After my last post ranting about the very limited usefulness of redheads, I was asked what the alternative is for cash-strapped DPs. There are plenty of cheap fluorescent photography-studio-type lighting kits available on eBay now, but they have their own problems. So can you light without any film lights at all? Yes, you can – and here are a few examples.
Check out my pieces to camera in the Stop/Eject funding pitch which follows the trailer in this video:
I was so lazy when I filmed this that even though I was only two metres away from where I keep my Arrilites, I didn’t use them. There are three light sources in this shot:
- My key-light is an ordinary, bare, domestic 100W bulb (NOT an energy-saver) clipped to a proper light stand. I wish I’d put it a touch closer to camera and a touch higher so that my right eye was better lit.
- My backlight is an LED camping light (£2 from a charity shop) propped up on top of a bookcase out of the rear left of frame.
- Behind me is a thin brown curtain through which daylight can be seen. Since I’m shooting on a tungsten white balance preset, this and the camping light appear blue.
Shelf Stackers (2011, dir. Tom Wadlow) is a comedy set mainly in the aisles of a supermarket – in reality a set in a conference centre. Colin and I rigged half a dozen 500W DIY work-lights to the ceiling using the method I described in a July post, in a line running down the centre of the aisle, all of them facing towards camera to provide backlight throughout the set.
I’ll confess there were a couple of Arrilites poking over the tops of the shelves, but often we used something much lower-tech as our key-light: a dozen 100W bulbs rowed up on a long piece of timber – the Cyclotron, as we dubbed it. The intention was to emulate the long, thin source of a fluorescent tube without the associated cycling and colour balance issues.
And here’s another one of me where I was too lazy to break out the proper lights. This is my living room, and the existing ceiling light – an energy-saver bulb in a spherical white Ikea shade – is providing the key. I made sure I stood in a position where this would illuminate both my eye sockets. I’m backlit by another Ikea product – a goose-necked reading light clipped to a bookcase out of shot.
Remember you can get a digital download of the full video, “How to Make a Fantasy Action Movie for £28,000” by donating £10 to Stop/Eject.
I hope that’s given you some ideas. And if you’ve done a good, cheapo lighting set-up yourself, leave a comment or Facebook me; I’d love to hear about it.