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My Go To Lighting Package Part Two: The Basics

Here is part two of our ongoing series regarding the go to lighting package that I use in the field. Many of you commented on part one of this post that the lighting package was huge. That was only a 20th of it! I am asked to slim it down all the time and I love it because it challenges me as a DP to not always look to the obvious light package, but to use the natural light in a space to serve me well. I wanted to break it down into a much smaller package that will be great for a short film, documentary, interview and/or corporate media.
 

“The Basics of Light”

When you have a small team to tell your story, you need to find lights that do many things and provide many color temps. You need some that can focus and ones that are a broad source. I am on a web series right now, and it is not the blow up action that I have done in the past. It tells a story about families, friends, upbringing, values, morals, honor, integrity and courage. These interviews are personal, intimate and revealing.
 

“Deliverables from the DP Viewpoint”

The director and executive producer is Maurice Marable, an incredibly talented artist from NYC. We have been working together for over 15 years.

Maurice Marable
Twitter: @MoTheDirector
Instagram: @MoTheDirector

 

Maurice said, “I want to tell stories, not just cover it.”

Look at the line above. This is what all of you have to find in your soul. Be a storyteller, not just a shooter. There is a difference between being a Director of Photography and a shooter. A shooter asks the director how he wants it to look and feel and is constantly asking for guidance. A Director of Photography takes the treatment and visually dissects it, looks at what the story is and how he can best tell this story, and presents a visual landscape to deliver the director’s vision. A DP has a point of view; a shooter needs the director to give him the point of view. So with this in mind, how am I going to put together a package that will be small, nimble, versatile and inexpensive? We have a smaller budget and still need to deliver the visual landscape that I pitched to Maurice.
 

“Lighting Ideas for Small Spaces”

I knew that we were going into family homes and that they were not going to be palatial mansions; they were working class. We needed a B-Roll run and gun package that required no generators. We had to plug this into walls and not blow circuits.

In thinking this all through, you need to be very versatile with your lights and be able to react to things that are thrown at you. We knew that we were going in without seeing many locations ahead of time. I wanted to give Maurice a much bigger look than expected, but keep it real. Here is the deal. We can go for a stylized look, shallow focus, swing a tilt, contrast in lighting, pool lighting, top light, etc. But is that conveying the message? We want to present these people as real people, in their family homes, so anything other than natural lighting will fail to tell the story.

 

“Start with the Key Light”

I like to start with my key light first. With limited space, I need a light that will have punch. So if you are in a situation where you have to balance the inside with the outside, it works. Something that is not long, so you can put it in a small room and still have the space to diffuse it.

I will need a daylight source option as well as a tungsten one. Looking at the photos, I see a lot of windows. One thing that says corporate videos more than anything else is warm key lighting and the light out the windows goes a cobalt blue. Don’t do this. Bring a light that you can gel or make it daylight balanced so that you don’t get this effect.
 
Suggestions for Daylight Key Light:

1200 Watt HMI Par:
 

Mole Richardson HMI 1200 Par

Mole Richardson HMI 1200 Par

1200 Par Kit

1200 Par Kit

Lenses

 
You can plug this into the wall, 5500 degree color temp. This light has four lenses – Narrow, Medium, Wide and Super Wide. It is a very resourceful light. We are looking for lights that multi-task. This can also cheat sunlight through a window, be a hard back light or to be used as a book light.

Buy the 1200 Watt HMI Par:
B&Hamazon.comeBayAdorama
 
800 Watt Joker:
 

Joker-Bug 800 Watt

Joker-Bug 800 Watt

Joker Kit

Joker Kit

 
Same as the 1200 watt HMI Par except lower wattage and cheaper to rent.

Buy the 800 Watt Joker:
B&HeBayAdorama
 
575 Watt HMI Par:
 

Arrisun 575 Watt HMI Par

Arrisun 575 Watt HMI Par

 
Same as the 1200 watt HMI Par, just half the wattage and cheaper to rent. This is about as low as you can go in the wattage and still be able to do all the things that I described above. You will have to go much harder with your key light in trying to balance the inside to the outside. That is why I like the 1200 par. I can shoot it through thicker diffusion.

Buy the 575 Watt HMI Par:
B&Hamazon.comeBayAdorama
 
Suggestions for Fill Light:

If you are going with a daylight key, which I had to do, I try to use the natural light first. I prefer to orient the talent in a way that works with the natural light in the location. Turn off the lights in the room and see which direction the natural window light is going. Then make that side the key. Try not to fight what is already happening in the room. Embrace it. If you go against it, you will find yourself using many more lights to overpower what is already there and burn time. Open up a window, a door, etc. Use anything that is already there. The natural light will look so good. It takes a lot to create the look of natural light and you will not have that arsenal in your package. So go with it.
 
