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Safe distances for shooting over a fire

Alex Metcalfe DoP
 

We are shooting a pop promo which has an element based around a fire. The fire will be fairly large at around waist height, although I imagine the flames might sometimes reach chest height. One shot needed is directly above the fire so we are looking down with the fire centre of frame and the dancers around it. Does anybody have any experience on how far the camera should be away from the fire to keep it safe from the heat? or any protection that we could add? I'm shooting on a RED Gemini. Many thanks in advance.

LeCroix, Terry
 

Suspending a mirror over the fire and shooting into that might be a possibility.

Also If you need to be wide enough to see dancers around the the fire then the camera is probably around 8 to 10 feet (2.5 m) up. At that height you are more worried about soot so a simple plexiglass shield will be enough.

Of course I haven't done this myself and this is all guesswork on my part.

Terry LeCroix
DP and other visual arts, Nashville TN
www.lecroixworks.com



On Tue, Oct 9, 2018 at 4:49 AM Alex Metcalfe DoP <alex@...> wrote:
We are shooting a pop promo which has an element based around a fire. The fire will be fairly large at around waist height, although I imagine the flames might sometimes reach chest height. One shot needed is directly above the fire so we are looking down with the fire centre of frame and the dancers around it. Does anybody have any experience on how far the camera should be away from the fire to keep it safe from the heat? or any protection that we could add? I'm shooting on a RED Gemini. Many thanks in advance.

Jayson Crothers
 

Hi Alex-

I shot seasons 4-6 of “Chicago Fire”, so I’ve done this type of set up a lot.  Some questions to help answer this more specifically:

-What kind of fuel are you using for the fire?  Propane, Propylene, wood, etc?  Different fuel types burn cleaner than others (ie, more or less soot, the type of smoke they produce that may or may not obscure the shot, etc).
-You mentioned the fire might be as high as chest height, but how big around is the fire people are dancing around?  Is it 4 feet in diameter, 10 feet, more, less?
-Is it a ring of fire (so there’s no fire in the middle of what I’m assuming is a circle since people are dancing around it) or is it more like a bonfire so it’s filled with fire from edge to edge?
-Is your camera going to be rigged to a fix point or will you be using a crane to move it into position (in which case you may be looking to protect more than just the camera)?
-Are you shooting an exterior or on stage?  This is important because while heat will rise, with an exterior it’ll continue to rise or wind will help dissipate some of it whereas on stage it’ll collect in the ceiling.

Fires create a LOT of heat and it rises much faster than you might expect - even with smaller fires, you’re limited to short shooting durations to avoid damage to the equipment.  In general I found that the higher you can get the better and then use a longer lens for the frame you’re after - zooms are ideal for this kind of thing to adjust easily for what you’re after.

Unrelated to this, but another factor, is the distance your dancers have to be from the fire - the bigger it is, the further away they may have to be for their own safety and comfort, which will in turn affect how much wider your frame has to be.

Respectfully,
Jayson Crothers
Director of Photography
Los Angeles




On Tue, Oct 9, 2018 at 4:49 AM Alex Metcalfe DoP <alex@...> wrote:
We are shooting a pop promo which has an element based around a fire. The fire will be fairly large at around waist height, although I imagine the flames might sometimes reach chest height. One shot needed is directly above the fire so we are looking down with the fire centre of frame and the dancers around it. Does anybody have any experience on how far the camera should be away from the fire to keep it safe from the heat? or any protection that we could add? I'm shooting on a RED Gemini. Many thanks in advance.

Alex Metcalfe DoP
 


I shot seasons 4-6 of “Chicago Fire”, so I’ve done this type of set up a lot.

That's what I love about CML, there is always someone out there who has vast experience in what you are trying to do and is willing to share their knowledge. Thank you Jayson

I'll check with the SFX team about what fuel they are planning to use. The fire will definitely have a wood base as the shape of the fire pre-ignition is an element of the narrative. The fire spontaneously ignites so a fuel will be required in addition.

I believe the fire will be about 4ft in diameter and based on a pyramid form. It will be more in a bonfire form rather than hollow centred.

My original idea was to have the camera on either a crane or a cherry picker style machine which arms out. We are shooting 5k for a 4k delivery so was hoping that if we were not too high I could take any weave out in post. I have also considered putting the camera on a drone but am concerned that the shot will become too unstable if we are on a longer lens. Any thoughts?

The fire is in an exterior clearing and at the moment we are too far away from shooting to get an accurate weather forecast. I think we can fear the worst as shooting exterior in the UK in November is never a great plan!

Good point about the distance of the dancers from the fire. I believe the choreography is starting  in the next 10 days and I will raise this with them.

