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class="style10">360° Location Lighting

>Published :


>I have a shoot coming up which is set primarily in a Cafe. We will be shooting in a real cafe. I have a bit of a lighting problem. I need to get a controllable ambient light from above. Often in these situations I would resort to bouncing a bigish HMI off the ceiling, but this shoot requires a lot of freedom of movement, a number of 360deg steadicam shots are on the cards and the space isn’t that big. What I would like to do is rig a number of daylight Kino’s from the ceiling and this is where my inexperience lets me down.

>How does one go about safely doing this whilst causing the least amount of damage to the location itself?

>I think the narrowest width is too wide for polecats and I suspect the weight of a Kino would probably be too much for them anyway (might be wrong about this). I had considered at one point gaffer taping the tubes themselves to the ceiling!

>Anybody got any ideas (using Kino’s or otherwise) on how to solve what I would think to be a fairly common lighting problem?

>Many Thanks,

>Ross McWhannell
DP. Leeds, UK

>Ross McWhannell wrote:

class="style11">>How does one go about safely doing this whilst causing the least >amount of damage to the location itself?

>Without the ability to properly build a grid of some sort, taping the fixture to the ceiling (I'm not talking about the tubes but the whole fixture) can be done for short periods of time... the safer bet is to screw them up there. Though it sounds like a lot of damage it may in fact be the least damaging, usually only four to six small holes in the ceiling per unit. You only need four holes, but it may take a few more to find a stud, or you can drill holes and put in lag bolts (for concrete) or winged screws (for drywall).

>Tape can peel large sections of paint from a old paint job, especially if you use Gaffers tape. When taping with the desire to reduce damage, use 2-inch paper tape. If memory serves, I'm pretty sure I've seen crash cameras taped to plane wings.

>You'd be amazed what tape can hold if you spread it out over a large enough surface area.

>Piotr Jagninski
Gaffer / New York City

>Ross depending on what type of ceiling you have, be it concrete, plaster, popcorn etc will change the way you can rig Kino or fluoro tubes the to ceiling, unproudly, I was a gaffer on the reality TV show "Room Raiders" for MTV where 360degree shooting was almost always the style of shooting, and depending on the type of ceiling, I used the options of Gaff tape, Photo Black Paper tape, and Kino clips pending on the location.

> If in your cafe you can drill into the ceiling, your best bet are Kino clips and hooks to suspend your ballasts to the ceiling, taking your Kino's out of their harness and shaping the light via cinefoil, black wrap, or paper tape.

Have you considered the use of Wall speaders?

>Jeremy Schonwald
CLT / BB electric

>Piotr Jagninski writes:

class="style11">>I'm pretty sure I've seen crash cameras taped to plane wings. You'd be >amazed what tape can hold if you spread it out over a large enough >surface area.

>Welcome to the Duct Tape BodyShop : REAL STORIES

>Don't skip the rest, but down near the bottom is the highly informative,

>"How to Rig Your Car to Shoot an Action Movie"

>Cliff Hancuff
Washington, DC

>Ross McWhannell wrote :

class="style11">>Often in these situations I would resort to bouncing a bigish HMI off the >ceiling, but this shoot requires alot of freedom of movement

>This almost never works for me as its almost impossible to control in a 360° situation.

>You don't mention the height, or how much room you have to work or what stop you need. One avenue is skirted china lanterns. You can go daylight or tungsten depending on windows/gel issues. They can be easily taped up and all hooked up on dimmers. You could build large coop lights by using several lanterns in a row and skirting them, etc. O

>n larger budgets I have the Key Grip gird out the room with speedrail, you end up with 4 or more vertical supports which can usually be hidden. Then you can hang whatever, wherever. You can also tape up Kino’s, sure. But you may have to skirt anyway. I often find a mixture of skirted China lights and K-5's for accent can do the trick very nicely and costs nothing. If you go this route the trick will be to control you windows relative to your sources. Assuming you will see windows.

>John Roche, gaffer


>John Roche wrote:

class="style11">>You don't mention the height, or how much room you have to work or >what stop you need.

>I do have a reasonable amount of height to play with and not a great deal of room to cover and there is a sort of archway half way down the room. I like the skirted "china's" idea, I hadn't considered that, could easily be taped up and would cause considerably less damage if they fell! Daylight balanced would be preferred as there are a number of shots involving people coming into the cafe through the main door.

>Had wondered about speedrail but have not used it in anger before so don’t really know a great deal about it and am not sure how easily the supports could be hidden given the space.

>As far as stop goes, I am shooting tape, so difficult to say. What is important, given the tape aspect, is to go some way to balancing the light level inside with the light outside and not have it completely white out.

