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Cheap Noir DSLR Lighting
  • I'm going to shoot a b/n noir short with my gh1. I'm a student and I usually use cheap CFL lamps with good results, however , for this project they would be too "soft" and "diffuse",on the contrary I need high contrast in order to achieve classic noir look. I've seen lots of cheap lighting setups on the net, however most of it is referred to old DV camera (and thei little 1/3 CCD),so you can image that they're not so fit to the low-light capable Gh1.

    The first thing I've learnt is that ISO setting are very very important in order to achieve a noir look: if you watch old noir films of the 40's, you will notice that there is little dof and high contrast at the same time,thus open iris and low ISO setting (old masters used low-ISO film stock). Of course, we can also use very high ISO on dslr cameras in low-lighting situations, achieveng a grainy look, b/n noise (do you remember Godard's Breathless and Alain Robbe Grillet 's Trans Europe Express???).

    However, setting ISO is not sufficient,indeed: I NEED SPOT LIGHTS ,cheapy solutions for my tiny budget (I've just spent much money for gh1 and its primes). I tried to snoot cheap cfl lamps, however , even snooted they have a "diffuse"look; many frienss using old DV cam (1/3" CCD) suggested me common worklights with home-made barndoors, however think this would be the worst solution. fresnel lamp are commonly used to achieve noir look,but I was searching a cheapy/diy solution. somene suggested me halogen par lamp , 150 W, 10° spread angle. Anyone can help me, please?

  • 34 Replies sorted by
  • Rent some arri kits! If you have to buy just get some halogen work lights and spend time and care flagging them off.

    But the best idea is to probably spend a little cash and rent equipment that will allow you to shoot faster and with less headaches.

  • As for lights, spot light bulbs used in outdoor fixtures on homes.. If you want to try a diy cheap fresnel, got to the office supply store and get the flat magnifier sheets, it's a freznel lens, might work..

    As for getting grain , shoot in extra tele mode.. Adds some grainy noise.. At lower ISO, Or use the ISO noise bug to your advantage.

    As for the high contrast and wide open for DOF, try a variable Nutral Density filter to knock down the image with out closing the aperture to get shallow DOF yet dark images..

    And lastly shoot flat and correct in post.

  • you can add the grain in post easily, I think its a bad idea to cram yourself into tele mode just for the grain. Get a nice clean image on set, and dirty it up in post.

  • Guys, he has a GH1. No extended tele mode or ISO bug there.

  • @Mr_Moore Yes, I'm using GH1 (hacked) and fast primes ;) @Ebacherville diy fresnel light?? really??

  • You said you were using cheap lights.. I assumed this was a zero budget thing..

  • Well one tip I do have, but you might not be able to afford it, but it would be to get a diffusion filter (like a pro-mist), which would get you that softness you want. They also help with getting highs to burn out. I would recommend filming in color, with an aperture around 4-5.6 and then lifting highs in post instead.

    But for lights, getting a solid reflector clamp light with indacent bulbs would work for some things, but you really need barn doors to really SPOT the light. Plus getting some bigger ones (like 2KW) would really help, as you can really light up a set with them. And smoke machine does wonders...

    I know my tips are probably out of your league I'm afraid.

  • Thank you @Ebacherville! ;)

    @Gabel My friend have used worklight (3x500W) and home made barndoors,shooting on DV cameras-they works fine indeed, however I think that GH1 could exploit a low-watt kit ....(just think that using DSRL/m43 you can use a cheap 70W 300W equivalent CFL lamp for backlighting, it wasn't possible with a DV CCD 1/3"...)

    Here you can see some light setups for noir photography (not video) using 2-3 fresnel light

    However, what about halogen PAR lamps (Par 30,100W) ? Anyone has used these cheap lamps?

  • True, but keep in mind you'd like to keep it around 5.6 in aperture if possible and as low iso to keep it clean. And you'll need more wattage as you go wider too.

  • A really cheap alternative would be a good quality flashlight, you'll be getting hard shadows from that.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't fresnel lamps cast diffuse light? You wouldn't get much contrast from that.

    Also remember that applying a contrast curve in post will allow you to eliminate some range between black and white.

  • A really cheap alternative would be a good quality flashlight

    Btw good LED flighlights with adjustable beam exist.

  • Get/rent Fresnels, scrims, gobos and flags and dimmers. Then find someone who knows how to use them. If you can't find someone who knows how to use them, get yourself a monitoring solution of some kind, TV, computer monitor, anything you can find. Then be prepared to spend hour after hour toying with the lights to get the look you want.

