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class="Paragraph" Police Car Lights

class="Paragraph" Published : 11th February 2004

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I'm shooting a night exterior that involves a parked police car with it's red and blue alert lights on. Having not yet tested, can anyone offer advice on how to enhance this effect with a tungsten package? I've thought about using leko's or Dedo's pointing into rotating mirrors, though I'd need to come up with some kind of spinny mirror gag. Or can additional "cop light bars" be rented and placed outside of the frame? We're shooting 5218 @ T2.

Thanks in advance,

Andrew Huebscher
Cinematographer [So. Cal. Based]
www.andrewDP.com


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A cheap and very effective way using 2 2K Fresnel’s ( you might want 2 or 3 gags) is the following :

- Buy 3 cheap 12" by 12" mirrors at home depot
- Mount them on a pancake in a triangle, with babyplate at bottom at gravitational centre.
- Mask each mirror with black photo tape so the centre of the mirror creates a circle.
- Mount on a C-Stand
- Point the 2K's with appropriate gels into the mirror rig from both sides and aim reflection towards subject you want to hit
- Put a grip on spinning the pancake at a speed of your desire or come up with some motorized system if need be
- Caution: this rig could cause some sound problems, have W-40 ready, otherwise works like a charm

Hope this helps

Florian Stadler
D.P., L.A.


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We usually use mirror boxes...these are very simple rigs made of those heavy duty milk crates flipped upside-down with a pigeon plate bolted into the floor [now the roof], the guys attach 12" mirror tiles to the 4 sides and mount these mirror boxes on light stands.

A Source-4 leko or par light is slammed into the mirrors...usually 2 lighting units per box....and we usually use 3 or more boxes together.

You can color gel the lights or the mirrors directly.

Have fun!

Cheers,
Jeff Barklage, s.o.c.
US based DP
www.barklage.com


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My Key Grip built us one of these last year with the mirrors tilted down at a 45 degree angle. That way he was able to mount the units below and pointing up. The rig was all mounted on a doorway dolly so we could have our "police car" pull up to our picture vehicle. Very effective.

Mitch Gross
NYC DP


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All of the previous posts are great ideas.

One more thing...

Go to a hardware store and buy a few lazy Susan "rotators" found in the cabinet section. They comprise two metal plates with ball bearings in between. Make a plywood base that the box can rotate on and screw the baby base plate on the bottom. Screw the lazy Susan rotator between the mirror box and the base. Put the contraption into the C-stand at whatever angle suits you. This will solve the sound problem. Add as much light as you need...

Cheers,

Andrew Gordon
Gaffer
Regina, Saskatchewan
Canada


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>All of the previous posts are great ideas.
>One more thing...Go to a hardware store and buy a few lazy Susan " >rotators"


It all sounds Rube Goldberg to me. Why not just rent a few light bars. It¹s cheap and guess what, you get real police lights without having to spend a day building simulations.

Walter Graff
Bringing the imagination to life
Hellgate Pictures, Inc.
BlueSky, Inc.
444 E. 82 Street
New York, NY 10028
www.film-and-video.com


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>-Point the 2K's with appropriate gels into the mirror rig from both sides >and aim reflection towards subject you want to hit

Medium or narrow flood PAR64 also pack a big punch. I use them when doing that rig cause they make smaller more focused beams.

Daniel Villeneuve, c.s.c.
Directeur-Photo/Director of Photography
Montréal, Canada
http://pages.infinit.net/davil


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Walter Graff wrote :

>Why not just rent a few light bars. It’s cheap and guess what, you get real >police lights without having to spend a day building simulations.

This is the equivalent of the scene in raider of the lost ark where some dude pulls out a knife to menace the Harrison Ford character and after a pause Harrison pulls out his gun and shoots the knife wielder.

Keep in mind Walter, we are in NYC and we can rent almost anything. When you are in on location in east cowturd, the lazy Susan and milk crate with mirrors are probably easier, and allow some people to burn off
some excess creativity.

Mark Smith DP
Oh Seven Films Inc.


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Mark Smith writes :

>Keep in mind Walter we are in NYC and we can rent almost anything.

Mark,

Those light bars are easy to find in Chicago and the original question came from Andrew Huebscher Cinematographer [So. Cal. Based] I don't think it would be much of a problem there.

Steve Golden, DP/International Cinematographers' Guild
Chicago, IL 60607


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Walter Graff wrote :

>It all sounds Rube Goldberg to me. Why not just rent a few light bars.

Long ago on a very low budget feature in the middle of nowhere, we just got a local policeman to bring his car over. Worked great! No rental, no construction, fee was paid in donuts, as I recall.

Jeff Kreines


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The main reason to make these units rather than rent them is the need for a much stronger footcandle output.

