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Joshua Miner

Creating stylized interior moonlight

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Hey folks,

I'm shooting an urban fantasy series pilot this November and am seeking guidance on creating a specific look. We're shooting inside a manor or mansion (location pending) for a lengthy interior night scene. I'd like to create a stylized moonlight look by having light spill in from the windows to create shafts of light, while the rest of the room remains dark and low-key.

 

I understand that I'll need a hazer to create the atmosphere for the shafts to appear, but I'm trying to figure out a good lighting setup for it. I have some restrictions in that I can only run on house power, perhaps one Honda 2000W generator, and my ability to get larger lights is limited by budget. I currently have two 1k redheads and access to a few 1k fresnels, though I'm looking at picking up a Aputure 300d as a close 2k equivalent. I will likely not have access to HMI lights.

 

In this case, are fresnels the de-facto way to go for creating this kind of light? I'll be running some tests this week with my current gear, but I'd like to get other opinions to see if I'm going in the right direction. I've attached a picture of approximately what I'm looking for. Any guidance would be greatly appreciated!

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You're shooting yourself in the food using tungsten for this. Mostly as it's inefficient (compared to HMI and LED) and if you wanted to make it blue, going full CTO is a 2 stop penalty-- so your 1Ks are now effectively a 250W fresnel once you full CTO them.

You'd be much better served fighting to get some Jo-Leko 800s with a 50 degree lens.

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Hi Adrian,

Thank you for the recommendations - I fully agree with you. Tungsten in this case would just not be feasible once gels come into play. (To clarify, you mean putting CTO on the tungsten, or CTB? Either way there is a dramatic loss in light output.

 

As a follow-up question, if I want to use practicals to get a warmer interior light (say for a desk light or hallway lamps with incandescent bulbs), would I color balance the camera for ~3200k? I was thinking that way, I get a warmer interior light and if I use a 1/4 or 1/2 CTB on a tungsten light I'd get a grey/blue light from it (if I went the tungsten route, which seems like a fool's errand at this point). However, the Joker 800 may just be the best way to go and then cut the light as needed instead of trying to squeeze as much as possible out of a tungsten. The local rental house does have Jokers, so I think that may be an option after all and doable on existing power.

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Sorry you're right CTB; long day!

And yes I would go jokers and then dim your practicals down to get them warmer and I'd keep camera around 3200-- that way you have a warmth inside, if wanted, and can probably leave the HMIs "naked" though personally I tend to fujtz with moonlight depending on my mood (sometimes Steel Green, Steel Blue, A little Plus Green, Maybe a Little pale yelllow-- kinda depends on what we're doing.

I'd recommend Jo-Lekos with a 50 degree lens as then you get a real nice shaft of light and a lot of throw. You can always scrim/net as needed for the moonlight-- but it really depends on how bright your interior is going to be -v- the moonlight shafts.

But even a stock Joker 800 with a bug-eye lens on it would be better (and brighter) than a comparable tungsten unit-- even ungelled, as HMI is more light per watt.

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Excellent, thank you so much! This makes it so much clearer, and easier to set up than I had thought. I'll look into renting some Jokers; I saw them used on a set a few years ago and loved how compact they were. A quick glance indicates that they're not too expensive to rent, so that should work perfectly.

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... I'd like to create a stylized moonlight look by having light spill in from the windows to create shafts of light... but I'm trying to figure out a good lighting setup for it. I have some restrictions in that I can only run on house power, perhaps one Honda 2000W generator, and my ability to get larger lights is limited by budget... In this case, are fresnels the de-facto way to go for creating this kind of light?

 

Yes, a HMI Fresnel is the de-facto way to go to create shafts of moonlight. Moonlight is a very hard source of light in that it creates defined shadows. The comparatively sloppy light of a Joker 800 will not create as crisp light as a HMI Fresnel. What makes the light of a Fresnel so crisp is that it is like having an array of prisms arranged in a circular fashion, with steeper prisms on the edges and a nearly flat convex lens at the center. The flat convex lens at the center of the lamp filament acts as "dioptric" lenses that magnifies and concentrates the output of the lamp filament. At the same time, the cut glass around the periphery of the lens, act as "catadioptric" lenses that collect and intensify the light and redirect it in the same plane as the dioptric lenses towards the center. In this fashion, a Fresnel lens bends the light of a filament into a column of nearly parallel rays as shown in the illustration below.

 

fresnel_lens.jpg

 

By your description it sounds like you will also need a larger head than a Joker 800. Don’t impose artificial restrictions on yourself. Most houses have 240V wall receptacles for powering ranges or clothes dryers. With a small 240v-to-120v step-down transformer (like the one we manufacture for the Honda EU6500 and EU7000 generators) you can run up to a 4k HMI on house power. And since 4k HMI Fresnels don’t rent as much as they used to, since Arri introduced the M40 head with ARRIMAX reflector, you can probably rent one for about the same rate as a Joker 800 if you ask (any rental is better than it collecting dust on their shelves.)