    If you want real noir, you need real lights, Fresnels, no LED bs/Home Depot crap.

  • Limit your ISO to very very very fucking low 100-400 max(400 is very high stay lower). Use any lights. Use an old cheap uncoated prime lens. For close ups shine at sharp angles and stop down. Any lights will do from a flashlight to lowels and arris. Chiascuro plus the limitations the actual Noirs had back in the day. Otherwise without the limitations its a waste and it looks like you shot in video in b&w mode on a digi cam. Limitations are key when replicating the noir look. Or you you would be creating something else new which is also good.

  • I see. Use crappy glass and flashlights. Brilliant.

  • Old and cheap doesn't necessarily mean crappy. For some artistic purposes they are far superior. Also my lighting remark is based on small spaces. Some Vaseline helps on the closeups or any diffusion filter nowadays. So many options. And you distilled my remark down quite a bit. Also these are just suggestions based on experience and observation.

    I really think if you work within the limitations you can get close without going too overboard on lighting.

  • Old and cheap doesn't necessarily mean crappy

    Well you got me there. I love my old Pentax SMC. Manual focus, what a concept.

  • Best solution is to get real lights, the right tool for the right job. Better to spend $200 in renting some arri's for a weekend, rather than bemoan the lack of control you had on lighting when you're editing.

  • And anyway for Noir you're going to need a volume of more light, and be able to properly control it...meaning lots of nets and flags. Combine that with some practical lighting such as a desk lamp with a replaced higher watt bulb on a dimmer and you will be good to go.

    Just remember that negative fill is just as important as using a bounce board to fill in a face.

  • Thank you for all comments and ideas! @P4INKiller & @Vitaliy_Kiselev & @fstopandgo : I've just done a couple of experiments with automotive lamps and led flashlight, I think they're quite good for close-up in extreme situation; of course lighting for a 3x2 m scene you must use powerful lamps; anyone have watched Schlingensief's film "100 years of Hitler" shooted on 16mm and a flashlight? ;) anyway, a good solution could be: - 2x 200W hard light on the wall with home-made cookies -a 150W PAR spot lamp as key (a friend photographer said me that sometimes PAR are used in extreme situations) -2 x 100W super-spot PAR (right, left)for backlight/rim (very useful in noir film)

    thanks @fstopandgo, I agree with you, I have used glycerine in the past for experimental projects, it's very useful, I like its distortion, have you ever seen Guy Maddin's film?

    @brianluce & @robmneilson Of course I will rent a pairs of Arri for my next projects, now I'm only "messing around" in order to learn lighting setups...

  • How about something like this:

    Those things put out tons of light. I once shot it out of my car windsheild at night and it gave enough light that my stock HV20 could easily make out the entire front of my house at night with just one light. Imagine using it indoors.

    Also, have you played with brightness and contrast settings in your NLE? I was able to get some nice "Pi" looking footage just manipulating the stock B&W and contrast settings in Vegas Studio. Also really throwing those settings past their limits will degrade the image a bit, giving you a grainy look.

  • @CRFilms: The risk there is that they won't really allow him to shape our sculpt the light, but just sort of "spill it" all over. That's why fresnels are perfect for this job, as they can allow you to get really sharp and perfectly shaped light.

  • @Gabel the first words in the topic title are "CHEAP" automotive spotlight is the most light you can put out for the least money. I wouldn't necessarily use a recharable, but the plug-ins put out so much light, I would totally use them for outdoors fill so you could see some trees and the land scape without needing a Bat-Signal size light. And you could easily tape something to the front to shape the light for indoor use.

    Also I think they put out less heat than work lamps...I think. Only added cost is if you have to buy a wall plug adapter so you can plug it in to house current, but if you shoot out doors at remote locations, just park your car as close as you can and you're set. You can buy 4 of these for less than $80, then another $20 for DC to AC adapters and splitters and you're set.

  • @CRFilms: True, but then again, as many of us recommended was for him to rent fresnels. While they cost some to buy, they are super cheap to rent! Sweden (which is rather expensive) a 2000W Blondie is less than $20 a day and most other fresnels run below that too.

  • @Gabel: ..less than $20 a day...I think I should try, thank you!It' s very cheap indeed, I could rent it on saturdays (sunday is a "bonus" day for shooting ;) )

    @CRFilms automotive spotlights: I've just watched on youtube an interesting video: they're sometimes used as diy backlight with great results!you can achieve a pretty good rim light ;)

  • @AlbertZ Could you link that vid. I'd like to see that.