taking one frame at a time since 1999

Hi everyone,

I am currently studying Animation at uni and for my stopmo project I need to recreate certain lighting conditions. I do not have a clue where to start! I do not even have the correct lights to use, so I’m thinking of just heading out today after class and grabbing myself some basic table lamps so I can start playing around with different lighting angles etc. 

Basically, what I have to do is find 20 good images online of various lighting conditions from stopmo sets etc and then try and recreate them for my own puppets and sets. If for example I found a photo online of a stopmo sunset scene and everything was enveloped in orange tones, how would I recreate this? Could I just whack some orange acetate over the lamp? Or simply just switch the bulb out for a warmer tone?

I’m not too sure how to begin with this one specially given my limited range of sets/ props and puppets, normally we would be in the uni and we could be using their sets/ lights but of course we are all at home attending “zoomiversity”, haha.

Thank you for any help or advice you can give, It would be greatly appreciated!

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That is a challenging exercise but you will learn a lot from it. I don't specialize in lighting but I do work around it so I've picked up a few things. It seems that a lot of beginners, myself included, just flood their sets with light so everything is seen but to get the subtle nuances of classic film lighting, you will need several types of lighting. Soft for fill, harder light sources to cast hard shadow, LED lighting is being used by many nowadays for certain purposes. Accessories include snoots and focal spots (to aim the light toward a specific place, barn doors and flags (to keep light off parts of the set or puppet) scrims (to cut the light intensity). Larger setups easily have a dozen or more light sources. 

If I had to do this exercise, I'd get a good book about cinematic lighting. It seems that the principles are the same. If there was a book about stop motion lighting, that would be best but I don't know if there is one. There needs to be.

I find lighting is something I really enjoy as part of my own project.

If you are reproducing daylight, then you need a broad light source, such as am LED panel. This mimics the (almost) parallel rays of the sun across a wide area. You can even turn the light round and bounce it off a white board to diffuse the light even more. Shadows from this light source tend to be fuzzy.

Spotlights are a point source, so the light radiates, and the location of a sharp shadow can give you a clue as to where the light is positioned. Artificial light, a candle or a torch give this sort of light. Strong sunlight also gives strong shadows.

When I set up a scene I look at the picture and ask if my eyes believe it. Usually if something is wrong it feels wrong even before I can work out exactly what. And sometimes a shot that I imagine will be very simple turns out more complex, with extra lights, just in order to tweak some unconvincing shadows.

Have a look at the various YouTube videos on film lighting, may of which are very good. Try Cooke Optics TV, also this

You can use gels over lights, and adjust colour temperature using the white balance in the camera. I have just been using a little LED table lamp with some yellow gels over it and some black wrap to limit the spread to reproduce the light from a lantern. 

Ok I will have a go at this one -- for a sunset we have one main light source, its a hard strong single point source (The sun right?)  however as its low in the sky its actually going through a lot of atmosphere before hitting our subject - So to recreate this I would use a large single lamp (depends on the set width) i have used a 5000watt a to a 150watt - so lets say you use one of your table lights with the largest wattage bulb you can find setup around mid level to one side of set and back away from the camera so lets say the back right hand side of the set for example - on its own it will be too hard (harsh) a light for my taste so I would make myself a simple 3x3ft frame of wood (1x roofing batton will do ) and add some light diffusion. not so much that it really changes this light into a soft source but just enough to take the edge off slightly - my goto choice would be some hampshire frost - i would add a sheet of 1/2 or full Straw or 1/2 CTO to taste as well if - 

this is where it might get a little technical -- so bear with me..

the straw / orange gel will only get you part way there for the sort of warmth you really would expect at you can just keep adding tons of gels to the light to get it warmer but that will kill the power so the better way is to now cheat the white balance in the camera -- so 

Opposite to the "Sun" light place a white reflector board (builders white wall insulation polystyrene board 25mm thick will do) and shoot your other light if possible a daylight (5600k) LED light or another desk light but this time with a couple of blue gels into it (2 X 1/2 CTB to begin with) you can double and triple this gel up to taste - (the reason im saying 2 X 1/2 instead of a full blue is if you are going to buy a roll of blue get half blue first as you can always double up to get a full.. however if you buy full you will find it kinda hard to get a half also )

Switch of the Sun and white balance your camera to the new cold soft fill light - 

then switch the "sun" back on - you will now have a warm tone very slightly softened hard light with a hint of yellow - you can now add extra warm and cold gels to taste and back off the cold fill board to give you more contrast at will --  

its a basic two light setup that will give you a good starting point for a sunset type setup --  the rest you can tweak on the monitor to match your image..

a shopping list would be 2 lights, a large sheet of hampshire frost 3x3ft, some 1/2 CTB(blue gel) & 1/2 Straw (or CTO (orange) is just the same but with less yellow) it might be also be useful to buy a few sheets of ND.3 at this point to be able to adjust your contrast ratios between the key (main) light and the fill (blue bounced light)

as you can see the lights are really not as important as the things needed to modify the light they produce - certainly top of the list would be a large sheet of white board (foamcore or polystyrene from the DIY store ) and a few special gels that can alter the colour temperature of your lights are the fundamentals..  and once you have your wooden frame made it becomes to foundations of so many other setups by just adding different diffusion etc to it you will probably use it on ever lighting setup you do.. 

well thats a lot to get you thinking eh??!!!  :) 

with ref to the size of the frame i described as I don't know the size of you set its hard to really be exact with that a good rule of thumb would be to have your frame around 1/3 of the width of you entire stage / set so a 8 ft wide set with a 3ft square frame would be great a smaller set you can go smaller with you frame - 

This is an oversimplification of this lighting setup but when you have this rigged we can tweak it further by moving lights and adding ND filters -- for now good luck!!

These Kodak Cinematography Masterclasses are looking quite old now but of course the nature of light hasn't changed since 1993 even if the specific instruments have.  I still find myself going back to these and they're still relevant. Perhaps more so as consumer video cameras can now handle the dynamic range of theatrical lighting much better than they could then.

...of course the facilities and scale of the AFTRS studios are the dream-world scenario. Simon's video above is much more realistic in our environment. "Grab what you can and improvise with it!"

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