Col recently put me on to this fascinating blog by DP Shane Hurlbut. His most recent post looks at how he lit eight city blocks in Puerto Rico using minimal equipment. This was possible due to the low-light capabilities of modern DSLRs and high-end HD cameras. Apart from a couple of rented HMIs lighting background buildings, his gear mostly came from Home Depot (America’s equivalent of B&Q).
I remember arriving in upstate New York in 2002 to begin shooting Tom Muschamp’s first feature Beyond Recognition and being horrified by the suggestion from someone on the production team that I could get all the lighting kit I needed from Home Depot. That was a Mini-DV shoot and I did eventually get provided with some Arri lamps, but it just goes to show how times have changed.
Crucially what Shane’s blog illustrates is that even if you’re going with existing light sources, your job as DP is not over. You still have to mould them using flags, gels, black wrap or whatever. Just because you can physically expose a picture, that doesn’t mean it’s “lit” in the artistic sense of the word.