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Old August 24th, 2006, 10:15 PM   #31
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Yellow is going be tough because the color temperature problem. All your lights will have to match or come close to that yellow.

I apologize for my article mentioning Target, but at the time I wrote it they carried white china lanterns. I was disappointed when I found that they no longer carried them. You could try Pier One if there are any in your area. I found some in a gift/variety store.

You can find them on-line at places like www.filmtools.com and www.studiodepot.com
They're a little pricey, but it's an option.

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Old August 25th, 2006, 12:03 AM   #32
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world market carries them as well.
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Old September 11th, 2006, 12:54 PM   #33
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Ikea carries all sorts of China Lanterns in white, from ceiling hangers to floor standing. There is in Ikea next to the Potomac Mills mall in Northen VA.
Check their online catalog.
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Old September 11th, 2006, 01:08 PM   #34
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Thanks, guys! I keep looking for them.

Has anyone ever tried to make one of those Fisher| Leelium Balloon Lights? What I mean by that is, Has anyone ever made something that can float up in the air and produce a nice light. Like this, http://www.fisherlight.com/level2/balloon.html.
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Old November 23rd, 2006, 11:12 AM   #35
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These "light" balloons are very popular on big shows like commericals and features. They aren't cheap and have certain limitations (wattage and high winds aren't good for them), but can come in handy when you need a soft top light and you can't use a crane. Some you can rent and use by yourself, but the bigger units require an operator.

As to building something like that myself, I'll leave that to the pros. I think I would end up with a molten mass of plactic dropping on the actors.

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Old November 23rd, 2006, 12:28 PM   #36
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A quick note about the inverters -

There are essentially 2 kinds of inverters - square wave and true sine wave. There are many variations, modified sine-wave, etc... The important thing is to know which you're getting.

Square wave means that the electronics switch from +120v through 0v to -120v basically instantaneously. If you were to graph it, you would see it basically "jumps" from + to -. For a lot of applications, this is ok. Small, cheap lamps for example, are generally ok to use off square wave.

Sine wave is the way power is delivered as "line current" from the wall. Voltage goes from +120 and slopes off to 0, then slopes to -120. It's a continuous variation, a sine wave, that the voltage ramps down, then negative, then back up. Most 120v electronics are designed to use this type of current, because it doesn't "surge" 60 times per second.

A lot of inverters will say "not recommended for electronics." These are square wave systems. They also will say "for temporary use." Even simple circuits like lamps can burn out far quicker when using square wave power, as the application of power to the element is basically always flickering, as opposed to ramping up and down. Sine wave systems are then much better for expensive lamps and especially sensitive electronics.

The downside? It takes a LOT more trickery to approximate sine-wave delivery...and is therefore a LOT more expensive. You can get cheap 1000w inverters for less than $80, where a similar sine-wave system would easily in the 1,000's of dollars. you basically get what you pay for. BUT if your goal is to home-build a lot of china balls or the like, and you're using 25c bulbs, save the cash and get the cheapo system. It'll probably cut the lifespan of the bulb by about 5-10 times, but in those pinch situations, it's worth it.
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Old May 10th, 2007, 08:07 AM   #37
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Halogen Lights through bedsheets

I make my living producing training videos. I recently had to film some food preparation scenes in a commercial kitchen in Minneapolis (I live in Texas). For some reason, my lighting materials didn't arrive in time for the shoot.

A trip to a local Home Depot, and 200 bucks solved my problem. I won't bother listing everything I bought, it's been covered elesewhere, but I'll just say that halogen lighting used to light construction sites works great when pushed through beige bedsheets that you can get for "throw away" prices at the local Wal-Mart or Target.

Kitchens have lots of shiny things all around, and these can be a problem. I can't believe how well the halogen/beige sheet thing worked. In the future, I might experiment with different colored sheets to see what effects I can produce.

Hope this tip helps.
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Old May 10th, 2007, 11:25 AM   #38
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Hey John, welcome to dvinfo.net!

Thats some great advice John, thanks for the tip!

What did you use for holding the sheet up in-front of the halogens'?

