Welcome to Living Room Filmmaker, where we talk about affordable solutions to common problems facing filmmakers, vloggers, YouTubers, and other video content creators. Today, we’re going to talk about lighting.
Why? Because it’s often neglected when you’re a rookie. We spend a lot of time thinking about lenses and camera bodies, but lighting just isn’t as glamorous or exciting. But for a small investment, you can drastically improve your footage.
More light means:
- You can lower your ISO, making your footage much less grainy.
- If you’re shooting on a DLSR, you can use a wider array of apertures. If you’re not lighting things properly, you’re probably shooting wide open, which is desirable in some situations, but most lenses are sharpest at f/4.5 to f/5.6. Without proper lighting, these apertures are a lot harder to use indoors.
- Everything is going to look sharper and more colorful with the right lighting.
In short, if you can control your lighting, do it.
B&H, Amazon, and many other online retailers offer very expensive, very awesome lighting solutions. If you can afford that, great, stop reading this blog and go buy a $1500 lighting kit. However, if you can’t swing that (and man, who can in this economy?), read on.
The solution I want to talk about today is the mighty clip light.
They’re durable, functional, and best of all, cheap. I like to throw CFL bulbs in there because incandescent bulbs will get hand-scorchingly hot in about 10-15 minutes. It’s pretty hard to get steady hand held shots when you’ve given yourself first degree burns adjusting lights.
Other benefits: CFLs are bright as hell, last forever, and are a bit hardier than a standard incandescent bulb (which, in my experience, will die if you look at it funny). Protip: I would avoid the Ecosmart 65W Soft White BR30 bulbs. They look like a deal, but these bulbs take about fifteen minutes to “warm up” and reach their maximum brightness. This leads to annoying wait times for you, your crew, and your actors. Who wants to wait to set up their lights?
Another benefit of CFL bulbs emit much more light than their power draw would suggest. For example, these bulbs put out the same amount of light as a 60W incandescent bulb while only drawing 13W of power.
You’ll notice that the light from CFLs can be really white and harsh, especially if you bought some cheaper bulbs. This can lead to footage looking a bit washed out. However, most major non-linear editors have great built-in color correction tools that will help you warm things up. Try adjusting the temperature, saturation, and tint. If you find that color correction isn’t quite enough, try aiming your lights at the ceiling or at an angle to your subject. This can reduce the harshness a bit.
You’re also really going to want some extension cords. The integrated power cords on most clip lights are short as hell and damn near useless. A 25 foot extension cord will save you endless headaches on set. And if you’re shooting somewhere with an unknown power outlet situation, you may also want to invest in plug adapters and power strips. I wouldn’t recommend these adapters and low cost power strips for more professional lighting setups due to a much higher power draw, but for clip lights with CFL bulbs, you should be okay. (I take no responsibility if an electrical fire burns your house down.)
And when you’re working on your video in post, don’t forget to add a bit of music. Your videos should sound as good as they look.
Anyway, enough talk – get shooting!