Ray of Light Lighting Effect

I'm preparing to shoot a short on S16mm in about a month and a half. The script has one very specific lighting effect in it, which I'm not sure how to tackle.

The scene flows pretty much like this: a man is standing in the middle of an open-space square. He suddenly starts projecting a very strong beam/ray of light out of his whole body. That light falls onto people standing in front of him and watching him, then after a moment this "ray of light" fades away and everything looks normal again.

I've been talking to the director about different ways of doing it - either on set or I post, and so here I am asking for any suggestions you guys might have. If we do it with some kind of a light on set(?), how do I go about the exposure, potential aperture pulls etc.? If we do it in post, what's the best way to shoot it on the day?

I should add that it's the most important moment in the story so I'd hate it to look cheap.

Any suggestions and tips are very much appreciated.

Thanks in advance,

Dora Krolikowska
beginning cinematographer/camera assist


A wild and crazy in-camera idea.

3M make a very highly reflective material called Scotchlite which is used for front projection screens, reflectors on roads and as reflection material for safety purposes on the clothing of police.,  firemen etc.

This material reflects about 300 times more than white BUT it only reflects at this intensity directly back towards the source of the light. If, for the purpose of the shot, the actor's clothes were duplicated in this material and you had something like a 2.5k par HMI right next to the camera, it might look as if the man was a light source, even in daylight. If it was on a flicker - free, dim-able ballast you could adjust the intensity to your liking. The clothes could reflect so brightly that the man seemed like a light source.

It would be unlikely that you would shoot at high noon but at either end of the day where the light is more interesting and it would be easier to use other sources to good effect.

If the shot needed the onlookers included as a master, and the onlookers were between the camera and the shining man, and it was toward either end of the day, the onlookers could be rim lit by units just out of shot , or maybe a very bright unit on a crane or cherry picker above the shining man.

Are you planning to shoot this at Federation Square?

Paul Hicks

Dora :

You did not say if the director had spelled out what kind of shots he was looking at.

If he doesn't need to move you could do a combination of floor effect and post effect.

Starting with a higher long shot from behind the people watching you see the person start to glow. Easy a large light on a dimmer fading up.

Maybe light hidden in the front row of the people . The 3M material that some one else talked about could help.Next reverse angles of the people watching him as you dim up lights in their faces to plus a couple stops.

You could come back to the master from in back of the people with cut out mask the shape of the person with lots of light pouring through and then posted with a normal shot from the same angle. Then reverse the sequence to get out back out. Depending on what your set looks like you can get lights over the glowers head to light at the correct angle for the faces in a master shot.

Hey you asked.

Richard Bakos
Studio One Inc.
25833 State Road 2
South Bend, In 46619-4736

To see 'Rays' of Light emitted from the Man you are looking at Visual FX in Post. To see the 'Rays' of Light hit the crowd, you can hit the Crowd with an 18k(s) combined with Post Visual FX.. or skip the rental dollars for the Light(s) and put it ALL into Post Visual FX... that is what I would do.

Don;t be afraid to find the 'Better' Visual FX Houses.. simply tell them what you want and what you have to spend.. don't waste their time Just tell them outright what you have to spend. They will appreciate that and let you know.

You might be surprised

David Rakoczy
Dp/ Dir
LA/ Florida

> To see 'Rays' of Light emitted from the Man you are looking at Visual >FX in Post. To see the 'Rays' of Light hit the crowd, you can hit the Crowd >with an 18k(s) combined with Post Visual FX..

To SEE the ray of light, whether it's emitted from a person or beamed at a
crowd you first need to create a large consistent body of atmosphere.....either heavy mist or hanging fog.

If this shot is exterior you will probably never get a consistent hang. I think this effect is best dealt with as a Post EFX.

Jack Cummings
Buffalo DP

Dora won't need the 'atmosphere' (fog) if she does the Practical Light/ Visual FX combo... or the Visual FX solo.

David Rakoczy
LA/ Florida

Not exactly knowing how the shotplan/decoupage looks like, and what the budget is, but I think you can do a lot of the effect incamera and do the finishingtouch in postproduction. When you're planning to do some post-vfx always take a advisor of the postproductionfacility under the arm, but don't let you talked in doing it all in post. Because the best results are booked by combining the best of both. With that in mind you can think about shooting the required effect shots in multiple locked-off/motioncontrolled layers, and play with the exposure. Combining the layers in post and doing some extra finishingtouch can be the solution to the challenge you're looking at.

Good luck,

Vincent Visser (lightingcameraman from The Netherlands)

Mr. Vasser...

Dora is doing a 'Short Film' in Super 16mm... do you think she has the budget for Motion Control? .. and Composite single perf Film?

Dora, Contacting and Befriending a good Visual FX House and pleading to get the effect with the budget available is the way to go.

David Rakoczy
LA/ Florida

Hi everyone,

Thank you all guys for great suggestions. I've been busy working on other projects in the meantime but I have managed to do some research recently. The Sotchlike option seems like the one we might go with. I do think that if I can achieve something on set, I'd rather do it there than leave it for post. I am going to try and talk the director into allocating some money for proper post too; and the moment he is looking at some post-production houses to help us with it. However, the budget is limited, like I said, so I don't expect miracles.

I'm definitely thinking about shooting it either early in the morning or at dusk to get the best (the most interesting look) out of the natural light. The only problem I can see for now is that the lens we are using is an older, Zeiss zoom (T3), which comes with the director's camera we're shooting on. The camera is S16 Aaton B111 (to my knowledge).

We are not going to shoot it at Federation Square. Firstly, because of the possible hassles with getting a permit for this location. Secondly, the square where the action happens is supposed to be deserted except for the man and his audience, and I can't imagine the amount of trouble we would have to go to to achieve this at Fed Square whether at dawn or dusk... It's a shame though, since it'd be a perfect location! We are thinking about a small garden/square on the corner of William and Bourke Sts. We shot some films there in the past and it always worked very well.

Thank you for all your help and I'm always willing to hear more suggestions.

Dora Krolikowska

Dora Krolikowska wrote :

>"The Sotchlike option seems like the one we might go with...and I'm >always willing to hear more suggestions."

Didn't get to mention this earlier, but it may still be of use. The noted still photographer, Robert Farber, has long taught in his seminars a simple method to obtain a "ray of light" effect. He uses a clear filter. He rubs his index finger along his nose to collect some skin oil on the finger-tip, and then streaks it in a linear fashion on the filter in the right location to suit the effect he wants. What this does is place an otherwise invisible pattern of tiny ridges on the filter that bends light in a manner that produces a very realistic ray of light from bright areas in the scene- thebrighter the better.

Not unlike what happens with a star filter, where the etched lines that are
running vertically on the filter produce star rays that project out horizontally from the light source, running the skin oil in a horizontal direction will produce vertical rays- the rays are perpendicular to the direction of the oil streak.

Placing the oil pattern on the glass is a matter of aligning it with the perceived position of the glowing light in the scene. You can also experiment with producing a curved arc streak, and other techniques of oil application, but the strongest "ray" will be from a straight line.

You could rotate the filter while shooting to get the effect of the rays changing direction. And you can clean the filter numerous times until you get the streak just right, and when you're done to use the filter again normally.

The effect will be tougher to control if you need to move the position of the light source relative to the camera, either by having the man walking with a locked down camera or the camera panning, but playing around with this simple effect may be helpful.

It has produced dramatic effects with the right circumstances in still

Ira Tiffen
Basking Ridge, NJ

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