Lighting Tricks

Colortran and other autotransformers (Variacs) can compensate for very long cable runs to restore voltage. They are very useful for boosting practical lights to correct color temperature. A large selection of household globes of different wattage is helpful.

Placing narrow beam lights farther away will get more "throw". There will be less drop off for people or objects at different distances from the light.

Light from long horizontal units like Kinoflows, flourescents and long soft lights will look soft and still be easier to cut from areas where you don't want light above or below the lighting unit.

You can make warm constant sunrise light for interiors by using 3200K PAR 64 spots and very narrow spots at a distance outside windows. Light your interior with daylight HMI‚s or Kinoflows to reduce heat. Use day light film. Break up your fake sunlight with window and leaf patterns near the window. As the natural light level from outside rises you will have to reduce it and block any real sunlight you can see. Light from reflectors and mirrors can also fake sunlight. Use 1/2 85 on the reflector or mirror because the light goes through the gel twice. Gels on the windows would warm the natural light coming in and you may want this to stay daylight.

Breaking up sun light with branches gives a realistic look. If outside they should move as they would with a breeze. Making an overhead rag to give a consistent broken light effect isn't easy. We tried strips of cloth and holes in scrims with some success, but there must be a better way. Most trees don't grow very often with the right amount of cover or in the right place. And the sun keeps moving.

It doesn't take a lot of light to give a sunny look to an overcast day. The darker the day the easier it is. A few PAR HMI‚s (The most efficient) hitting selected areas will do wonders. You can practice with one light on a small area to learn what to do.

"Negative Fill" (Large cutters and Duvateen on frames): Always consider removing light to brighten other areas in your shot. Negative fill can add contrast to flat light situations.

Differences in light color temperature is often no problem in background areas; through curtains, back light on actors and even fill light if not "unreasonable". For example the red reflection from a red check table cloth might be objectionable if not seen in the shot, but OK if the tablecloth is seen. Cover the table with white or gray for CU‚s. White walls with different color temperature lights might be noticeable. Labs can do quite a lot of over all color balance repair if the negative is well exposed. They cannot correct for individual areas. That‚ a trick for video finishing.

We have kept shooting when it started raining by covering smaller areas with clear visqueen on a 20 x 18 frame. (Visqueen comes 20 feet wide and you need room to spring clip the plastic to the pipe.) Light rain doesn‚t show in camera. Visqueen in noisy in heavier rain for sound.

Double mirrors will direct sunlight for small areas and keep the angle constant on the set. There are lighter Plexiglas mirrors that can be taped to a regular 42" x 42" reflectors. Glass is harder to handle.

Bill Bennett uses vertical blinds to keep soft outside light from spilling to the sides of an inside set.

To study realistic lighting, study Caleb Deschenal‚s films; "Message in a Bottle" "Being There", and "Black Stallion". Caleb studies the real light look during pre-production at different times and prepares to duplicate the best real lighting looks under shooting schedule conditions. Notice his "just the right" balance inside and outside porches and windows.

There are various firelight and TV effect controllers. If you are caught without one strips of cloth and gel can be hung from a bicycle wheel and turned slowly horizontally. Orange for fire and blue for TV. The opposing strips will randomize the pattern. Reflections off a stretched sheet of Mylar mirror will also work. Test any effect before relying on it on the set. Using a light controller and above tricks will make a better effect.

Water reflections can be faked with light on flat sheets of Mylar mirror and fingers randomly pushing from below.

© Copyright 1999-2004 Ron Dexter. All Rights Reserved.