BTW, I love the "east cowturd" comment!

Cheers,

Jeff Barklage, s.o.c.
US based DP
www.barklage.com


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> When you are in on location in east cowturd…

OTOH Having worked with a few of them farm boys in East Cowturd I can tell ya you can do effects that'd get you a vaca on Rikers if you tried them in NY NY......

Sam Wells


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>You are right about the output situation and making your own lights.

A 17 inch Tomar Heliobe strobe Lightbar with 12 xenon lamps is brighter than anything you could build, compact, and easy to take anywhere. Personally unless I was looking for some extreme effect, I'd still opt for the real thing. With UPS, Fed Ex and all the other shipment methods, even if you were in pig screw, Alaska, you could have a light bar very easy. And the best thing is that every state has companies that sell and rent police bars because every state has municipal police forces. Even better a call to a manufacturer such as Whelen will get you whatever you need cause they love to know that their lights are the ones you choose to show in your movie or TV show. Or even better in the smaller towns, they love the notoriety and a simple call to a police station usually can get you the entire police car.

We did it three years ago in Dayton, Ohio. It was for a record company internal piece. We needed was a car to pull up to a record execs childhood house to have his parents 'arrested' for having him in the first place. They ended up sending two cars for our use.

I've seen all those effects created with home built lights and they look phoney to me.

Walter Graff
Bringing the imagination to life
Hellgate Pictures, Inc.
BlueSky, Inc.


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Walter,

I know that you have everything at your disposal in NYC. I know you have unlimited budgets to work with. I know all of your producers are skilled and talented people who know the value of money.

The key grip I work with built our mirror boxes years ago and we pull them out so that we can do the police light gag when we have to do it, two or three times a year. They took about two hours to build. We use the mirrors to supplement the light from the real cars that are actually in the frame.

We might live in "butt f***" or "cow pie" or "pig screw" but we pay attention to new technology and make it possible for producers to make films in our area with experienced crew. When we can save them money on shipping and rentals, they thank us.

This list is invaluable to people who need to make quality images with not alot of money. Ingenuity is a precious resource and we put it to good use here on the prairies.

Oh yes, I own two police light bars as well...

Cheers,

Andrew "living in cow pie and making it work" Gordon
Gaffer
Regina, Saskatchewan
Canada


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Andrew Huebscher wrote :

>...Or can additional "cop light bars" be rented and placed outside of the >frame? We're shooting 5218 @ T2.

After reading Jim Sofranko’ s attempt to modify an thread that has become unnecessarily testy, I went back to read all the posts, finally ending with Andrew's original request. All I can say is that if you're shooting 5218 at T-2, I can't recall any police light bar that wouldn't register nicely.

Virtually every one I've seen in the last couple of years is certainly hot enough. I've shot a lot of night shots on 18 in the last few weeks and it's amazing.

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614


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I'd just like to take a moment to state that as much as Walter's incredible depth of knowledge in such esoteric never ceases to impress me, it also frightens me in some way. Some day I'm going to wake up and Mr. Graff will have plugged Big Brother into my brain. In the nicest possible way of course, but with really long run-on sentences with tons of empirical data connected.

Mitch Gross
NYC DP


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>I'd just like to take a moment to state that as much as Walter's >incredible depth of knowledge in such esoteric never ceases to impress >me, it also frightens me in some way.

That day is coming Mitch. In fact it may have already arrived and our conscience simply isn't aware of it. Big Brother? We have a new term to describe it. But what the US government is about to do with CTS (Combat Zones That See) is even more dangerous. With my system, we will know who you are and play ads that interest you based on a database of preferences we know you like and speak in your language, very personalized.

With the governments CTS all the info on you is used to track your every move. Take the hundreds of thousands of cameras that are in the US and tie them to a fuzzy logic computer in a system called 'Distributed Video Tracking' that will know who you are (based on face recognition software), what you do and how you do it and determine if what you are doing is good or bad. And signal people for appropriate action. Think it's all a movie, it's starting to become a network as we speak. And it comes to you from DARPA, the department of defences organization that created such things as the internet. And we thought the internet was in our homes for 'us' to get tons
of information.

Walter Graff
Hellgate Pictures, Inc.
BlueSky, Inc.


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You can purchase an LED police light. It's sometimes referred to as a visor light -- it can flip down from the visor for unmarked cars.

They are extremely bright, extremely light -- less than 6 oz., and compact (approx. 10x4x1") run on 12vdc so they can run off a camera battery. They can be purchased at most police gear companies. They have a microprocessor built in so you can program all kinds of flashing programs. I have one called "Sho-Me"

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP


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As the original poster of this seemingly infinite thread, I would like to thank everyone who has responded for their invaluable input. I have more information than I could have ever imagined, and it proves that there's always several ways of accomplishing something.

