What To Do When You Don’t Have Lights For Your Scene

I always hear “any camera will look amazing as long as you light your scene well” regarding cinematography. Now, lighting for film is a HUGE topic that cannot be covered in one blog post, but it is extremely important to understand when creating any kind of video. Whether you are new to the video production world, or simply want to learn more about cinematography, this post will share some insight as to what to do when you are in a situation where bringing even one light is not possible.

Let’s jump back to last July. Heidi and I hopped on a plane to Entebbe Airport in Uganda, we had everything with us, our camera, sound mixer and microphones, a laptop…. but no lights. You might be thinking this is crazy for us to even attempt making a film without bringing a single light. In this situation, we were unfortunately unable to bring a light with us due to our flights weight restrictions (it was a struggle to even bring a camera with those weight restrictions). Let’s start here: What do you do when you don’t have a light with you?

The answer, put quite simply, is to pay attention. Your only light source is the sun and now you are forced to think about where you are placing your subjects, and the time of day you are filming. If the sun is directly overhead, you will get some really-harsh shadows on your subject and it just wouldn’t look good in the camera. In this situation it is almost impossible to film outside, and with limited time, you then film inside. There is only so much you can do in-camera to increase its sensitivity to low-light before the footage starts to look super grainy and ugly. This is where you will use windows and doorways to your advantage. Let’s look at a few frames from our documentary:

Ritah in “Center of Hope”

Ritah in “Center of Hope”

Arthur in “Center of Hope”

Arthur in “Center of Hope”

This first frame is Ritah. We were filming this about midday, and the sun was incredibly bright. So we moved over to her office where luckily she had a large window letting in a TON of light. This is one of those rare situations where we got really lucky without needing lights. The sun in this scene helped fill in the rest of the room as well as acting like a “key-light” to light our subject.

The second frame features Arthur. The computer lab at H.E.L.P. International Primary School doesn’t have as large of a window as Ritah’s office did.  This room was significantly darker, and we needed a way to create that separation from the subject and the background. Here we used the doorway to let in some light for our subject. This helped separate him from the darkness of the rest of the room. To help with this we also put him in a position where the back windows were creating a “kicker light” to help separate him even further. This nice little touch of light on his shoulders really helped fill out the rest of this interview.

Let’s hope that whenever you have to film something you are able to bring at least one light with you. If not, pay attention to where the sun is and see if there is any windows or doorways to aid in lighting your scene. In my next blog post I will be showing you how just one light can make a difference and make your life during production much easier!

Be on the lookout for the release of our film “Center of Hope” coming out at the end of this month!

A 7,000 Mile Journey Begins with One Step

H.E.L.P International Primary School in Masese Uganda

H.E.L.P International Primary School in Masese Uganda

This past summer, Jesse and I had the amazing opportunity to work a long side H.E.L.P. International to create a documentary about the primary school they established in Masese, Uganda. Not only is this documentary our first feature film as a production company, but we came across this opportunity the same year we began our business.

We were humbled and amazed. We were also a little nervous.

Why? Because after crowd funding and getting funds from producers we came to the realization that we would only be able to travel with two people.

Long story short: we had to produce this film with a two-person production team.

If you ever made a film before, then you’re sitting there reading that a two-person production team created a documentary feature, then I can only imagine your reaction is somewhere between amazement and “you guys are crazy”. And honestly, those were most of the reactions that we received from our peers.

Chris Martin (left) & Jesse Manning (right) collaborating in Masese, Uganda

Chris Martin (left) & Jesse Manning (right) collaborating in Masese, Uganda

Luckily, we had friends in the organization that were able to help with the interviews and give a helping hand. For instance, Chris Martin (not the lead singer of Coldplay) was able to take charge with most of the interview questions and became an important asset to our team. He helped with planning the narrative and connected us with amazing people within the organization.

The months before leaving for Uganda were spent creating shot-lists, researching, planning the narrative to the film, meeting with people in the organization, and training. Yes, you read that right. We trained for this.

Getting prepared for this documentary knowing that the numbers were against us, Jesse and I began a training schedule.

When we began the pre-production process, Jesse and I had a realization that there were other aspects that we needed to work on to ensure a successful production process. We put aside the technical aspects of the production for this film because we were confident in our abilities. We know the technical stuff; we’re an adaptable team and we didn’t want to overthink and over-stress about knowing our equipment. What we needed to do was get ourselves physically prepared to handle the demanding work schedule. This might be a trait that most people may overlook, and it’s easy to because we almost did ourselves.

This aspect was easy to overlook because Jesse and I met in college and we’ve worked together for years, so we understand how the other person works. For instance, when we’re getting “on the fly” b-roll and there’s a lot of spontaneous movement involved, I usually know when to move and what kind of frame he’s looking to capture. This is super important because there’s nothing worse than a boom pole or another camera accidentally in the shot to ruin a moment.

Sometimes when a team has been together for so long, it’s super easy to overlook the aspects that the team should be focusing on. Regardless of the field you’re in, knowing the weaknesses of the team is essential to creating an effective workflow and overall success. And in our case, we discovered our weakness was that we needed to get physically prepared for this adventure.

What did we do?

Well, we began our own work-out schedules and focused on weight training. We figured out the weight of each of our bags and discovered our backpacks would both be somewhere between 30 – 50 pounds. Thank goodness we didn’t overlook this, because can you imagine having 30-50 pounds of weight on your back for the majority of a day? The months prior we started to get into the best shape of our lives; we ran nearly every day, lifted our weights, and even put on our sweat bands and followed along to “Richard Simmons-esque” type workout videos.

Abiquiu, New Mexico

Abiquiu, New Mexico

Another thing we realized was the climate difference. The southern region of Uganda is much different than the northern part of Connecticut. How does one prepare themselves to work in such a contrasting environment than what they’re used to? We planned field test training and headed for New Mexico. Luckily, we had family in New Mexico that we were able to stay with, and we hiked our hearts out. We packed up our gear and hiked for hours in the desert and trained with our equipment.

So you might be wondering what the result of all of this training is?

Well, we went to Uganda. We met some of the nicest and kindest people in this world.

We interviewed over 25 Ugandans.

We worked for 8 days straight and assembled over 45 hours of footage.

We developed relationships that will last a lifetime.

Worked with an AMAZING organization H.E.L.P. International (seriously go check them out).

And now?

We have a documentary that we will be releasing in the Summer of 2019. Be on the look out for our second trailer coming April 1, 2019. We are so excited to share what we have and couldn’t be more grateful for everyone that has supported us throughout this journey.

The moral of this whole story is do not be afraid to acknowledge your faults.

You can strive to better than before and create something amazing.

To quote FDR, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Richard Mugeni (left) & Heidi Reinprecht (right) in Masese, Uganda

Richard Mugeni (left) & Heidi Reinprecht (right) in Masese, Uganda

Until next time,

Heidi Reinprecht

Center of Hope: The Stories from Masese, Uganda - Trailer #1

Center of Hope (2018) - Trailer #1

Our trip to Uganda was one of the most wonderfully life changing experiences we have ever had. It was such an honor to hear stories of the people of Masese and their lives. It is our pleasure to share with you the very first trailer for our documentary, Center of Hope.

Thank you all for watching. We look forward to sharing more footage and clips of the documentary in the future! We’re so excited for this project and we hope you love it just as much!


Visit www.HELP-Uganda.com to learn more about the project!

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