I've got a project coming up that is essentially a music video but, it's set in the early 1800s Newcastle-Upon-Tyne (UK). The music is based on a diary from the time and has been especially commissioned and is in the folk style of the that period.
This is my first "period" set shoot, and I was wondering if anyone - (who might have shot anything set in this time period) - knew of any good places to do research as to the existing lighting at the time (interior and night exterior mainly)? I want to be as authentic as possible in terms of the feel/tone of the lighting.
We're shooting s16mm.
Grateful for any advice,
Mattias Nyberg - Director of Photography - London
Gaslights, oil lamps, sunlight, candles.
"I've got a project coming up that is[...]set in the early 1800s Newcastle-Upon-Tyne (UK)."
Interior lighting, be it candle light, gas light or firelight would have all be around the 2000 Kelvin mark (at best); extremely warm.
Depending on your staging madness lies the way of trying to make any authentic light sources really work for you. If gas sconces, candles or oil lamps appear in frame be prepared with plenty of tiny supplemental sources to help out. Kino Microflos, 'peanut' bulbs dimmed down and these new fangled miniature LED fixtures will all help cast light from seemingly realistic sources in frame. Various grades of CTS will help them match candles etc.
From tests years ago even double wicked candles will have burnt out to a pure white before they've cast enough illumination to bring someone’s face up to a ruddy orange at less than 2' away. Unless you're thinking of shooting only close-ups I wouldn't pursue that route too far.
The best rendition of candle light in a recent film that I can think of is Alex Melman's work on The Libertine. A lot of candles were used off camera and everyone ended up with pretty blackened nostrils from what I hear.
This sounds kind of like one of the features I shot which took place in a rural Texas at the start of the Great Depression. The main location was a small farm house that didn't have electricity, so the lighting for all night shots had to be motivated by a small oil lamp.
For most of the interior scenes, the oil lamp was in frame. I did this for two reasons - it establishes the motivation for the light and it provides a bright point of contrast against the rest of the frame to keep it from looking to murky.
Then, depending on how bright the oil lamp was suppose to turned up,
the scene was lit by either a tiny Chinese lantern or a really big string of Christmas tree lights just off frame. Initially, the director didn't want me using a back light but she eventually agreed after watching the dailies and an extremely subtle backlight helped tremendously to give the image some depth and keep it from looking too flat.
For the night exteriors, we used either a small fresnel with CTB and a brancheloris (for small areas) or for larger areas we used a 575 watt fresnel and a couple of kinos for fill on the farm house (3-4 stops under key), just enough to keep it barely visible. And a lot of insert shots of the full moon as motivation for this light.
>>"'The girl with a pearl earring' is also a pretty decent reference.
Aye. There Will Be Blood had some refreshingly simple 'single source' lamp scenes an' all.
Perhaps organise yourself a little day trip here: http://www.beamish.org.uk/
Yes, we are indeed shooting there. Our tech recce is only 4 days before the shoot, have you (or anyone else?) shot there? Thoughts?
If gas sconces, candles or oil lamps appear in frame be prepared with plenty of tiny supplemental sources to help out.
It feels like this is the way to go (Jessica & Dan suggests the oil lamp look as well) - and it would fit the budget! I'm also thinking with all these oil lamps, candles, open fires etc I'd need a smoke/mist machine. Interiors for the common man must have been quite smoky and sooty back in those days.
For city night exteriors then I was thinking of keeping the look going with in shot period practical’s and maybe a couple of spring balls gelled to suit off frame. (Soon enough I'll hear "we can't get those they're extinct/too expensive" and the plan goes out the window but until then a boy can dream.)
Furthermore, we are on the look-out for a grip and a spark from the Newcastle area. Does anyone have any suggestions? I worked with a great grip up there about 5 years ago called Geoff, I haven't got his number anymore, he'd be in his late 50s now...anyone know who I mean?
Gaslights, oil lamps, sunlight, candles.
Got sunlight on order but they say delivery to Newcastle in November is tough...
"Yes, we are indeed shooting there Our tech recce is only 4 days before the shoot, have you (or anyone else?) shot there? Thoughts?"
I think I went there on a school trip in about 1987. Though it would seem to run counter to the spirit of the place if it's changed much since then.
For a Gaffer try Tony Cook M:07850 641437
Your most local lighting rental will be PKE LIGHTING T: 01942 678424 who are generally excellent.
As for period lighting using candles "Barry Lyndon" springs to mind, although Kubrick and the DOP John Alcott had to produce a number of technical innovations (f Stop 0.7.., using lenses from the NASA moon landings) in order to produce a usable negative. From what I can remember on articles read they used the fastest film available at the time and pushed it by one or two stops. A search around might give you more info.
Groundbreaking for the time and interesting to watch, might give you some ideas.