I was all set to build a 12" mirror triangle rig until I got to scout the car today. We're shooting near Victoria, BC, and their police car light bars have coloured strobe lights which alternate on and off -- no spinning parabolic reflectors! This makes the job easier as I plan to rent some industrial grade strobes, slap some party-color on them, and flick the switch. Of course, I'll need to run tests.

> All I can say is that if you're shooting 5218 at T-2...

> Wade K. Ramsey, DP


On a sad note, 5218 was cut from my budget and we'll shoot on 79. Then again, I would have been fine with this last October.

Andrew Huebscher
Cinematographer [So. Cal. Based]


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Andrew,

5279 is a better stock, just my opinion hope you have a great shoot!

Sincerely,

Bing Sokolsky, ASC
http://www.bingsokolsky.com


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Just to add my 2 cents...

I had to do a police light gag once with no money for anything fancy...

So I got a 90 degree 2k pin so I could side mount a 4x4 mirror. Threw a few pars into it and boom. I wish it could have been something better but it looked real on film. Just remember you will have to bag the crap out of the stand cause you know how heavy those mirrors are.

Oh and you can brace it with a C-stand on the opposite side.

Maurice Jordan
Gaffer
West Hollywood, CA


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                 (Another thread of posts along the same topic lines)

>Apologies if this is a reposted question.

Doing a Exterior Day/Dusk scene where I would like to have the effect of a spinning red police car light (am open to anything similar) on the foreground talent. The fixture itself would not be in frame.

Unfortunately don't have the budget for the actual LED police car light.

Any ideas/suggestions would be appreciated.

Dan Schmeltzer
San Francisco


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Just buy/ rent a large red police beckon from any DJ/ Concert lighting supplier. At dusk it should be bright enough. In LA a place I know of is called Towards 2000 (818) 557 - 0903 . . . they have all sorts of items of that nature for rent.

Kevin Zanit


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>Doing a Exterior Day/Dusk scene where I would like to have the effect of >a spinning red police car light (am open to anything similar) on the >foreground talent.

The classic "whirligig" as it is called, is done with a double header.

One unit on each end of the double header, gelled red and blue or whatever. Molepars are sometimes used, but you choose whatever units are appropriate for your light level, film speed, etc. Remember that those heavy gels eat up a lot of light, so choose a healthy unit. It doesn't really have to be a double header, of course, two stands would do also.

It's not nearly as elegant as the rental units (which are fairly cheap and readily available, by the way) or some other ways of doing it, but it's basic and can be built with stuff that's on almost any truck.

Electricians are required to operate it and the hang up is always the wire getting wrapped around the mount.

If you don't need them to "pan," it can be done with squeezers, Variac's or best of all: a programmable dimmer board. This is plausible as many real police units don't spin anymore.

If the shot is long and the electrics need to pan back and forth to avoid overly wrapping the wires, they may need to switch on and off (to avoid having the lights pan both ways). This can cause a problem for sound in some cases.

There are many ways to do this and other people will no doubt suggest some interesting ones, but the whirligig is the old tried and true method.

Blain Brown
DP
LA


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>Doing a Exterior Day/Dusk scene where I would like to have the effect of >a spinning red police car light (am open to anything similar) on the >foreground talent.

A popular technique I've used in the past is the rotating mirrors. You stick three mirrors of the same size in a triangle shape (reflective side on the outside); sit them on a pad with all the mirrors standing up at 90 degrees, setup two lights one with red gel one with blue, set them up at different angles opposite to each other (pointed into the "triangle mirror"). Spin the mirror gig round and round on a stand. I've even seen some motorized gigs like this. Lairds FX in Toronto has it.

The light reflects off the mirrors into actor's faces and off the background nicely. I hope my explanation helps.

Vinit Borrison
DP - Toronto ON


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Blain Brown wrote :

>There are many ways to do this and other people will no doubt suggest >some interesting ones, but the whirligig is the old tried and true method.

I built an insane one once. Mounted on a wheel chair so it could move. Two gelled Inkies, and flags to interrupt them, Made the flags rotate, gave a convincing light, pushed and operated by one person and a mess of C-stand Arms and heads.

We had about 3 hours to kill so we built this thing.

Steven Gladstone
Cinematographer - Gladstone Films
Cinematography Mailing List - East Coast List Administrator
Better off Broadcast (B.O.B.)
New York, U.S.A.


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We had a pretty good effect by putting three small fresnel's (pepper 100s) on mafers with coloured gels. lights aimed out in three directions, on top of a C stand we loosened the top riser so it just sets there and A grip spun it back and forth. Gotta be the lowest tech replacement for LEDs on the planet. Looked OK though and was very controllable for intensity as easy to move in and out against various characters close-ups.

T J Williams