I am making a stop motion film and am concerned about flicker. I have a Canon 1000D Ef-s- 55 kit and was hoping not to have to buy a Nikon manual lens and adapter. I am looking at buying either these or these lights and using the granite bay deflicker software. I also mean to have a practical LED light on set and have read that having mixed light sources makes it near impossible to eliminate flicker. If that is so, are there any good (and cheap) LED lights out there? I live in the UK if that makes a difference.



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Usually flicker isn't produced by the lighting units themselves, but either by fluctuating electricity levels as different appliances kick on and off throughout the day, or by the animator standing in a spot where he subtlely affects the lighting by either refelcting light onto the set or blocking incidental light that's reflecting off a wall behind him. This can easily happen even if you're standing in an area that seems pretty dark. Here's a post dealing with the subject: http://www.stopmotionanimation.com/forum/topics/getting-close-while... (only the one post is about flicker, plus this one and the one immediately after it)

Apparently Dragonframe is able to control a fully automatic kit lens well enough to keep good steady light levels and avoid flicker. At least it's been working for Don Carlson in his films. So I'd start off that way, and if you still seem to be getting lens-related flicker they get the manual lenses and adapters. 

And here's a thread going into some detail on what I consider to be the best and most affordable type of lights for sopmotion: http://www.stopmotionanimation.com/forum/topics/noob-lighting?

Very adaptible - small and easily mounted anywhere, with gel holders on the front for adding color filters or diffusion, and you can add barn doors to control spill light. So basically they're exactly what you want for cinematic type lighting on a small tabletop sized set! 

"have read that having mixed light sources makes it near impossible to eliminate flicker"

.. I'm not sure that's quite right - I think what was meant was that if you have certain lights flickering and others that don't then it's near impossible to do anything about it in post. Like for instance if you're using the long fluorescent tubes (which do flicker, but only at a superfast rate - simply using longer exposure times of more than like 1/8 of a second or so ensures you don't have to worry about that issue). Or of course if you're reflecting or blocking light with your body in a different way each frame, in which case most of your lighting is identical from frame to frame but you're essentially putting a randomly-moving reflector or flag right in front (that being yourself). Getting huge expensive lighting units that can't be properly flagged or gelled won't help with that. Those lighting units are great for a still photogrphy studio where you've go a large studio space and plenty of open room to set them up, but not so much in a tight basement studio where space is at a premium. Those also seem like they'd cast a huge swath of light so wide that it would be impossible to keep it from falling right where you're standing, and therefore actually cause flicker of the reflecting off the animator variety! 

Thanks very much Strider.

You're welcome, glad I could help! 

I was thinking about this thread overnight, and it does seem llike I remember Nick saying something about fluorescents with a ballast not respondng to the electrical fluctuations as much as incandescent lights. But I believe it's only the long tube type fluoros that have ballasts, isn't it? The ones you linked to are compact fluoros, not sure if they have their own ballast or not - I guess that would require some looking into. 

I also don't know how LEDs react to fluctuating current. Not sure if they're considered incandescents or not, or if their light remains consistent in spite of fluctuating power levels. Heh - turns out your post was a bit more complicated than I thought at first.. you might be right about the on set LED and your other light sources reacting differently. 

I think a bit of research is in order. I'll look into it a bit and post my findings here.

Ok, CFLs do have ballasts as well, and I'm assuming they're pretty resistant to light-level fluctuations cased by power variation. 

I've been trying to discover if LEDs fluctuate with power variations, but it's some very difficult information to find - noody seems to be interested in that. If they're resitant to power level variations, then you might be best off using fluoros as your main source (or more LEDs like you originally suggested). If they're not, then I suppose incandescants would be the way to go. A very tricky situation. 

I think I'd set up a test - get a power line tester (the kind that plug in to the wall socket and have a meter showing power level) and place it next to your LED and shoot some time lapse (or just pop in every so often and shoot another frame with both the LED and the power meter clearly visible. Best to try this during the day when chances of fluctuating current are highest). You want to make sure there's no chance anything else is causing flicker, such as the conditions I posted about above. 

See if the power level itself fluctuates and see if the LED seems to get dimmer and brighter in reaction to it. Once you've determined that then you could do another test - set it up the same way but also include your other lighting. Example, if the power fluctuates but the LED light stays nice and steady, then you'd want fluorescent lights, so buy one and set it up for this test. See if both lights remain constant even as the power levels change. If they do then you're good to go. 

Or if the LED does ramp up and down with power levels, then you'd want some incandescents. 

OK, here is my plan.

Buy a couple of Par 20s with LED lamps plus barn doors, neutral density filters and hoist em up on a couple of cheap stands

Having all LED lighting will, I hope, sidestep the issues I would have in using fluorescent bulbs.

I also have Dragonframe which, as you say, will help keep flicker to a minimum–- I will also procure a black curtain that I can hide behind thus avoiding my presence being a source of flicker. 

Do you still think I will need to do all the electric testing? If so can you send me a link to a power line tester that you know of.

I'd like to put you in the special thanks for the film. Could you please email me your name at joeblaxland@gmail.com-- unless you're happy to be credited as Strider.

Sounds like a good plan to me! The tests aren't necessary unless you're still getting flicker after all that and want to determine if it's voltage related. I was just thinking out loud of a way to tell if a particular setup was going to work or not. 

And I don't mind sharing my real name here on the board - I used to have it in my signature for years - its Mike Brent. 

To test for fluctuating current -

I get it just from homes factories in the neighbourhood switching things on and off.  But to do the test, I switched the oven in my studio on and off so I could make sure I got a power drop.

