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Will Jacobs

Nykvist, Lighting Gear, & Generators

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I am on a quest...

I recently acquired an Arriflex SR I and have been preparing for my first 16 mm film project––a proof-of-concept short film for a micro-budget feature I plan to create in the next two years. Most of the story involves both day and night interior scenes: a classroom, an art gallery, households etc. My aesthetic approach is greatly influenced by the oeuvre of Tarkovsky, Bergman, Bresson, Antonioni, and Dreyer. I have a tremendous reverence for Sven Nykvist and have been sifting through the scarce footage there is of him at work.

Rising from the ashes of my previous digital life, I confess my ignorance to the world of tungsten and HMI lighting after having sunk deeply into the sofa of LEDs. Yet, I've been fervently researching these past couple of weeks and analyzed documentaries of Nykvist...


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It appears Nykvist frequently used Ianebeam redheads (I would assume 1000w) and 2k blondies to bounce light. I'm uncertain which other models of lights he used seen in the attached screenshots and photograph. I'd imagine he shot on tungsten stock for interior scenes and had the great fortune of utilizing a soundstage to his advantage. 

Given that I am an independent filmmaker working with a micro-budget, where do I begin when it comes to investing in lighting equipment? For me it seems that incandescent lighting is the most reasonable route to tread at this juncture. I will invariably be shooting on-location for this narrative and I'm debating how I might tackle lighting interior scenes in the footsteps of Nykvist. 


The questions I continue to wrestle with are:

Should I shoot on 250D or 500T?

If I choose daylight stock, is it worth gelling tungsten lamps and losing light?

If I choose tungsten stock, is it worth gelling windows?

How much light do I really need/which lights normally get the job done if I should like to use an aperture of 4?


I'm also quite ignorant to generators. I understand that if one were to acquire and use three 2k blondies to bounce light from white muslin draped outside a window, one will need a 12,000w generator and enough amperage to support 16.7 amps per unit. Would a conventional generator one might find at a hardware store suffice for incandescents? My novice knowledge informs me that noise may very well be a problem with some models as well as flickering. And the last thing I want to experience is exploding bulbs. Enlighten me!

There are many other thoughts and questions, but I shall leave it at that for now. I am eager to receive more insight and information to assist me on this voyage. Many thanks ahead of time!

 

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2 hours ago, Will Jacobs said:


I'm also quite ignorant to generators. I understand that if one were to acquire and use three 2k blondies to bounce light from white muslin draped outside a window, one will need a 12,000w generator and enough amperage to support 16.7 amps per unit. Would a conventional generator one might find at a hardware store suffice for incandescents? My novice knowledge informs me that noise may very well be a problem with some models as well as flickering. And the last thing I want to experience is exploding bulbs. Enlighten me!


 

3 x 2000w blonds require 6kw not 12kw. So a generator that's over 6kw should be fine.

Tungsten lights don't need any special form of generator, so a standard hardware store type is fine.  I've used cheap construction generators for lighting with incandescents without issue. The only problem with some budget generators is they can be pretty loud making recording audio a problem. Sure you can mitigate it with placement, but it your end up with very long cable runs that can add an additional load to the generator. I guess this would be more of an issue in 120 volt land where cable resistance is more of an issue...

 

Its possible to colour correct tungsten stock shot in daylight to a neutral look. I've shot with tungsten outdoors and been able to colour correct it to match daylight stock perfectly 

On other points - you can gel windows with tungsten stock - but it can get expensive if you have lots of windows and its time consuming to do neatly if the window is in shot.

Basically it's a toss up between accepting the light loss and gelling your lights  or gelling the windows. Depending on the room one of the two is easier.  

 

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6 hours ago, Phil Connolly said:

3 x 2000w blonds require 6kw not 12kw. So a generator that's over 6kw should be fine.
 

Somewhere I read that it is prudent to only use half of the overall wattage a generator produces. 
 

6 hours ago, Phil Connolly said:

I've used cheap construction generators for lighting with incandescents without issue.

Which were the best to work with?
 

6 hours ago, Phil Connolly said:

Sure you can mitigate it with placement, but it your end up with very long cable runs that can add an additional load to the generator. I guess this would be more of an issue in 120 volt land where cable resistance is more of an issue...

This is probably ludicrous, but could I somehow create a blimp with a hole for the exhaust? As for cables, what would be recommended if, say, I were to purchase the DuroMax XP12000EH and were to power 2k blondies and 1k redheads? Would using a 100 amp lunchbox be advised? If so, which ones might I utilize with a very small budget in mind?

Thank you for your response, Phil!

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21 minutes ago, Will Jacobs said:

Somewhere I read that it is prudent to only use half of the overall wattage a generator produces. 
 

I think that's overly cautious - I've used 1800w on a 2kw generator with few problems.

You do need more overhead for HMI's as they have a spike when the strike and you need to account for that. But you also need an inverter generator for those - the construction generators don't have stable enough power to run them.

Having an overhead is always good. But if you're carrying around a bigger generator then you need  - its just more/cost effort.