Gabriel Photography
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Old May 10th, 2007, 03:13 PM   #39
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Hanging sheets

Hi Gabriel,

Kitchens are full of racks to store things. I moved two of them in a position with the lights in-between, and strung a rope from one to the other. I hung the sheets over the rope with clothespins. Really simple stuff.

Actually, I wound up using two sheets (two-plys) to get the effect I was looking for. These were cheap sheets though, so really good ones would probably behave differently. Halogen lights (two lights 500 watts each) are pretty intense and generate lots of heat, so I had 3 feet of distance between the lamps and the sheets. I did have some (light) leakage to the celing and sides of the whole contraption, but was able to isolate it by moving some things around. Fortunately, Halogen lights are very directional in nature.

Try it sometime when you're experimenting with lighting. I've done a lot of makeshift stuff that came up pretty good on film. On the other hand, some of it was lousy.

Training videos are usually low-budget affairs, so I don't invest a ton of cash in lighting. I usually rely on camera adjustments, and software to make up the diference. But let's face it, when you're filming some guy rebuilding a motor, or installing a hydralic pump in a plant somewhere, how good does the "mood" have to be?

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Old January 5th, 2010, 11:09 PM   #40
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I know this thread hasn't been touched in a long time, but it's still a sticky, and I get the impression that it's a "first stop" for people looking for cheap lighting gear.

Today I read a reply to a thread about low-budget lighting that was probably among the most thoughtful and best-written responses I've ever read. I quoted it here in it's entirety, because if no one did, it'd be lost into the ether by tomorrow.


Originally Posted by Andrew Dean View Post
I'm always frustrated by posts like this because I'd like to help, but most of the stuff i could say comes across as either unrealistic or smug.

I'm not sure whether this will sound smug or unrealistic... possibly both, but here goes:

If you have somebody calling themselves a DP, then they are exactly the person that should be telling you what fixtures they want. Chances are your "DP" is probably more of a cameraman, which is cool... but you really want somebody thats spends their time thinking about lighting and framing and the big picture visually... somebody like... a DP.

Soft lights have their place, but its really easy to make them look lifeless and flat and you usually need a box of gear just to control their spill. You can always soften a hard source, but not the other way around. The cheapy redheads are a good idea so you have some hard light sources, but what you buy should be dictated by what you are shooting and where and what the DP want to happen visually. A "complete kit" is a myth. Even the guys with major lighting trucks have wish lists. Your lighting kit on this film should be based on the needs your storyboards and locations as interpreted by your DP.

You are shooting horror... It depends on the genre of horror and location, but I'd definitely be wanting some hard lights.

Imagine this scenario:

"I'm going in to the studio next month to record an LP. I have a cymbal and a few bass strings, and my guitarist has an amp. I guess we need a guitar so i'm buying a cheap chinese fender knockoff. Aside from the guitar, what kind of instruments do you think I should buy to make the album sound awesome?"

I don't want to be one of those guys that discourages you. I think everybody should make indie no-budget features. Heck, thats exactly why i have a production truck filled with lights, dolly, crane and sound gear... I want to help people with great ideas make no-budget features too.

But the very first question you should ask the music recording scenario guy is "um. what kind of music do you play?"... along those same lines, here are the beginning of questions you should be answering:

What kind of horror film are you shooting?
---This determines the style of lighting which in turn determines what kind of lights you'll want. Old school zombie? Blood spurting slasher? Intellectual thriller?

Indoors, outdoors or both?
--- If your film is all outdoors, then thats a whole different set of gear than if its all indoors. If you are shooting outside during the day low-budget you want diffusers and reflectors. Big pieces of foam core and rigs to hold up sheets/diffusers whatever to cut the contrast off of faces. If its all indoors, then...

Day, night or both?
--- If its night then you need to provide all the light. You can then control everything, however, if its day...

Using sunlight or not?
--- If you use sunlight coming in windows, then you'll need your other lights to compliment that. You'll either need a crapload of interior lighting, or possibly a way to cut back on the brightness of windows. It can be as simple as mosquito netting, or a sheet... but if you want to look like a feature, chances are that blown out windows and unbalanced lighting isnt the look you are after.

is your shoot fully scouted and "light-scheduled and light-located"?
--- On the smart no-budget features, scenes are carefully scheduled to take advantage of the existing light. You avoid shooting exteriors from 11-1 (or really, from 10-2), if you are shooting lots of scenes over many days supposed to take place in a short period of time, you schedule those scenes to take place during the same time of day each day so you dont have shadows jumping from long to short and relative intensity shifting madly. Exterior romantic scenes are shot during the golden hour... etc.

