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class="Paragraph" Tiny Flashes Of Light

class="Paragraph" Published : 19th April 2004

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I'm shooting a music video where during the climax of the song the director wants to have "thousands of tiny flashing lights behind the band."

The band will be performing in some sort of barren commercial space TBD. Its 35mm, but the budget is pretty thin, so I'm trying to think of a way to achieve this without a great deal of expense (naturally!). My only idea thus far was to build some sort of false black wall behind the band that would have lots of very small holes in it. I could set off strobes into a bounce source which would in theory get close to the look he's after.

My fear is that there won't be enough punch to the light and there won't be enough variation in the timing of the lights to give the flickering star effect I think he's after.

Are there any sources out there that I'm not think of? Any other ideas? Thanks in advance to anyone who can share some inspiration.

Rob Barocci
DP - NYC


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Rob Barocci writes :

>I'm shooting a music video where during the climax of the song the >director wants to have "thousands of tiny flashing lights behind the >band."....

> Are there any sources out there that I'm not think of?

Are Christmas tree lights too obvious an idea? Many types are available that can be programmed to various blinking rates.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP


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Rob Barocci wrote :

>I'm shooting a music video where during the climax of the song the >director wants to have "thousands of tiny flashing lights behind the >band."

Drugs or a swift kick in the head might work.

What about lots of strings of Christmas tree lights -- the tiny ones?
Maybe a net on the camera to add glow to them?

There's always (ugh) CGI...

Jeff "never mistaken for a CGI element" Kreines


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How about a fibre optic curtain which you can rent in NY. If you don't have 500 for that how about your idea but forget the bounce behind it, fire open faces into it directly from some distance for punch.

Walter Graff
BlueSky, LLC
www.bluesky-web.com


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Take apart a disco ball and glue the pieces on Duvytyne in a nice pattern.

Light from the front.

Mark Schumacher LA/DP


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>I'm shooting a music video where during the climax of the song the >director wants to have "thousands of tiny flashing lights behind the >band."

The first thing that came to mind was a large array of randomly placed egg strobes, but if the budgets tight then even those can add up.

Maybe the cheapest way is going to be a Chromakey backdrop and a simple CGI effect. I would guess a generic starfield should be available off the shelf, or achievable with very little programming time.

Another option might be the "spangler" device that you can find in the "temporary gallery" section of my website at http://bigclive.com It's an array of white LEDs that emulate egg strobes at a much lower cost and power requirement. Again, it might not be what your looking for.

Maybe the director needs to learn how to fit his production within budget by not specifying "pie in the sky" effects. :P

Clive Mitchell
http://www.bigclive.com


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>Are Christmas tree lights too obvious an idea? Many types are available >that can be programmed to various blinking rates.

Did anyone notice that one of the scenes in Britney Spears "toxic" video (have I got the right video here?) was illuminated extensively by panels of Christmas lights. Unfortunately you can see that they just couldn't find the bad bulb in several of the sets which are missing whole sections of lamps.

Still looks fine though...To an uncritical eye.

Clive Mitchell


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Did anyone see "EYES WIDE SHUT?" The first 20 minutes at the party is lit with warm white Christmas light bulbs, walls of them.

It was terrific.

Bob Tur


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>How about a fibre optic curtain which you can rent in NY. If you don't >have 500 for that how about your idea but forget the bounce behind it, >fire open faces into it directly from some distance for punch.

How about rows of strip lights or smaller Xmas lights with a curtain of silver Mylar, cut into thin strips, in front of the lights?

A gentle fanning motion creates multitudes of moving pin-pointed light.

Jim Sofranko
NY/DP


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I would skip the Christmas lights and go with the holed-wall idea, but instead of strobes I would think a couple of the million footcandle torches from Radioshack (or whatever store) moving back and forth via grips or PA's would give a better effect. As the light passes the holes you'd get a nice running effect. You might want to wrap it with blackwrap to narrow the flood beam it gives off.

Dave Evans
NYC


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You say you'd like punch and variation in the timing of the flashes. I think the wall with holes isn't a bad idea, but for the effect I think you're after, my solution would be to build a curtain of hundreds / thousands of pieces of mosaic mirror tiles (disco ball stuff) or pieces of broken mirror (cheaper but messy) all hanging on monofilament behind the band. You could hang dozens of tiles on each line and then hang them on a pipe. I'd cross light the tiles at 90° from camera on both sides and put a fan on them to lightly blow the tiles.

Then, at the climax moment, turn on the lights lighting the tiles with hands on switches, dimmer board or shutters depending on the speed you want the effect to happen. You should get a pretty spectacular effect this way.

Things to consider :

You may have to hang a theatrical bobbin net curtain to hide the tiles' backside and monofilament line and you may have to paint the backside of the mirrors black.

The mirrors will want to reflect your key lights for the band, so you may have to fly it in just for that moment, or construct your lighting for the band so that it doesn't spill onto the mirrors and reflect back when you don't want it to.

Maybe a ProMist filter for the glowing highlight effect.

Hope this helps.

Paul Szopa
DP
Los Angeles


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Mark Schumacher

>Take apart a disco ball and glue the pieces on Duvytyne in a nice >pattern.  Light from the front

So you wanna see a dusty grey piece of cloth with no aligned light sources into the lens I take it.

