October 23, 2014

Learn the Basics of Bouncing Light with These Helpful Tips

If the light in a scene needs just a little adjustment -- bounce it.

This lighting tutorial from Lynda shows you a few helpful techniques for bouncing light in order to get softer,  more even illumination.

Bouncing light is helpful when you just need a little adjustment to the intensity of a light, especially if you're working in a confined space and can't move the lights further away from your subject. Pros use this technique often because it softens a subject's face by diffusing light to give them a more natural, even look.

Though it can certainly be used to light subjects, remember that it's also used to create atmosphere. Cinematographer Conrad Hall describes the light that is bounced off of walls, ceilings, floors, and other surfaces as "room tone," so it's important to pay close attention to not only what bounced light can do for your subjects, but what it can do to create the mood/tone/atmosphere in a particular scene.     

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25 Comments

Always are welcome this basic tips. Maybe, some more elaborate with cheap elements will be interesting too.

October 23, 2014 at 9:21AM

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Ragüel Cremades
Film producer and director
7552

cant get enough of lighting tutorials. There is always something more we can learn when it comes to manipulating light.

October 23, 2014 at 9:23AM

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Luis Garcia
Director/Editor
220

Definitely agree! What I love watching is all the extra stuff that surrounds good set management : always checking his monitor / moving bounce cards out of the way / proper hand protection when dealing with hot lights. It is the little things that he probably never meant to teach that I find to be the most valuable for those watching!

October 24, 2014 at 11:40AM

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Matt Marrs
Director / Camera Operator
205

Great post! Also worth mentioning is the wall color, green walls often don't help your lighting that much!

October 23, 2014 at 10:09AM

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Mark Fenton
Media Specialist
103

Can some one tell me why every recommendation on purchasing lighting kits by NFSer's is always LEDs when videos like this clearly demonstrate you can create more looks with a hard source.

October 23, 2014 at 11:23AM, Edited October 23, 11:23AM

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Indie Guy
1296

Ryan, I used to ask myself the same thing. What I could notice talking to friends is that there is an infinity of LED sources that can achieve very similar results if compared to hard sources, with the added advantages of being portable (because they can work on a battery), and that it doesn't get as hot as halogen lights do. It's just more practical and saves you a lot of time on researching models to buy.

October 23, 2014 at 11:57AM

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Rebecca Pelagio
film student
247

Which LED can give the same concentrated 15 degree beam as a ETC source 4 or dedolight with a projector?

Which LED can give me a 5'x7' 6k equivalent source like a barger 6?

IMO, I see some overlap between convenience and laziness in this case. If you can get higher quality, but you have to plug it in to the wall and raise the temperature a few degrees, you should do it.

October 23, 2014 at 1:34PM

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Indie Guy
1296

Ryan, I hope the quality of your work depends on being able to light exactly with a "concentrated 15 degree beam as a ETC source 4" or with a "5'x7' 6k equivalent source like a barger 6" cause you'll just own the rest of us "NFSer's" and get the top $$$.

For the rest of us who are more concerned with storytelling the LED is the way because as Rebecca wrote: "LED sources... can achieve very similar results if compared to hard sources, with the added advantages of being portable..., doesn't get as hot as halogen lights do". Plus dimmers, plus service life, plus price, plus gels, plus stackability, plus using them in the cars or other hard to reach places.

That's of course only if don't have an argument that one cant make a good story with the LEDs. Cause if you do... umm... then yea: I'll take "concentrated 15 degree beam as a ETC source 4" or "5'x7' 6k equivalent source like a barger 6".

Much love! <3

October 23, 2014 at 6:14PM

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Alex Zakrividoroga
Director
3855

"For the rest of us who are more concerned with storytelling the LED is the way" Who is this rest of us you speak of? Was every movie made before the past 5-10 years not concerned with storytelling? LED's are fairly new, and the throw sucks. Sure it's cool and takes less power but in most cases it's an inferior light source. An LED is a tool in a filmmaker's bag. The LED vs open faced Fresnel argument is like saying a hammer is better than a screwdriver.

October 23, 2014 at 7:41PM, Edited October 23, 7:41PM

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Stephen Herron
Writer/Director
1530

If you want to recreate the characteristics of the Dedolight - why not just use their LED fixtures?
For power from a small source you could get fixtures for stage usage, Well, more in the 2K-ballpark, but w/o need for filters and the increasing sensitivities thats more often then not okay. Or stack a few selador classics.
The upfront investment is steeper then the average 1ft panel, but in the long run it pays off.

