Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Photo Booth Effect

I've a music video job next week where the treatment asks for a 50fps track in on a Photo Booth during which we see the flash fire 4 times.

We only see the booth from the outside so the flash is seen from around and below the vanity curtain that's pulled across the doorway. The booth is hoped to be of the 70s/80s style and may be a hire or a build at this stage. It's going to be situated outside and shot during the day. Even allowing for predictably overcast British weather I want the flash effect to be significantly brighter than ambient levels.

I need to ensure that the flash is synched to the shutter and have control over the timing.

The camera for the rest of the shoot is an A-Minima but I can get any other body in for this set-up if synch is an issue (even go to 35mm if need be).

At first I thought a lightening strike unit would be the best bet though a budget already stretched snare drum tight might put the mockers on that. Any 'cheap & cheerful' alternatives would be good. I want the duration of the flashes to be fairly meaty (1/2 sec!) and ideally there'd be a nice long decay to the flash (20yrs ago photo booth flashes seemed pretty vicious and my retina would still be throbbing as the next photo was fired).

As I said, I don't know yet whether the booth will be a prop hire or a build. Space to cram units (and an artist) inside will be limited in both instances.

I'm not intending to use any diffusion for the rest of the spot but might consider netting the lens for this shot just to carry the 'bleed' of the flash a little further.

Any suggestions?

Tom Townend,


You might want to try using some magnesium flash bulbs (they look like a photoflood bulb, clear with a coiled mess of magnesium inside), we’ve used them on quite a few shows, and they have a great slow decay rate. Huge exposure & you can connect them in series so you fire as many together as you’d like. ES base socket & if you fit them on a 2x4 batten they don’t take up a lot of room, you fire them off a battery & you only pay for the bulbs you use. Cant remember the unit cost but I’m sure it wasn’t that expensive.


James Mc Guire

I would think large flash bulbs would be bright enough and have a flash duration long enough to eliminate the need for camera sync efforts. If one at a time wasn't bright enough you could fire 2 or 3 at once. Low tech and would take some construction but I think it would be a good compromise given the requirements of the job.

Randy Miller,

DP in LA

James Mc Guire wrote:

>You might want to try using some magnesium flash bulbs (they look >like a photoflood bulb, clear with a coiled mess of magnesium inside),

there are special holders for them which can fire 12 at a time (if memory serves me)...but they are a bit yellow...and I'm not convinced they will give you the oomph for light leak under the curtain in daylight the lightening strikes paparazzi light lasts 9 frames I think - check out their web site....but have a feeling the multiple unit in US only

James Welland

James Welland

>but they are a bit yellow...and I'm not convinced they will give you the >oomph....

You should be able to find blue coated (daylight) bulbs and a dealer should be able to give you a guide number for the brightness. It's been a while since my still shooting days but a guide number as I recall tells you the f-stop for a 10 feet distance at a nominal 100 ASA.

Something like that. A bulb guide number of 160, say, tells you that at 10 feet from the subject with 100 ASA film you use a stop of f16.

Extrapolate from there.

Corrections will be happily accepted.

Randy Miller

Take a look here, as I said standard ES socket, fired off standard battery, huge output, & yes colour temp is around 3800 K.


James Mc Guire

Why not do it in post.

Add white frames or some semi transparent to get what you want out of it. You can also play with it to get exactly what you want and wont take a chance that with a tight budget it won't have to be re-shot. Most people put the flash by camera anyway, I'm not sure there would be a huge
difference in the look.

Bill Sheehy

Bill Sheehy wrote :

> Why not do it in post.

I'm sure we'll do a clean pass just to cover my ar*e (a*s) but it's nailing it in camera that sorts the men from the boys ('wheat from the chaff' if you want to be less sexist about it).

> I'm not sure there would be a huge difference in the look.

I don't want to get into a flame war about it but I know that what others would consider to be a finely crafted, stylish and photo realistic post effect could fall well short of my estimation. If people can see on set that a practical effect will improve with a second take and a little finessing you'll invariably be able to argue for that opportunity. If 'people' are happy to sign off on an effect in post that looks half baked and shoddy you're just a meddlesome cameraman if you start to throw your toys out of the pram about it.

Tom Townend,

Tom Townend wrote :

> Wow what an unexpected reply.

Never thought of it that way. I'm to busy with 2 series on air right now, One being a major hit on HBO.

Thought I'd take some of my time to make a suggestion... You know been there done that.

Your quiet the gentleman Tom, The kind of guy who keeps the real working pros from joining public forums.

Bill Sheehy

>Wow what an unexpected reply.

What a row about nothing.

For the price of a flashbulb or two, and no more than a few minutes to set up, you can deliver the effect completed. No effort in post. Who wouldn't thank you for that? I agree with Tom.

Absolutely no risk of a re-shoot. You'd do one clean pass anyway as insurance, but if the flash wasn't bright enough, at least you've got a realistic light leak, flare etc for the post artist to model on and extend.

In fact even if I had my heart set on doing a post effect, I'd ask for a flash in the original footage as a reference.

Dominic Case
Atlab Australia

>Your quiet the gentleman Tom, The kind of guy who keeps the real >working pros from joining public forums.

Hear hear... Having done 3 features 8 shorts 180 music videos and over 1500 commercials, I wish there would be a more professional approach to the pro and general forums. Mind you I like answering some of the basic questions once in a while(if only boost my ego), and sometimes I have basic questions myself. But a very large potion of queries in these forum seems to be about either camera lubrication?????? (Who cares except people from rental companies - for sure it has nothing to do with the philosophical, dramaturgical or even practical aspects of the professional cinematographers work) or obviously inexperienced people on their way to achieve professionalism asking about obvious things.

I don¹t want to be a total fascist about this, but I really feel the need for more strict adherence to the rules(or stricter rules), so that a larger portion of postings have real value to professionals.

Hoping that I am not totally off the mark here...

Best regards

Jens Jakob Thorsen
Director of Photography

A quick follow up :

The photo booth ended up as a build in the studio (for 'booth pov' shot) and we ended up using Meggaflash PF200 bulbs for the flash effect. Phenomenally bright flashes with a long duration and lovely decay.

Many many thanks to everyone who replied both on and off-list with advice about flashbulbs.

Tom Townend,

>Phenomenally bright flashes with a long duration and lovely decay

You're sooooo Old School, Tom

Sam Wells

Copyright © CML. All rights reserved.