Cinematography : Lighting at night... in the woods by Crystal L. Smithwick

Crystal L. Smithwick

Lighting at night... in the woods

Hi, I have a small team participating in the 48 Hour Horror Film project and we found a great location, but it is deep woods. Any creative suggestions for lighting that doesn't require a loud generator? We want to avoid ADR, if possible?

Chris Maris

Fire. If you can't have any lights, use fire, and big f*ck off torches.

Frank Moody

Battery powered LED lights will work, just have to have a few and a runner keeping them charged Fire is also great

Chris Maris

Have you thought of day for night in the forest? Or a small generator with shed loads of cable?

Chris Maris

It would be easier to answer this question if we had an idea of what budget, if any, you have.

Anton West

For once, I agree with Alle. Unless you have a full fire crew on standby you shouldn't consider it. And even then, don't do it!

Chris Maris

Exactly, no one is suggesting you set fire to a forest. I have lit scenes with burning torches in such conditions, though this was in Ireland and everything was damp. Common sense should prevail and a fire safety person should be on set and of course, if it's tinder dry, don't even think about it.

Andrew Sobkovich

No noisy generator, then how about a quiet generator? “Forest at night” is a pretty broad description. A little more information would help a lot to actually respond to your question. Are your characters sitting around a campfire? Lost with no fire? In one place or walking through the woods? Do they have anything with them? Modern day, a few decades ago, or historic? All of these and more are important. There is also one major consideration, if you cannot effectively light the most gorgeous location it does not do you any good. As to torches with flames, there is a product that was developed for opera then used throughout the industry. The GAMTorch uses fuel pellets and it is self dousing if dropped. Works really well and absolutely does go out when dropped. Pretty easy to find as a rental.

Chris Maris

Who mentioned lightning? Lighting I think was the word. Not the same thing.

Royce Allen Dudley

If characters use flashlights and are responsible in character for lighting - and not lighting- the scenes, you will have a Blair-Witch-ish short throw lighting scheme, devoid of depth and scope. it can be augmented to be more controlled with larger LED panels and if you have the budget you can dig into to woods more with battery powered joker HMIs either hard or in balls but you'll need a good rental budget. NO OPEN FLAMES.

Royce Allen Dudley

Avoiding sky in shot , keeping subjects back-lit and hitting a heavy color grade session maybe day for night is the right call for you this time

Chris Maris

Need more info. Do you just want moonlight? Night time is very hard to light realistically. No generator means battery lights. Using these to simulate moonlight will probably look pretty shit but using them to augment torch light, whether fire or battery, can work well. Hurricane/storm lamps (or a more modern version of) can work well to justify battery lighting.

Aaron Brunson

I have used vehicle headlights and bounced the light using reflective material such as sunshades.

Deb Havener

We used small, battery-operated, portable sensor (LED) lights to light a few trees for a night time scene -- just so we didn't have a pitch black background. It worked beautifully. You can find these types of lights at hardware stores or camera/photography stores. No generator needed -- just make sure you have plenty of batteries and keep a lighting person ready to change batteries if you need. You can also throw gels over them if you want to give a little mood to your scene. On a different shoot, we used a marina battery for another night scene that involved strands of party lights in a wooded area. Marina batteries are much less noisy. We hid ours in a backpack and never picked any of the sound up on camera or any of the mics.

Robert Broad

I think there are a lot of great suggestions here (and a few not so great ones) in reality you have to first look to the lighting level and color you need. Torches are good for Blair Witch styles but don't work when the light is in the wrong place. Blue White LEDs with need color balancing but are really cheap and you can build your own levels in banks of lights. Car headlights are great off reflectors (remembering to turn the engines over to charge batteries between shots) . I have gold and silver reflectors as well as white for such shoots. And remember your light meter too so you don't lose your work in post-prod corrections.

James David Harris

I recommend you ask some DPs or Google that question. I think Robert is right on the money. You must decide the look you want or can afford and experiment in the back yard till you achieve it. Good luck.

Simon © Simon

Shoot it when the sun is not so predom. Like if you can shoot it at dusk. Then pick it up in post

Roy Nowlin

I used a car battery and inverter to shoot in some remote locations at night. An inverter converts DC current (battery) to AC current for use with incandescent and other lights. On the plus side: there is no loud motor, although there is a fan to keep the unit cool DO NOT COVER THE UNIT TO DAMPEN THE NOISE. One minus: limited usage time based on the size (wattage) of lights you use, and amount of extension cords you need. Of course, there are variables that you haven't mentioned such as: does camera or actors need to move during the shots, and how much what kind of equipment do you have (lights, stands, hardware) what lighting style are you attempting to achieve However, for the sake of nuts and bolts filmmaking you can use an inverter which will be much less noisy than a generator. Word to the wise; you cannot use anything that has a heating element on an inverter (ie; smoke machine, iron), but it works for lights. Low wattage units can be found at Home Depot (up to possibly 800 watts) for sale or rental. For larger units you'll have to find a pro shop for electricians like Grainger, or a film grip & lighting rental house. I worked for Xeno Ligths in New York City, and for all of the big jobs (New Years Day, Wolf of Wall Street) the best boy included inverters in the equipment list.

Michael Sandiford

led panels and batteries.

Luke Stewart

Shoot it during the day, under expose the footage, and color correct it to be night time.

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