>When you talk about china lanterns, are you referring to the 'industrial' variety, or the homemade paper variety? With regards the latter, is it possible to get high(ish) wattage daylight photofloods?

>Ross McWhannell
DP. Leeds, UK


You can get daylight balanced photofloods from most rental companies up to 500 watt.

>With regard to your options of China lanterns you have a couple of options

Chimera lanterns with the Chimera speed ring 9840 :



JEM springball :


19 Paper lanterns with the JEM harp lampholder :


> Paper lanterns with practical lampholders

>The main issue for you is heat any of the first three will give you a unit that’s capable of dealing with the heat generated by a 500 watt bulb, also as an off the shelf rental they may be a cheaper option than assembling the 4 option. The last should be assembled with the heat restrictions in mind.

>Of the 4 options listed above, they get lighter in descending order.

>You also have the option of using Joker bug lights as your daylight source inside a lantern.

>With regard to balancing the interior levels with the exterior, you could use Lee 275 Black scrim on the windows to reduce the exterior levels while allowing you to still see outside, Using the black on black scrim allows you to add ND gel to the outside of the scrim while reducing reflection issues

>Or if you have the budget Acrylic ND panels.


James Mc Guire

>Ross Mcwhannell writes :

class="style11">>Had wondered about speedrail but have not used it in anger before

>There were those 28 days with Joe Pytlak years ago that proved inspiring for this use ... but I can't advise due to my lack of experience.

>Cliff Hancuff
Washington, DC

>Something to consider - if you want to rig something across the span of the room, you might be able to put a couple of vertical supports at the wall - two by fours or two by sixes or steel pipe, for instance.

>There are a few times on location where I have done something like that and camouflaged the vertical support into the set with paint, wood grain contact paper, wallpaper, etc. In the case of the pipe, we painted it ugly to look like a steam radiator supply pipe(as you would fine in many old NY apartments. If you build it carefully, you can make a wooden grid that is forced up to the ceiling at the midpoint of the room you can cantilever quite far..

>Obviously this is very site and scene specific, but sometimes you can get away with murder...and a well placed coat stand with a couple of coats on it can hide 3/4 of a vertical pipe pretty easily.

>Mark Weingartner
LA based

>Have gone to fabric/materials store w/small lighting unit in hand. Found fabric which diffused light suitably.

>Purchased same & had seamstress stitch together what would/could effectively be called a tent for the whole classroom. Using timber-toppers & Bogen Auto-Poles & nylon cord w/Lowell Tota-Lights & gelled Fluorescents (mostly as fill), worked very, very well.

>Producer was happy as it looked right or real & we could pan everywhere & get f/2.8-4 split. (Luckily room was w/o windows.) Shooting classroom was easy for all 3 days & consistent regardless of time of day, etc.

>Have used this technique elsewhere but w/ROSCO sheets stapled to wood slats or hung over cubicles, etc. for office environment. And then a little practical light really sparkles (pun intended) in such space.

>Don Daso

>ACME Film & Video
Charlotte NC

>Ross McWhannell wrote :

class="style11">>"I have a shoot coming up which is set primarily in a Cafe..."

>What are the Cafe's dimensions? What is the ceiling made of (cement/drywall/drop-ceiling)? What is the budget?

>On a Champagne budget you could either uses Kino-flo's 'Bag-o-lite' (should keep the bulbs from raining down on your talent's heads) or a small Fisher Balloon (either in Tungsten or HMI).

>On a Peanut-Butter budget a bank of china-balls with photo-floods lightly secured to the ceiling (if they fall the ball will absorb most of the impact).

>Matt Efsic
Student DP, Brooks Institute of Photography
Ventura, CA

>Something else to consider would be in addition to what you can rig overhead--to be prepared to work something hand-held from the floor, either with batteries or a cable. I was running around today on set behind a steady-cam with a 2' 4 bank Kino on a short arm with some light-grid.

>Works great!

I have also been using the LED Lite-Panels as well. As a matter of fact today we taped two together, and the grip brothers made a nice mini 1x1 chimera with different diffusions I can Velcro on or off that is completely powered by the batteries on the panel-lites. By utilizing handheld floor lighting--we eliminated the need to bring the overall ambience up as much as we would have liked--and we got some light in the eyes.

All the best!

>Mike Ambrose
LA Based/Currently in SF

>Piotr Jagninski writes :

class="style11">>You'd be amazed what tape can hold if you spread it out over a large >enough surface area.

>Yes, but it's the way that it slowly insidiously creeps back off the surface at an unperceivable rate. Then BANG! something's on the floor.

>Clive Mitchell

>Thanks to everyone for their replies. I think I will be going with the skirted “china’s” route. probably of the semi-homemade variety.

