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Light a war movie in night mountains

Matteo Castelli

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Hi all,

I'm writing to you from Florence, Italy.

I'm going to shoot a feature film in few months.

The movie speaks about a small family during WWII.

The story is set in the Tuscan mountains, Alpi, and most of the story take place at night.

The budget is small but we absolutely want to get the best out of our images.

I'm trying to figure out which lights are the best to be "fast and good" in lighting scenes in the forest at night.

My crew won't be big, I think only 2 grips and 2 electricians.

I was thinking to something like this: http://lightingballoons.com/products/53/umbrella-ball/ or http://skylightballoon.com/index.php/products/skyball in the place of butterflies with big source behind or bounced off of them.

Some Kino Flo Wall-o-lite, and some 2.5k hmi and 1.2k hmi with white diffusion frames are small enough to be fast and to keep a good quality of light for close ups and medium shots.

I'm not sure which camera I'll use, I think a Blackmagic Camera, so nothing too much sensitive.

I'll try to keep the frame not too wide so I'm not forced to illuminate areas that are too large.

There will be some scene with a small crowd of people moving along the forest and those seems to be the most demanding shots in terms of lighting.

That's it.

I'm interested in knowing what are your thoughts and which way you would take being in my shoes.

Thank you very much.


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It is a tough question.


First of all, would you have any kind of style that you would like to get or your main purpose is lighting everything and shoot quickly?


It would help a lot if you post any kind of visual references or images for everybody to see what you and your director are looking for.


There is an excellent post with great answers regarding the topic you are talking about, you can find it on the following link:



Have a good day.



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You're right great David.

As I said, the story is set during WWII.

The movie want to tell the stories of many people that took an old path along mountains in middle Italy to escape Nazis and Fascisiti.

Their stories are seen by the eyes of a young boy and his father that work with wood along the path and they see all these people stream in front of them.

Those people, mostly women, children and old people were forced to take the path at night, in complete darkness, to not be viewed by soldiers.

They didn't use any flashlight, fire and they can't even smoke a cigarette because that weak light could get them seen.

The director adapted the story and set some scenes during day or in a village, but my main issue is working well and fast in the wood due to our tight schedule, only 3 weeks!!


Of course my goal is to get emotional images, pictorial frames that immediately convey the mood of the story.

So strong contrast, back lights, hard rays of light where people pass through as this light is the moon passing through the trees.

Bounced light off of some stone or river, silhouetted row of people walking in the wood.

My references are "The Wolfman", as David pointed in the other post, but also "Defiance" with Daniel Craig, "Valkyrie" with Tom Cruise (great cinematography), "Enemy at the gates", "Stargate" and many others.

I hope to be more clear now.

Thank you so much!


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Hi Matteo
using diffused balls can be easier than butterfly in terms of time, in terms of taste it's personal, you will need to flag the balls a lot. If you are in florence i think you can try to use ALF ballons (i think you know it, a florence company that make different tipes of ballons) but the problem is that are very expensive also in therms of people managing it. With 2 plus 2 of crew (now in italy it's sad but normal) you need to be very smart, in particular try to have kinoflathead instead of wall o lite that is very heavy and sometimes very green, or maybe an m18 instead of 2.5 (more power less space and weight) the m18 on long distance for a far background it's incredible also don't forget to load some booms like manfrotto superboom (the black one) with the balls are great to go overhead booming from camera side, or some polecat to build a "bridge" with two stands out of the frame.i will take also an only 4x4 (mt) frame just in case of a bouncing or diffusing for a side fill light and maybe something open like an hmi open face (De sisti Goya) for strong backgrounds
What type of generator you will have? very important.
please don't blue the moon (i don't think you will do that but i hate this trick) :D :D

Leonardo Brocato
Rome Italy


e se volessi fare due chiacchere dal punto di vista tecnico materiale/benefici scrivimi pure una mail privata che in italiano mi spiego decisamente meglio e buona fortuna!!!

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The movie want to tell the stories of many people that took an old path along mountains in middle Italy to escape Nazis and Fascisiti.

What type of generator you will have? very important.



A new power option, which might be ideal in this situation, is to parallel two Honda EU65is, or the new EU70is, inverter generators. The EU generators are extremely compact and weigh only 124.8Kg (250lbs) and can be outfitted with 10” all-terrain tires that make it easy to transport it over rough terrain.



Protective Cage w/ 10 inch pneumatic casters for Honda EU6500is

A complete system would consist of two Honda EU65s (or modified EU70s) and a Paralleling Control Box. The paralleling box will give you a combined output 120A at 230V (60A/leg), which is enough to run up to a 12kw HMI – so you will certainly be able to run your package consisting of a 4k Balloon, a 2.5k HMI, a 1.2k HMI and Kino Flo Wall-o-lite.



(Our 120A Paralleling Control Box combining the output of two modified Honda EU6500s to power a Mole 12/18K Par head with 12kw globe)


The EU70is generators will require modification to interface with a 120A Paralleling Control Box (the EU65is does not.) The Paralleling Control Box syncs the frequency and equalizes the load between the generators. It uses the Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) and droop voltage regulation of the generator's microprocessors to control the load sharing. The phase angles of the two generators are synchronized using open loop architecture. The final function of the paralleling control box is to switch the outputs of the inverters to a common bus after their frequencies are locked in step (same phase angle and time base.) The 120A Paralleling Control Box is outfitted with a 250V/100A Hollywood style Bates receptacle, which would have to be adapted to a Euro Style 230V receptacle, which is not difficult.


Guy Holt, Gaffer, ScreenLight & Grip, Lighting Rental & Sales in Boston

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Since you can't tell where you are at night, most trees look alike, the best thing would be to find a hero location where one high condor position (hopefully on an upper roadway above a lower canyon) with an HMI on it can get you a couple of angles that look like different locations just by panning the light around a bit, or being able to shoot on both sides of the condor to maintain a backlight. Find a good hilltop position for the light and you might not even need a condor.

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As David says, careful selection of locations can allow you to naturally build height into your lights. I directed a short which had an extremely tight schedule because we were into summer nights with at best 6 hours shooting time. The location in a forest park with small car parks that were in tiers above the wooded film locations allowed the electricians to quickly set up the 12k HMIs for each scene and then wheel them to the next one.

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Hi Leonardo,

thank you so much for your precious suggestions.

I'll take care of them.

I know ALF and I forgot to specify that my idea was to use balloon on stands, not flying, so much easier to manage and move. A couple of goboes should be ok to cut some spills.

I still don't know which generator we'll use, it depends on which lights we rent and this depends about the locations scouting, the director's vision, the script, so all things you perfectly know.

Sicuramente, caro Leonardo, ti scriverò in privato, magari ci sentiamo per telefono, perchè mi piacerebbe confrontarmi con te!

ciao e grazie!


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...which generator we'll use...depends on which lights we rent and this depends about the locations scouting,


As you are scouting locations, keep in mind this set-up that will enable you to get a decent amount of power (120A) into remote locations where you can’t possible get a diesel tow plant. It’s two paralleled Honda EU6500s on a studio cart.




The cart can be pulled by an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) or even a mule. The picture below is of a modern day mule, but on mountain trails you might be better served by an old-fashioned mule or an ATV.



Besides carrying the Hondas, the cart can carry the gas cans, feeder extensions, 100A Stage Boxes, Siameses, and Stingers.



Guy Holt, Gaffer, ScreenLight & Grip, Lighting Rental & Sales in Boston

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