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Hi everyone. This question is not directly stop motion related, but crucial for me at the moment, and my decision will affect animation in the future for me. I am rebuilding a very old trailer on my property into an animation studio, and all of the windows need to be replaced. My question is should I just cover up the window openings with plywood so that I have complete control over the lighting (think black box), or would installing windows be better for ventilation and natural lighting when needed? I am curious what others have done or would do given the chance. What is more important for you as an artist? Or has controlling light been difficult for your animation? I have no experience at the moment, so any opinions are great. Thanks!

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Hi Mark, I animate in a basement with short windows up high against the ceiling along one wall and a big patio sliding glass door on the adjacent wall. The sliding door I cover with a mover's blanket, since it lets in way too much light.

The windows have curtains, but they are not blackout curtains. The amount of light that hits my stage is about 10 footcandles on a sunny day. I usually light at about 80-100 footcandles so the impact is minimal. In other words, there is 16 times (4 stops) as much light coming from my lights as from the windows. This has not been much of a problem, and if it becomes critical I shoot at night.

Try taking some photos inside the trailer with different lighting conditions to see how it looks. And by the way, fresh air is good. My basement gets no ventilation.

Hi Dave, thank you so much for the feedback! I really appreciate hearing about your experience. Super helpful!!

Dave Cooley said:

Hi Mark, I animate in a basement with short windows up high against the ceiling along one wall and a big patio sliding glass door on the adjacent wall. The sliding door I cover with a mover's blanket, since it lets in way too much light.

The windows have curtains, but they are not blackout curtains. The amount of light that hits my stage is about 10 footcandles on a sunny day. I usually light at about 80-100 footcandles so the impact is minimal. In other words, there is 16 times (4 stops) as much light coming from my lights as from the windows. This has not been much of a problem, and if it becomes critical I shoot at night.

Try taking some photos inside the trailer with different lighting conditions to see how it looks. And by the way, fresh air is good. My basement gets no ventilation.

Hi Mark, everyone's situation is so different.. I got an outbuilding.. a nice space.. I made a lot of sacrifices to have that.. the housing association were I live were very supportive in helping me finish it for my animation... they could have knocked it down.. I didn't have planning permission.. anyway I was so paranoid about having natural lighting out there.. to do the craft side, building puppets and sets etc..  I even had a nice 2xmtrs squared space in the roof where I intended to put in a sky lantern in and have a desk underneath, but they wouldn't allow that, and in the end I just bought that black out roll you can cut to size and stick on the glass for stop all the light.. so it's like a man cave in there now.. I also got my cinema projector out there, it's awesome for watching films on a 10xft screen.. but my point was that when it came down to it I didn't need the natural lighting, and it was more functional setting up the space as a total black box as you said.. but I think whether or not it's summer or winter time will make a big difference for you.. it depends on lots of things whether or not your should loose the light from the windows..   I'm more a night person myself.. so I work through the night.. and even though I had that building done for my animation.. I ended up moving everything back into my flat for the winter because it's too cold outside and too expensive to heat the space with the electric wall heaters.. so I made a conscious decision to use what should be my bedroom.. 10x11 feet room...and I do my animation in there.. and when I get better organised I will use one wall to build puppets maybe.. and have another wall with plenty of shelves to store everything.. I got the windows all blacked out, because I had no intention of building puppets in natural light.. anyway.. and I need it to stay dark.. I think you need to think DARK ROOM like photography development.. ideally it should be a total black out space.. I realise the more I get into this animation.. the more I need a dedicated space for everything.. so I think I will end up keeping the bedroom for an animation set.. it's dry, clean, warm, accessible to the kitchen / bathroom, everything is within reach.. I can go and chill in the living room if I need to detach and watch some Netflix on the daybed sofa... although there is enough room in this bedroom space to have a wall to build puppets and sets.. .I just need to organise better...and in my living room I could have a nice desk space off the south facing window for natural light and ventilation.. so I guess you have got a good point there.. that ideally you would benefit from having a well lit, ventilated space for doing the craft side, and a total blank out space for doing the animation...  is there a way you can divide up the space in the trailer... so that you have some of the window(s) left open for natural light and some of them totally boarded up for the dark room.. a pic would help to visualise what you have in mind.. I can't really advise unless I see the space... it is challenging trying to design the best use of your space.. there's a real art to doing that actually.. but I've realised as I've got older having everything within reach is important to me.. I don't want to go up and down the stairs and out into the garden to get to my cold outbuilding to do animation in the winter it puts me off wanting to do it.. I think I need two spaced.. outbuilding for the summer and the flat for the winter.. I think you may need to consider splitting your creative spaced up into two different locations.. I've had to do that.. and that was not my original plan.. I thought I could put it all outside.. even now I'm considering turning my living room space into the craft space.. and as long as I design it with plenty of storage, everything can be put out of sight so that I won't lose my minimalistic space to relax in the living room.. I think you definitely need to do all the messy stuff outside though.. because of the dust and toxic nature of working with a lot of materials.. especially if you going to learn to do foam latex or your going to be using a dremmel drill... giving off micro particles.. I know you could have a hoover by your side maybe or you can buy something for that.. but dedicated spaces for everything is the best.. but I understand that you have to make the best of your limited space and budget etc.... 

