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Night shoot for small crew documentary shootings (4 replies and 4 comments)

babadroom
2 months ago
babadroom 2 months ago

Dear Roger,

As a documentary filmmaker, I'm planning to film this summer some night scenes with my protagonist in the wild (forest + desert). But I already foresee three main issues:

  • There won't be enough light when the moon won't be there,
  • We won't have electricity to plug any external sources.
  • We are a very small crew (DOP + Director + sound engineer)

We are planning to shoot close-ups, but also establishing shots. For your info, we'll be shooting with a Sony Alpha SIII. 

Are there any lightweight sources that we can use with batteries? 

What would you suggest?

 

Thanks in advance for your precious advices,

 

Sebastien

gabj3
2 months ago
gabj3 2 months ago

I remember reading that on the Round the World sail documentary shot some 40 odd years ago Roger used portable lights. However I’m not sure.

Nowadays there are many solutions to your issue. It’s more what you can afford. Not exactly super lightweight but you can power an aputure 300D with 2 190w/h batteries. You could power a 120D on one. These pack a punch. 

For close ups LED panels spring to mind. Cheap, light and easy to power. For establishing shots like you said moonlight. As far as I’m aware you can’t light big areas without big fixtures or lots of relatively smaller ones. So just spend the night before praying to Mother Nature that it isn’t overcast. I’ve only ever shot some test footage under full moonlight. It was alright however a tad too noisy for my liking. I’ve never shot with your camera though!

Roger Deakins
2 months ago
Roger Deakins 2 months ago

There are plenty of battery sourced LED units that you can easily find online. I would also suggest using a flashlight and, again, there are powerful LED flashlights as well as traditional ones. Surefire is a great product. But 'moonlight'? And establishing shots? In a forest? Those are hard at the best of times. I wish it were so simple! Have you not considered shooting at magic hour?

babadroom
2 months ago

Thanks for your (super) quick reply! I will definitely try to shoot at magic hour. Although, during scouting, I found out that my protagonists share their best moments when it's dark around the fire. Or even in the dark. Thus, I kind of have to adapt to them 😉 For what I read, I think LED units would probably be the best option.

Matt
2 months ago
Matt 2 months ago

Sebastien,

 

There are plenty of lighting fixtures out there that run off V mount or Sony NP batteries and give hours and hours of power. Alot of them are pretty affordable too. Check out brands like Apeture and Ledgo. I also use a Wescott Icelight for certain setups which is dimmable and battery-powered. There are also tons of small generators out there now a days that can give enough power if you want something bigger.

 

Matt 

Matt
2 months ago

not to mention the Sony cameras practically see in the dark! I think you'll find you'll be okay. But in the meantime go out and do some night tests and see how it performs before the actual shoot.

babadroom
2 months ago

I will do some tests. Thanks!

Roger Deakins
2 months ago
Roger Deakins 2 months ago

Yes, but remember it is not just about getting an exposure. Experiment with using one source, whether one lamp or a bunch of smaller units, and see how far away you can work it and maintain contrast and 'shape'. Perhaps there is some high ground which would allow you to light your shot evenly without resorting to some expensive tower to gain height. It is surprising how satisfying a single lamp can be at night. Just look at 'Kiss Me Deadly' or other low budget Film noir. 

babadroom
2 months ago

Great advice! At certain moment, we'll have a high "camper/caravan" with us. Which will allow us to fix some light on the roof. Thanks!

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