I’m surprised that I haven’t worked with a LED video wall in a couple years. I first worked with these gaffing the mini-series; NASCAR: The Rise of American Speed. The LED walls worked amazingly well as backgrounds. I thought I would soon be seeing these routinely, but for whatever reasons, it hasn’t happened.
This picture, from the set of American Speed, is the Dayton Raceway owner's box from around 1970:
|Like looking out a real window|
The background for the set is a large LED wall, maybe around 30 by 40 feet. In this test background, the clouds are moving and cars are moving around the track. I am focusing lights. The skylight coming in the room is from 4-M40s with blue and diffusion. The overhead lights in the room are 10-8' Kino Flo Double Mega fixtures. Two pairs of these are just off-set hidden by a teaser.
When construction finished this set, including real glass windows, the illusion of actually being at a real place, looking out real windows was amazing. It seemed like you were at the track.
|Another test background with Dayton Raceway at night|
The grips did a fantastic rigging job. The LED wall was built on an I-beam trolley. The wall could be moved between 2 sets to speed up shooting. I would guess it only took about 5 minutes to move the wall.
We also used LED walls instead of a process trailer. This worked so well, I’m not really sure why anybody would want to shoot on a process trailer. I’m guessing we shot 2 weeks worth of process trailer work in 2 long days.
|We shot dozens of cars on this set|
There was major rigging involved with this. Large LED walls were hung on both sides of the car, behind the car, and over the car.
Again, the illusion of looking at a moving car was amazing.
|A wide view of the car set|
There is considerable pre-planning that must go into using the LED walls for it to be successful. The size and placement is important. The backgrounds need to be carefully planned and shot.
LED walls made my gaffing world easy. Powering the walls is simple. They have a relatively small power draw. The wall techs have complete control over the brightness of the background. And more amazingly, if I need more light just in one area, the techs can just make that area brighter. And even more amazing, they can add a block of light to create an addition light source. The source can be in a constant position, or move with the background image.
The only draw backs that I know of right now are possible moiré and flicker. We were on the lookout for these, but it was never a problem on our shoot. Also, shots were limited to tighter shots.
For me as a gaffer, shooting outdoor locations is often a great compromise with lighting made difficult by the physical placement of lights, the availability of power, changing lighting conditions by the time of day, and often the biggest challenge, the weather. I would much rather shoot in a studio where I have complete control over the lighting.
I’m guessing LED walls will become more and more the best way to shoot many things that previously would have been shot on-location.