Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Simulated TV Fx

I did a pretty extensive search and didn't find much on the following topic, so I hope I'm not wasting anyone's time: what's the most convincing way to use simulated tv light as the key (the tv is about 6 feet away from the subject, and it's night), how do you create this light? Can there be more colors than blue light within it? Any tips would be appreciated!


Ioana Vasile

A common gag is to use two 2K's side by side with soft boxes, one gelled with 1/2 or 1/4 CTO and the other with 1/2 or 1/4 CTB, both on dimmers.

Depends on the effect and look your after.


Anders Uhl
ICG, New York

There are many ways. For a short I DP'ed no long ago I used a simple 1Kw. Redhead with half blue gel and powered though a cheap 1.5Kw. household dimmer which was dimmed randomly. It worked like a charm.

Unless you filter the light with a primary blue colour gel, there will always be some red and green light coming through (even then).

Arturo Briones-Carcaré
Madrid (Imperial Spain)

Oh, I forgot to mention the Redhead had also tracing paper diffusion, of course.

Arturo Briones-Carcaré
Madrid (Imperial Spain)

can there be more colors than blue light within it? Any tips would be >appreciated!

In my experience, TVs give out very little light. this doesn't often flicker, more total shifts in colour and brightness (unless its an old B&W flickering film or a super fast-cut music video. The same is in the cinema though the general perceived 'film' light produced from these sources is a flickering one. It is similar with moon light being blue in the movies and theatre but not in real life (well, not here anyway).

Light from a TV is always awkward to recreate so as to get a usable stop and depends on the shot framing etc. In mid-shots and close ups, I have used a dimpled metal reflector (often a Ronford head box), under the TV, and bounced light back onto the subjects through different coloured gels and ND's on spinning wheels often made from the reels used to wind film onto in editing rooms. These have the added bonus of having metal spokes to attach the gel onto. Using a flicker box or slowly moving your hands over the source can add to the effect. It's a very subjective ideal so ultimately whatever looks right to you should work.


Chris Maris

Ioana Vasile wrote:

>(the tv is about 6 feet away from the subject, and it's night), how do you >create this light? can there be more colors than blue light within it?

The first thing you have to imagine is that you are shooting a iso 1000 stock. Now that might see some subtle effects from an actual tv at that distance. The easiest Pre viz for this effect is to go in a completely dark room with tv on and have a model sit in from of the tv , might want to turn up the brightness all the way as well as the contrast.

Don't look at the tv just look at the person's face lit by the tv, change channels once and a while. Commercial breaks look very different from programming, in terms of the light they produce on the subject's face.

Another gag I have done when using a practical tv was to make a tape loop with some rapid fire cutting between black, white and grey backgrounds with some coloured backgrounds thrown in for variety, dissolve transitions etc. Very easy to do in FCP or another NLE edit program.

You also might want to try to incident meter the light from a tv at various distances from the screen to get a sense of what is really there in terms of light. Don't be shocked at how little there is, but that should help you keep it in context.

Mark Smith
Oh Seven Films
143 Grand St
Jersey City, NJ 07302

I find the most convincing effect is to go with a soft source w/ 1/4 to 1/2 CTB and perhaps a warmer one and use the dimmer to indicate scene changes that would appear on the TV. Don't dim it up and down alot, use it sparingly, or it'll look contrived.

Nick Hoffman 600DP

Years ago I built an 8"x12" box that accommodates 6 standard base household bulbs. For this effect I've had good luck placing 4 daylite bulbs and 2 3200K bulbs in the unit. Instead of a dimmer, I put a "flasher button" (hardware stores still carry them) in each of the bases. These buttons have a slow but random off & on effect, so when you gang them together you get a very natural flow of light. An added feature is that this rig is always on autopilot.

Jack Cummings

Jack Cummings wrote:

>Years ago I built an 8"x12" box that accommodates 6 standard base >household bulbs.

What an elegantly simple solution! What wattage lamps did you use and approx. what is the light output at, say 6' away?

