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Wednesday, 15 July 2009 11:04

Lighting for Reality TV

Written by  John Law
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In a vast, 65,000-square-foot warehouse in downtown L.A., 10 people are left stranded in a forbidding, post-apocalyptic new world. This is the setup behind “The Colony,” a new reality show produced by Thom Beers Original Productions that will air on the Discovery Channel later this year...

In a vast, 65,000-square-foot warehouse in downtown L.A., 10 people are left stranded in a forbidding, post-apocalyptic new world. In their former lives they were doctors, mechanics, lawyers, engineers and short-order cooks, but now ─ in order to survive ─ they must apply their old skills and develop new ones so they can build a civilization in a devastated world. This is the setup behind “The Colony,” a new reality show produced by Thom Beers Original Productions that will air on the Discovery Channel later this year.

The show is being lit and shot by DP Cameron Glendenning, part of the Emmy award-winning team that shot “Deadliest Catch,” and whose credits include the trailblazing reality show “The Osbournes.” “We’re about halfway through the two-month, 24/7 shoot, which we do docu-style,” Glendenning says. “We cover the cast in one form or another 24 hours a day, six days a week, so it’s a huge, very intensive shoot, and lighting it is a major challenge.” The DP and his team are using the new Sony HD-XD 700 cameras rented from Wexler Video. “[The cameras] are incredibly light-sensitive,” he reports. “It’s by far the fastest camera I’ve ever used. And when I began doing lighting tests on the set, I ended up rating them at 2000 ASA, which blew me away.

“[Based on the show’s concept] there is no motivation for any light at night in this huge warehouse beyond the moon,” Glendenning notes. “So our goal was to recreate moonlight, and all our fixtures are outside the building.” The DP is using 280 1K Par Cans rigged with Par Bars on the roof, with brushed-silk diffusion and full ctb at the lamps and 1,000 yards of one-fourth China silk on the building’s south-side windows, as well as two Maxi Brutes on a 60-foot Condor to simulate moonlight. “The reason I’m lighting this way is because this warehouse is such a vast, beautiful space, and I wanted to keep the big, wide shots intact. So I did everything I could to keep all the fixtures outside. I only have two fixtures inside the main space, basically for emergency daylight fill. The main one is an old Paramount Studios 4K HMI we call ‘the chicken coop,’ which gives me a big, beautiful soft light. We’re also using four Mini Brutes with 250 [kW] and full ctb, four Babys hung here and there, where we just couldn’t get windows to shoot through, four [Mole-Richardson] Tweenies, two Kino Flo Divas, a Redhead with Chimera, two 6K flicker boxes, a 2400-amp generator and six 4x4 mirror boards.”

During the show, the cast will generate their own electricity, and as the series evolves they’ll develop their own lighting. “Our moonlight isn’t really enough for their living environment,” Glendenning explains. “So I supplement their light with the Flicker Boxes for firelight, and add some stuff as needed. That’s an ongoing process throughout the shoot. And we also have an HMI package with a couple of 4Ks and a couple of 1200s that we’re running for daylight interviews and things like that.”

All of the show’s lights are rented from Cinelease. “[The show is] incredibly challenging to light, especially simulating natural moonlight over 50 shooting days,” Glendenning concludes.

Chimera
www.chimeralighting.com

Cinelease
http://cinelease.com

Condor
www.condorlighting.com

Kino Flo
www.kinoflo.com

Mole-Richardson
www.mole.com

Paramount Studios
http://www.paramountstudios.com/

Sony
www.sony.com/professional

Wexler Video
www.wexler.tv

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