Sometimes it makes more sense to just split a shoot up and use the same time of day over several days. Other times it makes more sense to black out the windows and rent big HMI to blast in the windows so you have a constant and steady source of light that doesnt change as you shoot. Other times it makes more sense just to say "maybe this scene takes place indoors at night" and go for it.

Are you shooting sound or replacing it later?
--- This can make a major different in fixtures. I did a 4 day shoot that took place in a tiny apartment at night... shot during hot summer days with tungsten fixtures and sound sync. This means a tiny apartment with all the windows blacked out, the A/C turned off and 2 redheads and 2 blondes blasting away. I was absolutely drenched in sweat after 20 minutes and dehydrated and delirious at the end of each day. At the end of that week i placed my order for the cool-light HMIs. I will never allow myself to be baked alive again. (i had sunburns from the blonde right behind my head. ahhh)

I've seen some experienced DPs make magic with what seems like useless and impossible thrift store fixtures. I've also seen people use a $10,000/day lighting truck to create completely mediocre scenes. Just like a music cd, it really is the talent of who is using the gear, which is why everyone should want to find a talented DP, then turn all the gear decisions over to them.

Ignoring the previous paragraph (which, to me is rather important), in my opinion your shopping list you should be looking at should start with this:

buy light stands. They are cheap and even the crappy ones can last awhile if you treat them well. Have at least one really tall one.

Buy at least one super clamp and at least one grip head. Its still a talent thing to know when/how to use them, but when you need them, nothing else will work as well. A piece of galvanized pipe in a grip head can turn a light stand into a back light or overhead... I've bought a few of the cheapy ones from b&h and found them to be quite serviceable for the price.

Borrow a ladder. You'll find a use for it.

buy plenty of extension cords.

buy way more snacks, drinks, bottled waters and food than you think you'll ever need. Seriously, this is the absolutely most essential and most often neglected part of shooting a no-budge feature. The people on set are worth FAR more than the gear. If you starve people they get grumpy and make poor decisions... and are less likely to come back. If you feed them well (not fancy, just "well") then they are far more likely to take a bullet for you and say "lets go for it." I'm not talking about a single bag of chips and a 6 pack of budget "dr. cola". You need to make the snack table look like the snack table at a really bitchen party. If you do that, people will loosen up like its a party and everything will flow smoother. You deny caffeine and delay a meal for some bogus reason you run the risk of a mutiny. Seriously. I've seen MANY productions die a quick and painful death due to lack of craft services and I'm sure other people will back me up on this. For a one day shoot, you can get away with it. A Feature??? Thats a huge favor to ask of people. You can get away with a lot of abuse but skimp on food and they will abandon you. If you ignore everything else in this post, heed this. Zero budget films are MADE by the snacks and food served to the crew. It can be peanut butter and jelly on white bread if it has to be, but if you have some form of food ready at all times to hand to the crew the second they get peckish, you will have a 10,000X higher probability of actually finishing your film. It sounds lame, but no matter how old you are, ask your mom. She has the greatest power to help you make a great no-budget film and chances are will love to help out in this way.

If you are shooting with the sun streaming in, buy some scoop lights, some high wattage (200w) bulbs, some low wattage (20w?) and some daylight spiral fluoros. Scoops are what, $10 and worth it if you dont have nicer fixtures to give you a bit of control over where to point some light. The bright and dim bulbs are fantastic for practicals. If you are shooting a darkish scene, put lamps around the room and populate them with dim bulbs. This way you get lots of varied light without overpowering the scene, and not looking all red like you dimmed them. The super brights are if you are shooting a shot with lots of ambient spill and you want the lamp to compete with/compliment some moderate window-light.

