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Thread: General (budget) lighting; chroma lighting

  1. #1

    Default General (budget) lighting; chroma lighting

    Hello everyone, I have two (somewhat overlapping) questions. I'd be grateful for any help.

    1) Advice on choice of lighting kits

    So far nearly everything I've shot in video (apart from computerised animation) has been in natural light. But I'm starting to get interested in doing more indoor shoots, including with green screens, which I light with two inexpensive 500-watt halogen work lamps (one for each side) which I got from a do-it-yourself store. They do a good job, if the subject is lit by a window; but lately I've done some shooting in a space without a suitable window.

    I figured I could also get away with a low-budget solution for subject lighting -- I got six small gooseneck desk lamps, which I fitted with flourescent 100-watt equivalent bulbs. Unfortunately I found that even with the lamps very close to the the subject, the two 500-watt halogens lighting the green screen behind him put him in virtual silhouette. Then it hit me -- good indoor video can sometimes need LOADS of light -- which is why studios have all these monster lamps.

    As a dedicated but not especially affluent filmmaker, I want to get an affordable, basic lighting kit which will help me with subject lighting both with this problem, and with general purpose indoor shooting. I looked on ebay and found two kits, which are both within my price range. (Links are below). ... 286.c0.m14 ... .m14.l1262

    The first uses two 500-watt equivalent (but 100 Watt actual) bulbs, which I like as I worry about blowing a fuse, with the two 500-watt halogens already running. It uses soft-boxes.

    The second uses normal bulbs and is switchable between 250 and 500 watt (both types of bulbs -- actual wattage--included). It uses umbrellas, with a choice of 2 shoot-through umbrellas, 2 reflective umbrellas, or one of each.

    Any thoughts on the respective merits of these? Also, what's the difference between

    -- softboxes and shoot-through umbrellas?
    -- softboxes and reflective umbrellas?
    -- reflective umbrellas and shoot-through umbrellas?

    2) Green screen lighting

    So far I've done only waist-up green screen lighting, with -- as mentioned -- the screen lit by 2x 500 watt halogen lamps, and the subject, suitably spaced from the screen, lit by the window. It has worked well. But soon I need to shoot a full-body green screen shot in a room with no windows. I figure I'll need two more 500-watt halogens, which I'd elevate, so that in total I'd have 4 of them -- on each side, one halogen on the floor lighting the bottom half of the screen and the other, elevated halogen lighting the top half.

    Should one of the two lighting kits mentioned above then suffice to light the full-length subject?

    Also -- what about the feet? I've always read that the screen and the subject need different kinds of lighting. Well, the feet will rest on the green cloth (I am using a 3 meter x 5 meter chroma green cloth and a cross bar stand), so how to handle that?

    Finally -- how to best extend the cloth for standing upon? Should I let it fall straight down from the stand, and then run it horizontally on the floor for a meter or two, to the point where the subject stands on it; or rather, should I try to drape the cloth so that it slopes to where the subject stands on it? I worry that the latter appraoch will make the lighting on the green screen uneven.

    By the way, I am using Adobe Premiere Elements 1, which seems to do a good job with keying.

    Sorry for all these detailed questions (if you've made it this far). It's just that I'm a relative novice, and green screen shooting is pretty unforgiving -- either it convinces by being perfect, or it fails.

    Again, I'd be most grateful for any advice.



  2. #2


    Let me start off my reply with the caveat that I am NOT an expert at all with lighting. I like you have 500w halogen work lights. I even went to the trouble of painting them black !

    Having looked at the two sets of lights I think the Umbrella lights seem to give you more flexibility than the other ones. As regards the different merits of soft boxes and umbrellas. I think you would have to see them both in action to make your own judgement. You seem like a guy that has his he screwed on the right way.

    Before you by I would take a look at a cheap alternative like these Par Cans

    Or read the advice from Gaffer Here

    Good look with your shoot.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Blog Entries


    Takes deep breath...

    Okay, with shoot-through unbrellas you will get a soft light in all directions and lose two or more stops of light (the umbrella reflects a huge amount of light backwards which is a waste)
    With reflective brollies, you get a softlight which is a bit more controllable (not a lot, but a bit more than a shoot-through)
    With a softbox you end up with a flat, soft lighting source, more efficient than a brolly and more controllable
    No prizes for guessing which I prefer.

    You need to fill two requirements to get a good key in greenscreen.
    1. A smooth, flat, evenly lit green for the computer to key out and
    2. Talent (or object) with no green.

    1. Is a lot easier to get with soft light, rather than hard 500w sources and 2. is easy if you avoid "spill", or reflected light from the background hitting the subject.

    In your position (ie no-budget) I would go to B&Q and buy a couple of 4 ft neon light sets (at about 10 including tube) and a couple of lengths of plastic half-guttering 120mm diameter. Mount the neons into the guttering and you end up with a tube with a 180 degree(ish) spread. Mount these upright, on each side but behind your talent such that they illuminate the screen but don't shine into the camera.

    I would also get another neon to hang from the ceiling, just behind the talent, to illuminate the floor and give the talent a slight kick.
    Light your talent in a way which matches the lighting in the background you're going to insert.

    Most importantly, get your talent as far away from the background as possible. Most edge problems result from stray green light coming from the background onto the subject. Be carefull not to overlight the background. It doesn't need to glow, just be bright enough for the computer to recognise that it's to be keyed out.

    Edit: I find that an "endless background" can be a pain to light evenly. I have been told (but have never personally tried it) that having the talent on a raised stage with a drop-off behind him/her works just as well.
    Last edited by Rembrandt Rob; 10-23-2009 at 02:15 PM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Surrey, UK
    Blog Entries


    Quote Originally Posted by The Gaffer View Post
    I have been told (but have never personally tried it) that having the talent on a raised stage with a drop-off behind him/her works just as well.
    Could you explain this in a bit more detail please? Do you mean raised (green) stage. A gap behind and a green screen behind? It would seem logical to me that this is easier to light evenly.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Blog Entries


    Exactly that Tim. It seems logical to me too. If I get the chance to try it out I will.

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