Directed by Ziad Hamzeh, we shot Irrefutable Proof in Syracuse, NY December/January. The film is due to be released in the Fall this year. Stay tuned.
Tag Archives: cinematographer
THE CRATER – Lighting the Vietnam War on a Budget
I have had many questions regarding lighting for some of the dramatized battle re-enactment scenes in “The Crater”.
The lighting plan was simple, there were essentially no lights.
The concept called for very minimal lighting as Director, David Bradbury, wanted absolute realism and the nights of the battle, as described by the Vets who were there, “were pitch black, no moon, nothing, just black”. Helping keep to this plan was the fact this was being done on a vey tight budget so there was no financial room for condors with 12K’s, balloons, Musco, generators, etc. to light the huge battle field for the all night time battle scenes.
The lighting plan involved playing the battle in “layers”, lighting, at very low intensity, the background and then allowing flares, explosions and muzzle flash to light the middle ground and foreground with no additional supplemental foreground lighting.
Essentially everything played in silhouette unless “soldiers” were captured on camera during an explosion or muzzle flash.
Each sequence was staged by laying down smoke from explosive pots in the deep background. This was lit by the explosions themselves and by a single 5K backlighting the smoke at extremely low level. Next the explosions moved progressively towards camera laying more smoke and the middle ground and foreground was the charging troops and lots of muzzle flash. Essentially everything played in silhouette unless “soldiers” were captured on camera during an explosion or muzzle flash. The added benefit of this was no-one (particularly the camera operators) had any idea where anyone was except when there was light…..again, exactly as experienced by those who were there, and this, adding to the realism.
Ultimately the effect was to create as much disorientation and chaos as possible so nothing was evenly lit and only fleeting glimpses of the action were visible. Exactly as it was described by the Vets.
The day ext of the Aussie soldiers after the bombing was shot about 30 minutes after sunset with only ambient light. The scene in the command center using only 100W Tungsten bulbs dimmed to about 50% to get the warmth.
One lighting unit I was able to use was the searchlight mounted on the Centurion tank. These were used in an on/off fashion during the battle when the North Vietnamese soldiers were attacking. The actual light (part of the Centurion Tank) was a 1 million candlepower Xenon that was mounted just above the gun and provided some serious illumination on the battlefield. Of course during battle this light never remained on and was only used in occasional very brief bursts to locate the attacking soldiers causing momentary blindness and making them easy targets for the 50 caliber machine guns.
“The Crater” was screened in Australia on April 25th as part of the Anzac Day, Gallipoli Centenary Celebrations.
FILL-LITE – The best soft lights available
I used the Fill-Lite’s for the first time on the feature “Irrefutable Proof”, which shot in Syracuse NY, essentially lighting the entire movie with them. This Indie film was shot on a very tight budget with huge locations and required an innovative approach to the lighting to keep costs down and maintain a very strong visual style. Fill-Lite make an exceptional unit and this was my first chance to put them through their paces.
Having demo’d the units earlier in the year at a seminar I gave for Band Pro, I knew their potential but did not appreciate the usefulness and versatility of these small units until I had them on set.
“The Lady Pleaser”
The quality of the light is astounding, dubbed by my crew “the lady pleaser”, great wrap and essentially the quality of a soft light thru 216 (without the 216). The fall off is relatively short which meant less cutting and shaping in tight locations and being a square emitter they could easily be panned or tilted to control spill and intensity in different parts of the set.
I used them as singles, doubles and quads, to light masters and close-ups, green screen car scenes, men and women. For women, when punched thru diffusion, the light almost becomes a liquid. I also used them skirted as coup lights for large areas where they provided the perfect amount of base shooting on the Alexa at 800ISO, as fill on overcast day exteriors and in ultra low temps (-9 degrees and color temp and output did not change). In every situation these incredible units excelled. I will not be shooting again without them.
Their small compact size and amazing light quality make them ideal for shooting in very tight locations
Their small compact size and amazing light quality make them ideal for shooting in very tight locations as, at a little less than 1″ thick, they take up such a small amount of space. They are also supplied with brackets allowing them to be directly attached to set walls giving them an even smaller footprint. Compared to Kino Flo’s or Chimera’s, well there simply is no comparison, these little units outperform in every area.
No Heat-No Generator-Less Cost
Of course one of the big advantages of LED lighting in general is that they do not produce heat. Therefor almost all the electrical energy passing into the LED produces light so they are much more efficient. This allowed using the lower wattage lights off normal household circuits, so I was able to structure the lighting for the film around a lighting package that did not force us to carry a generator, other than a 6500W as a backup source or for remote locations. Any night exteriors were shot dusk for night.
Actors also loved the “no heat” aspect of the Fill-Lite’s .
Check them out at www.fill-lite.com
Irrefutable Proof – Behind the Scenes
A great behind the scenes film by 2nd AC Mark Davis completely shot and edited on his iPhone.
Irrefutable Proof – The BTS Mini Movie from Mark Davis on Vimeo.
LED street lighting – “The end of cinema”
This one gave me a really good laugh.
“Say goodbye to moody Collateral-style movie shots: How LED street lights mean films set at night in LA and across the world will now be bathed in gray”
The story appeared in the Daily Mail and declares movies will never be the same again if global street lighting changes from Sodium Vapor to LED. It was obviously written by someone who was about, well lets just say not too old, or a movie critic, since I recall, not so long ago, lamenting the fact that the world had slowly become bathed in the ugly (and for a cinematographer difficult to control or balance) orange glow of sodium vapor lamps. Purportedly for the same reason everyone now wants to switch to LED…cost saving.
Whatever the reason all I can say is about time. The faster those awful orange sodium vapor lamps disappear the better, as far as I am concerned, and I am reasonably confident many DP’s will agree.
For the writer of the story I am confident there will be plenty of films shot under the new lights and, if an orange glow is required, I am equally confident we DP’s will have a good idea on how to achieve it.
Robert Johnson – “I Believe I’m Sinkin’ Down”
Rob joins long time friend, Producer/Director Jeffrey Abelson on a journey to the Mississippi Delta to discover the father of the Blues.
“I Believe I’m Sinkin’ Down” is a very highly stylized, dramatized feature documentary exploring the life and times of one of the most influential musicians in America. Johnson wrote and handful of songs and died at the age of 29 but left his mark on contemporary musicians like BB King, Keb Mo, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan and Keith Richards to name just a few. Legend has it Johnson sold his soul to the devil in return for his other worldly guitar skills.
Johnson is described by Keith Richards as “The Bach of the Blues” and by Eric Clapton as “the greatest folk blues guitar player who ever lived”.
Abelson, a veteran of the music video industry and the ineventor of the genre of music videos used to promote feature films, back in the 80’s and 90’s, is looking at shooting this year for a 2015 release. WATCH THE PROMO and get the inside scoop on Robert Johnson.