I was not sure whether to post this here in the CAMERA & STAGE section or the Newbie section because I am a newbie & I know this is a basic request...but I cannot decide the best course of action. My basement workshop that is now converted into a dedicated space for StopMo is now ready for set lighting and I am unsure on the best way to invest in lighting.
The set-up is:
13' x 11' x 8' (H) room (light - flat grey walls) with an unfinished ceiling.
6' x 4' table for sets (opposite end of the room has a 7' workbench & shelving)
I have read several previous posts about lighting and I am confused as to what direction to go. Do I need just the basic 3 point lighting set-up or something more? With the open ceiling I could put something together like Strider's set-up with PAR cans - but I am unsure as to what type of bulbs to use, what size cans, etc.
My budget for lighting is only about $800 max.What is the best lighting I can invest in on a lower budget? I have read pros & cons of using Flouros, Tungsten, LED, Halogen, and I am confused. I am concerned about flicker as well. I'd like to avoid trying to get too much "on the cheap" and regretting it in the long run. If it means buying only a few "better" pieces now, I can live with that, but I don't know which lighting type is the best investment.
All that said, I do something to get me up & running.
Any feedback or a kick in the right direction would be sincerely appreciated. Thanks!
"I could put something together like Strider's set-up with PAR cans - but I am unsure as to what type of bulbs to use, what size cans, etc."
Lol I'm glad you said this - saves me the trouble of going through the whole thing again! (or finding where I already did it and just linking to it )
You'll want more than a simple 3-point lighting setup - that's really for something like a portrait setup where you just have one subject to light, but in stopmotion you need to light the environment too, and sometimes you might have several puppets or groups of them that need lighting. I suppose that depends on the kind of films you plan to make - how big and complex your sets will be, number of puppets, will the style be flat cartoony lighting or more realistic etc.
Assuming you were to choose a PAR setup, I'd recommend for a good basic kit 2 or 3 larger PARs like 46 or 56. A single PAR 56 would probably be capable of lighting about half of your table, but sometimes walls etc block light from one source and you need to augment it. Example - you might need to light an interior set and then also light the outside view that can be seen through a window.
Then I'd also go with 4 or 5 smaller ones, PAR 16s or 20s. They act more like small spotlights for accenting areas or literally for spotlighting a character. These are also great for aiming at small reflectors placed around the set to subtlely light the dark side of a puppet's face if you don't want a stark scary look.
I'd also go with 1 or 2 of the cheap Japanese paper lanterns which are great for soft diffused light to fill shadows or just bring up the ambience of an area that looks a little too dark.
As for bulbs (the pro term is lamps - you call the actual metal cans fixtures and the bulbs lamps) I'm using halogen in my PAR cans and a compact fluorescent bulb in my paper lantern - just a standard household one - the paper itself provides the illumination.
Maybe for an absolute starter kit just 2 56s, 3 16s, and 2 of the paper lanterns, then add more as you feel you need them. That would be really basic though, might not be enough for some setups unless you do really simple sets with just 1 or 2 puppets.
If you'll be doing any bluescreen etc then you'll want more lights to evenly light the background - fluorescent tubes can be good for that.
Ok, that's about all I can say unless you've got some specifics to add.
The relatively low cost halogens used for disco lighting - the par cans like Strider uses - shouldn't have flicker problems, provided the power supply is constant. But if the power supply varies, any tungsten or halogen lights will vary with it. I got just as much flicker with dedicated stage and TV studio lighting as with my home-built lights made from halogen downlights, or from the cheaper par cans. I ended up buying a Double Conversion UPS (Eaton Powerware) to stabilise the voltage so I could keep using all my lights. Plug-in models rated at 1500 VA (able to handle around 1000 volts of lighting in total) seemed to cost around $1500 which is well outside your budget.
The cheaper way to get around varying voltage is probably to go for compact fluorescent lighting. I have one cone-shaped fluoro (maybe 20 watts?)that is made to replace the 150 watt tungsten light we have outside, to light up the front yard when we arrive home at night. It says it is equivalent to 120 watts, but seems like less, maybe 100 watts. But being cone shaped with a reflector, it would do ok for lighting the set. There are also fluoro globes for replacing halogen downlights I think.
Now the LEDs are coming in because they use even less power for the same light output. They are still more expensive, but I think they probably can vary in brightness with the voltage so they wouldn't solve the flicker problem if you have one.
You may or may not have a problem with fluctuating voltage where you are. It would be good if you could test for it with a halogen desklamp and a multimeter you can put in front of the camera. I used an old analog one with a needle - the cheap digital meter had the numbers changing constantly all the time and didn't tell me anything. If mains voltage it's not an issue, some par cans would be good, and you wouldn't need to spend all your budget.
I have one Par56 (around $45):
and 4 or 5 smaller 50 watt Par 16s (around $20 each), which are replacing my homemade downlight kit lights. The Par Cans are mains voltage (240 v in my country, 120v in the US), the downlights were all 12 volts with a transformer, which actually uses more power. And doesn't stop them changing brightness when the voltage varies. With the Par Cans, you can aim them, and clip a sheet of lighting gel onto the front to get colours, which is pretty well all you need. The same stores also sell clamps to attach them to 50mm (2") round lighting bars - usually aluminium, sometimes steel, but I use PVC pipe which is lighter and much cheaper. Oddly, I haven't found attachments for fitting them to light stands, I had to make my own from blocks of wood.
The other lights I use a lot are the Par36 pinspots - 6 volt, 30 watt, with built in transformer, they cast a narrow tight beam that is very bright, ideal for backlighting or hitting just the puppet with light without flooding the whole set. In the online stores you might find them with the mirror balls, that's what they are mostly used for. Now I see there is an LED pinspot for $59, only 3 watts, with front focus lenses to give a tight hard light, so that would be worth looking into. Here's the LED light first because I can't seem to click below the image I already posted.
I just realized you said your table is 6'x 4'! That changes my estimates - when I said a PAR 56 can cover half your table I thought it was more like 2' x 4'! If your sets are going to be that big you'll need probably twice as many lights as I mentioned (assuming you want everything well lit - less if you'll have lots of dark areas).
But really I was coming in to post these links to related into on bulb types and where to buy etc. It sounds like you might have already scoured the site for this kind of info, but if so then this is for anyone who runs across this thread in the future looking for info.
PAR 16s and lamps for them @ Premiere Lighting: http://www.stopmotionanimation.com/forum/topics/which-lights?commen...
General info on my lighting setup and the various parts thereof: http://www.stopmotionanimation.com/forum/topics/noob-lighting?
Ok - as you were soldiers!
Thanks for the input guys. This is a big help!
Any recommendations on a good lighting starter kit for Chroma Keying? I am looking for something to light anywhere from 5x7 to an 8x10 background. I will be using Halogen lighting for my sets/puppets.
StopmoNick, can i ask you a question ?
I would like to buy like you a power supply.
I hesitate between the EATON EX 1500( is is the one you buy ? ) and APC UPS RT 2000VA.
But there is something i do not understand :how can i adapte the IEC 320 C13 connector to the standard socket ?? ( i order to plug my lights )