Cinematography Mailing List - CML




Paper Lanterns

Published : 16th February 2005

How do I make a good lantern and what strength bulb should go in to it?

I'm shooting a B&W 35mm short with lots of "candle" light. there's going to be no candles on set so I wanted to make a Chinese lantern to put on the end of a boom pole for the right effects.

I'm shooting on 5222 (200 ASA) with only a one light print so its gotta be right first time.

Does any one know a good way to make a lantern (what trace and how to stich it etc) and what strength bulb should go in to it? 300w might work but would I be better of risking a 500w in a brass fitting?

Edd Lukas
London, DP

Edd Lucas :

class="style9">>shooting on 5222 (200 ASA)... what strength bulb should go in to it? >300w might work but would I be better of risking a 500w in a brass >fitting?

Try a 500 watt in a porcelain socket to endure the heat. Hook it to a dimmer and you can even control the output a bit while adding warmth.

Jim Sofranko

Edd Lukas writes:

class="style9">>How do I make a good lantern and what strength bulb should go in to >it?

You can buy ready-made Chinese or Japanese rice-paper lanterns in Asian-import stores (here in the States, Pier 1 Imports is a good place to get them in various sizes)...or on the web.

A large one (2 feet or more in diameter) should take a full-size 500W bulb safely as long as the bulb can't come into contact with the paper for more than a second or two. You might add a wire thingy or something to prevent it from ever contacting the paper at all. In any case don't use a bare (non-encapsulated) quartz/halogen bulb -- they're dangerously hot, and theoretically could explode.

You can also make a lantern out of a square of non-flammable diffusion material rolled into a cylinder. Make a wire structure at the top with a loop in the centre through which the AC cord can pass. Tie a knot in the cord at the right distance from the socket so the bulb hangs at the right height. Make sure there's enough distance between the bulb and the wall of the lantern to prevent melting or burning.

Dan Drasin
Marin County, CA

I have some shots of a rigid rig I made for lamp booming. It uses two encapsulated tungsten bulbs (250w each) for firelight, one can be left on to give a base illumination while the other can be dimmed to produce a flicker variation.

Nick Paton
Director of Photography
High Def./Standard Def./Film
Aaton XTR Prod owner operator
Brisbane, Australia

Nick Paton wrote :

class="style9">>...It uses two encapsulated tungsten bulbs (250w each) for firelight, one >can be left on to give a base illumination while the other can be dimmed >to produce a flicker variation.

That sounds even better! I'm a big fan of have a base level of light on flicker FX as it definitely makes the effect less gimmicky and more realistic.

Jim Sofranko

The "China Balls" they sell at places like pier 1 and urban outfitters here in California have different color outer paper, some even come with a mixed color to give an appearance of fire, but if you are shooting black n white, the white or orange china ball which comes in all different sizes in stores should be sufficient for your needs, I just would replace the plastic socket that comes with the china ball with a porcelain socket like Jim said......

Edd if they don’t sell China Balls in London look online for china balls on pier1's website and if your luck runs out email me, if you are needy I could arrange buying and shipping some to you in the UK I'm sure....

China balls come in all sorts of sizes the biggest I've hear of if I’m not mistake are 48" with 36" 24" variations... it may be cheaper than making your own, just pick your globe for what you want in the gut and make sure you have a squeeze box.... with a 500w you couldn’t go wrong, and to be safe... keep a few globes around of different varieties.

Jeremy Schonwald
San Diego/Los Angeles

I've made them with a length of copper conduit or gas pipe (2-3 feet?) with a bend in it. Using some clever plumbing you can fit a brass fitting to the end and run the cable down the tube (try and use silicone cable for the heat and use a fitting with a ground making the whole rig at earth).

When you're in close you can whack that thing on a C stand or hold it in your hand and when you're moving it to shot on the end of a pole it stops the thing waving around on its flex. Fitting the lantern takes a little creative wire work, but its a job the best boy loves to do

Mat Buchan
rigging gaf

Remember, candles don’t really flicker unless there is air moving the flame around.

Test it out.

Fires flicker but candles burn consistent.

Chad Simcox

Thanks guys,

Been a great help and had some generous offers.

Think I'm gonna go with the hand made trace option (and make 2/3 size variations, the set is very small so I figure Ill try to be as versatile as poss).

Probably use F2 and gonna try the 300W with the 250W dulled up to flicker with (liked the sound of that and looking forward to trying it, thanks Nick)

Thanks again guys will let you know how it goes

Edd Lukas
London, DP

Check out ‘em lighting on

Joshua Dreyfus

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