Nick(If you light it you see it) Hoffman
NYC


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I was very impressed with Maryse Alberti's use of Christmas tree tinsel and a star filter in Velvet Gold Mine. Probably not exactly the look you were thinking of but pretty damn cool. Could try sparkles scattered on duvatine.

It would have to be front lit - the closer to lens the better - a broad source hidden behind the band?

Nils Kenaston
DoP NYC


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Mark Schumacher says :

>Take apart a disco ball and glue the pieces on Duvytyne in a nice >pattern.

Now we're talking. So, how about taking shredded silver Mylar (say 1/4inch squares), and dropping them like snow from above.

They'll flutter as they fall, throwing light forward only for quick instances.

Chris Mosio
DP/Seattle


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How about :

Tiny holes in the wall.

Hang white grid cloth behind the wall

Sock a bunch of 5K fresnels at the grid cloth from behind, each through a rotating perforated gobo. The more light sources, the more random the flashes will be. You could also move and pan-tilt the lights a bit. And/or rotate the gobos by hand, using random motion.

The grid coth would be to even out the intensity of the flashes. Without it, lights pointed at the camera would be really bright, and others quite dim -- if visible at all.

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA


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>How about :
>Tiny holes in the wall.
>Hang white grid cloth behind the wall

That reminds me of this very cool effect that is occurring outside my window every night. Did you ever see a pulsar? A pulsar is a dead star that is rotating very fast in place while emitting a lot of radiation. As the radiation crosses the light path of the star and me it seems to pulsate on and off. In the roof-top elevator (lift) room of building about four blocks from me the bare bulb of a lamp has been left on. There is a fan that is between the bulb and me. The fan is not on but the constant supply of air is causing the blades to constantly rotate. As a result the building is perfectly imitating the look of a pulsar. And that is why before I said that I think if you go for the lights behind the whole effect, make sure to put some distance between the screen and the fixtures as the farther away the sharper the light and the better the effect.

Walter Graff
BlueSky, LLC


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Nick wrote :

>So you wanna see a dusty grey piece of cloth with no aligned light >sources into the lens I take it.

I don't think there would be any reason to light the black cloth to gray. It shouldn't take much (from as many sources/angles as you need) to get great kicks in mirror fragments (think of eye lights and how you don't have to blow out a face to get them).

Yes. The mirrors will be seen long before the black is gray.

I really liked Chris Mosio's idea about dropping Mylar bits. Wonder if it might not look too much like weird snow...

Mark Schumacher LA /DP


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Thanks to everyone who contributed ideas for the flashes of light conundrum. Right now we're still not sure where we are shooting, but its likely a gigantic brick room where we want to see the texture of the walls in the background (which would rule out the "holes" ideas since it would block the back wall).

I'm going to explore some of the Mylar ideas as well as the mirror tiles (though I think it might be too labor intensive to build). The lights capes curtain is also interesting. Anyone used one before?

I'll let you all know what we end up doing. Thanks again for the input.

Rob Barocci
DP-NYC


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Buy some adhesive Scotchlite material, cut it into tiny pieces and stick them scattered all over a black backdrop.

Place a piece of glass at 45 deg. in front of the camera as a mirror and project the beam of a small (500 w max.; it will depend on the scene lighting levels, though) spot fixture against it so its light is reflected towards the scene (and place a piece of black cloth opposite the glass to avoid scattered reflected light from the fixture).

Put a bicycle wheel between the fixture and the glass mirror, as far from the fixture as possible; with its circle all covered with very thin strips of black Cinefoil material irregularly criss-crossed over it (you will have to test the optimum thickness and separation of the strips).

Just spin the wheel and... Voilà!

A star-effect filter in camera could also help to enhance the effect. It shouldn't cost too much overall.

Arturo Briones-Carcaré
Filmmaker
Madrid (Imperial - but starting to recivilise - Spain)


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Arturo Briones-Carcaré writes :

>Just spin the wheel and... Voilà!

Scotch light...45 degree glass...that's a good one, but you could use a small strobe as the light and forget the wheel rig.

Nick Hoffman NYC DP


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>Scotch light...45 degree glass...that's a good one, but you could use a >small strobe as the light and forget the wheel rig.

Except that would make the entire star field pulse on and off.

The reflective stars and 45 degree glass are interesting. I wonder if there would be a good twinkling effect though, since the reflective material tends to reflect uniformly back with whatever level of light is in the vicinity of the camera.

Now if the bits of Scotchlite were randomly polarised and you had a rotating polarised filter in front of the light...Nah!

Clive Mitchell


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Clive Mitchell writes :

>Except that would make the entire star field pulse on and off.

I thought that was the idea...anyway...Arturo gets the prize for coming up with the best idea after Christmas lights.

Nick Hoffman NYC DP


class="Paragraph" >as well as Arturo whose bicycle wheel idea will find a place on a shoot of >mine someday in the future...

I should add to my idea a little change: instead of using stripes of Cinefoil, it would be far easier to cover the wheel circle entirely with Cinefoil and just make holes all over it with a pin, then, if the holes result too small for the effect, you just make the holes a little bigger and until it is perfect for your purposes.

Much more efficient...

Arturo Briones-Carcaré
Filmmaker
Madrid (Imperial - but recivilising - Spain)