575 Watt HMI Par:
This is a great compact source that will be perfect for a bounce to give you soft light fill onto your talent.
 

Mole Richardson 575 Watt Par

Mole Richardson 575 Watt Par

 
Lowel 1000 Watt Tota Light into a Silver Umbrella:
This is a great fill light to clip your CTB gel to it. Nice color contrast with your daylight balanced key light.

Buy the Lowel 1000 Watt Tota Light:
B&Hamazon.comeBayAdorama

 

Lowell Tota Light and with Umbrellas

Lowell Tota Light and with Umbrellas

 
1K Open Face:
You can use bead board or foam core for a bounce, or sometimes if you have white walls, you can just use the wall. I try not to select rooms that have white walls, but most of the locations had white walls. How do you attack this? I try to light through windows because you will not have a big grip package to control your light. By shooting it through a window, you are using the physical attributes of the home to assist you in controlling your fill or key light source. This is critical. Diffuse your light outside of the room as well so that the source doesn’t fly all over the white walls. If you can use some flags, then go for that, but in most of these rooms, if you set a flag, it is probably in the frame.

Buy the 1K Open Face:
B&HeBay
 

Beardboard

Arri 1K Fresnel

Arri 1K Fresnel

Lighting Schematic of Home

Lighting Schematic of Home

 
Utility Lights:

I always bring some utility lights that help take my visuals that much higher and help tell the story.

Kino Flo:
See my go to Kino Flo package in part one of this post.
 
Kino Flo

Kino Flathead 80

Kino Flathead 80

 

Fluorescent Bulbs:
 

Fluorescent bulbs

 
You can replace Daylight and Tungsten balanced bulbs in existing fixtures. Cool White and Warm White bulbs added to your Kino Flo fixtures balance your key light and fill light with what is in your location.

One Light Fay:
 

Mole Richardson One Light Fay

Mole Richardson One Light Fay

 
This is a great little light that offers a ton of punch for 650 watts. I use these to bounce, splash of hot tungsten light in the background.

Buy the One Light Fay:
eBay

Home Depot Clamp Lights:
I use these to place in the BG sometimes to give out of focus bokeh if the story warrants it. They are also great for splashes of tungsten light. You can use flood or spotlights in them.
Read the posts on Home Depot lighting – part one and part two.
 

“Shaping the Light”

The lights are important to your look, but a particular mood comes from lighting control. This is your grip package.

Having a small flag package is essential. Use some 4 x 4 empty frames or flex fill diffusion for your key lights. Remember, flex fills are cool, but they have no way to support themselves. They require much more grip support to be able to use them for traditional lighting.
 
4 x 4 diffusion frame

Flex fill diffusion

 
Apple boxes for camera support, Wedges furniture pads, some light rigging. Don’t forget sand bags. These are essential for camera support and keeping flags and diffusion frames safe. C-stand is probably the most useful piece of grip gear I have ever used. There are not many things you cannot do with that stand. That is why they call it a Century-Stand – because it has a 100 uses.
 

apple boxesSecuring C-Stand with sandbag

C-stand

 
A few ladders are needed to be able to get to the lights, rig sources in the ceiling, etc. Cartellini clamps are another grip rigging essential. These things will grab onto anything and are useful for light rigging as well as camera support and car mounts.
 
Cardellini clamps
 
Last but not least is a Chimera soft box. I usually get the medium bank with a 1200 par ring and a tungsten open face ring so that I can use this soft quality of light either daylight or tungsten. Just because you have a daylight source doesn’t mean you need those Chimera daylight banks. They are too big and cumbersome. They would never fit into these tight locations.
 
Medium Chimera soft bank

Chimera Speed Rings

Chimera Speed Rings

 

“A Few Ideas from Camera”

In the lens department, for interviews I feel it is absolutely essential for zoom lenses to be in your package. This doesn’t make you a lazy filmmaker. It makes you a proactive storyteller. It enables you to react to serendipity moments from the talent. Reacting to these moments with a fixed focal lens can be impossible with the restrictions of the space. In these tight spaces, I rarely find a prime lens that makes the right frame. So unless you want to carry a large amount of primes, I suggest a few lightweight zooms. I am using the Canon 15.5 to 47 and the 30 to 105mm.
 
Canon lightweight zoom

Canon lightweight zoom

 

“Motion Options”

Camera motion was very important to Maurice. He wanted the camera to be in constant motion. For this, I employed two different devices. Why two different ones? Again, we did not know what cards we would be dealt our location. I selected a Cineped for stability and versatility. These allowed me to be able to take off the slider and put it on apple boxes for low slides. I knew this would be huge for all the B-roll footage.
 
Cine-Ped
 
The second motion device was the Dana Dolly. The reason to use this tool was that I could go longer than three feet.
 