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614

My favourite way of creating TV light is to use a 750 watt zip light with diffusion on the front. I then take an empty frame (24" x 36") and create a multi coloured gel frame with at least 4 different colors of blue, green, magenta whatever- even some party colors are okay and not only correction colors. (think of a stained glass window- the colors aren't on top of each other, just next to each other and cut to fit).

The trick is to have someone sitting next to the light and randomly change the color of the light to taste by rotating the stained glass gel frame around. I also put the light on a magic gadget flicker box and just dial it in until I get a random pulsing of the light (not too fast, not too extreme).

Just a touch sells- I personally never liked the look of having someone dim the light up and down by hand. You can also add an additional 4 x 4 diffusion frame (after the color frame)to spread the light even more.

Toby Birney
Director of Photography
Vilnius, Lithuania

An Italian Gaffer once plugged in 2 dimmers to each other (not sure exactly what they are called, but are white, the size of VHS video cassette, with a knob onto to dim). With a 1k attached, the 2 dimmers were then dimmed until the required flickering was attained.

Very cheap, probably very dangerous, but very effective

Adrian Cranage
Director of Photography

I'm a big fan of using multiple colors for TV Flickers, since TV's haven't flickered in a high CT white since NBC introduced the peacock. Never the less the convention is still pretty much high CT white. The average viewer certainly accepts it.

2 modes of TV gags for me depending on budget and the shot...

#1 - If the TV is in the shot. Gut the thing (on sitcoms I have the decorator get 2 matching - or almost- TV's, so I can gut one and use the other for reverses with rolling video in them), put a baby 750 soft inside, gel w/ 1/2 CTB, cover the aperture of the TV with diffusion du jour, program
an effect on the console with around 6 different levels between around 60% and full - durations on the steps varying between .5 and 2 seconds with Xfades of 0 between steps. Only 1 or two of the steps are less than 1
second in duration. Program the effect to run in a random sequence.

#2 - The expensive way, that I like, but it doesn't fit in most TV's that I come across in frame. Put a Color Scroller on the front a soft. Program the effect with intensity changes and color changes thru the gel string to taste. Audio guys hate this because of the requisite motors driving the gel
strings, especially when they are going fast. Scroller rental is expensive, you must have a DMX computer console, and you'll need to have the gel string custom made, but it does look great. I've used it also in a dummy video arcade game bounced off of mirrors with great success.

Bill Berner
191 South Broadway
Hastings on Hudson, NY 10706

Very cheap, probably very dangerous, but very effective

But very PAL ?

Sam Wells

I like to take a 4' 4 bank Kino and lamp it with alternating 2900 and 5600 tubes.

I hard mount the light so its pretty secure, then move the barndoor flaps back and forth during the shot. If it's too noisy I substitute 2 flags for the barndoors and have 2 grips operate them. It's pretty realistic as the shadows in the room seem to move slightly rather than just flicker.

Its also cool to take a single 4' Kino tube (no fixture, just the tube) and tape one side with black 2" paper tape. In addition to the rig mentioned above, have a grip handhold this and move this around during the shot. They can twist the tube to the taped side to kill the light for a second, move it to a new space and then spin it on again.

The jerkier the movement, the more realistic it looks. This really works well for making shadows move randomly during the shot.

Kurt Rauf
Las Vegas

I'm surprised no one's mentioned using the three channel magic gadgets flicker box. Three channels, 2K apiece, a great way to do the TV thing is to plug in three tweenies (or whatever size light you want up to 2K), gel them in any combination you want, shoot them through some diffusion and then use the magic gadgets box to regulate the flickering effect.

They even have a setting for TV (maybe even two, I can't quite remember at the moment), and you can set the highs, the lows, and the overall speed.

It works great, totally convincing, a real no-brainer.

Phil Badger
Gaffer, LA

I second Phil's Magic Gadget's Shadowmaker method - it also works well bounced off of a soft silver card or small silver lame.

Ted Hayash
Los Angeles, CA

Copyright © CML. All rights reserved.