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Low Budget Candle Lighting


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#1 Meg K

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Posted 20 April 2008 - 11:55 AM

I need to shoot a "candle light vigil" scene for a music video. I'm a high school student and i have almost no budget. I just need to know the best way to light this scene. Improvising will work for me. (ie: blanket over a lamp) Haha.

Any thoughts??
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#2 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 01:06 AM

I need to shoot a "candle light vigil" scene for a music video. I'm a high school student and i have almost no budget. I just need to know the best way to light this scene. Improvising will work for me. (ie: blanket over a lamp) Haha.

Any thoughts??



If you're in high school, perhaps you're shooting Mini-DV? Single chip camcorder? Those often do well in lower light. For your wider shots, if you have lots of candles you might get some nice dramatic effect from the silhouettes holding them depending on how you position your vigil attendees against the background.
Maybe there's a wall that's already lighted that will define their silhouettes.

For close-ups if you have people hold two or three candles closely together, or find thicker or multi-wick candles, and also have them hold those candles up a bit higher and closer (safely of course) to their faces, you might get enough light on their faces for pleasing images. Do some tests with different candles and see what kind of images you can get by the candlelight. I've got some nice close-ups without any gain or noise by the light of several candles on a face.

If your school has lights you can learn to augment your candles light by gelling a light off camera. There are several threads on here about books for film lighting and also a list in the Students and first time filmmakers forum I believe.

http://www.cinematog...?showtopic=4523

Just remember, if you use other lighting sources, you'll likely want to use them to get a stronger image but one that looks like it's achieved by the candlelight. If you blast a light at your cast, it'll look like a news shot or simply like somebody aimed a bright light at a bunch of people holding candles.

If you find that your camera is giving you a streaking or smearing effect at the points of light from the candles, you could perhaps use candles that are inside
something, such as even the paper cups that many outdoor candle vigils use to keep the candles lighted when it's windy. The light from the candles will still go out the top of the cups so that it can hit your cast's faces and you could also use these cups to have people hold several candles as if they are holding only one, since the candle flames will be diffused by the paper cups sides and not seen directly. Again of course be safe but I've never seen anyone have a problem with a couple of candles going through a cup like this.

If you can hit up friends, family and neighbors for candles from around their houses, you can keep your budget down. Nobody has to to see that your candles are all different, unless you want to show that for its own dramatic impact, e.g. many disparate people have come to the vigil.
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#3 Meg K

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 08:00 AM

Thanks! I will definitely look into those things. Much appreciated.
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#4 Mike Williamson

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 05:52 PM

There are a number of different solutions to get the feeling of candle light or firelight. The most important part of this is to figure out in your mind ahead of time "what does firelight actually look like?" and "what should it feel like in this particular scene?" After that you can find a technical solution that works, but without thinking about it you will have no idea what you're doing.

First, a very authentic version would be to put many candles close together, then place either white or silver bounce cards behind them to increase the amount of light they put out towards your subject. Apparently it works better if you can curve the showcard around to return as much of the light as possible. You would want these lights as close to the edge of your frame as you can get them because they will not be bright. You would need very sensitive film or video camera with a fast lens for this to work, which you may not have.

Second, you can get a tungsten fresnel (1k or 650 if possible) and put it into a flicker box. The flicker box will cause the light to dim up and down, simulatiing the flicker of a candle or fire. Most flicker boxes are adjustable in terms of speed, some have different patterns of flicker, and also possibly a built in dimmer. The dimmer is useful because as you dim down the light, the color of the light will get warmer and look more like candle light. If you get a flicker box without a dimmer, you can use warm gels like CTO to make the light warmer.

Third, you can get a tungsten fresnel and run it through a dimmer, then manually dim the light up and down for the feeling of candle flicker. This actually works best with several fresnels pushed very close together all on separate dimmers, so that you get different patterns of flicker that look like they are coming from the same place. I often have one light that flickers just in the middle of the range and doesn't change much, one light that changes more dramatically going from low to high, and then probably one more light in the mid range with a slightly different color gel on it. As with the flicker box idea, you can use gels on the lights to get warmer colors so that you have more range to work with the dimmers. Also, don't forget to use flags or black wrap to keep the light from hitting parts of the scene that you don't want it to hit.

Good luck on your project!
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Willys Widgets

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Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Wooden Camera

Glidecam

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS