Lighting : LUSENET : Shooting DV Films : One Thread

What is the best source of lighting on a budget, I mean besides the Sun. I have a Sony TRV9, single ccd, poor low light, you know the one. anyways, I have heard of ppl using those lights you can get at the hardware store (I think tungsten Halogen,1000 watts for $50) and figure that they are probably the wrong color teperature or something. Is there anyway to make use of cheap lighting like that. What color temp should I be looking for anyway? Any info on cheap material to use for diffuse lighting from these sources would be appreciated also. I can't afford any $500 umbrellas or anything.

-- steve Shortridge (, October 30, 1998


I have also heard of people doing that for film, but not video (not to say it wouldn't work and not to say it worked for film). Anyway, you probably want 3200 degree lights. I have no hands on with the TRV9, but since it is a one chip I will assume there is no manual white balance control. I took the long and slow road on lighting, but it ended up okay. I just pieced together a Lowell kit one fixture at a time. I started off just getting a Tota light and a cheap diffusion box. Then a few months later I got another one, a few months after that an Omni light and then another one. Within a year I had put together a decent set of lights. Learn as muich as you can about lighting basics (after all, lighting creates the image, the camera just captures it) at places like, and, or Also there are some good books available. Two that are often recommended are MATTERS OF LIGHT AND DEPTH by Ross Lowell and PAINTING WITH LIGHT by John Alton

Good luck!

-- Scott Bethel (, October 31, 1998.


Hi, I'm shooting a film in two months, and I wanted to know if its possible to achieve good quality black and white on standard mini-dv cameras.In terms of lighting, what kind of lights would be needed in low budget and no budget to create good quality on mini-dv b lack and white films.

-- sunny okoronkwo (, August 21, 2003.

I've got a TRV9, too and have recently run up against lighting issues. I took a couple of those aluminum reflectors that you can get at Home Depot for about $7 and added a couple of 75W halogen bulbs. These were used relatively close up to the talent and did a great job in getting me well light, properly colored skin tones. I'm planning on adding a couple of those 500W halogens on stands to eliminate background shadows, etc. The 75W halogen clamp on reflectors, along with two 1 foot long 2x4's, and a tripod make pretty good copy stand for shooting artwork/photo's. Just clip the lamps to the 2x4's on end, aim at your piece, and shoot!


-- Dave Nacy (, October 31, 1998.

Huy, your TRV9 was just used to produce what I consider to be an amazing break to independent filmmakers in a feature-lengh film titled "The Celebration." The entire film was produced with that one-chipper you own. If you watch the film, it was produced under natural lighting. I noticed and discovered that this camera loves light when I played with it, and could achieve professional results like that movie if used with SOFT LIGHT. What I mean by that, it has a tendency to overexpose or underexpose more than three chip cameras in my opinion. I would try using either a cool-lux light AC/DC whicch produces excllent color fidelity out of that chip and the right skintones but if you want to be an artist and spend probably less go to China Town and buy a pair of Chinese lanterns and see what wonders soft lighting can do for you

-- Raouf Zaki (, November 01, 1998.

Yes..... The China lantern. I have used them in both film and video work. They are great and they are cheap, and the are easy to pack! However if you don't know where China town is, there are many other ways to do things. I find it hard to believe that your camera does not have a manual white balance, but no matter you can work around that. Here we go....

Light is measured in color temerture.

outside in the sun it is around 5200 kalvin, or 5.2k. This light looks very blue because it is very hot.

inside light, (normal every day bulbs) is around 3200 kalvin, or 3.2k. This light looks much more orange than the outside light because it is much cooler.

Now, that is just the basics. If ya wanna know more about color temp, get a book. It is good stuff to know.

So, what if you wanna use inside lights (3.2k balanced) outside durning the day to fill an actors face so he don't look ugly?

BLUE GELLS!!! They ain't expensive. By the way, a gell is a blue piece of see through plastic that you put infront of a light to change the color light that it produces. You should have a set of different colored (oh yes, they come in every color), gells in your light kit. Even if your light kit is a flash light. Be an artist!! Have fun with the pretty colors.

