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Thread: Shooting a scene with a torch (flashlight)

  1. #1

    Default Shooting a scene with a torch (flashlight)

    I've just started to shoot a short film and in one of the scenes a woman enters a pitch-black room using a torch (flashlight.) The room is naturally dark, ie. it's after the hours of darkness and the room lights are switched off.
    I envisaged shooting her face with some of the stray light from the torch lighting her face, and also envisaged her kind of exploring the room with the torch, ie. shooting the torch as it explored the room.
    I was using a pocket torch, the kind that's about two inches long by about an inch wide and is powered by a couple of AA batteries.
    I was a bit surprised to find that the cam wouldn't pick up any detail at all, iit wouldn't pick up the woman's face or the room, it just picked up the light from the torch.
    This isn't a disaster, you experiment and learn from your mistakes, but my guess is that I would need a more powerful torch - one of those high-powered torches with a powerful beam, to achieve the effect that I'm aiming for.
    The ones that I've seen in hardware stores have yellow coloured bodies, and my guess is that these yellow bodies will reflect some light back on her face.
    I could have used a cam, a PD170, with a gain control, and played around with this, but I just used a consumer cam as it was just an initial experiment.
    How would you guys or girlies have shot a scene like this? Or wouldn't you shoot it at all?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Blog Entries


    The best torch to get is a Maglite (be wary of Led or fluorescent torches as they can sometimes flicker when you try to video them). If you want a wide beam, a bit of diffusion (or a couple of coats of hairspray) can be utilised. If you want to see a beam of light then don't use any diffusion, borrow a smoke generator or hazer and LIGHTLY spread some smoke around the set. This will also serve the purpose of spreading some light into the shadows and reflecting a wee bit of illumination back onto the talent.
    If you can't afford a smoke machine, just get the fluid and use it in an iron (yup a bog-standard steam iron) to generate some mist.

    Personally I would light the girl's face seperately, with someone directing a diffused lamp in her direction, or with placed lights.

    One light - one job. As they say.
    Last edited by Rembrandt Rob; 04-12-2009 at 10:47 AM.

  3. #3


    Good advice from The Guru as usual. Just something you could do as I've seen on ocasions is when the actor holding the maglite torch enters the shot you sometimes have a guy out of shot holding a white/silver card in front of the 'action". The actor flashing the torch at this card/bounce reflects light onto himself/herself

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Western Europe


    From a lighting point of view, could you get someone to stand next to the camera and shine some type of small but yet powerful light on the actors face, maybe use barn doors on it or a snoot, to make sure it was focused on the talents face and nothing else. And then when you cut to a POV of the talent moving the light around the room, use the same light again with a snoot to give a circular shape to the light.

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