Many thanks

Alex Metcalfe
Director of Photography, EU
+44 7785557611




On Wed, Oct 10, 2018 at 6:42 AM +0200, "Jayson Crothers via Cml.News" <jaycro=mac.com@...> wrote:

Hi Alex-

I shot seasons 4-6 of “Chicago Fire”, so I’ve done this type of set up a lot.  Some questions to help answer this more specifically:

-What kind of fuel are you using for the fire?  Propane, Propylene, wood, etc?  Different fuel types burn cleaner than others (ie, more or less soot, the type of smoke they produce that may or may not obscure the shot, etc).
-You mentioned the fire might be as high as chest height, but how big around is the fire people are dancing around?  Is it 4 feet in diameter, 10 feet, more, less?
-Is it a ring of fire (so there’s no fire in the middle of what I’m assuming is a circle since people are dancing around it) or is it more like a bonfire so it’s filled with fire from edge to edge?
-Is your camera going to be rigged to a fix point or will you be using a crane to move it into position (in which case you may be looking to protect more than just the camera)?
-Are you shooting an exterior or on stage?  This is important because while heat will rise, with an exterior it’ll continue to rise or wind will help dissipate some of it whereas on stage it’ll collect in the ceiling.

Fires create a LOT of heat and it rises much faster than you might expect - even with smaller fires, you’re limited to short shooting durations to avoid damage to the equipment.  In general I found that the higher you can get the better and then use a longer lens for the frame you’re after - zooms are ideal for this kind of thing to adjust easily for what you’re after.

Unrelated to this, but another factor, is the distance your dancers have to be from the fire - the bigger it is, the further away they may have to be for their own safety and comfort, which will in turn affect how much wider your frame has to be.

Respectfully,
Jayson Crothers
Director of Photography
Los Angeles




On Tue, Oct 9, 2018 at 4:49 AM Alex Metcalfe DoP <alex@...> wrote:
We are shooting a pop promo which has an element based around a fire. The fire will be fairly large at around waist height, although I imagine the flames might sometimes reach chest height. One shot needed is directly above the fire so we are looking down with the fire centre of frame and the dancers around it. Does anybody have any experience on how far the camera should be away from the fire to keep it safe from the heat? or any protection that we could add? I'm shooting on a RED Gemini. Many thanks in advance.


Rick Gerard
 

I would put a thermocouple near or on the camera with an alarm on it and I would know the maximum operating temperature for the camera.  I’ve done that many times shooting industrial videos. Make sure the camera can be quickly moved out of danger. Even a simple wireless meat thermometer would work. 

Here are a couple of options:



Running some tests before you put the camera in harms way would also be a good idea. I had to shoot in a steel mill once and when we put the thermocouple on he end of a 10 foot pipe and moved into position above the production line the temperature of the end of the pipe went to nearly 140º C in about 30 seconds so we decided to shoot from a different location. For most of the shoot we had the camera (an Arri SR 2) wrapped in a barney made from a couple of space blankets, rock wool insulation and aluminum tape with a thermo couple inside. 

Someone would be constantly monitoring the temperature or there should be an alarm. I would also have a cool down area with a big fan ready to go just incase things started to get hot. If the heat was really intense I would also have cold packs ready to go to help cool things down.

If the heat
I hope this helps. 

Rick Gerard
DP/VFX Supervisor
MovI Pro / ALTA / Licensed Commercial Pilot Fixed Wing and UAV
Northern CA
916.472.8085

Jayson Crothers
 

With an exterior fire around chest height and 4’ in diameter, it’s relatively small, so that’s good for you.  If you can afford a crane, that’s by far the way to go - you can swiftly move the camera out of the way if need be, and it’s faster to position it or adjust the frame as/if needed.  I’d be worried about the wind and heat affecting the flight of a drone - a 22’ or 30’ techno crane sounds ideal for rapid adjustments, but any arm in that range would do the trick.  A cherry picker can work if you’re really tight on the budget, but you won’t be able to quickly pull the camera out of harms way in the event that something goes sideways on you.

I found wrapping the camera in Refrasil is usually sufficient to protect it from heat and flames, especially if the shot isn’t that long.  If you go the crane route, talk to the operator about protection for their head as well (Refrasil can work on those too).

Respectfully,
Jayson Crothers
Director of Photography
www.jaysoncrothers.com


On Oct 10, 2018, at 6:55 AM, Alex Metcalfe DoP <alex@...> wrote:

I believe the fire will be about 4ft in diameter and based on a pyramid form. It will be more in a bonfire form rather than hollow centred.

