Hey guys, I'm somewhat new to stop motion work, and I want an upgrade in lighting. I was wondering if anybody has any suggestions for lighting with soft boxes. I also make other videos that are not stop motion, and would like a better lighting source that doesn't have bright glares on the table and can light up a whole area without dark spots where the light doesn't touch. I use 2 lights, one on each side right now, but you can see dark spots on the table where the lights don't blend. I've heard soft boxes will help with this. any suggestions? 

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Soft boxes will still create shadows, but the edges will be softer and the shadow area may be smaller.  So you need more than one.  I don't have any soft boxes, but I use long fluorescent tubes  (basically the lighting on the ceiling) to give me a soft ambient light.  Because they are 4 ft long, each tube covers a wide area and there are 3 light fittings across the width of the room so it isn't like one small point source of light.  I usually have a key light as well, to give me a brighter light from a particular direction, because I like to see some modelling of the characters and set, not just a flat overall light.  The key light, a halogen, is usually above and to the side a bit.  And I might have a backlight (or rim light) that hits the puppet from behind and pings up the edges a bit. But for the front light, to stop the shadows getting too black, a soft light or fluoro is a good way to go.   I guess you can even use a soft box as your main key light if it is brighter or closer than the other ones used as fill light.  One Director of Photography I know of uses a lot of bounce light - halogen light aimed up at a white card, and reflected off it onto the set, which is another way of giving a soft light that doesn't create hard-edged shadows.  

Wow thank you so much Nick! I really like your work as well! Do you have these tube lights on the ceiling? I have seen people have them on their sides before. Do you have any experience with LED? I have problems with flickering, is LED best to avoid flicker?

Hi, I don't use soft-boxes but I do have a couple of GU10 spots (Showtec mini spots), I replaced the bulbs with LEDs, I've not had any problem with flickering, and they don't get hot. They can take gel filters too. I also use a large multi colour LED parcan with a DMX control, I can get nice colour 'washes' across my sets. I try to do little or no post-processing colour correction, so I capture all lighting effects in the original frames. 

I supplement the above with various small halogen desk lamps. There are probably more sophisticated techniques but trial and error seems to work :)

Try bouncing your lights instead of pointing them directly at your sets for softer lighting. In the past I've used big pieces of white foam core and two 200w fresnel lights for generic soft lighting by bouncing the lights off the ceiling at different angles and cutting smaller pieces of foam core to fill areas that get too dark, like under the nose or chin.

Yes, the tubes are my ordinary, ceiling mounted lights for my workshop.  I also made up a couple of them mounted end to end on a length of timber that I could put on the back of my set table, below ground level, to light up the horizon of my sky backdrop.  Those I could plug in through my power conditioner.  I am getting some variation in brightness from one row of fluoro lights on the ceiling, so they can't be guaranteed flicker-free. 

I do have a couple of LED lights, as they seem to be replacing the halogen downlights, and the PAR cans and pinspots I used to be able to get from disco lighting suppliers.  They are generally less bright than the halogens they supposedly replace, and a bluer light, but can be used.  Like halogens, they don't have a flicker problem in themselves, but do respond to changes in mains power voltage, which I get all day long.  If I put them through my power conditioner (double conversion UPS) they are fine.

The main reason I am using fluorescent lights at the moment is that I need very soft light, to match the look of live action plates taken on an overcast day.  I'm doing creature animation for someone else's film, so I have to go with the lighting look that they have.  My own films aren't usually as softly lit.

What Scottie D said - bounce lights off white foam core, to get a big soft spread of light from a harder light source.  Jonathan Billington, the DOP I mentioned, used Dedo lights, and bounced them almost all the time off white foam core, white card, or canvas in a frame for one really big reflector.  A couple of the films he lit are Isabel Peppard's "Butterflies" ( http://butterfliesanimation.com  )  and Tony Lawrence's "Grace Under Water" (  https://www.facebook.com/graceunderwater/  ).



Kerobyx said:

Wow thank you so much Nick! I really like your work as well! Do you have these tube lights on the ceiling? I have seen people have them on their sides before. Do you have any experience with LED? I have problems with flickering, is LED best to avoid flicker?

Just to throw something else into a discussion about soft light. DOPs often use cookies (that's cucoloris in full) and cello cucoloris to soften light. These are just plywood with odd shapes cut out, or for the cello cucoloris wire frame with some silicone or similar. One way I have seen to make them very cheaply is to use overhead projector acetate and put it through a printer to create the shapes you want. A3 size would probably work well.

The effect of the cello cucoloris is to break up the evenness of light falling on the set by just a little bit, so removing the flatness that can sometimes detract. Have a look at this video to see it in action: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=eQSgbHzw3Rk&t=295s

Or you could use more geometrical shapes such as stripes for blinds. There are lots of ideas online.

These things are a bit like gobos, but bigger and not held so close to the lamp that they need to be resistant to high heat.

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