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Lighting?

Posted: Thu, 17th Nov 2005, 9:27pm

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Serpent

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Lighting is supposedly really important in achieving a nice look for a shot. I just want to know how to light a shot and have it look proffesional (on a small budget.) What is required? I don't really know exactly what to ask I guess. I want to shoot a horror with a dark feel to it, so, what equipment do I need (from a hardware store/household items) and how do I set it up. Once I get that going, I know what look I want, just not how to achieve it, so I can adjust it from there. I never really see this question asked around here. Also, I am going to digitally grade this, so I am a little flexible. Note: I have a Canon GL1 if that affects anything, or if I need to adjust settings on the camera to give it a better feel with the lighting.
Posted: Thu, 17th Nov 2005, 9:52pm

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outsiderlookingin

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Here is the core principal of lighting. It is commonly referred to as the basic lighting principal, or even more commonly, three point lighting system, etc.

You have three lights, a key, a fill, and a backlight (sometimes called a harilight). Your key is for creating contrast and bringing attention to the object you plan on lighting. It is generally placed to the left or right of the camera and pointing downwards at a 30 degree angle. There are no "real" rules when it comes to this, but the key is supposed to represent your main light source, so naturally that is the general position.

The fill, as the name implies, is used to "fill" in the areas that key leaves out, i.e., harsh shadowed areas, surrounding areas, etc. Pretty simple. It is generally placed to the left or right of the object or talent you are trying to light. It is usually a soft or diffuse light that spreads out in a very wide pattern with a slow falloff.

The backlight is placed behind the object or talent you are lighting and it is designed to seperate your talent from the background. This helps create the illusion of depth, or lack thereof, in the frame. This light is generally just out of frame and can be diffuse or more focused if you wish.

Remember, these are general guidelines, not end all rules. Pretty much since the beginning of film the lighting triangle has been utilized, so it's pretty much the "standard", but there are ways to delve outside of this. Like in horror. In most situations you wouldn't light someone from below because it is very unnatural. In horror, lighting someone from below helps create an eerie, freaky mood, and it's commonly utiltized in most horror movies.

Some good tips for setting up your own lighting rig. Buy one of those lights on a stand and replace those bulbs with 3200K color-balanced lamps from a photo shop. Also, a good fill light would be to buy some of those paper lanterns and replace the bulbs with color-balanced lamps. A good thing to have as well is a white reflective board, maybe covered with some foil on one side to use to "bounce" the light of your fill onto your subject.

Hope this helps.
Posted: Thu, 17th Nov 2005, 10:01pm

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Serpent

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Thanks for that! However, I have no idea what to buy, you gave me one, but I need others, and specific. I am not much of a hardware dude. So, maybe something that you would find at Home Depot or Lowe's for $50 setup. This is lighting on a 16-year-old's budget. I want it to be really simple. Basically, lighting on a "no budget" film, but still getting better quality look than you would using just the lamps in your home. (This is all going to be shot indoors.)
Posted: Thu, 17th Nov 2005, 10:10pm

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outsiderlookingin

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Buy at least 2 lights that are on some sort of stand (should only be $30 or so), then buy 2 color-balanced bubls (3200K) from a photo store. Those should run around $20-25. So, that should get you close. The main thing is to have color-balanced 3200K bulbs. These are considered white light and will help more than anything. Robert Rodriguez used them when he was shooting "El Mariachi" with almost no budget. He just replaced normal bulbs in the room with them. If anything, that's what you want.
Posted: Thu, 17th Nov 2005, 10:33pm

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TimmyD

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If you need a scene dark, but your camera sucks in low-light conditions (like mine does) bounce the lights off walls and white boards and reflectors, and diffuse it if theres no bouncing material. This will create an ambient light that seems to have no source, therefore creating an even light on the scene which you can darken in post or right in the cameras exposure settings.
Posted: Thu, 17th Nov 2005, 11:07pm

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Hendo

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Serpent wrote:

I want to shoot a horror with a dark feel to it, so, what equipment do I need (from a hardware store/household items) and how do I set it up. Once I get that going, I know what look I want, just not how to achieve it, so I can adjust it from there.
Have you seen this tutorial on lighting? It's definitely worth a read and has lots of good examples.
http://www.itchy-animation.co.uk/tutorials/light01.htm

As for buying cheap lights, have a look for halogen worklights in your hardware store. Here's one I found on Lowe's site but I'm sure there are lots more with different wattage and prices.
Posted: Thu, 17th Nov 2005, 11:16pm

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ben3308

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Okay, here's what you need:

One big, bright arse light. A HUGE one.