October 23, 2014 at 9:31PM, Edited October 23, 9:31PM

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I really disagree with the researching models to buy comment. LED lighting is kind of like the wild wild west in my opinion. It's not as if Litepanels owns the market. The majority of let's call them "5D revolution" shooters, of which I'm one, usually have to own small lighting package. Our very existence has driven market prices so low, that no one seems to want to pay for a gear package, hence clients parroting the "what gear do you own" question. We often, have to face the very difficult task of light quality, output, and price, in our lighting purchases. I think the main reason LEDs get mentioned is that there are often many cheap third party options that allow you to purchase multiple "good enough" fixtures for the price of 1 more traditional fixture.

That said, when you are lighting on a more ambitious professional set, the LED's tend to fall away "in my experience" due to "throw" and "beam angle". The comment about 6k sources and 15 degree beams is pretty spot on as you begin to light in rooms that are more than 12' by 12'.

I own LEDs only, myself. They are great for a lot of bread and butter talking head and small business stuff I do. I just think the conversation often gets confused between that type of work and when I get hired onto a 5 figure gig with a 10 man crew. When the job's that big, the locations and lighting requirements grow, as well.

There are some HMI alternatives, like NILA and HIVE LIGHTING, but I'm having a devil of a time getting DPs onboard with them. They usually have a problem with how they render flesh tones, but CRI is a bit of a mystery to me anyway. Also, there's the simple fact that the alternatives aren't any cheaper than some of the more mainstream fixtures.

As for the comment about being "more concerned with storytelling" I think that's a slight cop out. The reality is that as your concern with story grows, I think your desire to display the story appropriately should, as well.

The conveniences of being portable, cooler, and cheaper suffer from the diminishing returns as your set gets more sophisticated. As your crew, locations, and cast get bigger, those 3 MAIN advantages become less and less important.

Heat - 10-15 people in a room generate heat, without the fixtures. You'll need a heat solution regardless, plus those 10-15 people are there usually for a reason

Portable - That's cool and all but if you are shooting in a car to get a very subtle but effective look, you usually have rigging, follow cars, and other things that usually make worries about a portable light moot. You can still use a more traditional light anyway because the setup is more than large enough to accommodate. Not all the time, but enough.

Cheaper - Renting lights often is not as expensive as you think and often more than worth it. Are you going to DP, Direct, and Gaffer your next film, yourself? Probably, not if you want it to be any good. Really. I know it's a generalization, but how often does that really work? I'd like to point out that El Mariachi was well over a decade ago. That said, if you have Camera Department and G&E of some level of experience, your lighting package shouldn't rival what budgeted for them.....and feeding them. I repeatedly have to re-convince myself that renting makes sense, because I want to hoard as much of my budget as possible, but it's always worth it.

October 23, 2014 at 7:16PM

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Nnamdi Ejim
Filmmaker
312

You took many of the words right out of my mouth Nnamdi.

October 23, 2014 at 7:29PM

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Indie Guy
1296

Thanks man. Production is hard. For me the biggest issue isn't the technical side, but the psychological.

I will play devils advocate and mention that I come from north jersey and rent in NYC. Many secondary markets are not getting rental rates that are nearly as good as over here, but you can't let that stop you. Hire crew with gear. The more you do that, the more crew in your area will invest in gear.

October 23, 2014 at 7:55PM

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Nnamdi Ejim
Filmmaker
312

Spot on (no pun intended).

October 23, 2014 at 7:33PM

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Stephen Herron
Writer/Director
1530

I laughed an inappropriate length of time at that.

October 23, 2014 at 7:56PM

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Nnamdi Ejim
Filmmaker
312

Did you guys just started supporting the painfully obvious point that "LED's throw is weaker than a Fresnel/HMI/whathave you"? Go right ahead, Captains.

Also, I am not going to rebuttle the dead-wrong statements such as: "I think the main reason LEDs get mentioned is that there are often many cheap third party options that allow you to purchase multiple "good enough" fixtures for the price of 1 more traditional fixture."

Because if you want a cheap 800W it is still cheaper than a 20W LED:

http://www.amazon.com/Fancierstudio-Halogen-Lighting-Barndoor-Focusable/...

