No announcement yet.

Lighting a forrest scene

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Lighting a forrest scene

    Hi everybody, I believe that we have quite a lot of talented cinematographers on this board so I thought maybe some of you could help me out.

    I'm an aspiring DP and I will be shooting a narrative short next march. Most of the movie will take place in a forrest and since we are pretty tight on budget my lighting possibilities are limited.
    I visited our location today to check out the lighting conditions and I looked quite good. Here are some image so you know what I'm dealing with.


    I will try to work with only reflectors for most of the scenes. But there are some scene in which I believe I will need some extra lights.
    In these scene our lead actor will be inside somt sort of self build hideout. This hideout it self is not built yet but we plan to make not completely solid but cover the top with leaves and branches so we have some light coming in from above.
    Still I'm worried that it could be to dark below it and I would love to be able to control the lighting

    This leads me to the question, what kind of light to use in a situation like this? Since we will be shooting everything at daylight a HMI is what came to my mind first,
    but sadly HMIs are pretty expensive in rental. This is why I think about getting a tungsten light and geling it for daylight.

    How powerful does the light need to be to actually be usable? Could a 2k Arri fresnel do the job? These ones I could get fairly cheap.
    I plan on manly shooting them through the top trying to imitate sunlight a little bit.

    My second question would be about powering the lights, we can not afford a big generator so I thought about getting something like a small honda 3kw generator like the EU30is.
    Does any one have experience with this kind of generators? How loud are they, and how far of would I need to place it to still get usable sound? If it says "3kw" and I use a 2k light on it it still has some power left for a smaller light or charger etc.?

    BTW we plan on shooting everything with a BMCC and two Zooms (F2.8).

    I really appreciate every tip or input you guys might have for me! Thanks a lot.
    -John Bauer-

  • #2
    That looks like a good location. You should be able to relatively easily modify with a reflector for outdoor shots and perhaps if you need it, some help in tricky spots from lights. The native ISO of the BMCC will probably be good in this moderate ambient lighting.

    For inside, you could look at renting fluoro or LED lighting, though like any non-black body light, you need to be aware of colour casts and CRI given the obvious skin tones of the actor(s). They would severely cut down power requirements, though, from using tungsten or other BB lights. Not sure how they compare price wise against HMIs though.

    Disclaimer: this is off the top of my head suggestions. I'm sure there's a DP or 3 who have experience with cinematography in forests.


    • #3
      thanks for your reply nick.

      I thought about getting flouro lighting or even battery powered LEDs, but since "inside" will no be really inside I was afraid these lights would not have enough output. The actor will not really be inside a shack or something but more like a self build hideout made out of branches, tree stems and maybe some wooden boards in order to survive in the forrest.
      -John Bauer-


      • #4
        are you sure the lighting would be the same in march.

        reflectors, bounce/scrims, for the outdoor portion, and some small LED panels for the hideout.

        what's the dimension of the hideout, is it something one person built quickly just for hiding from a pursuer, or something a bit more elaborate where he's going to live weeks or month in.


        • #5
          I have some 60 watt battery powered LEDs with faders that I imagine would work very well for you.


          • #6
            I would also like to see a few other responses about this. In a couple weeks I am involved in a film in a forest too, which for me is new. Its funny how some folk take lots of trees for granted where I live there are no forests close by. From what I've seen on this type of shoot is serious concentration on the shadows/shaded areas by the trees is important, because "generally" you don't want those shadows on close-up type shots of any great length. IMO you can spot a low budget film quickly when they have one of the talent with the shade of a branch across their face. So I would be thinking a large parasol shade structure (I don't know what the film term is) for the outside stuff if the action is mostly stationary. Renting LED light panels with battery packs for the "fort" should work (given their limitations). Litepanels 1x1 bicolor locally rent to $50 a day and if you had a few you could light the inside of almost any small structure without the need for a generator. Because the sun is constantly moving and changing intensity (as well as the clouds), that's the difficult part to me about shooting outdoors so the shooting sequence should be carefully considered and time schedule reflected.


            • #7
              I'd go the LED panel route for inside the shelter, you can just throw a v-mount battery on one and have hours of power.

              Mount the panel on the side of the shelter that the sunlight is hitting, then put a branch with some leaves over the top of it to diffuse the light hitting your actor and provide a sense that the light is actually coming from the outside.


              • #8
                Originally posted by teh View Post
                ... I'm an aspiring DP and I will be shooting a narrative short next march. Most of the movie will take place in a forrest and since we are pretty tight on budget my lighting possibilities are limited. ...
                There's already some great advice posted by others. Best of luck with your project.