One small or average sized contractor's worklight.

A couple of big pieces of white posterboard.

Point the huge light a little angled off of your subject, and keep it opposite the camera, but out of frame. Now get your worklight pointed directly at the subject from the camera's position. Now put varying amounts of posterboard in front of either light and determine what would look best for that situation. I'd have a person stand holding some posterboard right up to the big light, maybe crack just a sliver of light out.

It's really up to you.

This is what I've always done, and it generally works.
Posted: Fri, 18th Nov 2005, 1:17am

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Serpent

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Thank you all so much. Ben, by varying amounts of poster board, do you mean layer thin poster boards in front of the lights to dim them? Maybe pull a paint picture that shows this.

From what I have read, this is what I will do: Main light reflected from poster board onto subject from below to create harsh shadows, a strong backlight to bring out the translucence of hair, and little basic lights to even out the set. If anyone can give me some input, it'd be great.
Posted: Fri, 18th Nov 2005, 2:25am

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ben3308

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Take out the backlight and angle the mai light not to create shadows, but to generally fill what you want and create the primary shadows. Then fill everything else that's dark that you want with little lights (scoop lights, mini worklight) ad put posterboard on them if you want any extra shadows or shading. Think about how you'd draw something (this might not work for those of us that aren't artists) and visualize how you want your light.

Again, you don't need the backlight, just use the mainlight from the side or back/side angle to do that job. Don't make it more work than it is.

Sorry, by "layer" I meant stagger. This means not only angle the light out in one direction usiong posterboard, but slowly pull the posterboard away until you get enough even light that is satisying. Make sense at all?
Posted: Fri, 18th Nov 2005, 3:05pm

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outsiderlookingin

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I wouldn't rule out the use of a backlight, a lot of times this can make a huge difference, especially is you do a lot of z-depth staging and blocking. This generally how pros like Speilberg shoot and the backlight helps create the illusion of depth. Remember, you are trying to recreate a 3d world in 2d.

Also, do not forget to get color-balanced 3200K lamps. This will set you're lighting apart from people who merely try to be professional. This is the most important thing to remember, don't let anyone tell you otherwise. It will be especially helpful in post, because it may look white to the human eye, but when the footage is digital, the computer doesn't see it the way we do.
Posted: Fri, 18th Nov 2005, 6:17pm

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ben3308

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You can use the main light to create the depth. Backlight isn't always necessary, and can be cumbersome to add to an already complicated setup.

Speilburg has all the lights, money, time, crew, and talent in the world. Amateurs don't. You have to think more practically.
Posted: Fri, 18th Nov 2005, 7:13pm

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outsiderlookingin

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I think very practically, and aesthetically. One extra fill light doesn't complicate anything, and if you want to make movies in the professional world someday, you better follow the time-honored practices. There is a reason why three point lighting setup is known as the Basic Lighting Principle...because it WORKS!
Posted: Fri, 18th Nov 2005, 7:54pm

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ben3308

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My two-point system works, and I have pretty good-looking results to back it. I dunno if I plan on working in the professoinal industry some day, but if I did, of course I would follow trhe standard practice. However, now I'm an amateur on my own without a big crew, and my two lights are all I really need to light a scene. I know what I'm saying works for lo-no budget filmmakers such as myself. Do you?
Posted: Fri, 18th Nov 2005, 9:35pm

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Sollthar

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You can use a flashlight and point it at your actors face too. It would work and cost nothing. But it'd look shite. wink


Basically you should use at least 3 lights, if possible more. The ideal light setting for an actor/object should be somewhat like this:



Light 1 ist the weakest of the lights, the floodlight. It should set the basic shadow strength you want you your frame (It's the one that CAN be leaved if you want to have heavy shadowed edges).

Light 2 is the medium strength one, the leading light. It sets the main light of your object and therefore the main mood of your scene. (Never leave this of. It leads, therefore... let it leed.)

Light 3 is the strongest light, the outline light. It set's the actor/object apart from the background by giving it a white outline. Looks cool and helps achieving a good visual effect. (Use it! It's good!)


