Creating A Visible Shaft of Light With Limited Resources


I will be shooting next weekend and I want to create a warm/organic look for an INT scene that I have. Basically I want to create a visible shaft of sunlight coming into a room through one of the windows, and have the room lit with an ambient glow (kino-flos). I don't have a genny, but I do have a stove-plug adapter on a 40amp breaker.

I was going to use a mini-brute (9-light) outside the window and turn up 6 lights (3900w).

I was also going to use a hazer for the INT. to increase the density of the air as to make the light shaft more apparent. Is there a better way to light this scene (light choice, hazer choice etc.)! Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Joshua Whitford

Your approach sounds good. Spot or narrow spot lamps for the 9-light could help. But a little atmosphere and a darkish background to stand off from should do the trick.

Alan Thatcher

A 9 light will give you a very diffuse shaft - 9 little shafts actually. You'll get more bang for your electrical buck using a HMI and gelling it to the colour you want. A hard light like a 2500 par with spot glass - or maybe no glass - should give you a pretty hard shaft.

Marty Mullin
Los Angeles

I quote here from some of my CML posts from early 2006:

The noted still photographer, Robert Farber, has long taught in his seminars a simple method to obtain a "ray of light" effect. He uses a clear filter. He rubs his index finger along his nose to collect some skin oil on the finger-tip, and then streaks it in a linear fashion on the filter in the right location to suit the effect he wants. What this does is place an otherwise invisible pattern of tiny ridges on the filter that bends light in a manner that produces a very realistic ray of light from bright areas in the scene- the brighter the better.

Not unlike what happens with a star filter, where the etched lines that are running vertically on the filter produce star rays that project out horizontally from the light source, running the skin oil in a horizontal direction will produce vertical rays- the rays are perpendicular to the direction of the oil streak.

Placing the oil pattern on the glass is a matter of aligning it with the perceived position of the glowing light in the scene. You can also experiment with producing a curved arc streak, and other techniques of oil application, but the strongest "ray" will be from a straight line.

You could rotate the filter while shooting to get the effect of the rays changing direction. And you can clean the filter numerous times until you get the streak just right, and when you're done to use the filter again normally.

Ira Tiffen

If sunlight is available a simple 1 foot square mirror which catches direct sunlight can create a very inexpensive beam of light with the "ultimate" point source.

I tried this once when I was lighting a day interior of a basement scene. The mirror was mounted on the front of a mole 1k so that the beam could be adjusted. We adjusted intensity with ND gels.

The limitation, of course, is the availability of sunlight - a cloudy day could ruin everything.

Peter Jensen
Los Angeles, Camera Person

A simple method I use, which might or might not work in your scene but does work in smaller areas like railway carriages and the like.

Suspending a stretched sheet of black gauze over the entire room, near the place you want the source to come from, and then spraying white paint where the shaft should be, with hard edges or soft, depending what you want, and then just lighting that area from the side, can work very well, though only to a degree,

You cannot have people walking through the beam.

I haven't explained that very well, but I hope you get the gist???

Chris Maris
Director of Photography


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