Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Wow, it's been a few days since I posted.

Today I'm going to post about - lights. Yes, finally lights. This is going to be a kind of general posting regarding what to look for, then as the days and weeks go by I'm going to post more specifics.

Let me start by telling you about a music video I shot with lights from Home Depot. What I had was two of those silver clip-on shop lights, a fluorescent fixture with two bulbs and one of those silver shop lights that are in a kind of oval cage that have a little hook on top so you can hang it anywhere. You tend to see guys using them to work on cars. I also had a collection of lightbulbs of various wattages. Most were incandescent household bulbs - but I had a few of the spot type bulbs as well - also in various wattages.

Now the key thing to remember about light is that it comes in two flavors (well color temperatures really,) 3200K and 5600K. 5600k is daylight - the sun at noon - 3200k is your reading lamp next to your bed. What's the difference between them? Well in a nutshell, 5600k is blue light and 3200k is yellow/orange light. This is why we white balance our cameras. While our eye adjusts - the camera can't (though some can but that's beside the point.) What white balancing means is that it tells the camera's computer what white is. From there it can interpret all the other colors. There are ways to play with this - white balancing on different colors, but that's a whole other post. But if you'd like an example of this - white balance your camera inside - with the house lights on - then point it out the window. All will be blue. (There are also color temps besides 3200 and 5600 but unless you have a color temperature meter and are shooting film - I wouldn't worry about them.) When you shoot film - you buy film specifically for a certain color temperature.

All the lights I was using on this video were 3200K - including the fluorescence. Most flos are hideous lights sources and turn up in nasty greenish tones when you balance for other colors but I was using Optima bulbs - meaning that they were balanced for 3200k. You can find these at HD, but you may have to look for them.

What I wound up using mostly were the silver shop lights with fairly low wattage bulbs in them. DV is pretty sensitive to light and two 35 watt bulbs made the place look like high noon. But that was the lowest I had, so I used those, but wrapped some tinfoil over the lights (poor-man's blackwrap (which is heavy tinfoil painted black)) to cut it down a bit. Depending on the shot, I would move these around, and clip them to whatever piece of furniture or doorway or tripod was nearby. The nice thing about them is that they are a fairly soft light to begin with. You can also plug them in to a dimmer to lower the intensity a bit.

I also used my flos as fill here and there - but they're a little more cumbersome to work with - though they looked great when laid - say - behind the drummer - on the floor shining up.

I also used the hanging shop light as a practical. I had the lead singer hand-hold it in shots and that was the only light on. He would move around the various band members and light them - or himself - as the song played. It looked very cool. And that was it - the whole lighting kit. If I get the chance, I'll post the video on my website. I'd love to hear - and post - other ideas people have for lights - just shoot me an email.