Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Filming Flash Photography


I am DP on a 35mm B/W student film. A critical shot involves a simple flashgun being used. Are there any suggestions as to how best to capture the fraction of a second flash, filming at 24fps?

Thanks very much.

Dominic Witherow
Student, London

>>Are there any suggestions as to how best to capture the fraction of a >>second flash, filming at 24fps?

If you see the Flash thru the eyepiece it did not hit the neg. If you do not see the Flash it hit the neg. Be ready to run several takes.

David Rakoczy
DP/ Dir
LA/ Florida

>>Are there any suggestions as to how best to capture the fraction of a >>second flash, filming at 24fps?

Just simply add it in post?

Leonardo Nodi
Online Editor

Insert White flash frames in the edit.

Dissolve to white 3 or 4 frames in post.

Use Flashbulbs. There is a company that makes flash bulbs, and I believe they have a longer duration than flash strobes.

The point about seeing it the eyepiece is correct. Looking at dailies of someone pointing a gun (filled with blanks) at the lens, and firing, only to see the gun go off and be enveloped by the blast and smoke, but no flash is awfully strange.

Steven Gladstone
New York Based Cinematographer
Gladstone Films

You could use a lightning strike and set it so the flash lasts longer than a few frames, ensuring you get your flask fx. Though I'm not sure where to get some in England.

Is the flash coming from a camera in the frame, or outside?

Samuel Brownfield

In the event that it's off frame, what I used was tungsten connected to a dimmer. It had besides the dimmer control, an on/off switch. So I had the dimmer on max and switched it on, thereafter immediately adjusting the level to min. You can visually check the "flash exposure" to suit your needs.

We didn’t shoot sound-sync, so noise wasn’t an issue.

Not sure if there're easier solutions, but this worked for us since it was available from school.

Alex Tan


Hello I am running into a rather difficult challenge.

The spot I am shooting calls for a shot of the burst from a magnesium flash bulb. It must be seen in an extended length of at least 3 seconds. The longest burst from any flash bulb, which I cold locate, is about 1/45 of a second.

According a formula and the calculations at photosonics, in order for the burst to last 3seconds of screen time we would have to shoot 3000 fps!

I am just wondering if anyone has attempted a shoot like this and looking for advice.

Any thoughts, I would love to hear more.

Max Goldman

Some sort of magnesium-looking high-wattage tungsten bulb on a dimmer?

Maybe some pyro person can make you some fake flash bulbs. I used to burn magnesium (among other things) using an old battery charger when I was a kid, and it didn't always burn quickly. There might be a way to custom make some slow burners.

Art Adams, DP
Mountain View, California - "Silicon Valley"

Ah yes unsynchronised strobes... I saw the flash in the view finder so the film most likely didn't see the strobe flash.

I have had great success using a strobe (atomic genie) I think it is called. The rock & roll stage guys use them for stage effects.

This particular one has a "blinder" position where you can hold the strobe on as a constant source... I have used them to simulate flash bulbs and I have even used them for poor mans Lightning effects ... suprisingly powerful.

You can hold them on for about eight seconds before they thermally reset a couple of seconds for filming is usually too much I have found about a second is more than enough.

I just rent them from a rock concert lighting supplier here... they're cheap to rent.


Graham Rutherford

Sounds more like a special effects/props job than a lighting situation.

You didn't say what surroundings the bulb is to be in. If it's in a flash attachment on a camera, it will have to be the size of a normal flash bulb. Have your favourite props person take a flash bulb apart and put a small quartz bulb in it. Then bring it up on a variac until it's greatly over exposed, then down to simulate the filament burning out.

If you need an ECU on the magnesium strands in the bulb, try an LED hidden in the base of the bulb, again, with over exposure of the light.

Short flash story : we used an industrial variable strobe the kind used to stop motion of spinning parts, as an effect on pills being poured from a bottle. Looked great through the viewfinder, but the film was black... we sync-ed the film to the revolving mirror of the Arri, not the open shutter! OOPS!

Dan LaBorde

>Have your favourite props person take a flash bulb apart and put a >small quartz bulb in it.

Similar thought is to replace it with a 4 watt bulb (like the ones used for Christmas lamps). Break the glass envelop and strip it off leaving the filament. Apply voltage and you get an incredibly bright burn for about 3 seconds. It's like a slow motion flash bulb.

Walter Graff
Producer, Director, Creative Director, Cinematographer
HellGate Pictures, Inc.
BlueSky, LLC

This sounds very interesting.

It would be great if you could find out more about this light/effect. I
would be very grateful if you could get me the exact name, model and manufacturer.

Thanks for you reply,

Max Goldman

Hi Max

would you believe I used the strobe to-day.(Didn't know I was going to.)

It is manufactured by Martin (Denmark)
Called "Atomic 3000 DMX"

There is a control that has either single flash or you can manually fire it on the 'Blinder Effect'" Don't look at it when you fire it ... Man it is bright. I always brief Actors etc. not to look directly at it.

I think you will be impressed.
I posted a query on Google "Atomic 3000" lots of sites. Martins Denmark site has list of rental houses in the U.S.


Graham Rutherford

Check out Meggaflash bulbs

They have one the "PF330" that burns for 1.75seconds according to the spec sheet

hope this helps

Robin S Brigham

Gaffer London


This would be perfect and I have already considered using this bulb, however we have about 60 shots with multiple takes and these bulbs cost $1250 for 24 bulbs. Each bulb of course only having one flash per bulb.

Any other thoughts, suggestions....

Max Goldman

I got interested in flash bulbs when I bought a case of press 25 flash bulbs and a flash gun for my speed graphic. The flash uses both the smaller base press 25 bulbs and the larger medium base bulbs.

The Megga flash bulbs are a larger bulb with a medium base (like a household light bulb), and the filament doesn't look like a flash bulb, so if you want it to look like a photographer's flash bulb, you might not like the look of the Megga flash, but, buy some anyways, as they make an incredible flash effect!

Dan LaBorde


A director wants to have a paparazzi type scene with the older style "flashbulbs" that have some decay. I was thinking of using them with the paparazzi 8k heads from Lightning Strikes. I figured a mixture of the press cameras in shot with the bulbs and the lightning strikes off camera might be a good combo.

Figuring some mild overcrank...60fps with 5218.

Does anyone have experience with either the 8k heads or the use of flashbulbs?


Norman Bonney
San Francisco

Norman Bonney wrote :

>>Does anyone have experience with either the 8k heads or the use of >>flashbulbs?

I cranked through several million feet of Fox Movietone Newsreels.

Lots of shots of press photographers firing flashbulbs.

Usually took three frames for it to decay; with the first frame amazingly bright, often washing out the subject.

Leo Vale
neg prep
Pgh PA

There are actually a couple of different decay rates... three frames seems about right for typical M-bulbs. The focal plane bulbs will last a little bit longer but the light will be more constant until it decays.

Somewhere around here I have the GE Photoflash book that has the decay curves for various lamps. But just shoot 'em... they'll look fine.

Scott Dorsey
Kludge Audio
Williamsburg, VA.

Norman Bonney wrote:

>>Does anyone have experience with either the 8k heads or the use of >>flashbulbs?

Press 25s are great film flashbulbs. Anything larger will white out your shot for at least 1 frame.

If that's what you're looking for try: Meggaflash

Cool pix in any case.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP

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