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Lighting a haunt for video...

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  • Lighting a haunt for video...

    Hey guys,

    I have a question... what's the best way to light a haunt for video so that it still looks dark and scary, but still vibrant on video? Scott? Anybody?

    Thanks in advance! -Tyler
    Chris Riehl

  • #2
    Larry is a big fan of holding a small flashlight up next to the camera. It lights the small area you want to see, but makes everything else still appear very dark.
    Kip Polley

    Pale Night Productions
    We Engineer Fear


    • #3
      what's the best way to light a haunt for video so that it still looks dark and scary, but still vibrant on video?

      It's very subjective. The real answer is that you need a lot of light to make the video look good. However, your live scene will suffer as a result.

      Video cameras cannot distinguish detail in very bright areas or very dark areas. Film cameras on the other hand have a lot more latitude. Then of course the human eye can see things in the dark and in bright areas that not even the best film cameras can capture.

      If there is no action is the low-light scene and you have control over your shutter speed and aperture on your camera, you can shoot it with a wide open aperture and a very low shutter speed. However, if there is any movement in the shot it will look blurry and ghost-like. Sometimes you can use the ghost-like effect to your advantage. If there is no action in the shot and you are just interested in capturing the scene on video only, just add more lighting. You can always darken the scene on post.

      Based on my experiences, for live action scenes, it's best to light the scene for the haunt audience and use an on board camera light for captureing video. Most video cameras have an accessory shoe slot that you can slide a camera light into. It's best to get a dimmable light that has a diffusion gel of soft box. Something that will diffuse the light. L.E.D. video camera lights are great. They use very little power and provide a nice color temperature.

      If you need to work on the cheap then I suggest a high powered flashlight that has a wide angle range. Cut out a piece of translucent plastic from a plastic milk jug and tape it over the light. This will diffuse the light. Then, at some physical location in your scene do a manual white balance with your video camera while your flashlight is on. Then start shooting.

      Another important thing to remember is to white balance on a regular basis. If you are lighting parts of your haunt with Fluorescent bulbs your whites will look yellow. Some haunts use a mixture of Florescent and incandescent builds. Your colors will look different on video under each light type if you do not take the time to do a white balance.

      A lot of consumer style video cameras (i.e. the ones you can get at Best Buy) do not have manual shutter and aperture control. Also, some have auto white balance only. You really want to use a camera that gives you manual control over these options.

      Finally, another way to capture the scene is to turn up the gain on the camera. Most consumer cameras will not give you this option. It’s done automatically. However, if your camera will allow turn it up. It will send more voltage to the CCD’s. The downside is you will get a grainy video. You can fix that with a plug-in called “Neat Video Noise Filter”. It works beautifully.

      I hope this is helpful.

      Tim Bickford
      Creative Cinema Video


      • #4

        Thanks for all that! It really helps... we'll go shoot and I'll come back with more questions! hahaha... -Tyler
        Chris Riehl


        • #5
          Yes you do need a lot of lighting. More than you would think. You can always bring the lighting back down in post production. Just dont blow out your whites.

          Also the camcorder plays a big part in low light shooting.

          A camcorder that is able to shoot in higher ISO paired with a fast lens will get MUCH better results in low light than your typical handycam.

          I have recently switched to shooting video from a Canon XHA1 to a Canon 5D Mark II with highend Canon L series prime lenses and the results are mind blowing. We`ll bring in some soft boxes if needed but nothing too strong of a directional light.
          Travis Magee
          Brutal Industries LLC


          • #6
            Hey Tyler-

            Everything Tim said. Today there are ways to accomplish incredible HD video with DSLR cameras, I shoot a Canon 5D MK II that overcomes most digital noise at high ISO and allows use of professional prime and zoom lenses that increase my creative flexibility on a shoot.

            For example, I use lenses that allow me to control what's in focus and what's blurry in a shot, this control of depth of field with a prosumer vid camera is next to impossible, as mentioned by Tim, controling the camera's apeture on a fast lens just can't be done without a film format.

            These shots are a bit more dissimilar than I'd like but for illustration purposes they work, keep in mind at full res these have brilliant detail, for forum purposes they're saved at small fraction of native res.

            The mime is shot with two video lights, tungsten, and a relatively low ISO of 200, look at the areas of black and any solid color field, nearly perfect, no noise. I call this a clean industrial shot.

            Peter is shot with existing 'stage' light at 1600 ISO, look closely at the cymbals, bricks, and his eye make up, you will see some random pixel coloration, this is digital noise. I created this shot 'dark' on purpose to basically highlight the drum kit and peter, this is typical of 70's stage photography.

            [peter was part of a tweenie KISS cover band in my town, they were great, all students of the same music teacher who got blessings from Gene Simmons to use protected logos and images to do a KISS House, the band played an hour long set in the front lawn to about 2000 people, not bad for neighborhood entertainment]

            What I'm showing you is that current photo tech can allow a shooter to get any look you want with or without set lights, I can shoot haunts in "existing" light and get a stylized look, or with some augmented light for a more clean look. I use a daylight or indoor balanced LED mount for some video.

            BTW, I'll be in LEX for some RUPP games, if your haunt is still up and you'd like some shot examples I'd be glad to take some, if you like them we could shoot a promo later in the year, whatever the case I'd love to hook up for coffee when I'm in town, was up for the U of L game, a lot of fun!! Go Cats!!