You are shooting a 35 adapter on a not-terribly-low-light-friendly camera. Go back and buy even more practicals and scoop lights. It depends on genre and where your film is set, but in most "dark horror" you want many little light sources around the scene. Its not about actual blackness, just lots of contrast. Plus, once you iris up to 1.4 to try to avoid the camera noise you'll realize that all but a tiny sliver of the screen is out of focus and thats when having lots of points of light in the background of a scene will keep it interesting. Heck, drag some old christmas lights out of the attic and find any reason at all to drape them in the background of scenes. lots of blurry lights is cooler than "blackness" and chances are you'll need all the light you can get.

If the window light is extreme, you may need to cut it back. I've had great luck just hanging lace curtains outside the house. Cuts the light back in a nice, but believable manner... I'd troll the thrift stores for lacey curtains, old "misty" shower curtains... really thin sheets. It can all work great in the right situation. If you come up with a way to rig them, they can be overheads if you are shooting in harsh sun, window diffusers/cutters/blackouts, big reflectors and even direct diffusers if you want a really big soft light source for a shot.

Buy a big sheet of white foam core. its a reflector, its a flag. Chop it up and its a cookie. Its both magical and cheap.

Buy a china ball. You can get amazing results just slapping a china ball over the existing ceiling fixture. Its handy to have in lots of different indoor situations. Definitely worth a try for the price.

Its not like all these are the absolute necessities, but they are all so cheap and can be so useful that i think its worth having them around just-in-case. Once you evolve past needing them you can still find uses for 'em and you didnt spend too much money along the way.

So THATS the direction I think you should go in. I'm no lighting expert, so take what i say with appropriate salt. On the other hand, I've done most of the typical and notorious "trial and error" purchases working my way up from a scoop lights to britek to cool lights/arri/kino, (and also from mop-handle boomed atr-55 to oktava to schoeps.) I learned the hard way what works and what doesn't and probably spent $30k to get what amounts to $25k in gear due to my stubbornness/mistakes. I reckon that plus the fact that me and my evolving gear have helped out on lots of no-budget shoots gives me particularly useful insight into the zero-budget gear acquiring process.

If you wanna be a rock band, you need to find a guitarist. If you want to shoot a feature that looks nice? Find somebody to DP that has a strong, cool vision and is willing to cross you to make their vision happen. When everything hits the fan, you want a DP that is willing to fight for the image... and a boom operator willing to fight for mic placement.

Thems my 2c. hope it helps!

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Old April 1st, 2010, 09:09 PM   #41
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Good thoughts on lighting.

I did a shoot a couple days ago in a hospital where we had no access to any decent amount of electrical current. We had a patient room with a big window...and no power for any HMIs to speak of.

As mentioned, we had some spiral (normal screw in light bulb) fluorescent daylight bulbs and I used foam core from an office supply store cut and bent to a right-angle to create a sort of "cove" to aim the light (on the salad tongs clamp from the hardware store) into to create a soft light, but not throw across a nearly unlimited area. It make a very good interview key and we had daylight so we simply ran with the window in view. It looked quite natural actually.

So...I would just echo the idea that having some full spectrum spiral screw in fluorescent bulbs (23w draw for a 100w incandescent light output the package says...), which not only come in the curly-queue configurations, but now also floods...

The one thing I do have with me even when I don't have my normal pro gear, is lots of pro stands...there just isn't a good substitute that I've found... I also carry lots of hardware store "A clamps" or sometimes called "Pony" (a brand) clamps. Very handy for getting various things attached to your stands. If you get the little clamps with a magnet on one handle, you can now mount a lightweight piece of foamcore on a drop ceiling metal grid to block an overhead fluorescent quite nicely. I also have some lowel spuds on a bracket...two posts at a right angle with a bracket and set screw...they slide right on an everyday hardware store sliding jaw clamp rail and now you've mounted a light on the top of a door or other area where you need to have light but don't want a stand.

The one thing you can't get at a hardware or office supply store is the DP...you still need someone who knows what the picture should look like...
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Old October 24th, 2014, 10:02 AM   #42
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Re: Low Budget Lighting Article

Just thought I would add a tip I found on another site about using those Tyvek mailing envelopes to hold sand, dirt or rocks inside your sandbags to prevent leakage, instead of Ziploc bags. Very durable, waterproof, and free from FedEx- https://www.fedex.com/kh/supplies/

Heck you could even put some duct tape handles on those bags and make your own saddlebags.
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