Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Glowing Angelic Look

To get enough halation (glow) around the hottest areas, you need something like a diffusion filter (or a post effect). However, the effect is also tied to the amount of overexposure -- so the hotter the overexposed portion is, the less diffusion you need to still get some halation. So even something as light as a #1/8 ProMist or #1 Soft FX can augment the halation if you use enough overexposure.

But you need something like a diffusion filter for the overexposure to interact with, although I guess some old uncoated lenses could give you some of that effect.

In order to SEE the glow, it needs to be framed against a darker background, which is why shooting in backlight or back/top light is a good idea because it creates a edge halo around the subject while still holding some detail in the face (which is in the shade) and you can frame something darker behind the subject. Frontal lighting can also produce halation when overexposed enough, especially if framed against a darker background -- but you will lose detail in the subject's face faster since it will have to be quite hot to cause halation.

Also, since backlighting creates a visual outline or edge that makes the subject seem "sharper", it works well combined with diffusion filters, which of course soften definition. So the more the lighting emphasizes sharpness (hard light, edgy light, contrasty), the more diffusion you can get away with (and thus get more halation), while softer, more frontal lighting already makes the image seem softer in definition, so it's harder to get away with heavier diffusion.

The closest I've ever gotten to that Robert Richardson look was in a Super-16 project where I top / back lit some surgeons at an operating table with some 1K PAR 64's with narrow spot bulbs, using 7248 and a #1/2 ProMist. I exposed for the ambient bounce back up into the faces and let the hot top / back light go WAY overexposed. Looked beautiful, although the actors were practically roasted.

Test, test, test...

David Mullen Cinematographer / L.A.

>Without taking the plunge and putting on some heavy filtration, how can I get the >"glow"? Will a 2-3 stop over exposure for the man in white add dramatically by itself >or would I still need some degree of diffusion...

The problem with this approach is that overexposing will effect the entire frame, and it sounds like you want just the man to be overexposed with everything else around him normal...huh? This doesn't sound like it can be accomplished in camera with the tools you plan to use...i.e., no'll be able to put an oval power window around him in post, but it sounds like you really need to rotoscope him to get only him to glow. You might think about bringing the footage into a compositing program like After Effects and doing this frame by frame in there, it's what After Effects does very well.

Hope this helps

Ken Glassing

In the old days of shooting music videos, I used White Supa Frost filters #2 to achieve this effect. I don't know if they are still available. (I still have a set). Also framing the hallo on a darker BG makes it more visible. Take care

John Berrie csc Toronto

If you are unable to get your hands on filters why not use a silk net stretched behind the lens (fogal or real sheer silk)? I always found the look preferable to front end filtration to begin with. Overexposure and "glow" of the white outfit should occur naturally by exposing for skin tones. You of course could go a combination of thicker filtration or more overexposure to desired taste. If you are unable to test just bracket it. I don't know how sophisticated a post setup that is but if I recall you can isolate parts of the frame with power windows and mess with the luminance. Anyone?


Jonathan Belinski DP/NYC

>It sounds like some diffusion would be in order. How about some KY on a clear filter >applied only where the angel is?

I agree with David here, only I would substitute diluted Rubber Cement for KY.

Rubber Cement dries to a film that you can roll off with your fingers while KY ... well, KY is very good at not wiping off easily, as it was designed not to.

Use Bestine to dilute Rubber Cement (sold at art stores that sell Rubber Cement). Bestine is also a wonderful solvent for wiping off tape residue, etc. It's not so powerful that it removes whatever tape residue,etc is stuck too.

Cliff Hancuff

Dave Luxton wrote :

>I'm shooting a short film coming up in which I would like to achieve a glowing effect >on an actor.

If you really want to limit the glow effect to the actor only, and keep the rest of frame completely clean, then you could think about do it in post.

This needn't be too much of a hassle or an expense. To separate the actor from the bg you'd need to either key out certain colour values (bright whites) and selectively add glows to them, or even rotoscope the actor roughly to define the glow area. Both can be excellently achieved on software costing not very much at all (ask your facility of choice if they have Commotion (roto) or After Effects (general basic image processing and compositing).

Paddy Eason

Moving Picture Company,


Dave Luxton wrote :

>Without taking the plunge and putting on some heavy filtration, how can I get the >"glow"? Will a 2-3 stop over exposure for the man in white add dramatically by itself >or would I still need some degree of diffusion...say a PM or SFX(which i don't have)? >Will it be better to

Just overexposing won't give you that "halo" look. Some diffusion would be necessary. Between Pro Mist or Soft FX I'd choose the Soft FX. It has a more dreamy quality to it. However, if you can't get a set of Soft FX for your shoot and you're on a tight budget you might try buying some nylon pantyhose and evenly stretching it over the lens or net frame. The nice thing about this is that it's cheap! Also, you have the option of buying different colors to see what you and the director like. Another cheap diffusion trick is to allow a clear filter to collect dust, or just throw some dirt or soot on it and gently shake or blow off any excess. Again, you can experiment with different colors of dust, dirt or soot. Lightly scratching clear filter with sandpaper or a scouring pad. You can run the abrasive in one direction (vertically or horizontaly) or do a crosshatch pattern. Speckle your clear filter with an adhesive (like watered down syrup) or a very light coating of spray paint. Of course there's always the vaseline or nose grease trick. Brainstorm and experiment!

