Home of Professional Cinematography since 1996

Security Laser Gag

Published : 4th August 2003


Hello,

I have a commercial coming up where we have a scene that involves 3 kid spys encountering and navigating an elaborate array of laser security beams. 20-40 stationary beams in all. The art department has looked into actual lasers but as the actors are all 10 years old (not that safety should end at any age!), production would like to forgo using the them and have us find a work around that will play realistically and be "safer" to any one who happens to look into a beam. Due to the way the scene plays out, the effect needs to be accomplished practically on location. The scene happens at night in a giant warehouse ambient lit with "moonlight". Obviously we will add atmosphere to show the beams. The scene will be shot on 5218 at 32fps if that matters at all. My gaffer and I are looking into rock and roll i-beam solutions but I was wondering if anyone here had faced this before and solved it any a clever way that they might be willing to pass on.

Thanks much,

Kristian Dane Lawing
www.danelawing.com
DP NYC/NC


Dane Lawing wrote :

> The effect needs to be accomplished practically on location.

Why?

Any road up, wouldn't it be easiest to use string to mimic the path of the beams (brightly coloured/reflective string natch) on set and replace it with red laser beams in post?

Tom Townend,
Cinematographer/London.


>wouldn't it be easiest to use string to mimic the path of the beams

Perhaps...and it's a good idea, however the director, who believe it or not, is also a SFX Supervisor at Nickelodeon, believes that the practical beams will enhance the drama and help the young actors. Also they are wearing black reflective clothing and black sunglasses that will have to show the beams reflections in a lot of tracking shots where they are weaving themselves in and out of the many beams.

Given that I just have to believe that the effect will be more convincing if done practically. And (perhaps most important), he has already blown his post budget whereas I have a generous G/E budget that can afford it. However, I could just be digging myself a big hole of trouble here...?

Kristian Dane Lawing
www.danelawing.com
DP NYC/NC


Dane Lawing wrote :

>the director[...]believes that the practical beams will enhance the drama >and help the young actors.

I'm confused then as to what the possible danger to the talent the lasers would pose. If they're wearing black sunglasses (in moonlight!) then can't the
sunglasses be jiggered to provide complete occlusion of the eye socket and then the back of the lenses ground up a little to further diffuse the path of a beam aimed directly at the eye?

Unless you were planning to smoke up the atmosphere with burning rubber tyres and use VULCAN Petawatt lasers I can't see the problem.

Tom Townend,
Cinematographer/London.



I've done this effect quite a lot in Lego commercials and we've always added the beams in post.

It's faster, more cost effective and looks better!

Cheers

Geoff Boyle FBKS

Director of Photography
EU based
www.cinematography.net

> elaborate array of laser security beams. 20-40 stationary beams in all.

Dane,
IF you decide to try it with a bit of smoke and hand lasers, etc, this outfit below carries a good variety a low cost.

http://www.glow-bug.com/

cheers,
Morgan Evans



I worked with I beams once on a magician's demo tape. Your atmosphere has to be pretty heavy to have the beam show up well enough to look like a laser. We were using fog machines that were part of the effect so I'm not sure how that will play out in your script. You might consider adding them digitally in post.

Marty Hamrick
photojournalist/cinematographer
WJXT TV
Jacksonville, Florida


>I once mounted a500W profile (CCT minuette) on a geared head to simulate a laser eye scan. I suggest, rather than looking into expensive rock-'n-roll whizz bang units that take a lot of time to set up and programme, to use straight forward profiles (lekos) with decent optics and narrow beams. Your best bet would probably be the ETC Source four range.

Get some gobos (metal projection slides) with circular holes from either Rosco, Lee or DHA and some primary red gel for the light. Focus the narrow beam as sharp as you can and shutter off the unwanted holes in the gobo. 650Watt units should be bright enough for the job.

Good luck

Roger Simonsz
DP
Paris


I've just uploaded a QT file that shows the effect of using string that is then replaced with CG.

www.cinematography.net/spy.htm

Cheers

Geoff Boyle FBKS

Director of Photography
EU based
www.cinematography.net



Hello Dane,

For shots where the actors do not pass through the beams I have had success with strands of electroluminescent wire stretched across the set. Perfect for reflections with added bonus of interactive glow- a "live beam" feel to for your young talent. I suppose you could still replace it in post if needed.

Available in many "laser" colors and thicknesses, try:

http://www.coolneon.com/

http://lightgod.com/store/default.asp?catid=6

One can order pre-wired sections up to 20' or so, or any length of raw wire but it takes some tricky soldering to wire up the power drivers.

Best,
Alan Jacobsen
Gaffer - NYC



Wow, Geoff, beautiful spot!

I remember (I think the original) Pink Panther has a laser beam gag in the museum sequence. You don't see the lasers until the thief sprays an aerosol mist in the air.

>Great touch, because it keeps the atmosphere extremely localized, and it's a nice bit of action, too.

What about Xenon flashlights?

Chris Mosio
Cinematographer/Seattle