Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Chinese Lanterns (take 2)


Hello All, I have a shoot coming up that involves several days inside a courtroom stage. I was thinking of hanging about 6-8 Chinese lanterns on dimmers above the set for general illumination and occasional backlighting. However, it dawned on me that I have never used a Chinese lantern for any real extended periods of time. These would be on all the time while shooting...and the thought of a fire risk entered my head. Has anyone had problems with heat while using Chinese lanterns for a 12 hour day? I guess I should note that I like to put two 300w bulbs into each 20" lantern for extra kick... Any thoughts (besides...Are you Nuts!) If this does turn out to be the least bit dangerous, then of course I'll have to think of something else.

Thanks for any comments OO

Ken Glassing

You should ALWAYS spray paper laterns with a fire retardant. Have someone watch for browning and keep a nostril open for fumes. You'll probably want to replace the bulbs with some regularity to keep them consistant and that should allow some cooling time. Rig the bulbs on a stiff mount to keep them centered in the lantern and equidistant from the paper. They are lamps and are made to be lit for long periods of time, so it's really a question of wattage. If your dimming them down most of the time you'll probably be alright, a 20" latern will take a 150w bulb for quite a while. You could use the Chimera version and that would be O.K. Probably best not to burn down a courthouse. good luck,

Anders Uhl

Well, I don't know about the two 300 bulbs, but I've hung one 500w in there with out any problem. I think it was a larger lantern than a 20", though. Looked great. A first I just worked with told me that Phillipe Rousloutte (spelling???) uses one over top of lens, like an obie. Robin (the first) was on "Instinct" with him.

Michael Bratkowski

Hey Ken, There are some small space lights available on the West Coast (I'm sure elsewhere) that are, I believe, a 2K. Norm's equipment 818-766-6676 carries them. That might solve your slowly changing color from white to yellow to possibly brown paper Chineese lanterns. I used to use the lanterns all the time, but not so much any more.

Good luck

Mark Woods


Los Angeles, Calif.

In NYC I go down to a store off canal street and purchase up to 30" lanterns. I have put 600 watt halogens in them and burned them for days. I think the consideration of the ratio of wattage to size is the key. Obviously a 12" globe ain't gonna hold much heat. Also it is important to make sure how you have your bulbs secured in the lanterns that make a big difference. We have use hard wire frames to make sure the bulbs were not swinging inside of the fixture if it swung, but remained centered.

Back in the dark ages ... when the list was but a babe Chris Plevin wrote this about chinese lantern's .... A first I just worked with told me that Phillipe >Rousloutte (spelling???) uses one over top of lens, like an obie. Robin >(the first) was on "Instinct" with him. Chris Wrote .... >Hi, I was Phillippe's focus puller on Mary Reilly - (where the pic in the Panavision catalogue comes from) and can tell you how these are made. There's no trade secret here, his gaffer John Higgins had these made up and quite a few people are using them in the UK - I've got a few in my garage! It's not the fixture, it's how you use it. ;-) In the UK - don't know about elsewhere I'm afraid - you can buy threaded quarter inch steel(or brass)tube which will accept a standard metal lightbulb fitting with a threaded hole in the base. Two nuts and large washers are also required. Cut a piece of tube about 12" to 18". Attach the lampholder at one end. The chinese lantern that you should be able to buy in various sizes will have a simple internal wire frame to hold it open. At the top there should be a piece of the wire frame designed to loop over the cable in a domestic situation. Just clamp this in between the nuts and washers, positioned so as to hold the bulb in the centre of the lantern. It's a good idea to use a 2-3 foot flying lead on the lantern so it can be quickly replaced via a cheap connection block in situ, rather than wire them all up to expensive lighting connectors - they don't have a long life! At the bottom of the lantern cover the hole with a small piece of diffusion material, F3 or similar, secured with paper staples. Gelling the lantern was a perennial problem - large pieces clipped to the outside are awkward to secure and noisy. If you use them inside they tend to burn due to the heat of the photoflood. Best compromise would probably be inside on a wire frame constructed from a coathanger or similar stiff wire in a cylinder shape and secured via nuts and washers on the tube. To minimise spill you can paint the back half of some of your lanterns black with a water based paint. It's also a good idea to spray all your lanterns with a fireproofing compound before use - they burn very quickly otherwise and can introduce an undesirable orange flicker on your subject - and the director probably won't use the take anyway because of the look of faint alarm on the artists face..........! Seriously though they can be hazardous and should be treated with respect. The cabling and the lantern aren't really up to constant use and it's best to make up a batch at a time. But the light they produce is terrific, n'est pas? Chris<

Justin Pentecost

Focus Puller

Hi... I've got two of the Chimera Chinese Lanterns... and while the material is completely different than the paper ones, some of the DP's I work with swear by them and demand them on their jobs, even when i'm not gaffing for them. They can be lamped up to 1000 W. Heat resistant, rigid frame, and controllable. I hardly ever use paper lanterns anymore.... Phil

Phil Klapwyk - Gaffer Bright Lights Inc. Vancouver, BC Canada

I have used some new Lanterns from Chimera that are about 4ft by 2ft and shaped like an acorn.. Big improvement over the balls for low ceilings. I was able to put 4 FEL 1000w bulbs in them and burn them all day. A great option to the bulky, heavy, and not so soft 6k Space lights. I have also modified some speed rings with 2 FEL bulbs for the 30" lanterns and they are wonderful too, no problem with burning up and very soft. Kelly at Chimera is making me some of the acorn lights as I had the only prototype, So if others are interested please call him and encourage chimera to make them faster. Ralph Linhardt DoP

I also have a few of these and used them for a few productions but they can be kind of a pain in the ass. The nice thing about the throwaways is the convenience. It's so nice after a long day to be able to pack-up the equipment a lot easier. Plus the Chimeras cost hundreds and when you have to light a room with ten fixtures, Chimeras get expensive.

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