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Old November 3rd, 2005, 09:07 PM   #1
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Light without Lights

I have an upcoming shoot for our first short that takes place in a Vegas hotel room, however due to unforseen outside circumstances I have lost my budget for lighting.

Anybody have good suggestions on household lights/diffusers/bulbs etc. that may work for our needs? (Most of the scene takes place at night and will be lit by the room's lamps/overheads, and we have one floodlamp that can light a small country)

Appreciate it!
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Old November 3rd, 2005, 10:06 PM   #2
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Probably a good approach is to use lots of pratical light (i.e. light from a lamp on a night stand). You can manipulate the placement and number of practicals in the room. If there's a TV in the room, you could turn it on to add interest.

If your camera is not very sensitive, you may be able to stick a higher-wattage bulb into the light so there's enough light to avoid using gain.

Contrast control: Usually when you just point a camera in a room without added lighting, the contrast on faces is a lot higher on camera than what you see. There's various ways to add fill light to reduce this.

One way is to build yourself a reflector with crinkled tinfoil on a piece of board (i.e. cardboard). Crinkle the tinfoil, uncrinkle it, and tape it to the cardboard (you may also be able to use glue; I haven't tried). This gives a quasi-soft light which is good as soft light looks natural. The crinkled tinfoil also has good throw (compared to white foamcore) which will help on medium and wide shots (which are generally hard to light for).

Another way to add fill light is to bounce light off a white ceiling.

Another approach is to forgo fill light entirely, so you'll end up with high-contrast lighting with lots of shadows on people's faces. On the dark side of people's faces, you want to add light on the edge of their face so it has definition against the background. Use an incandescent light from above/behind them or a light off from their side.

You could also add low level of ambient blue-tinted light to the room to get a bit of the night effect. Bounce a light (that's blue in comparison to incandescents) off a reflector or white wall.

If you can control white balance, I'd make the practical incandescent lighting slightly orange (which is how they appear in real life).
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Old November 4th, 2005, 12:36 AM   #3
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Awesome, thank you very very much, that gives me a ton of ideas. The TV actually plays a part in the script, and in some other scenes I really liked the effect it had on the room's light.

The mood of the scene is not particularly positive, so I am going to take you up on the more shadowy look.

Thanks again.
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Old November 9th, 2005, 08:51 PM   #4
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With a practical you usually want to go with a lower wattage bulb, when it's not really adding light. When the cam can see the light source it can really blow out the image.

Try the cheapo-hardware-store-scoops.

Watch out for TV scanning in its light and if it's in a shot.

A white sheet acts a good diffuser. (Use the hotel's sheets)
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Old November 10th, 2005, 10:30 AM   #5
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I really liked the ideas that Scott Spears had in his article - thats posted as the sticky article at the top currently - this might be a good takeaway from it


China Lanterns are great. Iíve seen them on the sets of movies costing many millions of dollars. They are paper material which can be expanded into a ball (and now different shapes like squares, rectangles and ovals). They come with a wire support for the bulb. You need to get a socket and cable and they are usually sold in the same place you find the lanterns. I put a regular 200 watt bulb inside and they make a great softlight for close-ups. If the lanternís big enough, Iíll put two 200 watt bulbs in and I can light a small room with them. Be careful with them because theyíre made of paper and can burst into flames. They run between $3 - $7 depending on size. You can find them at Target, Ikea and Pier One Imports, to name a few.

If youíre handy, you can pick up a socket and some zip cord, otherwise known as household extension cord, and make your own cord for the china lantern."
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Old November 10th, 2005, 11:01 AM   #6
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Yeah, I saw that sticky only after I posted. Durp :-# I am going to look into those lanterns though.....
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Old November 10th, 2005, 11:02 AM   #7
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If there is a wall that is not used in the scene, you can get some cheap halogen worklights and bounce them off that wall and the ceiling to raise the overall light level of the room. If possible, position the praticals to achieve the key and fill on the faces, but don't forget the potential of positioning the talent in the right places in the room to get the right light.

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Old November 14th, 2005, 12:37 PM   #8
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Light without lights


Take a look at some of the flourescent work lights at Home Depot. They look like "drop lights," the kind of light you'd use under the hood of your car when working on the motor.

I've found them rated at 2800, 3200 and 5600 Kelvin. When white balanced they look great, provided you don't mix them. There's no hum, and no green cast. We use them a lot for lighting faces; combined with a piece of white foamcore you can use them for both key and fill lights. They're small, light-weight and cool.

Also, take a look at the WWW under "Chinese Lantern." There's an excellent article that describes how to make a permanent lantern from a fiberglass lighting fixture globe. It's easy to do, avoids virtually any risk of fire and, when used with a photo flood bulb puts out lovely soft white light.
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