I put the multimeter in front of the camera.  I tried a cheap digital meter but it showed the numbers constantly changing whether the voltage varied or not.  My old analog meter with a needle (bought in 1972 to fix old British motorbikes with dodgy electrics) was more reliable and could actually show me what was happening.  I didn't need to see my lights in shot, just use them to light the set and the meter.  Voltage varied by 1 or 2 volts, and that was enough to change the brightness.

Any light which responds to a dimmer switch will also respond to varying voltage from your power supply.  My fluorescent lights don't - they stay the same brightness until the dimmer goes too low, then cut out completely.  

 The LED downlights we just had put in our ceiling to replace the old halogens apparently wouldn't work with our dimmer switches so the electrician bypassed the dimmers.  But I'm pretty sure I've seen LED indicator lights on equipment that could get brighter or dimer, so I'm not sure if they will flicker or not.  LEDs are only just now beginning to drop in price to something reasonable as they become more mainstream, and look like being the way of the future.

Strider- CFL's don't flicker whatsoever. Those things are so good these days that they really smash the cold, greenish fluoros of the 90's. It's nice being able to shoot with incandescent white balance and not have to change it because the color temperatures of CLF's are available at 2700k (pretty close to a warm incandescent bulb-and not too far from the color temperature of the sun).

Nick- yeah, I definitely don't recommend dimming fluorescents. Color temperature changes with the brightness, if they will dim at all. Incandescents and halogens are best for dimming. Strange, that some fluorescent lights will dim and others wont' dim even a little bit. Mine do, but again- the color temperature is not the same throughout the dimming so it doesn't really work. I just stopped trying to dim them altogether.

As far as LED's- I keep looking or a higher brightness rating on those. So far, the ones I'm finding are only about 80 lumens- way too dim to replace a standard 100 watt bulb! Hopefully that will change as they get cheaper and better (and become the new go-to standard, hopefully!)

By the way, thanks for reminding me about using dimmers! I didn't even consider the fact that I don't have to blast the set with lights. On a set I visited recently, the light was really dim and they used a long exposure to get it bright enough for the camera. I mean, REALLY dim. Available-light-only kind of dim. I can't imagine being able to get such low light levels uniformly from light to light without a dimmer circuit. I think the lights were halogens.

I have three slide dimmers, and that will help a lot with the physical temperature on-set as well as let me use my incandescent bulbs while it's still legal to own them ;)

*edit: I meant to add that tungsten halogen bulbs last longer than incandescents (and cost more). They also get really hot. Wear leather gloves when changing bulbs to avoid serious burns on your hands.

Joe Blaxland- if you want to get into some of the film lights, most of them are halogens. It might be a good idea to get used to lighting with halogens, at least until the LED's take over. I have only ever seen one fresnel-like spotlight (without a lens, actually) that took an incandescent bulb, and it was a desk lamp- not a real movie light. It smelled like vinegar if it was left on too long. If you're on a budget, you can do a lot with simple clamp-on aluminum lamps. You can do neat stuff with them- like, if you put in a clear bulb, you get a very bright area of light in the center of the light's coverage. If you put a flood halogen in there, it throws a spot because of all the reflections off of the inside of the aluminum housing. So, the rule of thumb is to always use what you can afford and get creative with what you've got.

Only reason I don't use halogen lights more is the heat factor with my clay puppts. With this tiny room, it would probably feel like I had several heat lamps and I'd be animating puddles instead of puppets. But the cool thing about halogens is that they don't blacken like incandescents do over time.  The trade off is that they are also more fragile. Like every other light, halogens have their place. I would love if CFL's would be brighter, but so far I've only found a 26 watt/100 watt equivalent. Definitely don't expect any Compact Fluorescent Light to cut through your other lighting when reflecting it with a mirror to get a tight eye light on a puppet. I'm finding that even my disco pinspot (PAR30), when reflected, can't compete with my direct lighting. The reason for that is any time you bounce light off a white card or reflect a light off a mirror, you are multiplying the distance the light has to travel to get to the subject (effectively cutting the brightness of the reflected light by 50% at its maximum distance from what you're lighting with it).

Don, Alzo makes several CFL bulbs that are 5500K, which provides daylight color light. Amazon.com has these bulbs and they carry a 27w, 45w, and 85w. I have several of these bulbs. The 85w is equivalent to a 350w incadescent bulb in light output.

Nice! I did not know about the 85 watt. 

I guess I'm confused about "daylight". On a bright sunny day, the sun makes everything a yellowish orange, which is the ~3000k color temperature I quoted two posts up. That color temperature is mostly seen at sunrise or sunset.

On an overcast day, that figure shifts to somewhere around 5500k. I would think you would need a little of both to simulate warm sunlight, as even on a cloudless day, the sky is reflecting blue from the ocean and there is a diffusion of sunlight, so that the shadowy side of a person's face is filled in with bluish light. If you make the lighting completely blue, then it no longer looks like a sunny day.

Strider, realistic lighting is more your thing, what do you think?

I suppose you could play with the white balance on your camera or in post production to get a more yellow-y image for a sunny day and a blue tint for a cloudy day.

If you look at Toy Story, there are some good examples of the blue-and-orange phenomenon I'm talking about. In fact, in Hollywood in the past few decades (apparently starting with Tron)  there has been an increasing trend toward a teal and orange color scheme. Not sure what that's about, but it does seem to be related to how Magic Hour actually looks on a beach.


I think, at some point, someone must have said "what if we made an entire movie that looked like that?"

But yeah, getting the right balance of colors to suggest daylight out doors on an indoor set has always been tricky for me.

I think, getting some of those 85 watt bulbs would help with the overall brightness needed for evenly diffused daylight, though. Especially when battling shadows from shooting clay on glass. Good find!

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