Dana Dolly

 
What are your ideas about lighting packages that have worked well? How have you been creative with a small footprint?

Author: Shane

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15 Comments

  1. Thank you for your blog posts Mr. Hurlbut. There are very informative and very inspirational. I love your embrace of DIY/re-purposed lighting when it is appropriate. As a low budget filmmaker I really appreciate that and has inspired me to look for lighting instruments from different, out of the box sources. One light bulb that I have found that I think could be very useful as a re-purposed film light source is a Halco 500 watt R-40 frosted reflector flood which was originally as a replacement bulb for swimming pool lights.

    http://www.amazon.com/Halco-104042-R40FL500-Reflector-Flood/dp/B0002Z0MJW/ref=sr_1_2?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1376614909&sr=1-2

    They have very good output, have an amazing smooth beam spread, and last way longer than 500 watt photofloods. They can be used in any suitable medium based fixture rated for the wattage. I have some 4 socket batten lights (That I learned about from your blog, Thank You) and with those Halco R-40s they make a very light weight and inexpensive 2Ks. If you get a chance, you should check out a few of those bulbs. I never would have thought about looking for bulbs like that without reading you blog. Thanks again.

    Post a Reply
    • David G. Smith, thanks for the kind words and sharing with our readers. I will check these things out, sound very cool.

      Post a Reply
  2. Excellent post. Truly helpful. Also thanks for providing the shot diagram. Better to work with the sun, because if you fight it you most likely will lose.

    Post a Reply
    • N.K.Osborne, you are very welcome, thank you for the kind words, yes, Mother nature always will win.

      Post a Reply
  3. Kinos are a absolute must. I also like to to bring a few redheads 800w open face, they are practical for bounce and making ambience. Lately I’ve also been using LED panels a lot on closeups – not on people, but rather close ups of things – like that standard cellphone shot etc.
    I also bring chinaballs at all times – they’re easy to carry, I can hang them anywhere and the light quality is beautiful =)

    Post a Reply
    • Tom, I love china balls. They are a beautiful light. Philippe Rousselet is the king of using those units.

      Post a Reply
  4. Hi shane, great post! Just curios what program did you use to make the lighting schematic of the home?

    Post a Reply
    • I hand draw my schematics, but to post here we used Illustrator/Photoshop and some lighting icons so it will display nicely for reading. Thanks for your support.

      Post a Reply
      • There is a ‘proper’ app I’ve been using for this – Shot Designer by Per Holmes (http://www.hollywoodcamerawork.us/sd_index.html). It’s quick, easy to share (pdfs to email, dropbox, etc), pretty much platform agnostic. It’s not particularly pretty or dimensionally accurate, but as a replacement for scratchpad sketches, and you can use photos, illustrations and blocking information. Beats getting all arty in Illustrator.

        I’ve got no affiliation with it – just like using it.

        Post a Reply
  5. Hi Shane:

    Another excellent post. Freaky to see a 1200 HMI Par leading your list. I spent two years shooting a bunch of programming for the long gone Monitor Channel in Boston. Lot’s of run ‘n’ gun, just a sound guy and I. We hauled around three LTM 1.2k HMI pars, fell in love with them. Back then our lens kit came with an intensifier; a highly polished chrome cone that we attached to the Super Wide lens. Gave us a great soft yet intensive (?) exterior fill. Don’t see these intensifiers much any more, maybe too fragile for the g&e truck?

    Hey, what’s up with the “Arri 1k Open Face Fresnel”; a trick question?

    Always a joy to read your posts.

    Cheers,

    BD

    Post a Reply
    • Bob Demers, yes I love that light as well. Just works. The Arri 1K open face works well with a chimera on it or a book light bounce. Thanks for all of your support my friend

      Post a Reply
      • Shane,
        Thanks for posting information for many to benefit from. On this last comment I think you missed Bob Demers’ friendly correction to your post. In your blog after the bit about the 1K open face you post a picture of an “Open Face Fresnel” As I’m sure you know this is a contradiction since a Fresnel is a lens by definition.

        Post a Reply
  6. Hello Sir,
    How r u…? Thanks for ur information. Am karthik from India.. Sir am working as asst Cinematographer I want to know how to use sekonic light meter and how to take reading.. I like to learn practically if u post videos means it wil be helpful for me sir…

    Post a Reply
    • Karthik Baskar, I am running a blog post in a couple weeks that will go into all that.

      Post a Reply

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  1. Shane Hurlbut's Go To Lighting Package for Corporate Videos | wolfcrow - [...] Read how the brilliant Shane Hurlbut does it on his blog. [...]
  2. The Basics of Shane Hurlbut’s Go-To Lighting Kit | FilmmakerIQ.com - [...] Maurice said, “I want to tell stories, not just cover it.” [...]

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