Using a backlight or kicker a few stops over key would enhance your effect. Also, you may want to consider an overhead light positioned slightly in front of your talent to give you that "heavenly" light. Be sure to keep any stray light from falling on your filter and bouncing off causing a foggy look. This is especially true of large, soft light sources that can wrap around flags.

Hope this helps,


One thing that I would caution about the Fogal behind the lens gag is that while it gives a soft glowy look, you can also wind up with some artifacts which are not so pretty. For instance, if you actually see a source in frame, you may also get a prismatic effect where the highlight gets diffracted into primary colors which for me spoils the halation effect .

Mark Smith dp nYc

Good ol' CML!

Got my camera package today and had a look at the filter selection. PM 1/2, Diff 2, Fog 2, SC1, SC3, and BPM 1/2, 1. There was a Harrison D2, but the lamination was separating. I was told that if I put it in very hot water - but not boiling, it would fuse together again...hmmm. Besides, it sure looked a lot like a Pro Mist 1/2.

So, I'm going for the backlight and slight over exposure with either a PM 1/2 or the Fog 2. and another take sans filters. I will try to augment the effect in either PowerWindows and/or AfterFX.

I'll try to let everybody know how it turned out.


Dave Luxton Cinematographer - Filmmaker Edmonton, AB

There is a way you can get a powerful glowing effect with slight diffusion without having to overexpose the whole frame and no necessary dark background. It involves both costume and make up. The secret lies in having both extremely reflective by using front-projection Scotchlite material.

It is supplied in adhesive screen material, fabric, paint and can also be found in its primary raw material : tiny glass beads.

If you make the subjects costume out of the fabric material (or paint it) and somehow apply either the paint or the glass micro-beads to the actor's make-up, the you can, by means of front projecting light (even simply the reflection of the sunlight) through a 45º angled semi-transparent mirror (even a simple glass sheet can do the trick to some extent) onto the subject, get a powerful reflection out of the subject and only out of the subject, what would provide the necesary overexposure exactly coming just from the subject.

This trick is how (at least half way) both the glowing of the Star Wars light-sabers and the glowing of Superman's parents clothes were obtained. I'm sure you can recall in respect to this last, that the faces of Superman's parents were underexposed due to the lack of super-reflective make-up. That's why you should get a way to apply the scothlite to the make up; otherwise the subject's face wouldn't look very "angelic".

Hope this helps.

Arturo Briones-Carcare Filmmaker Madrid (Spain)

>I believe Mark Woods BACKLIT her with a XENON

Actually top lighted from a cherry picker with the uncorrected Xenon to a reflected reading of +6 stops over the stop on the lens.

>and had a filter packconsisting of a Lo Con, Varicon, and a fog?

A H&H Double Fog #1, a Tiffen Black ProMist #2, a Varicon with a Full CTB in the filter slot.

>The effect is wonderful.

The effect is wonderful, although I did have to hold the director's hand and assure him the look was what he was after. He couldn't wait to see dailies with me next to him.

Mark Woods, Director of Photography

That Move, Pasadena, CA Stills

You can make filters to go on the telecine similar to the camera ones described earlier. The rubber cement between a couple sheets of acetate seems like a good experiment. Netting on the telecine is also an option as well as the many different filters available. You can put different elements in different places along the image path on certain machines (depending on what your Colorist is willing to do)---The angel would have to stay within the range of the mask---the filter would not have any movement independent of the picture, but would follow any repositions done to the image--- you couldn't slide the filter more to one side to center on the subject, but if you wanted a zoom on the shot overall the filter would follow the move.

Power windows can enhance an effect quite a bit, also effects done with a K-scope can give you even more options. Yet another option is you could do two color correction passes on the material (potential problems with matching image stability depending on your telecine) one with the background, darker correction and a second, (probably telecine filtered) brighter glow pass, then compositing the two together in edit.

Anyone know the real definition of film reciprocity error? I worked with a D.P. who would go for an overexposure of 5+ stops and add a white pro-mist (I think---I was in post not on set) and it would achieve the look it sounds like you are going for. Of course, you need the lighting equipment to do this. Depending on the amount of the footage, the telecine time vs. the rental cost would need consideration.

I like the cml-lab idea . . .how about cml-telecine?

Mellissa Manzagol

Freelance Colorist * Photographer

Los Angeles

*warning - naive idea ahead*

Could one do something with fluorescing material and a spotted black light? Even in daylight??

Paddy Eason

Moving Picture Company,


The Scotchlite retro-reflective material is available from 3M and other companies. AFAIK, it is the same material used for "front projection" screens and to make highway signs and protective clothing glow in the light of automobile headlights:


Copyright © CML. All rights reserved.