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Old June 9 2011, 06:23 AM   #138
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Re: Fan Filmmaker's Primer

Time for more hints and tips. Let's revising lighting with

As I've said before, you don't have to have studio type lights to get workable results. I've previously discussed China Balls (paper lanterns) for ambient light, but there are interesting options for dramatic lighting as well.

Years ago a friend who worked at MTV told me how for one show they lit the central area of a set by hanging something like 100 maglight flashlights on cables in an array overhead, and if some inevitably conked out, the sheer number of them meant you always had a lot of light. It sounds impractical (and who'd want to have to switch them all on and off all the time), but as the lights hung into the shots it gave an interesting design element in addition to providing practical illumination.

On a smaller scale, you can use cheap LED flashlights to dramatically light single subjects. I did this for the first video I did for The Kinsey Sicks, titled BP is Creepy (click to view on YouTube).

The song was designed to have a spooky sound, so the video needed a spooky look. My idea was to just have the performers disembodied heads floating in black (representing oil and being dark/spooky). I needed something I could shoot fast, too, as we piggybacked this on the tail end of another music video shoot, and basically had to shoot it within an hour. I decided to buy four LED flashlights and use them to light the faces from below, horror-movie fashion.
Original photography was of each performer in this framing.
The frame above illustrates how each of the performers were photographed. The setup was each singer in front of black foamcore board with black tablecloths draped over their bodies. Three LED flashlights provided all the illumination, with one pointing up at the face, and one to each side and behind the performer to rim light the hair.

Originally, I tried photographing all four performers together with one light on each, but with such low lighting levels and resulting poor depth of field it was difficult to maintain focus on all four. I opted to shoot each singer separately so that I could get more light on each (three lights instead of one each), knowing I could easily composite them together in post (after all, what's easier than matting against black?).

Separately photographed heads could be mixed and matched and duplicated and scaled.
As you can see here, the results are pretty dramatic considering how little light we were actually using.
Simple scaling and rotating tricks were used to create choreography like this Busby Berkeley shot.
Naturally, a big part of making this work is to get the exposure right. I you get the exposure wrong, or your camera's no-good in low light, this might not work. BUT, you can increase the number of flashlights for more light. You can even tape them onto C-stands or other stands to keep them in place.

Obviously this technique was its limitations, but there's a lot you can do with it.

* * *
"There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.
óWill Rogers

Last edited by Maurice; June 9 2011 at 09:52 AM.
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