Distant Location Lighting

In most places of the world they get by with much less electricity than we do. Often it varies in voltage and light output varies with the voltage. Adding more lights to a system with small wires often gives no increase in exposure and a decrease in color temperature. The answer is to use the fastest film or a video camera on a slightly higher gain setting. Sometimes one light can turn a poor situation into an acceptable one.

Moving a person or activity into a better-lit position can work. When scouting a situation, look for existing possibilities that can solve your needs. Some times one light is too bright and reducing it's output will help the scene balance. A light can be turned or a shade added to help the overall balance. Pieces of chinse curtain, a few feet of tracing paper, can do the job of fancy studio diffusion. A couple of white sheets (satin is best) can reflect light to fill shadows. Moving a white vehicle near a shot can provide fill or exposure. You can learn what works by walking down streets at home and analyzing where the light is coming from. The sun, the sky, reflected off a building. Also think about the things that block light; trees, buildings, overhangs. Just changing positions a bit can make a shootable situation.

Car batteries, if carefully used, can provide lighting. With fast film and the newer video cameras, not much is needed. A headlight can light a scene from a distance. A dome light a smaller ones.

Dealing with 220 volts. Two 110-volt lights can hooked up in series if they are of the same wattage. The safest thing is to use one wattage of light and use American standard plugs with "splitters" that can be wired to local plugs. Many plugs are fused and you need fuses large enough for the lights you have on each circuit. Having many small units that can be used on a lot of different circuits is safer. If you need more light, use two lights. You often can have more control with multiple units. You have to be careful with overeager local help. They can plug your 110-volt lights and battery chargers into 220 volts and fry things. A splitter is a duplex outlet with one side of the circuit cut and the power applied to the terminals on that same side. Now the sockets are wired in series.

Lights with lenses, not sealed beam, are less efficient and should be avoided when power is limited. High-class lighting technicians "need" them for "control". Most are 50% or less as efficient as a sealed beam (looks like a headlight) or an "open face" (clear light globe with silvered reflector). A frosted globe is less efficient than a clear one. When selecting a lighting unit think about how close the light can be. In tight situations such as small rooms, you need a wide spread. If the light can be at any distance a medium or spot unit is a better choice because the light level will be more constant for different distances from the light.

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