Cinematography Mailing List - CML



I'm shortly going to be lighting a large, urban night EXT and a bedroom INT to match it. I want my main light source to be lightning supplemented by practicals (i.e. windows, streetlamps etc). I'm shooting B&W 2:35, so colour temperature isn't really an issue.

I'm planning on using a 70,000 watt Lightning Strikes unit for the exterior, but I'm imagining that this alone won't be enough for the coverage I require. So, does anyone have any suggestions how I can simulate lightning using more conventional units such as HMI's and tungsten sources?

I'm also thinking that the Lightning Strikes unit will be too powerful for the interior set, so should I substitute that for other sources?

I'm also going to use rain (the full storm effect!), which I haven't done before, so any suggestions there would be helpful.

Any help would be enthusiastically received.

For interiors, the 25 and 40K Lightning Strikes are more than enough (somewhere 'round 1500 fc at 30 ft). Unless you...

...have HUGE sets ...are shooting 50 ISO ...need to shoot t-6.3 or higher at 500 ISO ...are layering 3 heavy gels onto your units

You get the idea. I usually leave the units clean, since by burning them out in overexposure you lose some saturation in their high Kelvin count.

Also, for exteriors, I think there's the 250K Striker.

And keep in mind that you may need a separate Genny for your Strikes.

Mark Doering-Powell

The best way to use these units IMHO is to use several dispersed throughout ther shooting area and slightly vary the timing. With enough budget, you can fire many from many different areas. In fact, I saw a LS demo that continualy had strikes from various angles to continuously light a music video with only strobes. But they do have a tendancy to overheat and therefore aren't always that dependable. I always order an extra head or two. >So, does anyone have any suggestions how I can >simulate lightning using more conventional units such as HMI's and tungsten >sources? Manual and electronic shutters are available for large source lamps such as 10k's and 12k's but sound may be an issue. There is also a unit available for lekos which incorporate a strobe in the head rather than a tungsten bulb. This incorporates a dimmer board to control output and speed of the flash. Might be too fast though. Of course, there is always the much loved open-arc scissor lamp which is just as scary as the name implies. Really gets everyones attention on the set when you dead short the two carbons as it makes a nice Frankenstein-like sound. (my personal fav)

Hope this helps.

Jim Sofranko

Try mirror foil on a wobbly piece of acrylic. Flapping it about with a lot of gusto can produce a good ambient, distant lightning effect. Not much good for a direct hard shadow through a window though. Worth experimenting with in advance. Making thunderous noises as you flap this giant mirror about gets some sympathy from rest of crew.


I remember a few years ago on a short we used a mixture of HMI's and tungsten units. I was a gaffer back then so they lumped this shot on me to achieve which they had to do for no money (typical short film makers). So I got a very old venetian blind - like lightning simulator from lee lighting and stuck it in front of the largest light they had (the 2.5 HMI sat outside the window) and left it closed. We lit the scene, a bedroom (say no more, say no more .... nudge nudge) and it was also supposed to rain (hosepipe down the window... the old ones are the best). Queue an assistant in front of the HMI flapping open this venetian blind to let the HMI slightly over expose the scene inside during the shot. I have to say it worked well. I wonder if Lee stil have those old things lying around?

Hope this helps

Mike Ogden

We had a similar need this year, but fortunately we were able to dig out of storage two shutters made for Navy signalling spotlights. They are complete with handles on the side that will flap the shutters open with the twist of a wrist. They fit nicely in front of 2500w HMIs via a simple bracket to hold them in the filter brackets.

Although they gave a visual horizontal bar effect to the scene when flashed, on film that wasn't apparent. We also could vary the freqency of the burst by how quickly we flapped the handles. The effect was very convincing.

Maybe these things can be found in surplus. That's where we got these years ago.

Wade Ramsey, DP

>I got a very old venetian blind - like lightning simulator from lee > >lighting and stuck it in front of the largest light they had

I tried this in front of a Big eye 10K with a Lee "shutter" (at least I think it was Lee) and it worked fairly well except that it was an older shutter and squeeked something awful when the assistant open and closed it. Also had some light leaks. In the end, we just rented a lightning strikes. So, I would suggest you check it out before it leaves the shop or get some shutters for the home. I have relatives is Israel that have these great shutters on their windows - seals the light COMPLETELY. Perfect for those late afternoon siestas. I always thought these or something like them would have a use on the set. (That for Geoff who may have thought that I was writing to the Home Renovation Mailing List - HRML) Anyway, I remember a shoot where the gaffer rigged the Lightning Strikes trigger to the studio's "bells" which was in the hands of the sound department - fun!!

Ari Haberberg

I'll be doing a promo soon in which they want to use Lightning Strikes. It's not for a lightning effect, but rather as punctuation to introduce a character. I thought about using a shutter but the director wants rapid flashes. I'm not familiar with lightning strikes (other than what their web site offers). It won't be the key but will go to white so I don't have to place the value as precisely. Any advice? Any pitfalls I should know about?

I know that this has been mentioned before... Get a second generator or independent power source for your lightning strikes.

It's probably a good idea to get twice as many heads as you think you'll need.

They have a tendency to overheat and trip out once an enthusiastic director gets his hands on them.


Thanks for the advice concerning lighting strikes. Although we're interior and a separate power supply would be a problem, I'll make the gaffer aware of the possibility of power problems. But I have another question. Since the duration of the blast of light is presumably very short, is there any problem synching up with the shutter? Do you have to link the camera and the light like with Uni-lux or other strobes?

Marty Mullin

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