Topic: Working On An Optimal Lighting Setup

Lighting has always been a large issue for me. I just switched to using four LED lamps with paper over them to diffuse the light, two far above and slightly behind the set on each side, and two level with the set more to the front. I can't find a proper level to remove all shadows and reduce light flicker. I am also interested in using lighting within a set for a more natural feel rather than full-bright rooms that never appear this way in real-life, and thus include shadows as a dynamic element. I also like my sets to have a more white-blue lighting set-up rather than an incandescent yellow. Here is all of that in a more refined question format.

1. What is the best light format to reduce light-flicker but still remain with a white-blue rather than yellowish color scheme?
2. What is the best way to make lights appear as if they are in the set naturally from ceiling lights, out a window and such?
3. What is the best way to completely reduce light flicker?

When I say best way, I am looking at your opinion obviously because there is no perfect answer. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Also, here is my latest video if people want to see what I am currently doing: … jXx9KomaWA
My camera kept reverting to auto white balance so that was a major issue for this video, but other than that I am looking for suggestions.

Last edited by LiamG (January 5, 2015 (07:09pm))

Re: Working On An Optimal Lighting Setup

In my opinion, to get natural light, don't use all one color lamps. I use 2 white and 1 yellow bulb, because i gives a great depth for the color. I make the yellow more obvious in outdoor scenes, and less in indoor scenes. Try the Three-point lighting setup. Always notice where the light is coming from. Lighting is a tricky thing, but it is one of the most important. (For SlothPaladin, it's the most important thing! mini/lol) If done right, it can make your film so much better. If done incorrectly, it could lead to a dull film with little life to it (or disastrous consequences if you want to be dramatic about it mini/tongue ). You have to put thought and effort into lighting.

1. Reduce light flicker? Check your lens. Nikon lenses have issues with light flicker because the aperture does not close the exact same amount for every picture. Light flicker can happen because of shadows, so be careful you're not casting a shadow on your set. It can also be because of external light sources, so close your windows and turn off your main room lights. As for the white-blue colors, use a bluer white-balance, and use whiter lights instead of yellow ones. If all you have is yellow bulbs, then try setting your white balance even more blue to counteract the yellow.

2. Integrate your lights into the set. You are using desk lamps right? If so, you can bend them to change the light direction. Think about where the light is coming from. For an inside shot, make sure the lights come from the ceiling, if the house has ceiling lights. If a lamp is on in the corner of a room and that's all, put a spot light right over the lamp to make it appear that the light is emitting from the lamp. (You can also use a fill-light to fill in dark shadows, but don't point it directly at the set, instead, use bounce lighting for that by pointing the lamp at a wall or the ceiling or a piece of posterboard). For light coming in a window, place your light outside of the house, and either point it directly in the window (for harsh light), or point it outside like the sun would (at an angle, pointed at the ground).

3. To completely obliterate light flicker, find the source. Like I said earlier, it could be a shadow, natural light from a window, your camera, your lamps. There are all kinds of reasons for light flicker. The most common one is camera settings. Make sure you set everything (and I do mean everything) to manual settings. White balance, exposure, ISO, focus, everything. Check your lamps to make sure they are not flickering. Make sure you wear black so you don't reflect any light onto the set. Close your windows, turn off the other lights in the room, dim your computer monitor. If there is continuous light flicker even after all this, you can remove it in post using VirtualDub (see a tutorial here.

I hope I could help you today. Obviously, I am no expert, but I have been down this road before. mini/wink

EDIT: One think I wanted to mention, but didn't fit in with any of the questions, was a rim-light. A rim light is not in the 3-point lighting setup, rather, it's in the 4-point setup, but it adds depth to your characters and separates them from the background. I like to do them also because it can make an awesome lens flare at the same time. Basically to do a rim-light, you point a light at an angle behind the character, or set, or whatever, so it points at your camera and makes a rim of light on the edges of your minifigs.

Last edited by rioforce (January 5, 2015 (07:54pm))

"Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Corinthians 10:31b

Re: Working On An Optimal Lighting Setup

Well, first of all I find it's pretty great to have bulbs which are as close to white as you can get, then you can just change the white balance.  I use bulbs which are more neutral in hue, but slightly cool in hue.  I have two big lamps and point them directly at the ceiling, which produces and extremely soft lighting coming from above.  This produces my default lighting setup, which I've used for most films in the past few years.  It's good for basic stuff, but for other more special conditions it's subject to change.

If you want to make it look like light is coming out of a window, first build a room with a window and put some background out there.  Then shine all of your lamps at the background.  It should come through the window and light your interior.  For certain other cases, it's nice to build a light into your set, or perhaps build a tiny hole in a wall to shine light through that and into a transparent thing.  It will look like that object is lighting up all by itself.

On the subject of light flicker, it's good to test if a bulb is a flicker bulb by waving you hand in its light.  If the blur is smooth it should be all right, however, if your hand's blur appears more like a bunch of frames, then you've got a light that is actually strobing at a very fast speed which you would not typically notice.  This can be a problem because fast frames will often get it at different times in its cycle.
However, if you need to, you can still get around this by giving your camera a particularly long exposure, thus the strobe is averaged out and the lighting should look the same frame to frame.

If you've done that, and still have flicker, I think it's pretty obvious that your lighting is not the flicker problem.

Last edited by Squid (January 5, 2015 (08:56pm))

Re: Working On An Optimal Lighting Setup

It looks like flicker is mainly in zooming shots in your film, was the zoom done with the lens? Sometimes when lenses zoom they change aperture due to the aperture changes you might be getting some flicker.

I use all tungsten lighting, a lot of folks seem to like cooler light colors but I feel like over all I get a broader spectrum of colors in my images by using more old fashion tungsten lights but my lighting setup boarders on madness.

As far as shadows go you don't have to get rid of all of them, it's important that only one is clearly visible, also if you are having shadow issues maybe it's time you bring your camera a little lower so you can't see the shadows on the ground, because if you can't see them who cares, it's all about what the camera sees. Also playing with shadows and light colors can be fun, film don't (and often shouldn't) have to be realistic, who cares if the lighting isn't realistic if it's AWESOME.

You can see some of my light crazyness in this album for my unfinished THAC film or look at the album to my recently finished but unpublished film and see that realistic lighting is the least of my concern, I just try to focus on making it look sweet, realism be damned.

Re: Working On An Optimal Lighting Setup

Thank you all for helping. I'm going to try to use all of your recommendations in a test film soon and hopefully it will fix my issues. I'm trying to learn how aperture, shutter speed, ISO etc. functions in order to make my films look better so hopefully that will help as well.