Thursday, November 16, 2017

LED Video Wall Backgounds

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 moirĂ© 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.

Monday, November 13, 2017

My New Old Light; A Kino Flo Mega Single

Recently, I bought a Kino Flo Mega 8-foot single.  I saw a used one for sale in great shape and couldn’t resisted added it to my inventory.  If you are not familiar with the Kino Flo Mega series, it is a fluorescent light like the workhorse Kino Flo 4-foot series.  The difference is the Mega series comes in 6 and 8 feet.  The eight-foot light seems huge close-up.

The Megas are definitely a specialty light:  they are great backlights; great anytime you need a long-reflected light source; make an interesting wrap-around key light; and my favorite use of them, they are a fantastic eye light.

I lit a job at Jim Beam distillery with Kid Rock.  I remember how he almost always wear sunglasses.  I used an 8-foot Mega Flo as an eye-light.  It looked great with the white line of the Kino Flo reflecting in the sunglasses, moving around as he spoke.  A 4-foot Kino Flo would have not been wide enough.  Everyone loved it.  They thought the lighting look so good, there was talk of taking me to Chicago for the next job.  Here is a picture of me on the set at Jim Beam, photoshopped of course, I used for my annual New Year Card:

Friday, November 10, 2017

Creamsource Upgrade

Anyone who works with me knows I have Creamsource LED panels.  These are great high output LED panels.  I first worked on these lights on a commercial with Greig Fraser years ago.  He was a big supporter of these lights.  I was so impressed with these lights I went out and bought some.
Creamsource Doppio On American Speed

The Creamsources have worked out well for me, but as time went on it became clear they did have a slight green spike.  A common problem with high output LEDs.

The green spike in LEDs is mostly not a green issue as much as it is a deficiency in the R9 value; red.  This is important to know.  If the deficiency is severe, adding magenta will not really correct the color quality since the red is not there.

Last year, one day while gaffing My Days Of Mercy, the DP Radek Ladczuk says to me, what is wrong with one of the Creamsources, a 1x2' Doppio?  It is green.

I was busted.  I had been using the Creamsources mostly in situations where any green would not be an issue, but this time it was keying an actress.  The green was obvious compared to the other lights which were HMIs.

After that I realized that I had to do something about the green in the Creamsources.  Evidently, so did Outsight, the makers of the Creamsource lights.

Outsight came out with a upgrade kit for the Creamsource with their latest "Plus" LEDs.  The Plus LEDs have taken out the green spike along with a much improved R9 value.
Creamsource Plus LED Upgrade Kit
It was expensive, but I had my 3 older lights (My 4th, newest lights, already had the Plus LEDs) upgraded to Plus LEDs.

It's funny, I don't think any DP has noticed the difference with the Creamsources.  As a gaffer and technician, I see the difference.  I'm happy with the improvement.

Plus LED CRI/TLCI Charts

I custom made the battery plates and cables for my Mini Doppios.  The light can be power by 2-Gold Mount batteries.

Mini with Gold Mount battery plates under the yoke with power cord
The larger Doppios can be battery powered, too, but require a block battery.  The Doppio 3-pin power cord will directly plug into a block battery.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The White Oscar Controversy

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver made this brilliant video about the white Oscar controversy:

 Jonathan Swift would be proud.