Anyway, you also wanted to know about putting together a light kit. You can get used umbrellas and such for very little money. They beauty of DV is that it really doesn't need all that much light. No matter what flipping camera you have. There is no need to buy really expensive equipment. I just bought (new) a couple of 250 watt video lights that are meant for wedding video guys and gals for 50 bucks. They are great. If you don't have the money for an unbrella, boounce the light off a white wall. If you don't have a white wall, buy a piece of white foam board from the local art supply store, and bounce the light off of that. If you don't have that hang a white sheet on a wall. Use your imagination. By the way, the best way to get difused light is by shinning it through something that will diffuse it like the China laterns, or special diffusion paper called tough spun. God does it by shinning the sun through a wonderful layer of what we film and video people call clouds! Awsome. God is a really great film maker if you didn't already know. Bouncing light is also a very good way to defuse it, like off a wall or off the ceiling.

It sounds like those lights at the hardware store, the 1000 watt ones will work great. 50 bucks! I will have to check it out man. Just get some gells and a light ing book, and then it doesn't matter what color light you have cause you can always make it different.

-- Edward Seaton (, November 03, 1998.

To clarify the color temp issue, actually most household and work light bulbs are under 3000 degrees Kelvin. Only pro lights designed for video and film are at 3200 degrees Kelvin which is the color temp video and film are balanced for, unless you're shooting Super8 film which is balanced for 3400 degrees Kelvin.

You can use gels to raise the color temp of household lights and the work lights to which you referred. Rosco makes their Cinegel series which can be used to precisely achieve 3200 degrees K. It's certainly cheaper to buy gels than to buy a pro lighting kit, even used.

You can also purchase photoflood bulbs which are balanced at 3200 K or 3400 K from your larger photo shops. They are cheap, but they do start to drop in color temp after about 3 or 4 hours. They are excellent for use in China lanterns.

A real cheap diffusion material available anywhere is white plastic garbage bags. Just keep it far enough from the lamp to avoid melting.

Hope this was helpful

-- T. J. McCarthy IV (, November 04, 1998.

Thanx for all the wonderful responses! BTW, I found those same worklights (tungsten halogen 2X500 watts) in a overstock store for $20 so I got some. They seem to work great.

-- Steve Shortridge (, November 05, 1998.

Wow I love you guys!! I love this web page!! Layman's terms answers to sometimes complex questions!!! You may have convinced me to buy the XL1. My only question is where can I find it the cheapest? I've ordered from mail order sources before and lucked out sometimes and got screwed others. What do you guys think?

-- Larry Feeley (, January 10, 1999.

My brother and I just finished shooting a short film on DV and are now in the editing phase. We rented a VX-1000 at $165/day so we didn't have much money for lights. All shots with talent were to take place indoors so first off I replaced all off the fixtures used in our locations with 160watt (I think) Phillips Halogena bulbs. These gave a much cooler (higher color temp) cast than any other bulb I've seen. We also got two of these dual-head halogen work lamps for about $40 a piece. They can stand about 6' tall and are really bright. We used them mainly with blue gels to simulate moonlight, both for exterior illumination and for moonlight streaming through windows. Though it's of limited use we also got this flourescent tube light (1' long) to act as an effect light. The cool thing is that it gave a blueish/violet cast, not green as I expected. With the VX-1000 set to its Tungsten white balance preset we got nice _white_ light out of the halogenas and rich fleshtones with very dramatic, saturated colors from the effect light, gel'ed halogens and overhead flourescents. We purposely shot using uncorrected flourescents for effect, lighting talent with the halogens to keep them from looking green. The result is quite striking, with greenish light on environment but nice, reddish fleshtones. We could always use more lights but for about a $250 investment we were very happy with our results.

-- Sean C. Cunningham (, April 27, 1999.

I just bought a pair of 500 watt lamps at home depot, they were about $90 but they have some features to consider. They go up to about 7 feet tall, fully aimable, one leg of the tripod is adjustable for unlevel ground,and it includes a 2 outlet box with a 20 amp circuit breaker (great place to plug in the camera)with a tip over shutt off. The best part is that both 500w bulbs have 2 brightness settings which affect the color. On the lower setting the light is yellowish and at 500 it is white. Using one at each setting looks good on the XL1. The mesh covers remove easilt too. I also bought a $30 set to compare(also 500s)but for a multitude of reasons it was no contest.

