A friend who's away shooting on location has asked if I can find out how
to produce an effect with sparklers (the magnesium based Halloween variety).
What he wants to achieve is the trails in the air that one gets when one
waves them around (remember writing your name in the air when you were
a kid?)- he mentioned a reference to a documentary in which Picasso 'drew'
with a torch.
I'm a little unclear myself as to what he's after but to the best of my
knowledge the effect only works on the eye because the burning magnesium
is very bright, the background at night is very dark and the retina is
momentarily 'damaged' enough to retain the path of the sparklers burning
tip. Film can't be fooled so easily and the relative contrast range of
film stock, projection or a TV monitor isn't extreme enough to reproduce
the same retina scalding effect.
My hunch is that the only way to get the trails to 'hang in the air' as
it were, would be to do it in post. Shooting & transferring at a slower
frame rate (i.e. 6 fps) would enhance the effect to some degree as each
frame would have more motion blur on it.
I'd love to be able to give him a range of responses/ideas off the list
The CML brain trust is THE resource!
Tom Townend wrote :
>A friend who's away shooting
on location has asked if I can find out how >to produce an
effect with sparklers (the magnesium based Halloween >variety).
Somewhat humorously, get an Ikegami HL 79e tube camera and
shoot it wide open. Make this the last thing the camera is
every used for!!!
This almost sounds like a go-motion project. I did something like this
once that was a stop motion animation project that I exposed with 3/4
sec exposures and had the actor move every time a frame was exposed. Somewhat
painstaking but the effect was created. This was shot with my Mitchell/Norris
rig, and I set the exposure time and just hit the run switch on the camera
so the camera would run continuously at 3/4 sec exposures. The actor still
needs to move slowly and then you bring it all back together with the
I think big trails will still be hard to get.
Mark Smith DP
Oh Seven Films Inc.
Mark Smith wrote :
>I think big trails will still
be hard to get.
Well, you might be able to take each frame, pull a key from it containing
only the torchlight (need to light the subject and background so they're
much darker) and keep stacking each successive frame on a separate track
of video, so that you have an accumulation of the torchlight frames that
keeps getting longer superimposed over the current live frame. That should
work, it'd be cheap and shot in real-time, but would take some time in
post unless you came up with a macro to automate it.
I thought the Picasso pictures were just time-exposed stills with a flash
fired to get an image of Mr. P.
Jeff "not in a blue period" Kreines
Long exposure probably…If I went the post root.
Stick a small ping pong ball on the end of a stick. Wave violently in
air. Track it in post. Now you can apply whatever FX you want to that
path. Have it tail off etc...
I've seen this effect before, and it's done with very long exposure stills
The artist is not visible because he's dressed in dark and is constantly
moving through the frame. The sparkler (or other light source) is bright
enough to create a streak of light.
A very bright flashlight (LED variety?) might work better by producing
a more focused light source than a sparkler.
Los Angeles based Director of Photography
West Coast Systems Administrator, Cinematography Mailing List
How about using a beam splitter? You would have to put it before the shutter,
so it would be in front of the lens, similar to shooting front projection
or with a teleprompter, only facing the other way so that the split goes
in, not out.
Light from talent w/ sparkler goes to beam splitter. Half of light goes
to movie camera shooting scene, half goes to still camera with shutter
locked open for duration of effect. Blend the images in post. The camera
would have to be locked off for the duration of the effect. You may also
need to track the motion of the sparkler, but this shouldn't be hard to
do since you have the camera plate as a guide. Titles are done with simple
tracking all the time for cursive lettering.
Mark Smith wrote :
>Somewhat humorously, get an
Ikegami HL 79e tube camera and shoot >it wide open. Make
this the last thing the camera is every used for!!!
Except it likely wouldn't work, oh you might get some residual burn, but
you won't get the residual trails you're thinking of. Not with a late
model diode gun plumbicon camera. You need a Saticon camera. Off the top
of my head, an RCA TK-76, The first Sony Betacams, or an Ikegami will
do this quite well, and there were enough of them made that there might
be a chance of finding one that is still in good enough operational condition.
But would it be okay if it was a video shot?
Too me, the do it in post suggestions sound most promising. As someone
else mentioned, the shot you're trying to emulate was done as a still,
with a strobe.
Ex 79E owner
Mitch Gross wrote:
>Light from talent w/ sparkler
goes to beam splitter…
It's a great idea but the problem I see is that the talent is always lit,
so will be grossly overexposed in the still and ruin the time exposure
of the sparkler, at least wherever they overlapped..
If you light steel wool and move it around it makes some terrific sparks.
More like a rooster tail actually. Of course it can also burn, so be careful.
Put it on the end of a stick, light it and move it fast through the air.
“Pyromaniac when I was a kid”
The post route mentioned seems solid. If you want to go the
in-camera way this could possibly work :
- Get the "Crazy-Horse"
rig from Clairmont which lines up two cameras onto the same
optical axis. - Shoot one of the
cameras regular speed (24/25) and expose the performer wherever
deemed necessary for the mood of the scene. - Set the second camera
at a very low frame rate (tests necessary, depending on look/length
of trail desired) and stop camera way down and expose just
for the flame, so the performer and the rest of the scene
falls to black. - Transfer the low
frame rate footage at its shooting speed (step-print) - Superimpose the trail
footage over the normal pass.
Disclaimer: I haven't tried this but think it could work.
Jessica wrote :
>I've seen this effect before,
and it's done with very long exposure stills at >night. The
artist is not visible because he's dressed in dark and
is >constantly moving through the frame.
Well, someone has done it in motion--probably video--because I saw it
a couple of nights ago on a cable promo for something. Wasn't really watching
it as I worked on my computer until I noticed this artist drawing an abstract
light picture in front of him with some sort of torch. The streaks lasted
long enough to see the entire picture and the artist was in motion and
I believe talking.
I didn't catch what the promo was about and can't even recall which channel
(sorry!) but the effect is exactly what Tom is describing he wants.
So it can be done. Maybe someone else saw it who can recall the details
of the promo.
Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614
Mitch Gross wrote:
>How about using a beam splitter?
Half of light goes to movie camera >shooting scene…
I tip my hat to you sir. I don't know if it will serve the purposes of
the chap who I was asking for but non the less, a genius piece of lateral
Some day I intend to try this simply because it is such an elegant idea.
Mitch Gross wrote :
>Light from talent w/ sparkler
goes to beam splitter.
Bugger. You're right of course…
*reaches for drawing board & pencil sharpener*
Still it would still be a useful guide for post tracking I guess. Sparklers
are pretty darn bright at the burning end so if the 'time exposure' was
sufficiently stopped down perhaps the talent wouldn't produce an overly
obtrusive blur in frame (and perhaps could be scrubbed out with crafty
Wade wrote :
>..someone has done it in motion--probably
video--because I saw it a >couple of nights ago on a cable
promo for something...I noticed this >artist drawing an abstract
light picture in front of him with some sort of >torch.
These are promos for Turner Classic Movie channel. Shot at 6 fps with
Arri 435 and transferred at 6. Heavy post CG help. The talent uses a "Scorpion"
flashlight with a little diffusion in the lens and draws in the air looking
at a still from one of their favourite classic films displayed on a large-screen
monitor next to the camera.
The idea is based on a 1949 photograph by Gjon Mili of Pablo Picasso.
Motion Picture First Camera Assistant