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Old November 28th, 2004, 10:35 AM   #1
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Lighting set-up

Hello Forum,

I building a small lighting set-up which should enable me to do a few small test projects in order to be able to improve my skills etc.

Someone very kindly suggested that some halogens from B & Q (hardware store) would be an ideal and cheap way to get started.

I have been doing some reading up and it seems that 4 lights are in order. I will need a key, fill, backlight and background light to do most of what I want to do.

Has anyone got any suggestions on what the wattages should be for each of these lights (from a choice of 150w, 300w and 500w)? I was going to use a 500w for the key and 150w for all others.

Also I need to construst some barndoors - has anyone else done anything like this and could give me a few pointers?

Finally I need to make a reflector for the fill light - I have seen a few ideas (mostly involving tin foil and cardboard) - again ideas on this in a DIY style would be appreciated.

Sorry to be such a cheapskate but to me that is half the fun...

Alex (XM1)
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Old December 3rd, 2004, 11:10 AM   #2
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I used two 500watt halogen fixtures and a 40-100watt (can't remember which) incandescent floodlight for an interview shoot several months ago. I used one of the 500watt units as the key light and bounced it off of an old 4' portable movie projector screen to soften it. The floodlight was mounted behind and above as a keylight. The second 500watt unit was aimed through a large foamcore board with holes and onto the background wall (a cool marbled wallpaper).

I used the lowest f stop on the GL2 with a 1/60 shutter speed and maybe 6db gain I think. There was enough light bouncing around the room that I didn't even need a fill light. Granted this was my first interview video, I was very happy with the results -- color and highlighting looked great.

The halogen lights seemed too harsh to use for direct lighting, thus the movie screen (I suppose a diffusion gel might have worked too). I did not notice any color temp issues with the lights once I white-balanced properly.

Have fun! Where's the adventure without a good DIY project?
There's no way for you to know if what I'm saying is true unless you know what the truth is, and there's no way for you to know what the truth is unless there is a truth that you can know. -- Frank Peretti
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Old December 9th, 2004, 12:31 PM   #3
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Hi Jeremy,

Thanks for your reply. I have just done a practice set-up with a 500w for the key, a 300w for the fill and another 500w on the background. I was very impressed with the results as I was able to turn the gain to 0db and get a crystal clear picture!

I am now after some reflectors as the lighting is a little harsh when used directly. What do you think would be best a white reflector on the fill, a silver on the key and a white on the fill or maybe some 'DIY' softbox type screen?

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Old December 9th, 2004, 03:32 PM   #4
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DIY Softbox:

Cut 4 pieces of foamcore like a triangle with the top cut off, then tape them together with gaffer's tape. You should now have a squarish, cone-shaped box, open at both ends.

Attach diffusion gel to the large end with clothespins. If you're too cheap to buy diffusion gel, stop reading now. Go be a writer - It's free.

Attach the small end to your halogen worklight. It's probably too hot to attach directly without catching fire, so get 4 lengths of straight heavy wire - heavier that a wire clothes hanger - and gaff tape them to each corner of your softbox. You can then use heavy-duty spring clips to clip the wire onto your light, leaving a few inches for the heat to vent out.

You'll have to adjust the size and shape of the box to suit your needs, but look at a real softbox for a starting point.

If you tape it together correctly, you'll even be able to fold it flat for storage, then pop it open to use it again. Also, if you mount the diffusion halfway inside the softbox, the front half acts like a flag for the soft light spilling out, allowing you to control it more easily.

Unless I'm shooting outdoors and need a really, really bright fill, I always prefer a white bounce over a silver one. Even pro silver reflectors are too harsh for a key light. Softer the better, and as close to the talent as they can stand - often just outside of camera frame. Try it once - it's interesting to see how you can wrap a soft light around a face for very flattering effect.

Also consider buying a range of diffusion, color and ND gels, and using clothespins or spring clips to attach them directly to your lights. Black wrap is also always useful for controlling spill, and easier than constructing barndoors for your worklights.
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Old December 10th, 2004, 02:13 AM   #5
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Thanks Scott,

It sounds great and I may well look at building something like this.

Do you think a 300w bulb is still ok for this or should I up it to a 500w as the diffusion is bound to reduce the output?

So what are you suggesting re key/fill options? Do you mean to use this softbox for the fill and then a white reflector for the key?

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Old December 10th, 2004, 09:01 AM   #6
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In most cases, you should have the highest wattage available for each unit. It's always possible to cut down a light with ND gels, or move the light back a bit to cut down the intensity - but if you don't have enough light, you're out of luck.

I'm suggesting the softbox as the key, a white bounce card as the fill, and another unit with diffusion gels clipped on as the rim. This gives you 3-point lighting with only 2 lights. It also helps to have a white/black foamcore as a bounce card, that way you can also create NEGATIVE fill if needed. Somtimes a location has too much natural fill, and you need to cut that down to define a face.

It's very helpful with non-focusable lights to have several grades of diffusion material. That way, you can have a choice as to how intense or diffused the beam is. Also keep in mind that distance is a huge factor. Even with diffusion in front of a light, if the light is far enough away, it still acts like a point source. The sun is over 400,000 times larger than the earth, but it's 150 million kilometres away, so it occupies a small degree of arc relative to the subject.

The larger the area of diffused light relative to the subject, the softer the effect. That's why they make 6', 12' and even 20' silks, and often place them very close to the subject.

Another important light that is often overlooked is eyelight. The only purpose of this light is to reflect off the shiny surface of the eye. That little glint makes someone's eyes look alive. It can make a dramatic difference. Since the eyelight is only there to reflect, not to illuminate the person, it doesn't have to be a powerful light. It just needs to show up in the reflection. Try a china lantern close to the camera for a nice round eyelight, or a bunch of Christmas lights arranged in a pattern for a weird effect. Often, if you are using a large softbox close to a person, the softbox will reflect a nice, big square glint in the eyes and no additional eyelight is needed.

The main thing when you are starting out is to give yourself plenty of time to experiment. Set up a scene. Move the lights back and forth, up and down, closer and farther, and note how this changes the look of the scene. Turn lights on and off to note the role each light plays in the overall look. Block a scene where people move in and out of different lights, and see how this changes the impact. With enough practice, you'll start to develop "an eye" for lighting, and you'll instinctively know where to place the lighting for the look you're after. That way, you can just "tweak" the lights to fine-tune the look.

Just remember, every face is different, every scene is different, and rules are made to be broken. Good lighting is less about following a formula, and more about learning to be a good observer of light. Once you begin to realise why different kinds of light makes things look a certain way, you'll start seeing those relationships everywhere you go, and you'll be able to duplicate those looks by controlling the light in a scene.
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Old December 11th, 2004, 12:14 AM   #7
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What I have found as a nifty and CHEAP reflector, is found in the automobile isle at your local WAL MART. Get a few of the reflectors that you put in your windshield to keep the inside of your car from reaching the boiling point. They reflect the light very nicely, and you can use the dull side for a less harsh effect.

Have fun!
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