Unconventional Lighting

Sometimes it’s more interesting to light using other types of lighting equipment.

Traditional film style lighting equipment has evolved over the years to meed the specific requirements of motion picture production, usually to do with colour temperature, lighting control, beam projection and so on….

I love to find unconventional ways to light though.  I love ransacking electrical shops for different types of globe such as the ferrowatts or even using something like rope light to light entire scenes.

Not too long ago Mark Alston asked me to shoot a music clip with him for the group “Operator Please”

He was keen to use a location at the old Sydney brick works….a very long and probably unsafe brick tunnel !

We had a very tiny budget and we decided to use canon 5D’s mainly because we could then afford to get two cameras and double our coverage.  We’d previously shot RED and got some great results, but Mark’s treatment for the son called for a lot of static shots being cut together and a very high energy lighting treatment.

We started discussing the look and he was really keen on a kinetic lighting effect, something that would further enhance the energy.  Listening to the track, there’s a great musical gear-change between the verse and chorus and we wanted to mark that visually in the clip as well.

I started thinking about how to change lighting states within a take and didn’t have any easy answers…using dimmers or desks would be too slow with traditional style film lights.  Because they have a filament that heats up to emit light, it always takes a few seconds for them to cool down.

Mark was also very keen to use strobes during the high energy chorus of the song, but the 5Ds rolling shutter would mean that would be a disaster.

I had a sudden realisation that I could simply use concert style lighting.  Moving lights or “movers” have a beam of light that can be moved around in shot.  They can also change colour and flash in a strobo-scopic style.  We could also get the appearance of instant changes in lighting states as we moved between the chorus and verse *feel*.

Now I haven’t really used movers before but I was keen to give them a try.  I managed to put a very basic lighting kit together in a very short amount of time.  I had 4 MAC’s ( a type of moving light) and we also had 8 LED colour wash lights as well.

Working with a lighting programmer I was able to come up with a plan for the lighting that would feature lighting state changes at certain points in the track.

Using the two cameras we then were able to shoot the track, almost as a live even and have the lighting totally repeatable in terms of the changes that happened.

I did have some rolling shutter issues on the 5D’s, probably due to the use of PW dimming on the LED lights, but see if you can pick it in the clip. I was able to eliminate some of it by slightly changing the shutter speed.

I did struggle a little with some of the close up shots and was forced to adapt again. I ended up using a couple of frames with light diffusion and slightly reprogramming some of the movers to give me the lighting level I required on the close ups.

With the addition of some atmosphere in the form of a hazer I was really pleased with what we were able to get for a $1000 lighting budget (including crew !)

There’s no way of would have been able to get this result with traditional film style lighting fixtures and it reminded me again that sometimes it better to go with the unconventional.

About johnbrawley

Director Of Photography striving to create compelling images
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2 Responses to Unconventional Lighting

  1. Ben Slavens says:

    Very visually pleasing music video sir, well done! Question, what glass did you use for this?

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