Hey all, okay 2 topics here first one is lightening, wondering if anyone has any suggestion on how to go about making lightening strike to light up a room. Im wondering if it is as simple as wiring the light into a train transformer and just flickering the light really bright when it strikes, then in post production I can add the bolt? Any suggestions? 

second topic is a fireplace: how can I go about lighting a room with a fireplace and glow, is this something that also a transformer would be good for, so the light is not consistant? Has anyone used tissue paper or anything to replicate flames?


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I added a lightening strike into a test shot for the film 'Sinbad the Fifth Voyage' and I did it just as you described. On camera I varied the light from an additional light source for 3 or 4 frames so that there was light cast on the puppet. In post production I painted the lightening bolt in Photoshop.

I just uploaded this clip to Youtube for you to see. This clip is also in the preview for the film but, I figured it's easier for you to examine if it's just posted by itself. Here's the link...


As for fire lighting, I did that in my short for Harryhausen's 90th Birthday. I placed lights on either side of the set that were behind cardboard cut-out spirals. I turned the spirals frame by frame with the lights shining through the side of the spiral that was rising. That cast strips of light on the set that appeared to be rising. It's a very subtle effect but it really helped the lighting marry the flames coming out of the cauldron behind Medusa.

I've never done fire on set, I've animated fire a few times but, I've always added it in post production. In the Medusa scene, I used a looping clip of real fire. and in another film I animated it in Photoshop by painting in the flames and then stretching them around with the 'Liquify' tool.

Here's the Medusa short...


And here's the film (John Hankins 'The 3rd Necessity') in which I used painted and stretched flames...


Wow, that's a good one Ron, I've never heard of the cardboard spiral thing. 

Another technique that's been used is to have something like a wheel in front of your light source - imagine a bicycle wheel with the axle mounted vertically, so the wheel itself is parallel to the floor and ceiling. Now attach pieces of colored plastic or tissue paper to the wheel hanging under it so the light has to shine through two  layers of it before getting to the set. You can double and triple up layers etc in places, maybe use something more opaque here and there to block light more thoroughly, and you just slowly turn the wheel frame by frame. 

I also remember reading somewhere that to really get a realistic flirelight effect you need to have at least 3 different light sources close to each other and be able to dim and brighten each independently, to the extent of being able to switch one or two off completely from time to time so the light seems to be moving around a bit. 

I do the same with lightening - first some extra light on the set, then paint in the lightning bolt over 3 or 4 frames.  I use TV Paint, but Photoshop does the same thing.

For a fire, I  have a hole in the set floor, and a pinspot (30 watt, 6 volt halogen used in discos to hit the mirror ball with a tight bright beam) under it, pointing up at the fire.  There are layers of cellophane or lighting gel crumpled up, with some black-dyed sawdust sprinkled on.  I put different bits of lighting gel on the light under the set, to vary it frame to frame.  Turning a wheel would have been much easier but would have to be rigged first.  I actually have a motorized thing that used to be in a music box, that slows the rotation right down with a series of gears, and I thought I might use that to drive the wheel next time.  It would be completely random where the wheel would be when I took the frame, which is what you want, and I could just leave it running to look after itself.

I like to paint a little bit of flame in post, with some bright yellow/orange/white spots on another layer, and a smearing tool in (TVP or PS) to draw it up into flame shapes.  Just checked to see if it's called "liquify" in Photoshop CS ... no, it's the Smudge tool and looks like a pointing finger.

Thanks guys, Ron that test with the lightening is exactly what I was looking for, thanks.

The rotating wheel is a great idea to randomize the flames. I will add flames and work some post magic in there afterwards, thanks everyone! :)

Nick, the 'Liquify' tool is different from the 'Smudge' tool, 'Smudge' tends to blend and smear the colors together much more than 'Liquify' does. 'Liquify' is more like being able to stretch and pull the image around as if it had been printed on gum or taffy.

Here's a sample I just made. ↓ As you can see that if you use Smudge, you'll just continue to mix and blur the image but Liquify pulls the image as if it were clay.

Liquify is a filter - you find it in the filters pane or list or whatever it's called. 

Heh - kinda weird if you think about it - liquifying flames! 

Yeah, I suppose when you Liquify an image of a flame it should make a "Pssssssss" sound. And yes you're correct, Liquify is a filter not a 'tool'.

Ron Cole said:

Yeah, I suppose when you Liquify an image of a flame it should make a "Pssssssss" sound.

Ha! Either that or just flare up massively.. lighter fluid is a liquid too ya know!  

I just went through the whole drop-down filters list, and in each category, but I couldn't find Liquify.  I'm using Photoshop Extended CS 5.  If it's a filter, does it still work by doing a brushstroke like a tool, or do you have to select an area, type in numbers, and apply it?

The actual tool I use, Shift in TV Paint, is near enough the Smudge tool by a different name.

Naa, You just use it like any other brush tool, but it appears in a separate window so, you can't see it on top of other layers. You need to do your animation of that element separately... it's the only filter I know of that works that way in Photoshop.

Here's a screen shot of what that screen looks like when you use Liquify...

In Elements go to the Filters dropdown menu and then Distort - it's listed there. Not sure if CS5 is the same or not. 

I looked in Distort, it's not there.  Doesn't matter, I'm happy with what I use.  I had Elements 6 for a while but removed it when I got the educational Adobe Suite.

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