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Guest Aaron Slade

Lighting At Night With Standard DV Camera

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Guest Aaron Slade

Im going to be filming a short film that will almost entirely be shot at night outside on the streets.

My problem is without be able to control film speed and the amount of light you allow in, how do I light it without carrying around lights all over the city?

Its cool when close to a light post or out the front of a shop but when its not the faces arent defined enough.


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Well you either stand by a light source or bring a light. There's no two ways about it. Except if you want hideous color and underexposed scenes full of noise. It's better to "drag lights all over the city" and get what you want than not.


It's like people who want to take good landscape photographs then proceed to carry the smallest camera and flimsy tripod (or no tripod) into the field. I carry 6' wooden sticks and a view camera. Then they wonder why their pictures aren't as good as mine.


Sorry if I sound like a jerk, I'm just saying you get out what you put in.

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If you want to work at a certain gain setting on the video camera, let's say 0db or +3db, then there's no choice but to have a certain amount of light to get that. If you can't get that on your location, you need to add light. Since battery-powered lights are nearly useless for long scenes with coverage, only quick pops, you need electricity. The cheapest method would be to use location where you have access to a building's outlets.


It wouldn't take much light if all you are doing is adding some light to the subject, not lighting the background streets. A few Chinese Lanterns, for example, some small worklights, reflector dish lamps, fluorescents, etc. Nothing too bright. Choose locations where the backgrounds have enough light.

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I think you are quite right sir! Photography students coming to see me every

day. One of the questions they ask me is- "Greg,why do you carry that heavy

tripod around with you everywhere?" My answer(until I get to know them)" hell

son I guess its just a habit." I like David Mullen's idea for lighting at night with

dv. I do not like to overlight and I'll move the camera before I change a lens(

habit I guess). Using available light at night that you have and adding to it a

little is a great idea. I guess we might do it all the time and not think about it




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Also, if you don't have the luxury of legally being able to shoot at the location,

I've brought friends along with some bounce boards and flags customized to fit the natural lighting situation...Unless the location's only got a single light in the whole area then you should be able to get some nice levels...But it takes more planning than if you actually got a permit and were able to bring equipment in.


But yea, you get what you put in.

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About Chinese Lanterns...


I was on set the other day for the first time and the DP had chinese lanterns nearby... Somehow, it seemed strange that DPs would use these. What kind of effect do they create? What are they often used for?

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