So, the only point worth reviewing in the responses above is "Who is this rest of us you speak of" tho. So, shall we?

I speak of the audience* for this site. And I figure this audience to be aspiring filmmakers with tight budgets, rather than established filmmakers with large budget.

So, where do you get of that in an article called "Learn the Basics of Bouncing Light with These Helpful Tips" you start writing stuff like "I just think the conversation often gets confused between that type of work and when I get hired onto a 5 figure gig with a 10 man crew. When the job's that big, the locations and lighting requirements grow, as well."

5 figure gig? Good for you! For the rest of us LEDs are the way to go until we grow up to be just like you.

"You took many of the words right out of my mouth Nnamdi." No doubt.

"Spot on (no pun intended)." You guys should meet up and talk about ur "5 figure gig" ;)

Much love <3

*I would like to see a bunch of votes exploring what the auditory has (i.e. equipment under $2k, $10k, $25k, $50k, $100k, largest budget one worked with, etc). but thats a sidenote.

October 23, 2014 at 8:06PM, Edited October 23, 8:06PM

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Alex Zakrividoroga
Director
3855

Easy bud, no one's atacking LED's here, its an opinion with good points. In most cases a few red heads are gonna be way cheaper than an led kit so the argument that low budget filmmakers must use LEDs and these other people are snobby rich folk is flat out wrong. LED's have their strengths and weaknesses, as do other lights, their simply tools to achieve a desired look/mood -that's what this video is trying to teach, a method. Don't attack people for their opinions, or claim to speak for others.

October 24, 2014 at 12:41AM

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Stephen Herron
Writer/Director
1530

"a few red heads are gonna be way cheaper than an led kit" -- for a starting filmmaker? Prove please?

I had 5 redhead where a redheard's halo bulb expires on average within 3 hours. I have 8 300 LEDs which are about $250 more expensive than the 5 LEDs but they sure beat the heck out of redheads in every aspect. That's not factoring in the $200 in replacement bulbs I had for the redheads. Oh, and the electrical bill...

"the argument that low budget filmmakers must use LEDs and these other people are snobby rich folk is flat out wrong" -- you just made up this argument. Back it up or die.

"Don't attack people for their opinions" -- did I? Or is this another one of your proofless statements? You have a habit for these as I've just counted three of those so far.

Much love <3

October 24, 2014 at 1:20AM, Edited October 24, 1:20AM

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Alex Zakrividoroga
Director
3855

Alex, the way you comment on my bringing up a "5 figure gig" smacks of you having a chip on your shoulder.

I already mentioned my bread and butter work is much smaller, so I don't appreciate you trying to present me as a snob.

As for the redheads you mentioned? They aren't consistent. I've used them and the sheer amount of aggravation they caused. Redheads are great to get started, but they burn through bulbs like nobody's business and still can't beat a used Arri 3 light kit over time.

Attack people all you want, but the truth is that when you begin to do work that has a cast and crew of more than 3-5 people, gear reliability and quality becomes a huge issue.

Plus, I return to the fact that renting gear isn't that expensive.

As a way to turn this into a productive exercise, what's an example budget level that you feel represents your demographic best?

P.S. It's my demographic too, no matter how much of a snob you think I am.

October 24, 2014 at 2:14AM

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Nnamdi Ejim
Filmmaker
312

Definitely a good technique and I am using it all the time. This way you can easily make your atmosphere brighter and you can always model your light with other directional light sources.

October 23, 2014 at 6:20PM, Edited October 23, 6:20PM

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Bojan Andrejek
DP / Cinematographer / Producer
236

Really love this demo of a mainstream fixture. It shows a real world usage that allows you to develop a familiarity with using a Joker before touching one.

I wold REALLY love to see a no nonsense tutorial about amps, volts, circuit breakers, and best practices regard power usage........and maybe something on generators.

October 23, 2014 at 7:18PM

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Nnamdi Ejim
Filmmaker
312

I really wish he has shown the succession of shots at the end. so we could see the different looks closer to each other and see how they affected the light on her face.

October 24, 2014 at 1:19AM

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Michael Markham
Actor/Filmmaker
982

Awesome tutorial.

October 26, 2014 at 12:24PM

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Chris Hackett
Director, Director of Photography, Writer
870

Great little lighting tutorial. Will definitely have to share this one.
Mahalo

October 27, 2014 at 2:42PM

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Brad Watanabe
Director
81