with.
The last option is a tie-in option. If you have a panel that has a good amount of power like if you’re going to a sound stage you don’t necessarily go with the generators. They already have the legs there and you just screw on your camlocks and you’re able to power everything up, or like at Revolution Cinema Rentals where we do a lot of our shooting, I tied in with these Trico clamps that you can get that literally tie onto the bus bars and give you the power within the building.
This is something that I do not advise and there’s a huge disclaimer here that you do not do this without a very qualified electrician doing this because it’s very, very dangerous, but these are the options that you have. The generator is the safest and the most controlled and the easiest to do and obviously going to a sound stage where they have the power all provided for you and you’re just popping in your camlocks is the way to go.
Can you give an overview of what you think are the best types of lights for certain situations? Such as lighting people, backgrounds, moonlight, sunlight, tight spaces, large areas, etc… Thanks
Boy, that is a huge question that was small. Let’s break down a couple of things. Let’s talk about tight spaces because I’ve been getting a lot of these requests on the Secret Society Facebook page and I really want to address that. Working in tight spaces it’s very difficult to book light or bounce because you don’t have a lot of area to bring your flags in and control it from flying all over the place, and it’s funny, it gets interviewed a lot. When I get interviewed the people that shoot me show up with the same stuff every time and it’s not anything that I would ever recommend. Let’s just start from there. If you were going to interview somebody you want to interview them and you want to show up with a Chimera, either a small soft bank plus, or a medium soft bank plus.
Get a speed ring that fits whatever light you want to key them with and then this thing is going to put a beautiful quality of light onto your interviewer or your actor’s face. It’s going to be controlled because you don’t have to set all these flags, and then you can come in with what they call the Honeycomb from Chimera and you can use a 30-degree, a 60-degree, a 90-degree. Degrees mean how much the light spreads. A 90-degree would have 90 degrees of spread coming out. A 60-degree would be honed in some more, and then obviously a 30-degree would be a very, very tight beam of light coming out of this source.
Depending on how tight your spaces are and how much area you have to flag or even shape the light, this does it for you. Chimera makes these very cost-effective soft boxes that fold down to very minimal and you can pop these things just up like tents and they just fling all up and pop off together and you slide it on your light and bam, you have an immediate beautiful softbox and this softbox is absolutely incredible and you can change the different diffusion’s out. If you want full grid cloth it has full, if you want half grid it has a half grid, if it has quarter grid you want quarter.
Then there’s even diaper, that they’re called, that is another diffusion on top of the diffusion that you put inside the soft banks. These are incredible tools and they’re very inexpensive it’s the best modifiers on the market to use in tight spaces. I’ll answer one more of these in your thing. Let’s talk about sunlight. Sunlight, bringing sunlight into the room all depends on the values that you have inside that room itself. If it’s a very open-airy room and there’s a lot of ambient light coming into your space then you’re going to need very, very large lights to be able to counteract all that ambient light so you’re going to need 18Ks.
If you do not a lot of ambient light then you can use smaller lights. You can use something like a hive killer maxi or a 1200 par or an M18 to be able to create sunlight. It really all depends on how much light, ambient light, that’s coming in that you have to counteract because that’s what you’re trying to do because if you have a very bright and airy room your M18 or your 1200 par is not going to do anything.
It’s not even going to be above the ambiance of what is coming into that room. That’s why you need the 18K to say, “This is sunlight, whoa,” and sometimes with the ambiance in a room, you have to full spot the 18Ks to even make a difference. The power of the sun is unbelievable and when it comes out and when it’s at the right perfect angle there’s not one light on the plant that can emulate it, and there’s not one light on the plant that can emulate the power and brightness of that source. As much as you try, there’s just not. I’ve been doing it and trying to do it with everything possible for 20 years and you can’t. There’s a variation of something that gets close but it’s very difficult to match. With this, that’s how it’s gauged, is how much light is coming into the room and then you can then use your skills as a gaffer, as a cinematographer to say, “I can work with less light here.”
A DIY solution to this, not using par lights and 18K’s and everything, are these Grainger lights that I use which are 1500-watt metal Halides in either flood or spot, and these lights have a very bright quality of light but they require a lot of control in regards to using a lot of gel. You got to use a lot of minus green because they’re green and you have to then counteract with blue because they’re a little warm. Finding that color combo, the DIY solution definitely takes a little time.
Once you have it down and understand, “This is the color pack that goes on my light,” it can be very fast but anything that’s DIY has its downside in speed. Move lights, you know what you get, you know the quality, you know its color bounced, you know what it delivers. With DIY lights it’s a learning process, once you get it down you become very good and you get very efficient with it as well, but it just takes a little time, and a little pre-production planning in your DIY department to understand what the color temperatures are getting them balanced so they look good on your creation.
Okay, we are going to round this up with our final question and this comes from Justin.
I’m thinking of investing in some camera batteries and was wondering if you have a certain make or model of batteries that you prefer to use and why. In particular, I’m looking at the new series of Anton Bauer batteries to potentially pair with an URSA. Or would v-locks (or something else) be better? Thanks! -Justin Litton
There is a new company that is starting to break into the United States. They are huge in Europe and Germany and all through that area. They don’t have a hold on much in the United States and the company is called Blue Shape and this battery specifically is unbelievable. Its size, weight, and how good its technology far surpasses any Anton Bauer or any other battery on the market.
You want to definitely check out Blue Shape batteries are the batteries that I use now doing the research on the Anton Bauer’s and what they deliver and all that have really embraced this new Blue Shape especially with using a lot of movies, their batteries are so much lighter and so much smaller so I’m able to balance it on the RED Dragon a lot easier or even with the Canon C500 for multi-pack and stuff.
All those batteries are just so much smaller and lightweight and give you more hours of power. Check the Blue Shapes out, I think you’ll be very, very happy and impressed as well with their specs.
All right. That concludes the February podcast. Again, I want to thank all of the Inner Circle members for all of your comments and for spreading the word out there. I start to prepare for Badlands, this new AMC TV series that I will start to share a lot of on set experiences within the coming months.
- When shooting with different cameras, matching the color temperature can help in post.
- Understanding light quality and quantity are about practicing to know it well.
- Dashboard lights help light a night car scene as your main key light.
- There might not be money for you as the DP to go on location scouts but do it anyway to collaborate and prepare. This will set you apart from others.
- On films with a large number of set-ups, pre-production is a key to success. Put together the plan for all departments, answering questions beforehand.
- I use iDraw for storyboarding and lighting diagrams.
- I recommend a Chimera, either small soft bank plus, or a medium soft bank plus, to light interviews.
- BlueShape is the battery that I am now using, much lighter and smaller than other brands I have used.
Movie: The Greatest Game Ever Played, Studio: Walt Disney Studios, Director: Bill Paxton, Date: 2005
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