I've only used Honda generators. My favorites are the small Honda inverter generators:

https://www.energygeneratorsales.co.uk/honda-generator-sales/product-detail/honda-eu70is-7kw7kva-petrol-inverter-generator?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI14fy3Lmd6QIV2-vtCh0PFwedEAQYBiABEgKOvfD_BwE

They run quieter then the construction generators and give you the option of running HMI's, computers etc.. and things that need a cleaner power source. 

I wouldn't trust a construction generator on anything other then Tungsten lights and boiling the kettle (Tea is important). But for that purpose they are fine.

I would be wary of building a blimp - sure it could work, but at best it going to be a big thing to cart around and at worst a fire hazard.  It might be easier to look at one of the quieter more expensive hondas like the link above. Usually cheapish to rent - sometime you can get them converted to run on propane - they will then run longer and quieter - but you have hassle of safe gas storage

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3 hours ago, Phil Connolly said:

...You do need more overhead for HMI's as they have a spike when the strike and you need to account for that. But you also need an inverter generator for those - the construction generators don't have stable enough power to run them....

It depends on the type of ballast.  Because of the constant improvement in HMI technology over the years there are several types of HMI ballasts available and if you are not careful how you power them you can get stuck. In ballast design you have a choice between magnetic and electronic ballasts; and to complicate matters even more, you have a choice between Power Factor Corrected electronic ballasts and non-Power Factor Corrected electronic ballasts. 

Magnetic ballasts draw more current during the striking phase and then they “settle down” and require less power to maintain the HMI Arc. For this reason, as Phil states, you must leave “head room” for their higher front end striking load. For the same reason you can’t load a generator to full capacity with HMIs with magnetic ballasts. By contrast, an electronic ballast “ramps up.” That is, its’ current draw gradually builds until it “tops off.”  But, unless the ballast is Power Factor Corrected (PFC), an electronic ballast will draw more current than a magnetic ballast of the same wattage. Why ballasts of the same wattage will draw appreciably different current has to do with the Power Factor of the ballast.

Since Power Factor Correction (PFC) is not mandatory in this country as it is in Europe, you will encounter many non-PFC HMI, Kino, CFL, & LED power supplies.  And since, the adverse effects caused by a poor Power Factor go beyond an inefficient use of power, it is well worth understanding Power Factor and why it should be corrected. 

To learn about HMIs I would recommend an article I wrote on the use of portable generators in motion picture production

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Harry Box, author of “The Set Lighting Technician’s Handbook” has cited my article in the Fourth Edition of the handbook. Here is what he has to say about the article:

"Great work!... this is the kind of thing I think very few technician's ever get to see, and as a result many people have absolutely no idea why things stop working."

 "Following the prescriptions contained in this article enables the operation of bigger lights, or more smaller lights, on portable generators than has ever been possible before."

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

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Another DP that used a lot of Blondes and Redheads is/was Eduardo Serra ASC. He basically had a truckful of those and not much else.

I won't deny that some of the newer lighting units like LED's are very useful, but at heart I'm a very old school lighter that likes to use old tungsten lights. On ever job I do I always bring Parcans (they are incredibly useful and very cheap), at least a few Mole zip softlights and usually one or two open face lights, too.

With very basic and cheap units you can achieve a lot.

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53 minutes ago, Adam Frisch FSF said:

On ever job I do I always bring Parcans (they are incredibly useful and very cheap), at least a few Mole zip softlights and usually one or two open face lights, too.

With very basic and cheap units you can achieve a lot.

Nothing looks as good as a nice tungsten bounce.

🙂

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Posted (edited)
21 hours ago, Will Jacobs said:

This is probably ludicrous, but could I somehow create a blimp with a hole for the exhaust? As for cables, what would be recommended if, say, I were to purchase the DuroMax XP12000EH and were to power 2k blondies and 1k redheads? Would using a 100 amp lunchbox be advised? If so, which ones might I utilize with a very small budget in mind?...

I would not try to enclose a construction style generator like the DuraMax XP12000EH in a sound blimp - it is likely to catch fire.  Inverter generators can be enclosed because they are designed for air flow traveling through the generator from front to back and so can work in enclosures designed with front air intake and rear air exhaust (there are several enclosures on the market for this purpose.) The air guide of the Honda EU7000’s triple-chamber construction is part of what makes it so quiet. Put it in a properly designed enclosure and you have a dead silent generator.

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                            The air guide of the Honda EU7000’s triple-chamber construction

Construction style generators, like the DuraMax XP12000EH, use an open frame construction for radiant convection cooling, which also makes them a lot noisier.  The only way to not pick up the noise of a construction style generator is to get it as far from set as possible. But then you have the problem of voltage drop, called line-loss, over the long cable run to set.  Voltage drop consumes power, diminishes the output of tungsten heads, and shifts their color temperature drastically.

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Another drawback to the DuraMax XP12000EH is that, even though it is  a 12000W generator, that 12000W is not available to you in a usable form.  Three 2ks will require three 20A/120V circuits, and you will need additional 20A/120V circuits to power anything else since the 2ks will monopolize the circuits they are on.  The DuraMax XP12000EH has only one 20A/120V circuit. The larger circuits are 240V, which means that you will not be able to use a 100A lunch box because its five 20A circuits are 120V.

