Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Glowing Pills


I have a pick up shot where the bad guy spikes the good guys drink with a pill. The Director wants the Pill to glow !!! I have had a look at the shot and wires are a problem as the shot to be replaced has the pill in the palm of a hand or alternatively I may be able to change the shot so as the pill is at the base of the fingers allowing wires to pass up through underneath.

The shot is a high key one so the pill needs to have some kick. :) Picture lock down is only days away and the budget is spent and I have fourteen other shots to do with a tiny crew. I think I am having fun.
Tom Gleeson

Without wires : You can wrap the pill in 3M Scotchlite ( front-screen projection material) and illuminate it near the camera lens axis (or better yet, through a front-surface mirror/beam-splitter). The material throws light back to it's source.

It's similar to the effect of the glowing costumes in the first Superman movie, and the light sabres in Star Wars.

Add a squeeze box (dimmer). to pulse the light.

I've picked up (free) samples/remnants of the sticky-backed adhesive material from projection screen companies like Stewarts in LA.

Good luck!

Scotchlite sounds like a winner. Or, how about blacklight paint & illumination?

John Stewart

There used to be Scotchlite Paint. This would be easier. Does it still exist?

The paint does still exist.

Find the largest sign-painter's supply house in town and they will probably have it. It is also used to paint lines on roads and parking lots (aka car parks.)

Mark H. Weingartner

How about UV pigments and UV fixtures for a glowing pill ?

Mark Doering-Powell

I don't know if the "pill" could be a capsule, but if it could that opens up some possibilities: replacing the innards of a clear capsule with the glowing goo from a Cyalume(tm) lightstick (may not be high key enough, but a lovely shade of green or purple) or filling it with glass beads and hitting it with a special. I imagine that keying it in is out of budget ...

Let us know what you do...

George "pills on his mind a lot lately" Nicholas

Maybe a Wildfire light and the (correct) fluorescent paint would work.

Since it's a c/u of a pill you might get away with just the paint and some other more inexpensive *blacklight*. Using some white ProMist would help the light value *glow*.

David Perrault

I'm sure Mark Doering Powell can give you a treatise on this. You might consider some florescent paint and a UV light source.

Joe "don't drink it!" Di Gennaro
Director of Photography

Yeah, UV pigments and lights, seemed like a good way to go, but...not another treatise from me...PLEASE ! Spare us...

Mark "my questions are treatise enough" Doering-Powell

My first question back to the Director would be HOW MUCH glow? Do the pills actually give off light? Or is it just a little glow off the pill (like a pill width spill) or would the whole hand be illuminated by the magical aura? How about a white hot point that flares out the lens? I would even ask why they are glowing, what is their motivation? (Yes, I really do this.)

For a small self illuminating look, my first thought went to UV techniques since I have done so much of it. Second would be having a model builder make duplicate pills with bulbs inside. If it has to get too hot in relation to the ambient light created in the room, then a model hand may be needed. Other camera techniques include in various combination: shooting specials at the pills, double exposures/ motion control, diffusion/ filtration, and Chemical light.

The Post options are many too many to cover but I can throw out tech terms like, rotoscoping, color difference, Pill (name your color) screen, hand and/or 3D computer animation. Let us know how it went.

Take care,

Eric Swenson
Never take pills myself. Not even Magic ones.

Ladies and Gentlemen many thanks for all the wonderful advice on glowing pills. In the end due to time constrictions I chose the advice to use the mag light bubble inserted into an opaque pill casing trick. I shot '48 key at f4 with f8/11 from the pill The pill glowed with a bright warm light and this made for one happy director.

I did get one surprise on this shoot when I used Christmas lights in a shot of a flying cockroach (I get the best gigs) I used those small coloured Christmas Tree lights in the back of a long lens shot out of focus for an effect. I shot at 150fps to capture the spinning cockroach but at 150fps the little lights started to strobe/flicker. This surprised me as the lights look like little incandescent so I did not expect flicker. No other elements in the frame flickered ( Sorry John the camera is innocent of all charges). So next time you do a high speed cockroach shot with those little Christmas lights don't say I didn't warn you !

Tom Gleeson


Copyright © CML. All rights reserved.