Every filmmaker wants to make their movies look cinematic, but some aren't quite sure how to do it. Many just starting out think that shooting on a sleek new camera will do the trick, but lighting actually plays a much bigger role in achieving that film look. And to debunk another filmmaking myth, you don't need an expensive studio setup to light a scene—all you really need $50, and here's Simon Cade of DSLRguide to prove it.
According to Cade, here's a list of materials you'll need to light a cinematic looking scene. All of these things come out to be around $50; less if you have some of them already, which I'm assuming most of you do.
- White sheet
- Work light
- Light stand
- 1/4" stud
- Paper towels
- Desk lamp
First things first—what kind of work light should you get? Since you're not dropping hundreds of dollars on a single pro lighting unit, there's little pressure to get it right the first time, but there are still some things you need to think about. There are all kinds of work lights, but they tend to be either LED, halogen, fluorescent, or incandescent. Each of these have many differences: they each give off a different color temperature, some get really hot while others stay completely cool, they require different amounts of power, etc. LEDs are a popular choice because they are powerful, efficient, give off a nice, even light, and won't burn your face off. Halogens work well, too, but have high power consumption and can get extremely hot. Fluorescent lights stay cool, but may cause lines to appear on your footage if you shoot at certain shutter speeds. Incandescent lights are cheap and accessible, but not very powerful and produce a warm color temperature (about 2800K) that you may not want.
Aside from deciding on the kind of light, you'll want to pay attention to how many lumens it has. Pro Tip: lumens ≠ watts. While watts measure energy use, lumens measures the brightness of a light, which is extremely important to know when deciding on how to light a scene. So, how many lumens should your work light have? Well, that all depends on the size of your set. Cade's light, which had 1600 lumens (equivalent to a 100W incandescent bulb) worked well for the small space he was working with. But if you're working with a bigger space, that doesn't necessarily mean you should get a brighter light—it might actually mean you need to purchase more lights.
In the end, if you buy a work light, set up your shot, and it comes out terrible, so what? It only cost you $50 or less! (This, of course, is assuming you tested this setup before you used it on an actual project!)