                I realize your budget is probably a small fraction of what he had available to him, but you might enjoy reading David Mullen's detailed production diary describing his cinematography on the film "Big Sur":

                On page 2 he describes the forest exterior & cabin locations, which in some ways sound similar to the challenges you're facing. There might be some ideas in there that you can use, but even if not, it makes for a great read.

                Also, I remember in another production diary (can't remember which film), working with a relatively low-budget, camping lanterns were used, the type with the little fabric globes that burn liquid fuel, were useful for creating fairly bright light outdoors at night. It was a remote, rural/forest location, too, so these lights "fit" the situation, and were relatively easy to transport. One drawback of these lights is that they're noisy (they hiss), but that's not necessarily a problem depending on the situation.



                • #9
                  A 2k is not going to do much in daylight exteriors so what you want to focus on is taking away light or shaping the light, as for the patchy sunlight coming trough a 12 or 20 overhead would be nice if budget allows otherwise try and split it. As for the hideout build it so the roof can be taken off, then you can diffuse the top. generators are loud, you can build a box around it to lessen the sound but they need ventilation. best of luck!


                  • #10
                    Thanks for all your answers!

                    Of course the lighting conditions will be a little different in march, but it's difficult to tell exactly. March can be very winter like as well as nice "springish". I don't expect much sun (it was a particular sunny october day when I took the pictures) but a little overcast could actually help with the shadows a little bit maybe?

                    I will definitely look into LED lights, maybe I can find a nice and not to expensive battery powered solution.

                    I'd love to get a nice big 12 by 12 or something similar, but the "budget" rental houses don't have anything like this most of the times and we can not afford a more expensive rental house... I wouldnt want to use the 2k to fight the daylight, I think I would need a 4k hmi or something like this to do so. I would only be used to light up the hideout.

                    The size of the hideout is not yet determined but according to the story it must be something were the actor has spend some time in so it must be a little more then just a quick "hiding place".

                    Thanks again and keep it coming!
                    -John Bauer-


                    • #11
                      I've got two 1K LED panels which run on 12V battery power. I also have three 500W LED panels which run on batteries too. I'd think they'd more than be enough to light the inside of the shelter with. Each light has a dimmer, switchable banks and are daylight balanced. Not too expensive on Amazon either. Fancier brand. $299 or the 500W and $399 for the 1K.
                      Facebook - Angelis Digital Studio


                      • #12
                        A lot of good advice here.
                        I would shoot into the sun, using it as a back light. You will avoid all those nasty shadows on your actors faces.
                        I don't know what your setting or mood is but adding some fog/smoke will really make those rays of light beaming through the trees stand out.
                        Best of luck.


                        • #13
                          Hey, what's the vibe/mood of the short and what kind of look are you going for?
                          Will it be day/night/both?
                          What are the camera details of the scout pics? iso/aperture/shutter - just to give an idea if the forrest is naturally dark or bright - i've had both. Looks like deep focus so i'm guessing bright but these could be iPhone pics in which case i personally would take a DSLR (or light meter) on another scout so you've got some idea in advance what fstop you'll be working at, if you need NDs, etc.

                          I used a honda EU3000is a couple of weeks ago on a night ext. shoot (running a kino diva400 and chinaball with a 250w globe) and we tucked it in behind a near-by building. We used one of my 20-25 meter (65-80 foot - cant remember exact length) extension cables to give you an idea of distance with no problem for dialog audio. We were in a bay next to the ocean and the gentle splashing of tiny waves caused more issue for audio. But you still want to get it as far away as possible. I own a EU2000i (which would have done the shoot fine but its 110v and i live in a 240v country) and that's pretty damn quiet, especially in the "eco mode", and much more portable since it can be carried by one person. Could be a better option if you plan to use smaller lights depending on crew size/budget etc. LEDs might work for you too as already suggested.
                          Blackmagic Design
                          My BMD LUTs.

                          **Any post by me prior to Aug 2014 was before i started working for Blackmagic**


                          • #14
                            just saw this, and thought take the roof of and use a army scrim net stretched out a couple of feet above, throw a light through it you will then get natural cucoloris type of shot. Also with the net high above you can do multiple setups and angles and not be limited to space and room. A worms eye shot is simple build a roof crop it in shot with you actor and no one will no that you have not shot it inside. Google Drew Gardner (photographer) he shot a beautiful forest scene with one light and smoke machine. As for reflectors these are invaluable for filling in any harsh shadows on the actors faces, however be aware of the rectangle/circle of white light on the eyes. A good lighting technique is the Rembrandt technique, look that up.

                            Hope that helps.