One man's trash can is another man's treasured lighting unit.
Lighting scenes that take place around a crackling camp fire, a burning building, or even near flickering candles can be a little complicated. Not only is it dangerous to put your cast and crew near open flames, but these light sources are often not bright enough to get a decent exposure. But in this tutorial, DP Shane Hurlbut A.S.C. shows you how to mimic the uneven light of a fire by repurposing an old metal trash can.
First, here's a quick trailer that shows how this DIY lighting effect works on set:
And here's the tutorial:
Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=kooFWBoKbJU
There are a ton of professional and DIY ways to create fire lighting effects. There are LED lighting units that will do the whole job for you, but they cost upwards of $5000. You can set up any pro light and attach it to dimmers/light effects equipment, but then you'll have to use a ton of modifiers to control the light.
Hurlbut's DIY build solves these issues and more: it won't cost much, the trash can itself shapes the light, and it's portable—you won't have to lug around a ton of different lights and C-stands every time you change shots.
Now, to get that flicker effect, Hurlbut uses a Magic Gadgets Shadowmaker, which retails between $1200 to $1300, but you can rent one of these units for $50 to $75 per day. If you want to save a little bit of money, the Magic Gadgets Flicker Box produces a similar effect for $400 or about $20 per day.
This isn't the only DIY fire lighting effect Hurlbut has come up with. He also built the "Medusa Light", which is certainly interesting to look at, but requires quite a bit more work to pull off.
Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=oAsYJn8MNiw
What are some other ways filmmakers can create DIY fire effects? Let us know in the comments below!