I've had to convert normal spaces into light tight animation spaces a few times by using Duvetyne. It's an opaque black cloth that I used to cover the windows, fastening with Velcro. It's the same stuff we use in the Stop Motion Studios to separate out the different Stages to keep the light from polluting them. The good thing about this is it's convertible. I just rolled up the Duve and had my Living Room back. I would do the same thing if I was in your situation. Just in case you want to let some light/air in.

I have light blocking roller blinds on all the studio windows.  I have an extra piece of wood to hang on each side, covering the edges of the blind and holding them down, so no light leaks in from the sides.  There are 2 screws sticking out of the architrave, and the bit of wood has a pair of keyhole shaped holes in it, so I push it over the screws and lower it slightly to lock it in place.  The only light leaking in is from behind the rolled-up top of the blind, not direct sun but a little reflected light does hit the ceiling just above it. I could probably lay one of those cloth draft excluder sausage things over the top of the  blind, but the tiny amount of light does not seem to be an issue, even when my lighting is restricted to a couple of 50 watt halogens and fairly dim.  

In practice, I have the windows covered most of the time, but it is good to be able to let in some natural light when I am making models or painting the set.  And one day my studio may be used for another purpose, so it's good to have windows. 

Duvetyne (also known as Molton or Rokel) is a brushed cotton fabric (kinda fuzzy but not with a pile like a velvet) which comes in 3 metre wide rolls from a theatrical supplier near me. My greenscreen is made of that.  It comes in black, white, green, and blue.  Sounds like a good way to do it.

Hi James, excellent points! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate it a lot.

James Krysa said:

Hi Mark, everyone's situation is so different.. I got an outbuilding.. a nice space.. I made a lot of sacrifices to have that.. the housing association were I live were very supportive in helping me finish it for my animation... they could have knocked it down.. I didn't have planning permission.. anyway I was so paranoid about having natural lighting out there.. to do the craft side, building puppets and sets etc..  I even had a nice 2xmtrs squared space in the roof where I intended to put in a sky lantern in and have a desk underneath, but they wouldn't allow that, and in the end I just bought that black out roll you can cut to size and stick on the glass for stop all the light.. so it's like a man cave in there now.. I also got my cinema projector out there, it's awesome for watching films on a 10xft screen.. but my point was that when it came down to it I didn't need the natural lighting, and it was more functional setting up the space as a total black box as you said.. but I think whether or not it's summer or winter time will make a big difference for you.. it depends on lots of things whether or not your should loose the light from the windows..   I'm more a night person myself.. so I work through the night.. and even though I had that building done for my animation.. I ended up moving everything back into my flat for the winter because it's too cold outside and too expensive to heat the space with the electric wall heaters.. so I made a conscious decision to use what should be my bedroom.. 10x11 feet room...and I do my animation in there.. and when I get better organised I will use one wall to build puppets maybe.. and have another wall with plenty of shelves to store everything.. I got the windows all blacked out, because I had no intention of building puppets in natural light.. anyway.. and I need it to stay dark.. I think you need to think DARK ROOM like photography development.. ideally it should be a total black out space.. I realise the more I get into this animation.. the more I need a dedicated space for everything.. so I think I will end up keeping the bedroom for an animation set.. it's dry, clean, warm, accessible to the kitchen / bathroom, everything is within reach.. I can go and chill in the living room if I need to detach and watch some Netflix on the daybed sofa... although there is enough room in this bedroom space to have a wall to build puppets and sets.. .I just need to organise better...and in my living room I could have a nice desk space off the south facing window for natural light and ventilation.. so I guess you have got a good point there.. that ideally you would benefit from having a well lit, ventilated space for doing the craft side, and a total blank out space for doing the animation...  is there a way you can divide up the space in the trailer... so that you have some of the window(s) left open for natural light and some of them totally boarded up for the dark room.. a pic would help to visualise what you have in mind.. I can't really advise unless I see the space... it is challenging trying to design the best use of your space.. there's a real art to doing that actually.. but I've realised as I've got older having everything within reach is important to me.. I don't want to go up and down the stairs and out into the garden to get to my cold outbuilding to do animation in the winter it puts me off wanting to do it.. I think I need two spaced.. outbuilding for the summer and the flat for the winter.. I think you may need to consider splitting your creative spaced up into two different locations.. I've had to do that.. and that was not my original plan.. I thought I could put it all outside.. even now I'm considering turning my living room space into the craft space.. and as long as I design it with plenty of storage, everything can be put out of sight so that I won't lose my minimalistic space to relax in the living room.. I think you definitely need to do all the messy stuff outside though.. because of the dust and toxic nature of working with a lot of materials.. especially if you going to learn to do foam latex or your going to be using a dremmel drill... giving off micro particles.. I know you could have a hoover by your side maybe or you can buy something for that.. but dedicated spaces for everything is the best.. but I understand that you have to make the best of your limited space and budget etc.... 

