You probably know a lot about film lighting already. However, it might be a good idea to revitalize that dusty knowledge a little bit from time to time. Mark Vargo, ASC, is here to help. His video about the history and physics of film lighting may not be dew-fresh, but the concepts and physics are timeless, that’s for sure. The Concepts of Film Lighting The video you are about to watch is almost 3 years old but the concepts and the physics are still the same. LED sources and other technologies yet to come can’t alter the laws of nature, so don’t be afraid, dim the lights and watch this: Mark Vargo is definitely a pro in his field of work. He has an enormous list of credits on IMDB, ranging from VFX for the original Star Wars movies, to second unit DP for films like Rise of the Planet of the Apes. With such an amount of experience, wisdom is not far away, as you can see in the tip of the day section on his personal website: Don’t be fooled by thinking you have to shoot with only expensive movie equipment. Get with a handy friend and build a cheap slider or go to the hardware store and find a utility fixture to use as a light. Be creative in new ways! That is so true! But in order to be creative you’ve got to learn how to use your tools. And that includes some basic concepts and laws of physics. The Physics of Film Lighting One of the main concepts is about the spectrum of light which the human eye is actually able to see. The whole spectrum is divided in wavelengths, and only a very small part of this spectrum is visible to humans. On the lower end of the visible spectrum sits violet with a wavelength of about 400 nm, and on the opposite end you’ll find red with a wavelength of 680 nm. So, violet and blue have shorter wavelengths but these contain much more energy than the longer wavelengths represented by orange and red. spectrum of light – CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2521356) That leads us to another vital concept of film lighting: color temperature. As we know, the wavelength of red is higher but it contains less energy, so a low color temperature (which is measured in degrees Kelvin) represents red and orange colours, while higher temperatures represent blue. That is important to understand because there are two major types of film lights available: HMI daylight sources (5600K) and tungsten sources (3200K). color temperature – credit: http://juliusngphotography.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Color-temperature-in-Kelvin.jpg A very important physical law related to light is the so-called inverse square law. It says: if you double the distance between light source and target you’ll end up with only a quarter of your original exposure. In other words, you’ll lose 2 stops. Also check out Richard’s post on getting exposure right for more information on this topic. reverse square law – by Borb, CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3816716) Film Lighting Itself We’ve had a post about film lights before: Richards’s article deals with different types of fixtures and light sources. In order to understand the differences, the pros and cons, make sure to give it a read! In the end you will realise that there is no such thing as just one light that fits all situations. Each and every fixture, source or type of light has its reason to exist. You’ll have to master the craft of choosing the right one for the given job, and that takes a lot of learning and an even greater amount of experience. The good thing is, though, that unlike cameras which are brand new on one day and already outdated on the other, light itself won’t ever become outdated…Read more
Finding a reflector that is affordable and convenient to use can sometimes be a pain. It may be a case of one or the other. You may find a product that fits both descriptions but falls short in terms of build quality. If this scenario sounds familiar to you, then you may be interested in the Pixel Addix 5-in-1 Collapsible Grip Reflector (I agree, it is a bit of a mouthful). Look, mom, no hands! Traditional circular reflectors can be a little unwieldy for independent shooters, despite the shape’s effectiveness as a lighting tool. Unless you have an assistant to hold them in place, keeping them in a position can be rather troublesome. While crocodile clips, duct tape, and string are all viable (if inefficient) methods of fixing a reflector at the angle required, this plectrum-shaped offering from Pixel Addix seems like a trump card in comparison. As with every other 5-in-1 reflector on the market today, this one provides five surfaces to meet a variety of lighting conditions and requirements: White Translucent White Black Gold Silver I am sure you know the various effects these surfaces will have on your image. If you’re unsure, ask away in the comments – or shoot me an email. Whichever you prefer! Of course, 5-in-1 reflectors are ridiculously commonplace. You’ll find hundreds, maybe thousands, of multiple surface offerings out there. That’s probably why Pixel Addix looked to do something a little different with this one. By using a fairly unique teardrop design in conjunction with a grip handle, they’ve immediately drawn a distinction between themselves and their competitors. Again, a little improvisation in shape