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First time attempting a big project, Need some guidance

Yuji Tanaka

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Hello everyone,


First time poster here, and I am shooting a promotional video for a martial arts competition coming up where my entire crew has 0 experience with gripping (family and friends). It will be my first time also using bigger lights, and I also have 0 set experience. I want to be most prepared when approaching this, since I'm dropping my own money to rent equipment, and I'm asking a lot of favors. I need your help going over my whole thought process to see if there are any big errors. My budget is under 500 dollars so please keep that in mind.


Basically, I'm trying to get the look in the 3 reference stills. The content of the video is a fight scene very similar to the wushu stills.


My interpretation of how I can get this look: It looks like they used hard a hard backlight with bounce from the floor and a bead board to get the frontal fill, then hazing the room to get the shaft of light.


The room: I have attached a picture of the location below. I have access to a 40x60 foot room, with 20 foot ceilings. The included photo has a rubber mat but when I am shooting it will have a shiny wooden floor. The ceilings are white and the walls are half wooden and half white.


The Light: I added a diagram so it will be clearer. I am thinking of using one or two ARRI Fresnel 650w, since it will be in my price range. I am not sure if it will have enough output to get what I want. Also, I want to rig it as high as possible, almost like a top light, but not sure how I can get it there. There will also be candles placed in the cabinet on the back wall, and I want to make sure it will show up with the exposure set to the Fresnel.


Light Modifiers: To control it, I was thinking of going full spot and using the barn doors to get it off the background and the ceiling. I am going to put black bedsheets on 2 c-stands, one on each side of the talent. I am also going to use a bounce light into the talent’s faces so they are not completely silhouettes. For Haze, I’m planning on using Atmosphere areosol, Demonstration of the product


Camera and Lenses: I am going to rent a sony A7sii (never used it) since I have heard good things about its low-light capabilities, and also rent a 24-70 mm sony lens, since it feels safer and less likely to screw me over than a prime.



My main questions, from most important to least important, since I don’t want to take up too much of your time.

Will my method of controlling light work? If not, what are some low-budget alternatives?

Is the 650 watt Fresnel enough output for what I want?

How can I get my light as high as possible?

Can I get this lighting setup done in 1 hour by myself or with an inexperienced crew?

Should I use a different camera within my budget?

Should I rent a sony a7sii that I have never used before, or use my Rebel t4i that I know in and out?

Should I use primes instead of a zoom? I know I will need one wide shot and the rest will be waist up and some closeup inserts of the hands and faces.

Opinion on Atmosphere Aerosol? Should I rent a machine instead?


I would also like help with the rigging and electrical components of how I can make this work, but I know this is the wrong section to post for that.


Thanks, I hope I wasn't too annoying.


Basically, I want to recreate this look






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First, congratulations on the ambitious project! It's always good to push yourself and stretch your skills.


Second, I would say in general it would be wise to build on what you already know by stretching yourself in one particular area. If you try too many new things at once, you risk ending up with unusable footage. So I would advise sticking with the camera you know (unless you absolutely need 4K or 120fps, or 3200ISO) and experimenting with the lighting.


I think your lighting plan is a good start, you are thinking along the right lines for the dramatic look in the reference stills. I would add another hard light in the opposite back corner, which should result in a look like reference #3 (note the double shadows in the still, that is coming from two opposing backlights, often called a back cross key). I would get two heavy duty c-stands and two sandbags per stand to support the lights.


You need to consider if you will have control over placement of the talent. If not, then those 4x8 bedsheets will be in their way and you will have to move them. You will also then want to flood each light to cover more area as they move, which decreases the intensity of the light.


Do you need to see the talent clearly, not just in silhouette? If so, then you will most likely have to add fill light. I would suggest something soft and overhead like a few large paper lanterns. If there are wood beams overhead, you could staple a few fixtures up there so that they hang down. Then run extension cords up and along the walls and tape them in place.


Next thing to consider is how much control you have over the room itself. Will there be a crowd of spectators inside like in your location still? Or will it be empty? Can you turn off the lights? Can you block out the window or shoot at night so you can control the light entirely? Will the location allow you to use a haze machine? How early can you get in before the shoot to arrange the room and set up lighting?


If you don't have control, then maybe your lighting plan won't work. People need to see, and if there are spectators they may not want to be blinded by your backlights. You also don't want to have cables lying around on the floor if lots of people are shuffling in and out. So have an alternate plan, just in case.


You might consider rotating your setup so that you are shooting toward the 60' wall. That way, the backlights will be much further apart and you will be less likely to see the stands in the wide shot. You will sacrifice some depth, but 40' is still plenty.


Last thought - I think it's probably not a good idea to have people who don't have any experience helping you with lighting and gripping. Hot lights, c-stands, and electricity are dangerous hazards if you don't know how to use them.


I don't want to oversell the danger, but you'd really be much better off with only one person helping who has at least some experience with these things. At least have someone who has handyman experience and some common sense helping you out so that nobody is tripping over cables and knocking over lights or having stands fall on them. That is really the last thing you want to deal with when you are already stressed about the shoot.

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I think the space is too big to use Atmosphere Areosol's - they only really work in very small spaces, they don't make that much haze and get expensive quick since the fog won't hang for that long


Its cheaper and easier to get a proper smoke machine for haze effects. But make sure the venue is ok with it, since it will set off smoke detectors if they have them.

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Thank you all for the great help.



As a student do you not have fellow students to help?



Long long long time ago when I was in school we would work on each other's projects.


I haven't been able to find many people in my high school interested in film. I created my school's film club, but it ended up with just my friends who were there just because I asked them to join, not because they were particularly interested. There's a video production class that I will be taking next year, so hopefully I will be able to meet other like-minded people. Any tips on how you met your first film friends would be greatly appreciated.


Anyways, thanks again for the help.

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I met a few film friends on this site, actually! Also, community college film classes and later film school at university were a good resource. It can be pretty tough to get started in high school if you don't have peers who share your passion.


But hang in there, it gets easier as an adult when you have more autonomy to spend your time as you like. The more you go out of your way to meet up with people who have similar interests, the more opportunities you will discover. Best of luck!

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