            • #7
              Hell yeah we should hang out! I'll open up the haunt to ya and we can maybe catch lunch if you have the time.

              Give me a call anytime, (606)748-7217

              GO CATS!!!

              Chris Riehl


              • #8
                Sounds great, will do. I will be up for the Bama or UT game, the 9th or 13th of Feb. I'll give you a shout the week before and we'll carve out some time.

                BTW, few things could be more subjective, and everyone has an opinion but... I see haunt videos in two lights, clean 15-30 second exposition that builds value, and tells who, what, when, where. Lighting this and using actors portraying customers works.

                However, if you're building interest on website, or with social networking, I love a mix of Infra Red footage from actual customers, and some ambient effect lit shots of the haunt mixed in. These shorts get you inisde the haunt regardless of POV, and can be done on a very small budget. No offense to anyone that does it, but vids of actors as customers, or back stories and re-creations of backstory with actors just don't do much to entice interest, they just look like brightly lit B movies. It all depends on the mission of the vid, and the theme of the haunt, but having an element of actual footage from the haunt is invaluable in building dramatic tension and interest. Quality of image all depends on your creative goal basically.


                • #9
                  Travis brings up some good points. Digital still cameras are starting to make an impact in the world of video.

                  Shallow depth of field (DOF) is a great technique to use to make your video look cinematic or film-like. Shallow DOF occurs when the background or foreground is out of focus while your subject is in focus. This effect is easily accomplished with motion film cameras because the image is projected onto a 35mm film plane. This, combined with prime lenses (lenses that do not zoom), provides precise control over DOF. Most video cameras, on the other hand, provide very little control over the DOF. This is because of the small size CCD(s) that are used to capture the image off the lens. Some higher end video cameras will give you enough latitude to shoot shallow DOF. The most affordable mini DV HD camera that can shoot impressive shallow DOF is the Canon HV20,30, or 40. However, you have to properly plan each shot.

                  The alternative is to use a 35mm lens adapter. 35mm lens adaptors use 35mm lenses from (Nikon, Cannon, etc) film or digital cameras. The device is mounted to the lens of your video camera. The result is incredible control over depth of field. Here is a link to a video that was shot with a $700 mini dv camera (Canon HV20) using a ($799) 35mm lens adaptor (Letus Mini).


                  The downside to using these adaptors is that they will require even more light. The design of the adaptor reduces the light input to your video camera. The upside is that your video will like cinematic and film like.

                  Tim Bickford
                  Creative Cinema Video


                  • #10
                    Here is an example. We just shot this over the weekend and this is just a teaser of the video. The final video is being rendered right now and will be online later today.

                    I shot this on a 5d mark ii. The only lights we used were 2 to 3 softboxes. If you watch it full size on youtube you can stop it and see the detail in the shots in considerable low light.

                    Last edited by Brutal Industries; 01-15-2010, 02:20 PM.
                    Travis Magee
                    Brutal Industries LLC


                    • #11
                      That's amazing coming form a digital camera. I can't wait to see the finished product. The lighting is perfect too!

                      For those of you who are really serious about your haunt videos and have a healthy video budget I highly recommend keeping an eye out for the RED SCARLET and the RED EPIC video cameras that are coming out this spring. The SCARLET shoots 3K and the EPIC shoots 5K. Both shoot RAW HD video. No more MPEG-2 HD compression. These cameras are designed so that you can add accessories via modules. The SCARLET will list for $3,800. RED produces video cameras that are used to shoot major motion pictures. (i.e. Night in the Museum Part-2). The quality of the video is so good that it's transferred back to film for Theater showings.

                      Check it out the article and the video at this link.



                      • #12
                        Travis, have you tried the 7D? I shoot mostly stills with the 5DmkII, I have a buddy that has the 7D, likes it, but doesn't see a huge advantage of 24fps without a full frame sensor compared to 5D 30fps. I like the wide angle flexibility of full frame.


                        • #13
                          I looked into the 7D. I read every article I think thats been written about the 7D and 5D. haha.

                          The 7D is amazing for the price. Ive seen video thats just ridiculous from it. And I mean that in a good way.

                          But from what ive read from people who have shot with both. The 5D shoots better in low light due to the full frame sensor. Ive shot footage with my iso set at 3500 and its still extremely usable. Noisy, but its a nice noise.

                          The firmware that will be coming out soon for the 5D will let you shoot in 24fps. I cant wait for that. Right now, thats the only advantage the 7D has over the 5D.. that and its about $1200 cheaper.

                          If I planned on shooting in well lit "daytime" shots, then I would have gotten the 7D. But since I mainly shoot haunt/horror videos and photography, the 5D was the only way to go. I also wanted to go full frame.

                          I do convert my 5D footage to 24fps after I have edited my videos. fyi..

                          I had a Canon XHA1 before this 5D and there is no comparison. The XHA1 footage looks like crap compared to the 5D. The depth of field is amazing!

                          another thing.. I do use a Zacuto Z finder which is great. I also use a Zacuto rapid fire for hand held shooting. Helps in stabilization. I also use an onboard Rode shotgun mic for sound.
                          Travis Magee
                          Brutal Industries LLC