Like that:




Light 4 is whatever needed to light the background. Ideally it has a bit of different color/warmth then the other lights wich helps setting appart the background from the foreground.



And yes, I have used this. Yes, it works, and yes, it can be used on a tight budget as well and no, it's not going to make your production needing Spielbergs assistents and yes, it will take a bit longer setting up each shot. But that's how it goes if you want things to look right. smile
Posted: Sat, 19th Nov 2005, 6:42pm

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Serpent

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Sollthar, I love you.
Posted: Mon, 21st Nov 2005, 2:06pm

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outsiderlookingin

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Thank you Sollthar, someone who knows what he's talking about.
Posted: Mon, 21st Nov 2005, 3:34pm

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ben3308

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Jerk. Other people are allowed to have ideas about how to do stuff, too, you know. Think before you speak.
Posted: Mon, 21st Nov 2005, 3:46pm

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outsiderlookingin

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Hey buddy, I didn't start arguing with you. You're the one that took what I was saying and said forget about it.

Honestly, I don't really care. I understand that not everyone does this professionally. This is my career and my job. I have my own company, and I take it very seriously. So, I am biased to doing things the right way, and I know what works and what doesn't.
Posted: Mon, 21st Nov 2005, 3:52pm

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ben3308

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I understand what you're saying, I just find it annoying that you immediately condemned my idea and said it was wrong. Even Sollthar criticized it with his flashlight joke, but here's the deal: it works. I know how to light a scene the way the pros do it, I just find that I can get the same if not better results by simplifying the setup. If you don't believe me I'd be happy to send you some of my work and you can judge for yourself whether the lighting looks good or not.

Sorry, I didn't mean to get into a huge argument, I just get a little ticked when people think I don't know what I'm talking about, because usually I do. Maybe we can agree to disagree next time.
Posted: Mon, 21st Nov 2005, 4:00pm

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Sollthar

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I didn't criticize what you suggested ben, because you're right. A two light set up works too. It can work very well and I've used it a lot.

What I critisized and still critize with your "jerk" or "think before you speak" remark is - sorry if I speak it out that clearly - your remarkable arrogance.


No one said your suggestion doesn't work. Outsiderlooking said he wouldn't rule out a backlight and he is absolutely right. It was you who started acting as if you knew it all and as if no one else but you had the right idea. That's what my remark was directed at, not at your suggestion.
Posted: Mon, 21st Nov 2005, 4:04pm

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Bryce007

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Sollthars Setup Is Right on the mark. And also, That digital double you used in the demonstration is Great! a little motion blur and you should be set.

As far as Two light set ups go...Three lights are mandatory IMO. Two lights generally look better if the space is confined and you're just looking for shafts of light or Blatant highlighting/spotlighting.

Last edited Mon, 21st Nov 2005, 4:33pm; edited 1 times in total.

Posted: Mon, 21st Nov 2005, 4:06pm

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outsiderlookingin

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In the words of Rodney King, "Can't we all just get along!"

Being serious, it's all good. No reason to have virtual arguments.
Posted: Mon, 21st Nov 2005, 7:22pm

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Sollthar

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*gives ben a hug* angel
Posted: Tue, 22nd Nov 2005, 1:57pm

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CurtinParloe

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Just in time to annoy the hell out of everyone again:

Having just finished an 8-week lighting module (with a jobbing videographer) on my degree, I have learnt some very useful stuff about lighting.

The cardinal rule of lighting is:

Control the light.

Forget about colour temperatures (except in special circumstances), forget about 3-point lighting. If you follow this rule, you can get excellent results with a 40W lightbulb and a mirror. If you don't then any number of lights won't help.

The trick to controlling the light is to decide how you want it to look before you even look through the lens. Look at the surroundings - white walls might be a nuisance to be dealt with, or a useful reflector, depending on the angles you use and the effects you want. The more lights you use, the more shadows you will get, and the more spill you'll have to be careful of; both of these things can ruin a shot. Naturalism is the key; you want it to look like it's not been lit at all, but it looked that good already.

Colour temperatures are tricky. The deal is, daylight looks blue and tungsten lamps look yellow (halogen striplights look green). You can use white balance to mask the differences, or change it in post-production, unless they are both seen at the same time. You can get gels or balanced lights to make them look the same, but you only have to do that if the effect isn't what you want.

Forget all that though. The best way to get results is to practice and see what you like.