Hey, thanks so much for the information. This site has amazing folks, and I am always impressed with the helpful information.

StopmoNick said:

I have light blocking roller blinds on all the studio windows.  I have an extra piece of wood to hang on each side, covering the edges of the blind and holding them down, so no light leaks in from the sides.  There are 2 screws sticking out of the architrave, and the bit of wood has a pair of keyhole shaped holes in it, so I push it over the screws and lower it slightly to lock it in place.  The only light leaking in is from behind the rolled-up top of the blind, not direct sun but a little reflected light does hit the ceiling just above it. I could probably lay one of those cloth draft excluder sausage things over the top of the  blind, but the tiny amount of light does not seem to be an issue, even when my lighting is restricted to a couple of 50 watt halogens and fairly dim.  

In practice, I have the windows covered most of the time, but it is good to be able to let in some natural light when I am making models or painting the set.  And one day my studio may be used for another purpose, so it's good to have windows. 

Duvetyne (also known as Molton or Rokel) is a brushed cotton fabric (kinda fuzzy but not with a pile like a velvet) which comes in 3 metre wide rolls from a theatrical supplier near me. My greenscreen is made of that.  It comes in black, white, green, and blue.  Sounds like a good way to do it.

Hi Anthony, I will definitely look into the Duvetyne for window coverings. This way I will have the ventilation, natural light, and dark if needed. Thank you very much for the information!

Anthony Scott said:

I've had to convert normal spaces into light tight animation spaces a few times by using Duvetyne. It's an opaque black cloth that I used to cover the windows, fastening with Velcro. It's the same stuff we use in the Stop Motion Studios to separate out the different Stages to keep the light from polluting them. The good thing about this is it's convertible. I just rolled up the Duve and had my Living Room back. I would do the same thing if I was in your situation. Just in case you want to let some light/air in.

Hey guys.. no worries Mark.. 

that's clever nick the wood thing down the sides.. I had that issue of light leaking in, when I had my big cinema screen.. electric roller blind in the living room at one point and I was using that to block out all the light from the 8ft window,  and even though it overlapped the sides of the window 8" the light still leaked in from the sides.. so that wasn't ideal.. 

..the Duvetyne sounds good Anthony and Nick and Mark yeah sounds like the best solution for you, but you definitely need to black out most or all of that light.. I had that issue for ever and it use to bug me so much, in the end I just animate in the night, so I didn't have the light issue.. but you do need a way to control the light...so so important...  .. I think Simon mentioned the Duvetyne.to me in the past... sounds like a quilt lol..   and I never looked into it.. I think it would help when anyone gives advice or direction to include a link to a product if you got it to hand.. I use to do that all the time.. and I know I personally appreciate a link to click on when I'm reading the reply at the time.. when someone tells me about a product, it just puts it all into context.. we are specifically visual. so best to have link to the product..I should look for a link now lol but I don't know this product yet.. I'm as newbie as you Mark on that one.. and I know we all in different parts of the world so you may think it's pointless putting a product supply link.. but it still helps.. 

James, I don't have a link for Duvetyne. I have a very small stash I purchased thru a studio eons ago. Perhaps try to Search for it online from a local vendor? If not available, any light blocking drape should work just fine.

ok no worries..  thanks.. 

I'd say that for me, to be able to have complete control of my lighting would be easier in the long run. But that also is because my projects and style have always lead me to a black box environment even when natural lighting is needed. If you have good and sufficient lighting equipment, then making natural light could be both a challenge and a blessing, given that you would also have complete control over that and not depend on the day to animate or not.
Simply an opinion, and certainly not as much experience as other people here. But I hope it helped to have another perspective and I hope you figure it out soon.
Good luck and have fun with the remodeling!!

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