Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Lights In The Air - Condors

I am shooting a huge night exterior in a pretty wide open space. I need to light up as much area as I can afford with a moonlight-type source.

I am considering putting a 20K on a condor or other such lift. I have never rented a condor before and I am wondering what the best and most affordable way of getting this would be. Where is a good place around LA? What other types of lifts are there for me to use? What kind of transportation will they require?

I will need to place it on a somewhat inclined dirt road; how will this effect my decision? I might have access to a scissor lift. How would this work? Be as specific as you can.

Also...I was considering a lighting balloon. It seems this would be more expensive, and I am a little worried about wind. I appreciate any thoughts on balloons and how it compares to the condor in terms of time and money.

Thank you for your help.

David Jones

A little more info might help members of the list to give you better advice.

Stock? HD? 16? 35?

How big is the area you need to cover?

What stop do you want to shoot at?

Budget level? (Can you afford a Musco Truck?)

How big a factor is the wind?

Do you want your moonlight hard or soft? Directional?

There are many ways to skin this cat.

Andrew Gordon
Regina, Saskatchewan

You've got a ton of options here. Starting with lifts, go for a 40-60' for height. If you can hide behind a building or out of shot, get a scissor lift; they're cheaper. If not, a 60' "zoom boom" will be more than sufficient.

You'll require a lamp operator with a lift ticket and a harness as well. For mounts, start with a candlestick or condor mount rental. If this cannot be had, a pipe rig and a pipe to 2k receiver will do the job.

Consider a grip helper or a frame holder to accommodate color and diffusion frames, along with safety chains, drop lines and weather cover.

For lighting : a 20k, a pair of dinos, 3 9-lights or a couple of 12k pars all have desirable effects.

You may have to throw a separate genny down if you can't run cable the distance, a 400amp tow genny is more than sufficient for a 20k. Also, think about augmenting your main backlight with a couple small sources as well. A couple of parcans with VNSP bulbs can pool light in those hard to reach spaces.

If you go with dinos or 9-lights, mix up the bulbs in a checker pattern, using VNSP and medium can make for a beautiful mottled source with both punch and spread.

Good luck, work safe and make it beautiful.

Patrick Thompson

Can't beat the BeBee Night light. Every head remote controllable with a video camera to aim each head and comes with its own generator and truck.

Set up and struck in 15min. Yes, it's expensive but once you offset it with extra generator, time savings and no rigging time you're better off, do the math.

I'm not associated with BeBee but love their product.

Florian Stadler
D.P., L.A.

>…get a scissor lift; they're cheaper.

Even though the scissor is cheaper, I'd spring for the condor anyway. You said the lift might be on unlevel ground, so you're going to have to level it before it goes up. So once you the park and level the scissor, you'd better be happy with it's position. There's no " just move it 10 feet that way" without bringing it down and going through the whole process again. With the condor, you have the full arc of the arm to dance the light around without moving the base at all. And personally, after spending much time in lifts outdoors, I'd rather be in a condor than a scissor lift any day.

Also, make sure you know the weight limit on the bucket of the condor. Most all condors have a working limit of 500lbs for the full range of motion on the arm. Some are rated at 1,000lbs, but only for a certain portion of that arc ie. NOT armed out and fully extended.

Just know what you've got and how much light, cable and electrician you're putting in the bucket. Another plus is that you can operate the condor from the ground, if you want to sacrifice putting a person in the bucket for more lights.


Paul Niccolls
Key Grip/NYC

Thank you all for such informative responses. As of now I have the lights, 20K and a couple of 9 lights. I will try the checkerboard approach with the 9 lights. Unfortunately, due to the remote location - about 1 hr away where highway 5 meets 138 – I am having trouble keeping the cost of a lift within our short film's budget.

It seems boom lift is the way to go. So...does anyone have any good ideas about how to find one for less? Is there a CML-Producer?

Thank you again.

David Jones

Congrat's on getting the lighting...... now for the lift!

Try seducing a construction company into loaning you a JLG boom or similar with the promise of repeat business. Lure them with future business and some publicity shots for marketing; having "film cranes & motion picture support" in an ad can do wonders for a crane business.

This may seem a little underhanded, but hey, if it gets you a lift........

If your short has received any arts grants, the company renting the crane may be eligible for a tax credit. A little homework here may save you a few bucks.

As for the other suggestions....The Bebee light is sweet if you have the budget, without a doubt the nicest fixture out there.

Also, check out the MUSCO light :

plus the Dwight Crane LRX and Piranah

Patrik Thompson

Copyright © CML. All rights reserved.