>Ideally I want 500W bulbs in a fairly big lanterns (19" or there about). However I am having difficulty finding proper lampholders to keep the bulb in the middle, even tho they will mostly be static I am reluctant to put such a hot bulb in a paper housing without something to keep it away from the paper (am I over reacting here?).

>I am also having problems sourcing 500W and 250W daylight photofloods,

>Does anyone know where I can find decent lampholders and daylight photofloods in the UK?

>Many thanks again.

>Ross McWhannell
DP. Leeds, UK

>Ross Mcwhannell writes :

class="style12">>I am also having problems sourcing 500W and 250W daylight >photofloods,

class="style12">>Does anyone know where I can find decent lampholders and daylight >photofloods in the UK?

>I hate to have my contribution be about what you should not do, but if by "photoflood" you mean incandescent bulbs ... be aware, the colour temp of these daylight bulbs are about 4300 degrees, when brand new. Hour by hour of use they drop in colour temperature, until they burn out in about 6 hours.

>Keeping all the bulbs equally "aged", so they match colour is just one of your concerns.

>Six hour life means carrying a bunch of spares. If you intend to keep a colour balance, you have to change all the bulbs if one blows.

>I wish I could be of more help than just saying "not that".

>Cliff Hancuff
Washington, DC

>I'm looking at doing a similar setup in a few weeks, and one of the things I'm looking at is putting full spectrum compact fluorescents in big china balls. Two or three 60Ws in a 24" ball (or each in a smaller separate one) would be the rough equivalent of 600W incandescent, and should burn cool enough to be safe, they come in temps up to 6000K, the bulbs are built to last, and have electronic ballasts which screw into ordinary household sockets.

>Has anyone tried this? Am I missing an obvious down side?

>Steve Milligan
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

>I'm not sure what the standard is in the UK, but here in the US I take the guts of a standing lamp fixture -- a threaded hollow rod with a screw-on lamp socket on one end -- and wrap a paper lantern around it. A little bailing wire (thin gauge wire for holding things in place) securely mounts the lantern in place and then I can clamp the rod wherever I want using a maffer or other clamp.

>I like this rig because I can even put the lantern sideways without the bulb slipping to one side.

>Mitch Gross


>One thing to watch is when you contain--even "full spectrum" flo's in a confined space, over drive them, or wrap them in gel, the heat accumulation will lead to an intensity in the green spike. Just keep an eye on it and keep the flo’s ventilated as well as possible.

>Mike Ambrose
LA Based

class="style12">> I wish I could be of more help than just saying "not that".

>Its true these bulbs have a short life and are not ideal for certain projects, but I think you may be overstating the problem. I use these all the time. If I was putting this up for a week long shoot, I would attack the problem another way. I don't think you are going to see significant colour shifting between bulbs, or to put it another way who cares if they're 4500K or ones 4250K. Swap 'em out at lunch if you have to.

>Other options include using 85ND on windows if you have to gel anyway, then you can use tungsten bulbs.

>Buy porcelain sockets, wire and hang in centre of paper lantern (bulb cantered), secured so they can't slip etc. Be sure to use appropriate size lantern, i.e. don't use a 12 inch w/ a 500 watt bulb.

>Use paper for this application, chimera or jem are too bulky and heavy for this, pain to rig where you have nothing to rig from etc....much easier to tape up paper china lanterns, cheaper to boot. IMHO. This is the classic doc approach...

>Someone mentioned having Lights on floor, like a few Kino’s or what not. Not a bad idea if you need to fill in eyes. Maybe an obie or another china ball on a fishpole/dimmer rig (this works great). Keep the lights as low as you can- high for wide shots, then they can be lowered just out of frame when you move in for coverage. Lots of options here, depending on scene specifics, coverage, time, etc etc. Mount w/ enough extra zip cord so you can clothes pin up or down as necessary.

>If going daylight try to select correct wattage so you don't have to dim too much and change colour temp.

>Anyway my 2 cents.

>John Roche,

class="style12">>...one of the things I'm looking at is putting full spectrum compact >fluorescents in big china balls. Two or three 60Ws... would be the rough >equivalent of 600W incandescent, and...

>Yes, I have.

>I've tried this using four Ott Lite 20 watt swirl bulbs (5500K, 95 CRI) and three single male/twin female adaptors so I could put four in one bulbs in one socket assembly.

>I found out that 1.) these bulbs aren't designed for on set use – they are easily damaged despite costing close to $40 each) and 2.) the resulting Chinese lantern is significantly heavier than a traditional one using a photoflood.

>However, they don't get hot and the quality of the light is very nice.