isn’t much to shout about, either. What’s really interesting is what Pixel Addix have done with the plastic grip they’ve added to this reflector. They have included a ¼”-20 tripod mount to the handle, allowing you to attach the reflector to a tripod or lighting stand – saving indie shooters a lot of hassle and time (and operators with assistants may hear cries of hallelujah). So, downsides. What are they? Well, I’ve never had my hands on one of these reflectors, but I have heard one quite common complaint. While setting up your reflector is easy as pie, it apparently takes a while to get used to getting it back into the reversible cover. I do suppose that is more a case of practice makes perfect than anything, though. Obviously, without checking the reflector out in person, I am also interested in seeing its build quality. While I’d normally be a little wary of cheaper items, I’ve only ever had pleasant experiences with Pixel Addix products – and I’d like to think that this would apply to their reflector, too. Pixel Addix reflector features Collapses down to 12” in its slip cover The reflector is 29” x 30” 5-in-1 to fulfil various lighting requirements Ergonomically friendly handle ¼”-20 mount In conclusion, if you’re looking for a relatively cheap 5-in-1 reflector that will reduce the hassle of setting up your lighting (or make your assistant smile, should you have one) then Pixel Addix may have you covered. The Pixel Addix reflector is available from the Pixel Addix website for $25, but you can save a little extra by ordering it from Amazon instead ($23.46). While I couldn’t find a European link to the Pixel Addix 5-in-1 Reflector, I did find an alternative from Neewer at around the same price (I suspect it is actually the same product). P.S. cinema5D’s Johnnie Behiri actually uses the Neewer—and in his words: “it works like a charm!”Read more
Engineers at MIT have shown a promising new Tungsten lighting technology which could allow the good old incandescent filament bulb to beat out LED’s in efficiency in the near future. Incandescent bulbs have powered film lighting for… well, pretty much forever. Thomas Edison and Joseph Swan While many quite rightly associate Thomas Edison with the incandescent light bulb, its invention is actually attributed to a British physicist and chemist named Joseph Swan. In 1880, Joseph Swan received a patent for a method of treating a cotton thread to produce a filament—improving upon all earlier attempts. His house was the first in the world to be lit by a lightbulb! Efficiency The first tungsten filament bulbs were marketed in 1904 and various improvements were made throughout the 1920s and 30s. By the 1960s the efficiency of commercial tungsten filament bulbs had reached a plateau of around 2.5%, producing about 17 lm/W (lumens per Watt). Tungsten halogen bulbs, which use a low-pressure halogen gas in the bulb to allow evaporated tungsten metal to be redeposited back onto the filament, reach higher efficiencies of 3.5% or up to 24 lm/W. HMI lighting (Hydrargyrum medium-arc iodide lamp) achieves large gains on tungsten-halogen, pushing efficiencies of between 12% and 16% or 85-108 lm/W. Only recently have high powered LEDs started pushing the smaller traditional incandescent lighting aside although for high powered lighting applications HMI’s are still common. High-performance LED lighting can achieve an efficiency of up to 17% or 120 lm/W, which is a huge increase over both traditional tungsten and tungsten-halogen incandescent bulbs. To learn more about different types of lighting you can read: Let There Be Light – Four Common Types of Film Lights and for more information about remote phosphor LED lights, take a look at Shedding Light on Remote Phosphor LED’s Researchers at MIT claim that their new incandescent bulb could achieve efficiencies of 40% or 275 lm/W, outstripping solid state LED by a massive 128%. By surrounding the tungsten filament with a special crystal structure in the glass, they can bounce back the IR energy which is usually lost to the atmosphere as wasted heat. Visible spectrum light passes through the glass while IR is reflected back to heat the filament. All About Color—The Tungsten Lighting Advantage! The major advantage that incandescent lighting has over fluorescent and LED lighting is a perfect 100 CRI (Color Rendering Index). Tungsten incandescent lighting emits a full spectrum light that renders all colors exactly as we would expect to see them under natural sunlight. A black body radiator, which includes tungsten, and the sun for that matter, emit a full continuous spectrum. The technology is in the early stages, and researchers at MIT have demonstrated a working proof of concept that operates at the low-end of the potential efficiency that can be achieved. Only time will tell if we will see tungsten lighting make a comeback. What we do know is that this promising new technology could indicate that the future of film and video lighting is bright indeed! We may get the best of both worlds… the ideal light quality and color rendering of tungsten lighting along with higher outputs and efficiency than any other lighting technology to date. Read more on MIT News. Featured image courtesy of MIT.Read more
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