-- E Kennedy (, July 03, 1999.

Lighting is all about controlling the direction, intensity and sharpness of light sources. Don't forget the old inverse square law - moving a light a little bit can make a big difference.

Things like barn doors, gobos, flags and assorted stuff to control direction, cast shadows, diffuse and generally muck with light make the difference. Use backlights when appropriate, which is 'usually'. Think about motivations - why is there light coming from there ? Lighting has continuity too.

Colour temperature is relative. Try white balancing a film camera. It is the differences in colours that look really bad or really good. A little is a lot. A small collection of 1/16 & 1/4 & full blue (and a few assorted others) gels will generally get you the colours. I use big steel paperclips to clip gels to barn doors etc. Wooden clothes pegs just burn. Use pliers when they're hot or you'll lose your fingerprints. No barn doors - be creative.

Electrical safety should be your first concern, above all. Use circuit breakers and understand FULLY power issues such as current loads.

Read & experiment. Lighting is a creative process and has styles. Keep spare bubbles. Be prepared to buy the obligatory carton of beer if you knock a lamp over on set.

:-) Ewen

-- Ewen Wallace (, November 11, 1999.

just to throw in my 2 cents...

I think this is a great web page.

If you are serious about lighting, invest in some c-stands...I have not found a good source to buy them Used (if you know, let me know...), cause everyone keeps them and they last 40 years unless severely abused...

C-stands are The basic tool for controlling light in a single camera shoot. They hold and position a myriad of tools for controlling light, from simple "fingers" (skinny rectangles of foamcore) to "flags" (rectangular wire frame with Duvetyne, a black dense flameproof material, stretched on it, used to control light and create shadows) to subtle Celluloid Cuculori (cuculoris or "cookies" are used to break up" the light to give some texture to the image).

C-Stands are used to control light...control the light, and you control th

-- (, November 28, 1999.

Although you don't need much light for dv, one must realize that digital noise will appear in the blacks much more profoundly if shooting with with digital gain.

-- (, November 29, 1999.

all of the above ideas are good ones, especially chinese paper lanterns but especially at this time of year you should really invest in some clear christmas tree lights. Leave them in the pack and paint it white or cover it with tinfoil if necessary but even on their own, in their pack provide a really nice soft light for closeups that is really difficult to spot as 'lighting'. Good luck with all your projects!

-- Mark Waldron (, December 15, 1999.


I have used halogen worklamps to shoot mini dv. I wet sanded the glass cover to a frosty white to difuse the light and make it soft.

Good luck,


-- Allen (, October 23, 2001.

Gday from Australia,

I use the hardware store 500W lamps, my own stands, home built barn doors (better than some studio models) and 1/4 CTB gel (Rosco or Lee) & voila! Perfect(nearly), 3200K studio lights at an affordable price.

-- Andrew Reitsma (, October 28, 2001.

Here is the cheapest solution--It's free. Get involved with your Local Access station. Nobody uses it, so a lot of equipment will be available. You can get mics, adapters, and yes, light kits. Three 750W+ bulbs and stands, just like you used in film school. They are all tungsten balanced (3200K). The price can't be beat and you don't have to worry about storage.

-- Dick (What Else?) (, November 23, 2001.

If you go to Lowels you can buy some 500w lighting stands that the construction workers use to do work late at night. These lights can be raised up and lowered to meet your needs, but these light are really bright and in most cases to bright. some light dimmers, the kind that you see people use on their walls in there houses, they are the ones that have the little round knobs. Clip the wires in back of the light stand and wire the dimmers into your $60 light stands and you then have full control of the tempature. To further the creativity, use paper clips, kit string and some form of a frame to able your self to hang gels in front of the lights! GOOD LUCK!

-- Steven Tyler Wilson (, March 17, 2002.

