A View From Behind The Meter
I was asked several months ago to estimate a lighting set-up for a company that was primarily doing their sales and marketing through the internet. The woman who had called was trying to get an idea how much of an investment would be required to set up a room where they could record product demonstrations and interviews for social media exposure. The company was in the process of setting up their offices on Venice Boulevard just a stone’s throw from Centinela Avenue. I told her that I would need to see the area that she wished to be the production studio and when there at her location I would question more and listen more to her detailed expectation of their needs. She invited me down to their facility the next day.
I made the trek over the hill, since our office is in North Hollywood, and I made sure that I avoided the high traffic times since that is always a nightmare to try and make that trip during those rush “hour” times. I say rush hour but in reality it’s like a rush three hours any more. Anyway, I arrived at the location at around 11:00 O’clock and could see rather quickly that the office space was involved in a rather heavy reconstruction. There were painters, plasterers, electricians, and carpenters all working feverishly to renovate the buildings interior set-up. I went in and met the woman who had called and she ushered me into a relatively small space probably 12’ by 18’ with a front window looking out across a wide sidewalk onto Venice blvd. It was in the process of being plastered and new electrical wiring was sticking out of every socket. She indicated that they would like to use the room to shoot product videos and interviews with product spokespeople for those products with the eventual intent of uploading the material to the web. They had a Canon 5d camera with a lens that appeared to be a 24-to 105 zoom on a tripod at one end of the room. She had many questions about what they would need both in the final make-up of the room and what lights would be necessary. Since it appeared that they were about ready to begin the final painting and carpeting of the room I began by offering my opinion as to the room decoration. I suggested a blackout curtain to eliminate the ambient daylight coming from outside running on a track that followed the top edge of the exterior window. That would allow them to have outside light when they weren’t shooting and completely controlled light when they were. I recommended two other steps that would make their lives easier in the future. Paint the walls a medium flat grey and the carpet with a salt & pepper grey and black small pile carpet. This would allow any color to stand out against the grey and the background wall to practically disappear behind the subject in question.
At this point she admitted that at some time in the future she would also like to include a green screen in the room set-up. This immediately changed the set-up in my mind. The interview & product camera direction would have be the 12’ width and the future green screen would then be able to run the 18’ foot length. That is because generally one likes to have more space behind the talent on green screen set-up to mitigate the green back spill reflection from the screen that falls on the talent. I always found that the further away one can position the talent from the screen the less spill. I measured the height of the room, the width, the length, and then carefully measured the distance to the any electrical outlets. I checked where all the ceiling beams were situated and suggested they not wallboard the ceiling until the rig was in place. The last thing I did was ask her what would be the ballpark figure that she wished to come under for the full set-up including pipe rigging and labor to install. She indicated $6,000.00 as her desired cost outlay. We were done for the moment and I retreated back over the hill to Birns & Sawyer where I sat down at my desk and began to put the whole project into a workable rig that she would consider as acceptable.
I emailed her a bid for the whole project the next day and put the cost in at $5,000.00 plus labor at around $500.00. She sent me back a positive saying how fast could I install the system I returned to her that I could have it all in place by next week. It was a go. Now what I was suggesting was a four LED system using the daylight NILA line of instruments. The Zaila specifically was the instrument that I believed would work in the set-up as she had outlined. The Zaila is a small compact unit with barn doors and diffusion filters. It is closely equivalent to a 200 HMI but a considerably less amperage draw. A small chimera as an additional element to the Zaila which would perform the job of key light was added to the mix. The final element was the light weight aluminum pipe grid attached to the ceiling and reaching down 3’ 6” from the 12’ ceiling. This was also part of the package estimate. All four of the lights drew less than a total of 4 amps and they were flicker free at any speed. The instruments are designed for an average life of 20,000 hours and have a two year warranty. They are also designed to be DMX controllable.
I was now ready to install.
On Tuesday the next week a fellow employee and I arrived at the location after assembling all the elements the day before. Nila facility is in Alta Dena only 30 minutes away and the speed rail is in Burbank less than fifteen minutes away. All elements were gathered, packed into a van, and the equipment as well as the two of us started our installation at 9:30 AM. The pipe grid went in first. Two 6’ pipes and one 8’ pipe made up the simple grid in a rectangle with one long side open. The instruments went in and all cables were zip tied to the speed rail. All systems were now plugged into the circuit with the wall dimmer. I positioned the lights so that an area of about six feet square was covered. The client could walk into the room close the blackout curtain bring up the wall dimmer to full and shoot. Clean, simple, and very user friendly was my objective and by the end of the day it was accomplished. The client now shoots regularly and was very effusive in their praise for our work.
-Michael Rogers, Lighting Consultant and Educational Outreach