My original idea was to have the camera on either a crane or a cherry picker style machine which arms out. We are shooting 5k for a 4k delivery so was hoping that if we were not too high I could take any weave out in post. I have also considered putting the camera on a drone but am concerned that the shot will become too unstable if we are on a longer lens. Any thoughts?

The fire is in an exterior clearing and at the moment we are too far away from shooting to get an accurate weather forecast. I think we can fear the worst as shooting exterior in the UK in November is never a great plan! 

Alex Metcalfe DoP
 

Thank you Jayson, that's been very helpful and gives me a good base to work from. Time to start negotiating with production!

Alex Metcalfe
Director of Photography EU
+44 7785557611




On Thu, Oct 11, 2018 at 8:31 AM +0200, "Jayson Crothers via Cml.News" <jaycro=mac.com@...> wrote:

With an exterior fire around chest height and 4’ in diameter, it’s relatively small, so that’s good for you.  If you can afford a crane, that’s by far the way to go - you can swiftly move the camera out of the way if need be, and it’s faster to position it or adjust the frame as/if needed.  I’d be worried about the wind and heat affecting the flight of a drone - a 22’ or 30’ techno crane sounds ideal for rapid adjustments, but any arm in that range would do the trick.  A cherry picker can work if you’re really tight on the budget, but you won’t be able to quickly pull the camera out of harms way in the event that something goes sideways on you.

I found wrapping the camera in Refrasil is usually sufficient to protect it from heat and flames, especially if the shot isn’t that long.  If you go the crane route, talk to the operator about protection for their head as well (Refrasil can work on those too).

Respectfully,
Jayson Crothers
Director of Photography
www.jaysoncrothers.com


On Oct 10, 2018, at 6:55 AM, Alex Metcalfe DoP <alex@...> wrote:

I believe the fire will be about 4ft in diameter and based on a pyramid form. It will be more in a bonfire form rather than hollow centred.

My original idea was to have the camera on either a crane or a cherry picker style machine which arms out. We are shooting 5k for a 4k delivery so was hoping that if we were not too high I could take any weave out in post. I have also considered putting the camera on a drone but am concerned that the shot will become too unstable if we are on a longer lens. Any thoughts?

The fire is in an exterior clearing and at the moment we are too far away from shooting to get an accurate weather forecast. I think we can fear the worst as shooting exterior in the UK in November is never a great plan! 


P Debris
 

Wow
Great answers
Happy to be in such a helpful and generous department


From: cml-general@... <cml-general@...> on behalf of Alex Metcalfe DoP <alex@...>
Sent: Thursday, October 11, 2018 10:43:40 AM
To: cml-general@...
Subject: Re: [cml-general] Safe distances for shooting over a fire
 
Thank you Jayson, that's been very helpful and gives me a good base to work from. Time to start negotiating with production!

Alex Metcalfe
Director of Photography EU
+44 7785557611




On Thu, Oct 11, 2018 at 8:31 AM +0200, "Jayson Crothers via Cml.News" <jaycro=mac.com@...> wrote:

With an exterior fire around chest height and 4’ in diameter, it’s relatively small, so that’s good for you.  If you can afford a crane, that’s by far the way to go - you can swiftly move the camera out of the way if need be, and it’s faster to position it or adjust the frame as/if needed.  I’d be worried about the wind and heat affecting the flight of a drone - a 22’ or 30’ techno crane sounds ideal for rapid adjustments, but any arm in that range would do the trick.  A cherry picker can work if you’re really tight on the budget, but you won’t be able to quickly pull the camera out of harms way in the event that something goes sideways on you.

I found wrapping the camera in Refrasil is usually sufficient to protect it from heat and flames, especially if the shot isn’t that long.  If you go the crane route, talk to the operator about protection for their head as well (Refrasil can work on those too).

Respectfully,
Jayson Crothers
Director of Photography
www.jaysoncrothers.com


On Oct 10, 2018, at 6:55 AM, Alex Metcalfe DoP <alex@...> wrote:

I believe the fire will be about 4ft in diameter and based on a pyramid form. It will be more in a bonfire form rather than hollow centred.

My original idea was to have the camera on either a crane or a cherry picker style machine which arms out. We are shooting 5k for a 4k delivery so was hoping that if we were not too high I could take any weave out in post. I have also considered putting the camera on a drone but am concerned that the shot will become too unstable if we are on a longer lens. Any thoughts?

The fire is in an exterior clearing and at the moment we are too far away from shooting to get an accurate weather forecast. I think we can fear the worst as shooting exterior in the UK in November is never a great plan! 