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                         Campfire scene on the beach powered by a Honda EB10000

I don’t mean to dissuade you from using a generator like the DuraMax XP12000EH, plenty of productions do.  You just have to be smart in how you use them.  For example the Adam Laupus film “Gasp” used a Honda EB10000 to power scenes on a beach without picking up the noise of the generator.

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Left: Honda EB10000 operating out of grip truck (note set at distance (bright spot on right side.)) Center: 84A Full Power Transformer/Distro <br>compensates for Voltage Drop over 400ft cable run.  Right: Beach Set with 120v full line level 500ft from power source.

As pictured above they ran the generator out of the back of their grip truck, 500’ from set, where it wouldn’t be heard. To compensate for the voltage drop over the long cable run to set, the crew used a 84A transformer/distro with secondary side voltage adjustment which enabled them  to boost the voltage on set to get it back to 120V.  The transformer/distro also stepped down the 50A/240V circuit they ran from the generator to a 84A/120V circuit. With the transformer/distro on set they then ran 100A Bates Extensions around their set and broke out to 20A Edison receptacles using 100A gang boxes in order to power an assortment of smaller tungsten fixtures to simulate the firelight and an ARRI M18 to simulate moonlight on the actors around the fire.  To light the deep background the crew put a 240V Siamese in-line before the transformer/distro to power a 6kw HMI Par.  Even with such a sizable load, they experienced no appreciable voltage drop on set after a 500' cable run because the transformer/distro compensated for the line loss of the cable.

EB10_Paralarva_Comp_2Sm.jpg

Left: Beach Set lit by Arri M18 and 6kw Par. Center: Secondary side power distributed with standard 100 Bates Gang Boxes. Right: Set viewed from generator (note: distance and extent of set power distribution.)

Another key ingredient to their success was they used the Digital Honda EB10000. As far as I know, the EB10000 is the only construction style generator to use the new digital AVRs (DAVRs.) DAVRs are able to hold the voltage stable within ±1% of the mean voltage (as opposed to the ±3% of the best analogue AVRs.)  The EB10000’s DAVR substantially improves the output capability, resulting in less voltage drop under load.  What makes the output of Honda’s EB10000 more stable is that its’ DVAR is much more responsive than traditional analogue AVRs.

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A 10kw Honda EB10000 with a Full Power Transformer/Distro that provides a single 84A/120V circuit.

Traditional AVRs use a closed feedback loop to stabilize voltage. As such, it takes comparatively longer to feedback and correct deviations from mean voltage caused by a sudden increase in load. Slower to respond, analogue AVRs allow for larger fluctuations of voltage (±5%), which, for example, can cause an HMI to cut out if the voltage drops too low. Rather than use a closed feedback loop to stabilize voltage, a DAVR uses control software with micro-second sampling rates of the output power of the main Stator windings (as compared to a sensor winding in conventional AVR systems) to more quickly and accurately detect deviations from the mean and make the necessary adjustment to the excitation current in the Rotor electromagnets more rapidly.  And, by directly sampling the main Stator windings, rather than a sensor winding, the DAVR obtains a more reliable indication of the output voltage - the same one your loads see. The drawback to using a separate sensor coil is that the AVR does not see how voltage at the generator bus has been affected by changes in temperature, load current, and load harmonics. By applying true RMS calculations to the actual voltage coming off the Stator coils, as opposed to an isolated sensor coil, the DAVR of the EB10000 has a more accurate reading of the bus voltage and so is able to make more accurate corrections (use this url for more details.) 

EB_Gasp_ScreenShot_4.jpg

With nothing more than a Honda EB10000 and house power the crew of "Gasp" was able to maintain the look and feel of a sunny summer day even when filming in the midst of a hurricane in October.

The principal location for "Gasp" was an idyllic beach house right on the ocean. To light interiors of the beach house, the crew of "Gasp" used two 4k Pars outside, and an assortment of smaller HMI and Kino fixtures on the inside. The smaller fixtures were plugged directly into the house, while the 4k Pars were powered by the EB10000 running in the back of their grip truck.

EB_Gasp_Composite.jpg

Left: Ready for rain on the set of "Gasp." Center: Two 4kw Pars operate on a 10kw Honda EB10000 Generator through our 84A Full Power Transformer/Distro. Right: 100A Shock Block GFCI downstream of the  transformer/distro offers Ground Fault Protection for the entire 100A distro system.

The indie film "Gasp" is a good example of how a transformer/distro can greatly simply set electrics so that you don’t have to be an experienced electrician to power a set. It makes it possible to record clean audio tracks with even generators as loud as the EB10000 even under the worst of conditions. Use this link to the trailer of "Gasp" to see what can be accomplished on a low budget if you work smart. 

Guy Holt, Gaffer, ScreenLight & GripLighting Rental & Sales in Boston

Edited by Guy Holt

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