 

I use transformers all the time to power bigger HMIs (2.5-4Kw) in situations where a tie-in is not an option and the budget doesn’t permit for a tow generator. If the transformer is like ours and outfitted with a 60 Bates receptacle, you can use standard distro equipment like 60A GPC extension cables, 60-to-60 Splitters, and fused 60A GPC-to-Edison Breakouts (snack boxes) to run power around set - breaking out to 20A Edison outlets at convenient points (rather than one central point.) The best part about using a transformer with a 240V receptacle in this fashion is that no matter where in the distribution system you plug in, the transformer automatically balances the additional load, so that you don't have to be an experienced spark to distribute power on set. A good example of this approach is an Unsolved History episode, titled “Presidential Assassins”, that we filmed at the Ames Estate in Easton MA.

 

Transformer-Distro_Sam1.jpg

Scene from "Unsolved History" lit with a 4k HMI Fresnel powered from a 50A/240V welding outlet through a step-down transformer/distro

 

One of the state’s fee free locations, the Ames Estate, like many historical house/museums, does not permit tie-ins and the electrical wiring in the house is so antiquated that it is unusable. Fortunately, they have a 50A/240 volt circuit in the carriage house for a welder they use to repair the mowers they use at the park. Our standard mode of operation when shooting there is to run 250V extension cable from the welding receptacle to a 60A Full Power Transformer/Distro placed in the entry hall of the main house (a variable voltage tap on the transformers compensates for the voltage drop over the long cable run from the carriage house.) Using a 60A Siamese at the Transformer/Distro in the front hall, we then run 60A 6/3 Bates extensions, down to the library, to the second floor, and back to the maid’s pantry. At the end of each run we put another 60A Siamese. A 60A snackbox on one side of the Siamese gives us 20A branch circuits. The other side we leave open for a large HMI or Tungsten Light. Now we can safely plug up to 4K HMIs (or even a 5k Quartz) into our own distribution anywhere in the house. For more details about using step-down transformers to access more house power to run bigger lights use this link.

 

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

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If you are shooting digitally, set the camera white balance to like 2800K and the tungsten will appear nice and silvery Grey. It won't be blue, but it works in a pinhh if you don't have the budget to go big tungsten, or to rent HMIs.

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I just recently had a night shoot where I was using some 1k lowel tungstens with a blue gel on them (although I can't remember the strenght of the gel, but I do recall it being a light strength). I set my camera WB to 2600. It looked great! And this was a shoot around a campfire. The fire kept it's orange color and the skin tones looked good too.

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I love the recommendations here! Guy made a great argument for using fresnels instead of PAR lights. I'll have to check the location to see what kind of outlets and circuits they have (I just recently secured the location and will be scouting it next week with my gaffer), though I'd love to use higher-power HMis if possible.

 

I did some test shots in my kitchen using a 60w 2200k incandescent bulb and my 650 fresnel just to get a feel for what lighting I had on hand. I had set the white balance to 2800k for both shots, and my cat was kind enough to model for me. One shot has a 1/2 CTB gel over the fresnel, the other is without. ISO 200 at T2.8 on my Ursa Mini 4k. No atmosphere since my cheap fogger is on the fritz. No grade aside from a Captain Hook LUT in resolve.

 

1VDXgvD.jpg?1

 

And without the gel:

teN7FL2.jpg?1

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I'm personally fonder of #2, and I'm stealing that WB trick (and making the mental note to order more dimmers for the other heads in play to keep them warmer in relation)

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Although my shoot was an outdoor shoot, there are still similarities in lighting that you could use. For the rim light I used a 1k tungsten with a blue gel (I can remember the strength) and it was about 50ft away from the subject on camera left. On camera right I had a 650w tungsten on a dimmer about 15ft from the subject, no gel, as a key light and to illuminate the bg and grass. And back to camera left, close to the subject I had a gold reflector on a stand as my fill to fill in the shadow area on her face. Camera WB was set to 2600K.

 

For your shoot, if your subjects are close to a window, the blue backlight can add a really nice touch to give the impression of "moon" light.

post-70973-0-03002100-1535910998_thumb.jpg

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I'm scouting my location on Thursday, so I should have more information on how I can set up my lights. One bit of complexity is that we're going to be shooting this during the day time and will be blocking out the windows. From what I've read I can set up light tents with some floppies and duvetyne, with the lights inside. One friend suggest 6mil black plastic sheeting, though I'm not sure how safe that would be with hot lights, while duvetyne is fire-retardant. For that, would I still punch in directly through the windows, or try to use a bounce setup? Intuition says just to punch directly in with a fresnel (with maybe some light diffusion) or if there's room, bounce with an open face. I'll likely have curtains drawn, so I may not truly get the shafts of light I want, but maybe something cool will come of it regardless.

 

I'm keeping the HMI lights in mind as an option since I can rent them, and I'll know more once I scout the location. I can also look into the status of their 240v lines, though I am wary of it because the location is pretty old and the wiring may be dodgy. Definitely worth a shot, though! I appreciate all the responses I've gotten so far, it's making more sense to me now.

 

For ambient fill, would I use practicals and then use my tungsten lights through diffusion (and maybe a dimmer) to match the practical bulb color temp?

Edited by Joshua Miner

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