>I once considered getting a three 4 bulb bathroom vanity bars and mounting them together to make my own relatively inexpensive wall-o-lite using compact fluorescents. But 12 of these bulbs would cost close to $500 which really discouraged me from trying this.

>Jessica Gallant
Los Angeles based Director of Photography
West Coast Systems Administrator, Cinematography Mailing List

>If you want to make daylight-balanced China balls, try these new low cost HMI units from a company called Alzo.


>Note: I have not used these lights but saw them recently at a trade show. I don't know if they are designed to work on anything but US standard 60hz/120v power. This is a very new product. But hey, only $111 for an HMI and replacement bulbs for $25 each!

>Mitch Gross

>John Roche writes :

class="style12">>Its true these bulbs have a short life and are not ideal for certain >projects, but I think you may be overstating the problem.

>I think you're probably right.

>As a still photographer I found great solstice in having every one of my lights within 50 degrees any other. I can't say this involved a terrible amount of work, other than the month's of testing before deciding which brand of lights to buy. No manufacturer, regardless of price (my testing included the most expensive brands), held a candle to an uncommon Japanese manufacturer, Comet.

>Colour accuracy, like lens sharpness, isn't something you can have too much of. You can always change it, but you can't add it if it's not there.

>(Yes, that statement is flawed, but you know what I mean)


Photofloods, if what you mean are these incandescent bulbs, are far more likely to be found in photo stores, than cine suppliers.

>Cliff Hancuff
Washington, DC

class="style12">> I'm looking at doing a similar setup in a few weeks, and one of the >things I'm looking at is putting full spectrum compact fluorescents in >big china balls.

class="style12">> Am I missing an obvious down side?

>Only that I'd ask myself with the fluoro tubes would I always really need the china balls.

>Sam Wells

class="style12">>Hour by hour of use they drop in colour temperature, until they burn out >in about 6 hours.

>Does the same apply to the tungsten variety? are the daylight bulbs just tungsten bulbs with tinted glass? its looking increasingly likely that I will have to get the windows.

>Ross McWhannell
DP. Leeds, UK

>Ross Mcwhannell writes :

class="style12">>Does the same apply to the tungsten variety? are the daylight bulbs just >tungsten bulbs with tinted glass? Itslooking increasingly likely that I will >have to get the windows.

>Tungsten/halogen are relatively colour stable, compared to incandescent (then again, so is everything). Both the incandescent and tungsten daylight bulbs are tinted blue.

>I'm backing off on significance the problems incandescent have, in your circumstance. I'm now thinking my pickiness is more than you need to worry about.

>There have been other suggestions that "look" pretty good, from my office chair.

>EVERY shoot involves "going with the budget", from Waterworld (well ... maybe not) to home videos.

>Sorry for the confusion.

>Cliff Hancuff
Washington, DC

>There's no law that says you have to use photofloods in a China Ball. I've rigged FEV (200w bulbs for inkies) and many other quartz lights inside lanterns. Just be careful that the bulb stays mounted to the middle and that you use a lantern large enough to handle the heat. You could even spray the paper with fire retardant. I recall reading in American Cinematographer that Michael Balhaus once used a 10k globe inside a huge paper lantern (I think it was for Age of Innocence).

>Just be sure that you're very confident in what you're doing or you'll start
a fire.

>Mitch Gross

class="style12">>"I've rigged FEV (200w bulbs for inkies) and many other quartz lights >inside lanterns".

>Excuse me Mitch but if you put a 500W photoflood bulb into the ball, you get a much much larger source that you will then diffuse, that with FEV.

>Balls with FEVs are a bit harsher in the light they produce than balls with photofloods. This shows more clearly if you use just one ball for your shot. (it is like adding dual layers of diffusion in front of a freshnel light - the layers must be separated if you ask for softer but still directional light)

>Best Regards

>Argyris Theos
Athens Greece

>One other thing to think about is reflections in the windows. If you don't have enough ceiling height, it may be virtually impossible to hang much from the ceiling.

>Mike Ambrose
LA Based

>Ross McWhannell wrote :

class="style12">>Does the same apply to the tungsten variety

>The big difference is bulb life. The tungsten will last the whole shoot, no question. Blues, depending on wattage are rated 3-6 hours. If changing is a hassle you can double bulb (easier w/ the larger lanterns) and have an a/b wiring.

>One other trick that can be useful is you can line the inside of the ball w/ alum foil. Not the whole thing of course but say 1/3 to 1/2 - this works good, for example, if you have one near a wall and don't want spill, makes it directional, so to speak.

>As someone mentioned be aware of window reflection issues. Rosocescrim inside, gel out side could solve. Of course, any lighting might be problem relative to windows, not just china lanterns. Sometime a properly place long horizontal teaser of duvatyne can solve the problem.

John Roche,