Mako Koiwai
 

Drone …

makofoto, s. pas, ca

Ben Rowland, Yonder Blue Films
 

As someone who did high-end drone work in the past, on movies like Insurgent (20+ shots in the finished film and 6 in the trailer), very respectfully I suggest not using a drone.  On a heavy lift drone, one capable of flying an Arri Mini or similar, the power system components and Lithium Polymer batteries generate a fair amount of heat on their own. Additional heat, a lot in this case, would be a safety issue. 

I have flown around massive explosion stunts (one involved 800 gallons of fuel and flying debris), and this can actually be done safely if flying around the perimeter of the heat source.  

But flying directly over people and fire, would put the people and equipment at too high of a risk. I would respectfully advise against a drone. Just my 2 cents. 

All the best,
Benjamin Rowland, Director, Atlanta, Yonder Blue Films 
(I still occasionally pilot drones, but I mostly direct these days. I maintain a FAA Part 107.)

On Thu, Oct 11, 2018 at 12:07 PM Mako Koiwai <mako1foto@...> wrote:
Drone …

makofoto, s. pas, ca

--
Ben Rowland

Mako Koiwai
 


very respectfully I suggest not using a drone

*********

Of course one would need to be fairly high … just to not disturb the fire with the down draft.

makofoto, s. pas, ca

Jon Swindall
 

Hello all-

Flying a big camera over a fire is not a good idea. I respectfully agree. Would a small drone work?

Last year we had to get a similar shot. We did not want to risk losing the bigger drone (Inspire 2 X7). The smaller/less expensive Phantom 4 Pro drone fit the bill and worked great. We had a fire sfx person.

It was a dusk shot - shooting straight down - a firecircle that “spontaneously” lights. The first part of the shot was a “lock off” while the fire logs placed themselves in the ring stop motion style.

When the fire ignites - Special Fx had a remote trigger and I believe used propane. The flame went about waist high. The fire lights and the drone pulls up and the drone does a slow spin up revealing our characters below.

We flew about 9-10 feet above to start the shot. The drone booms up as the flame goes up. We never got too close. Lower caused too much wind.

In post a digital zoom was used to stabilize and zoom in at beginning and then start the pull back.

We did two takes. We had a small crew and no pressure. The drone wasn’t lingering over the fire and wasn’t flying directly over people.

Approaching the shot with a smaller drone seemed to make sense.

The quality was great for our purposes- a projected corporate event.

All the best-

Jon Swindall
DP/Drone Pilot
ATL
404-808-4797


---SWINDY---
404-808-4797

Tom Barkstedt
 

I’ve worked with some great special effects supervisors: Phil Cory (Sharky’s Machine), Allen Hall (Backdraft, Pirates series) and Vern Hyde (Evil Dead ll) and all of them trained me as to where camera, crew and talent should safely be! This is after working with them to design the shot. That person, the effects supervisor, can control most fire rigs! Fire eats air so I don’t think drones, unless they are really high up, are a choice!
--
Tom
Tom Barkstedt
StoryArts Films, LLC
Asheville, NC
828-301-1137

Franz
 

I have read most of these answers, some are really good, some make me cringe.
However, without knowing the budget, I would like to add my 2cents, considering I have done this shot many many times.
The safest and most controllable way is to shoot without a fire, yes you heard it, and rigging a fire lighting effect within burned out logs etc so the lighting interaction with the dancers is realistic and then add the fire effect in post, and bear in mind fire is one of the cheapest and most readily available effect in post, and extremely convincing too. The advantages are obvious, not just safety, but this will allow you to move the shot dynamically even very close to the “fire” to see dancers through flames, not to mention the coolest effect that is sparks and incandescent particles flying up towards the lens.
Add a bit of smoke for real or in post and voila’.
Here you are, safe, controllable and visually cool.
Franz


Sir Franz Pagot AIC OMRI 
Cinematographer
BAFTA
MBKS GBCT


http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1219277/

mob UK +44 7770 520757
cell ITA +393409344107
skype: acquademon

On 12 Oct 2018, at 02:16, Tom Barkstedt <tombarkstedt@...> wrote:

I’ve worked with some great special effects supervisors: Phil Cory (Sharky’s Machine), Allen Hall (Backdraft, Pirates series) and Vern Hyde (Evil Dead ll) and all of them trained me as to where camera, crew and talent should safely be! This is after working with them to design the shot. That person, the effects supervisor, can control most fire rigs! Fire eats air so I don’t think drones, unless they are really high up, are a choice!
--
Tom
Tom Barkstedt
StoryArts Films, LLC
Asheville, NC
828-301-1137

Alex Metcalfe DoP
 

Thank you to everyone who replied. It has made me ask all the right questions which I would not have done without your help. Of course, now that I am in a better state to make the shot the project has been cancelled due to lack of time before the album release! At least I'll be better prepared for next time.

Alex Metcalfe
DoP EU