Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Lighting Around Firearms


Doing a mob type hit scene with 45’s, “Tommy” guns, assorted pistols; basement small social club. Very small room, low ceilings.

I was told that the concussion can cause bulbs to explode, especially kinos. Does anyone have any experience w/ this?

John Roche, gaffer

>Doing a mob type hit scene with 45s, "Tommy" guns, assorted pistols; >basement small social club. Very small room, low ceilings.


They are firing blanks, eh?


Clive Woodward
Knows percussive maintenance works, concussive...?
Perth, Western Australia.

Clive Woodward wrote :

>They are firing blanks, eh?


Yeah, but they tech spec effects guy says that¹s worse case they are "Dirty" rounds. I guess real bullets are "clean"... What ever the hell that means.

John Roche,


John Roche wrote :

>I was told that the concussion can cause bulbs to explode, especially >kinos. Does anyone have any experience w/ this?

I have lots of experience filming all kinds of firearms and ordinance. I have never heard of a bulb of any kind breaking due to concussion from the discharge of any firearm, including shotguns. We certainly never broke a bulb in any of our tests, except the ones we were shooting at.

To be sure, we did not use KinoFlos specifically for these tests, however in many instances we were filming in facilities with normal fluorescent lighting. What's more, none of the experts working at the facilities ever said anything about breaking bulbs -- and they were testing ammunition and firearms every day.

Blanks can sound a lot louder, but they usually contain far less gunpowder than a regular cartridge, so they would create less of a concussion.

I think someone is pulling your leg, or else they've been watching to many movies.

I would be much more concerned with proper hearing protection. Your eardrums are a lot more fragile than a KinoFlo.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP

Brian Heller wrote :

>I think someone is pulling your leg, or else they've been watching to >many movies

That could be Brian.

Just for my own reference, what is the closest you had any kind of lighting to these firearms you were filming? Again, all ours will be blanks and that may be an important distinction, or not.

John Roche,


John Roche wrote :

>Just for my own reference, what is the closest you had any kind of >lighting to these firearms you were filming?

Often open faced quartz lights were only a foot or less away. Now that I think about it, in High Speed Ektachrome days, we also used banks of EALs, which are 3200K mushroom shaped tungsten lamps. They are quite fragile.

>Again, all ours will be blanks and that may be an important distinction, >or not.

That's good news. I think if you open a door or a window you will take care of any pressure waves. I'll try to get in touch with one of the scientists I did the filming for to see what he has to say.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP

I think you would have to be firing a weapon which you would not and should not fire indoors and with live rounds to get into any kind of spot where you might break lighting instruments with the percussion from a firearm. There are combinations of handguns (mostly ridiculous guns like the .44 Automag or desert eagle or some other .50cal)when combined with +P or +P+ ammo which will produce a considerable kick and large flame from the ejector port and barrel. Rifle rounds over .223 such as .308 and .50 might become percussive enough to do some damage to fluorescent fixtures if they were placed close to the barrel, perhaps within 8 to 12"

I have seen a number of huge explosions taken with hi speed cameras using 300-400 1K tungsten fixtures and they pretty much all survived the blast unless they were struck by flying debris. They were very close to the object being destructed.

I would say that if you are in doubt or need to get the lights very close to the barrel of the gun have your firearm handler make a set of lighter rounds for the weapon, i.e. less powder even than usual for the gun to cycle. This also gets into asking what kind of gun and what kind of action you are trying to capture, do you need it to produce a flame, full auto, semi auto, revolver, auto, calibre, etc..

I would also assume you are using "movie modified" weapons which have much lighter springs in the action to allow for lightly loaded blanks to cycle the action, if you are using real firearms your blanks may not be able to cycle the action of a semi auto and you will get a round stove piped in the ejector port after 1 shot.

Robert Houllahan
Well trained firearm handler

John, I've shot in a concrete basement stairwell where we had 5 mp5 and 7 ak-47's firing live blanks at fairly close range, we did not have any globes that were even remotely damaged let alone exploded. Being that most Kino tubes have their protected sleeves you shouldn’t have much of a worry about your globes exploding.

The only problem I could see you having, is if your guns are pointed at the tubes in a very and I stress very close range. The guns do produce a discharge, which does have a kick to it( don’t stand in front of it..) but you probably wont have much problems with your lights...

Jeremy Schonwald
Gaffer/Electric LA


I've just jumped into this thread rather late...sorry. But I've never had any problem with any type of lights: HMI, Kino's, Tungsten, around any firearms.

I've shot pictures with multiple fully automatic machine guns firing double loads all around and never gave it a second thought. Shot guns, pistols, etc... Of course, these guns were not aimed at the lighting units.

Same with planted charges like squibs, mortar explosions, etc...

Did someone have an issue with a lighting unit going out during a take with explosions/gunfire which prompted this thread?

Jeff Barklage, s.o.c.
US based DP

Just wanted to report back. In the end I did not need to use Kino¹s.

Lighting was simple w/ overhead skirted china lanterns, K-5¹s and inkies.

Our Special effects/firearm guy did insist we remove the 8 foot overhead fluorescent bulbs. They were not needed for lighting, so it did not matter but

I asked him if he had seen these explode before and he said he had, several times.

Thanks to Brian Heller who sent me this response via email

³I have finally heard back from one of the scientists I worked with on high speed ballistics. (He was on vacation.)

The simple answer is he says you will have no trouble using Kinos or any other kind of film light with any type of fire arm smaller than a cannon. He advises against firing artillery indoors.²

I still suspect my guys were just being over cautious, but they absolutely insisted on removing any bare flo's.

I did not have any lighting closer than 3 feet to any firearm, and had no problems. In the end I don't think this question got fully answered in any definitive way.

Everyone seems to have differing opinions and experiences.

John Roche,


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