Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Cyc & Limbo Effect

Greetings fellow problem solvers,

I have a shoot and not much time to prep-the director wants a "limbo effect" white cyc/(he keeps mentioning Gap type commercial for those who want an idea) So I'll be going for a very uniform and diffused look, assuming he wants no vestiges of shadows, even wall/floor levels.

The first studio we checked out (in a hurry)today had a cyc but lacked lighting (they deal mostly with stills/fashion) so we're moving on to what I assume will be an adequate one. Any tips on what to instruments/combinations to pic would be much appreciated. It's depending on what we settle on, what lighting the studio already has and what instruments we should rent. I'll be speaking to the director tomorrow and hopefully have more details.

So why not consult CML for last minute considerations...

Thanks and best regards,

John Babl DP Miami

White cyc, soft even shadowless? All other things being equal (which they may or may not be). My first impulse would be to go with spacelights with silk skirts and diffusers.

Your back row should probably be about as far from the walls as the distance between them. Without knowing more, I would probably default to hanging them on 8' centers.

They are available in several configurations : 1 type has two 60 amp male plugs on it (each plug feeds 3 1k globes) another type uses a socopex 6 circuit multi cable allowing for individual bulb control.

If you have the time/budget/resources, consider circuiting them so that you can have either circ on for a given fixture or both together

I usually pull one globe so that I have the choice of 2 globes, 3 globes, or 5 globes if I know I can make my stop with 5.

It is not a bad idea, as with cyc lights, to hang spacelights 1/2 or 1 times the distance between them PAST the last place you plan on seeing on the cyc so that the cyc doesn't fall off

If you can't get them hung high enough and the floor is too hot, you can put ND gel in the bottoms of them or use roscoscrim in the bottom .

Good luck mark

Mark H. Weingartner

Lighting and VFX for Motion Pictures


Anders Uhl Cinematographer New York Local 600

Space lights. Then some large fresnels for both hard and soft side light from the sides/back/front.

Chuck Mason

Los Angeles

I had it in mind to go ahead and start off with bouncing and difusing to begin with. I just got off the phone with the director and he mentioned a ring light as well. Hummm, it was only a few weeks or so that the ring light post came up- I'll check archives since I've never messed with one.

John Babl Miami


Please get with the program..."space lights" really are the answer.

These instruments have been utilised for quite sometime with great success. Don't stress out tying to reinvent the wheel.


David Walpole


Perth Australia

I work occasionally with a gaffer who worked on some Baby Gap spots and he told me that they also suspended large frames of 1/4 grid under the spacelights to duiffuse even more.

Norman Bonney DP

San Francisco



Just kidding. They are perfect for limbos.

Just wanted to stir things up a bit.


Eric Swenson VizFxDp On-Set Super

"I need every light you've got dumped on that runway."

Get me Inkies, Lot's of them.

The key to limbos is not hitting your nose on the bar.

Paint the Cyc black and hit it with a LOT of diffused light (reference the Alien 4 model-shoot thread).


I had a similar shoot. A music video shot with the MILO motion control camera base. We were shooting on a 40' white/gray cyc. We achieved the "no shadow / limbo" effect by hanging 25 5k's (pointed straight down) every 4 ' (in all directions) with home made LCD's (chimeras) skirted with 250 diffusion. Skypans, and space lights will achieve the same effect, diffusion is the key to even the level's across the stage.

There's some photo's on my web-site for your reference: hope it helps.

Richard W. Gretzinger Director of Photography

I worked on some of those GAP spots.

2 and 3-wall hard cycs. Painted white floor. Lots of Space Lights. Sky Pans on the cyc. Keys were 10 and 20Ks through big Chimeras. Often directly over the camera (Baby Gap). Various stocks usually T3.5ish.

Hope this helps.

Rod Williams Motion Picture First Camera Assistant Petaluma,


Can you hang SkyPans straight down?

Cheers, Jeff Barklage, s.o.c.

US based DP

Thanks for all the replies- we changed studios a couple of times. The studio we settled on has a cyclorama, cycstrip, skylite, zips, open face lights, etc- I'll have to work with what I got. If they don't have spacelights I'll try to bring some in. Also the director now wants to try to bring in a ring light, so things are flexible enough to experiment. I went to and checked out the 2, 6 and 12 k spacelights, if I can get them it seems like the way to go. I'm curious as to the difference in the look of stretched muslin above and bouncing on it w/ pars pointed up.

John Babl Miami

For a beautiful even and soft source you should check out balloons lights. Fisherlights makes a nice array.

You can view at

They are sausage shaped so they don't take up as much space. HMI and tungsten. I have used them in the past and they are sweet.

Paul Maibaum

Director of Photography

Los Angeles

Hey John,

I may have come upon your question a little late in the game, but maybe I can still help. I have done the white-limbo look many times on huge and small stages, in each case I have started out with 6k spacelights. I tend to put them closer together than most and use a few more lights so I can really build up the stop. I tend to use slower films.

Something to consider are the reflections of the spacelights off of your subject/product.

I have had 20x20 silks stretched out below the space lights to really soften the light and change the appearance of the reflections. A couple of large soft sources (10k or 20k w/Chimera and/or Maxi-Brute bounced into Bleached Muslin) on the floor are a must to shape the light a bit more.

As far as the ring light is concerned, be sure to color balance it to the rest of you lighting.

Good Luck

Chris Johnson, DP Los Angeles

Spacelights, then bounce the same light of 12 x whites. Overexpose for the faces by a stop. Don't try to bring foreground levels up that will only bring in detail on the cyc. these days it is really hard to blow sotcks out telecine can help as well

Mike Southon bsc

Hey Rich, when I shot that job on the Milo as I recall we couldn't get space lights on that stage, so we did the next best thing which was hang a mess o sky pans, pain in the ass, time consuming and by the time we got 'em up we didn't have alot of time to really finesse the beauty lights for the talent. We used a variety of gimmicks including a little ring light for some really close passes.

I just did another White cyc job in the city with space lights, silk skirts, diffusers , and keyed with 10 ks Chimera's and some 2ks hard for shape, sometimes a little negative fill can help, as your enemy is flatness. That Milo is a great tool but if you have an impatient director it's a very un hands on piece of equipment, as you have the DP the Milo operaor and his assistant and thier balky software, which doesn't allow you to repeat sections of the move- only the whole move from the beginning- on a 4 minute song that's alot of waiting around for the rig to cue up.

Nick Hoffman 600 DP


Copyright © CML. All rights reserved.