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Old July 31st, 2009, 11:11 AM   #1
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Lighting to shoot a Model Railroad

I mostly shoot outdoor subjects, so this is a whole new world for me. I'm doing a project on a large model railroad, and need to light it. The room it's in is surprisingly dim for something like this, very few florescent lights, low ceiling, lots of dark colors in the room, tight working space. If there are optimal conditions for shooting video indoors, this is pretty much the opposite.

Anyhow, I'm thinking of using softboxes/umbrellas rather than harsh direct lighting, as I don't want really bright spots. There will be a large amount of closeup work (2-5 feet from the camera, and as close as 6 inches or so) so I was thinking an onboard light would come in handy as well.

As you can tell, I'm a novice at this aspect of the craft. Any ideas (the cheaper the better, natch) are appreciated.
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Old July 31st, 2009, 01:04 PM   #2
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What colour is the ceiling? If it's white, then light up and let it bounce down. Other than that, your soft idea sounds good. I personally wouldn't use camera light on models - close in the distance drops off too much at the sides, so you'll have hot spots.
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Old July 31st, 2009, 04:32 PM   #3
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I would also try to do a fake sunset shot with a single hard light set low, slightly behind, and as far back as possible from the model. Getting it far away will keep one side of the area from being over lit with the other dark. A bit of warm gel on the hard light and a cooler soft fill will give the impression of a warm sun with a blue overhead sky.
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Old August 1st, 2009, 08:09 AM   #4
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I would start with a few chinese lanterns from above.
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Old August 1st, 2009, 12:16 PM   #5
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Lighting Model Railways / Model Railroads

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jason Lowe View Post
I'm thinking of using softboxes/umbrellas rather than harsh direct lighting, as I don't want really bright spots. There will be a large amount of closeup work (2-5 feet from the camera, and as close as 6 inches or so) so I was thinking an onboard light would come in handy as well.
Jason, I have the perhaps a unique understanding of what you need to achieve since I am very active in Model Railroads (we call the Railways over here) as I am Chairman of my local Model Railway Club and organise a large annual Model Railway Exhibition here in the UK ....and I work in video/have produced DVDs for sale in this specialist area. A quick glance of some of my Model Railway videos on YouTube HD (some are on my own corporate video website too) will show some of the work I've done in this area, e.g Thurston OO HD Trailer linked below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ZPZcAIo4zM

Also, the full works linked below if this is of interest (It's in two parts on YouTube)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RP0m9...eature=channel

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-qqE...eature=channel

You definitely have the right idea with softboxes/umbrellas but I'd, personally, NOT use an onboard light as that will create some really horrible shadow effects on this kind of subject when shooting low down (at "eye" level and close up). However, an "onboard type light" mounted on a mini-tripod just out of shot (i.e. off camera) might be very useful when placed carefully on the model for some fill in lighting. What you need is lots on soft light and minimal shadows of course for this kind of subject. However, occasionally very dramatic effects can be achieved with one highly directional light to mimic the effect of, say, late evening sunshine (I've not used this lighting on the model videos I've linked but have used it elsewhere).

Thurston OO actually has an overhead lighting rig as part of the display (which has numerous strip fluorescent lights in it). Hence the nice, evenly lit end result seen in these links.

Good luck!
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