I agree with some of these posts: use of standard halogen fixtures can be utilized for film and video productions. I have a old pair of Colotran fixtures that I had a hella time finding new bulbs for, so I simply modified them to accept your garden variety halogen j-type lamp. Then, I modified some hardware store-bought fixtures to sit atop any pro-style lighting stand in the same fashion the old Colortrans do.(with a C-shaped metal bar attached to the fixture via 2 carriage bolts and 2 knobs; then attach a stand adapter to the center of the metal bar) I like the Bogen 8' stands, because they are less expensive than the C-stands, lighter, and also far more durable than the stands found in most lighting kits. I bought some nice umbrellas from B & H for $20 each. What I'd like to now learn is how to make my own barndoors. Any suggestions? Thanks! Josh Mars, Mars Video Productions.

-- Josh Mars (, April 10, 2003.

OK, I've been here once or twice and I've read the suggestions posted. There are some great lighting solutions here for the budget minded videographer and believe me I understand what it means to shoot on a budget but I also want good professional results. I went the halogen shop light route with 500 and 300-watt lights after seeing the 10 and 15 dollar price tag on such lighting. I white balanced my camera, diffused my lighting, moved, repositioned, scrimed and barn doored them. No matter what I did my lighting still looked harsh and yellow or muted and yellow. My studio only has an 8 ft. ceiling so shadows were always a problem. It got to the point where I started telling clients "Oh that's the effect I was going for". Yea, right! I finally start looking at fluorescent lighting. I read articles that stated that you could find and use 3200K bulbs. The problem was when I priced professionally made light fixtures the companies selling them wanted 5-8 hundred dollars for just one fixture! Now lets be honest folks. What could possibly be different in a fluorescent light fixture used in film and video than any other light fixture found in virtually every office building on planet Earth? ANSWER... There is no difference! At least not a 5-8 hundred- dollar difference. If your spending $50 on 1000 watt halogens that will never be anything but extremely hot, harsh and yellow. Listen to this. I bought a 4 bulb T-12 fluorescent fixture on sale at a home improvement store for 30 bucks. Most of your professional light companies who sell fluorescent lights boast that their lights don't hum and are tuned to 3200K and are scientifically matched for film and video. The simple fact is if you put a T-12 bulb in any fluorescent T-12 fixture it's gonna work! As for the hum. Have you walked out a modern office building lately because the hum from the lights was driving you crazy? I think not. Now the issue of the bulbs. I did discover that 3200K fluorescent bulbs were a little difficult to find. Fact is when I did find them the company selling them wanted $16 per bulb. What a rip!!! Now the question arises. Is there something special about 3200 Kelvin fluorescent bulbs? ANSWER... There’s not a dam thing special about them! In fact I found that the manufacturers of the bulbs made 3000, 3400, 3500, 4100 and 5800. Kelvin lights Where's the 3200 Kelvin? The average prices of all the other color temps were 5-6 dollars but the missing 3200K were $16. “You think maybe they know you’re using 3200’s for film and video”? Duh! I'm sure you get my point. So what's a budget minded videographer to do? Simple. Buy the 3400 Kelvin bulbs you'll barely notice a difference. 3400-kelvin lights are generally used for aquariums and growing plants. Bottom line people. Don't believe the hype! Manufacturers make grand claims about the technology and complexity of their products. Maybe a confused mind will reach deeper into his pocket not believing he could ever out do the big manufacturers years of experience and R&D. Then again it could be just to justify the outrageous prices they charge for simple ideas with no real technical merit. Fluorescent lighting does produce warm looking, even lighting with very little shadows. Gels are easily used because the lights simply don't get hot. But the best and obvious advantage is the cost. A single light fixture you build yourself and adapt to a stand (I suggest using a professional music speaker stand) can cost as little as 90-100 bucks a piece. Sure it's a little more expensive than 10-dollar halogen shop lights but you'll love the results.

-- The Mac Daddy (, June 17, 2003.

I've written an article on how to build a low budgeting lighting kit which is on my website at Go to the Filmmaking Page and check out the article titles "Low Budgeting Lighting." I wrote it because I got tired of writing the same reply to questions like this and said I should just put all that stuff in one place.

Scott Spears Emmy Winning Cinematographer

-- Scott Spears (, July 05, 2004.

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