Expert Director of Photography, Chris Kennedy, gives filmmakers his lighting tips concerning LED lighting.
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Now as with anything in life and especially in the film industry having the right tools will always aid you in the effectiveness of creating a successful video production, BUT that being said, there are always ways to supersede those limitations.
SO in todays post, we’ll be discussing How To Film At Night On A Low Video Production Budget. Sounds easy enough, right? Well the reason this is the first of many posts is because well it’s not!
As you begin your journey as a filmmaker, you’ll learn a multitude of things. One being multimillion dollar movie deals are harder to come by than a good woman or guy to date and also lighting is everything in the filmmaking process. You would think the advancement of camera technology would have corrected this lighting issue, but wrong again. You’re going to have to learn how to sculpt objects and the falloff of light, what problems arise from that, and have solutions for the video production crew especially if you’re acting as the Director of Photography (Also known as DP) on a project.
The first thing to learn with lighting for night time shooting is you can NEVER HAVE ENOUGH LIGHT! I swear if we had a quarter for every time we made this mistake of not lighting the subject(s) more than needed we’d be rich! Well, not rich, but you get the idea. We’d at least have meals covered for the day.
Now depending on what kind of camera you’re using it’ll have more or less trouble in the low-lighting situations. Dynamic Range has a lot to do with the falloff from light to dark areas, which you may want to look up if you are unsure what that is. We shoot on Red Dragon’s so the image is like Sponge Bob and requires way too much lighting in my opinion to have that high-detailed and smooth look we like so much. Also, let it be said when you are working with camera’s like Reds, it requires a great deal of lighting so you’ll want to keep a keen eye on the talents comfort levels because no one likes being blinded. Having a lot of lighting can create a stressful atmosphere if you’re working with talent that has to look in the close proximity of the light is coming from. So keep that in mind.
Below we supplied an example of a night time shoot we did with one of our beautiful models Magga Bracoviche that was shot on Red Dragon but we only used Handheld LED lights to get the results you’ll see.
Now after, watching that video it probably didn’t look like it was that bright on set, but I can assure you it was, which as a previous point mentioned, made it difficult for the talent to keep her face from squinting or becoming painfully obvious there was too much light being shined at her.
This brings me to our next important point and that’s what kind of light works best. Well as you’ll learn through our posts that creating an atmosphere where the performance of the production is encouraged and uplifted to the highest degree is what you should always be after. If the actor or model is uncomfortable in the least it’s going to greatly take away from your product so we have to make sure they are rockstars first and foremost, even at the cost of so-called “production value” i.e. Dynamic shots, lighting, and so on. So the best lighting fixtures are the ones that do their job (light the set) BUT stay out of the performers way. What kind of lights do that? Well, ones that require generators to power such as Mini Brutes to name just one brand. These lights are so bright they are used to light up entire street blocks for big budget productions. Now, generators can be used on lesser light power-output fixtures but remember the lower the light intensity the closer you’ll have to place the light to the subject.
Another thing to keep in mind is the spot versus flood functionality of a light fixture you’re choosing. Are you trying to create those hard contrasts or a more flat image? Keep this in mind as well.
And finally, another thing to keep in mind is making sure that the set has lights that the crew has to be able to quickly access gear. The worst thing in the world is working on a set where the shooting area is lit but where the equipment is being stored is not.
So in closing, when you’re filming at night time remember:
1. THE BRIGHTER THE BETTER.
2. THE FURTHER THE LIGHT IS AWAY THE BETTER.
3. THE MORE COMFORTABLE THE TALENT ARE THE BETTER.
4. THE FASTER CREW CAN FIND EQUIPMENT IN DARK THE BETTER.
We hope you found this post helpful and subscribe to our YouTube channel where you’ll find an assortment of videos and tutorials regarding the filmmaking process.