It sometimes seems the art of 'painting with light' requires membership of a secret circle in which few ever devulge their secrets. Or so I thought after working with several different Directors of Photography who seemed disinclined to describe in simple or practical terms how they light a scene. But I later discovered that it looks far more complex than it is. The actual lighting techniques are usually quite logical; what is often more complex is the different equipment and their various applications -and all important safety considerations!
Because we could not afford to have a DoP on set for the whole of production we only employed one for key shoot dates, and for other sections of the shoot, the assistant director, Kieron James, and myself lit everything ourselves. We were very surprised with how effective our lighting ended up becoming, and so in this and the next blog are some very basic tips we learned along the way.
Since we were using a 35mm adapter which looses at least a stop of light (a 'stop' measures the amount of light that can go through a lens -effectively the more glass the less light gets through), we knew from the outset that we needed a lot of light. So our basic lighting package that we hired from a local company consisted of one powerful light, an Arri 2K (2000w), and then a selection of smaller fresnels, 800w, 650w and 300w. We needed the 2K to light large areas, maybe the background, or to bounce off a ceiling to provide ambient light. And then the smaller lights were used to create mood and atmosphere.
The lights all came along with their relevant stands and leads of course, but make sure you also have gels, diffuse paper and croc clips. We also added a separate stand and reflector which could also double as a flag.
Here is a check list of equipment you may or not need, depending on the type of shoot, courtesy of Promotion Hire who provided our lighting equipment:
for exterior work, but require ballast)
Kinos or LED softlights (expensive but
good for creating soft bank of light)
2K light (a cheaper option for a
more powerful light)
1K light (also known as a "blonde")
800w light (also known as a "red head")
Dedo (smaller and more portable lights
-good for interviews but only 100-150w)
Softbox/Chimera (another more
expensive way of softening the light)
Gels (to correct lights depending
on whether you are filming inside or
outside or to create colour effects)
ND (Neutral density -good for blocking
sunlight coming in through windows)
to a lower wattage -allows more control)
Flag (to block unwanted light
or create shadow)
Super clamp (for attaching
lights to wall fittings etc)
Sandbag (for top heavy lights to
ensure they don't tip over)