• Lighting

    One of the nicer aspects of working with stop motion animation is that the equipment need not be expensive for a project to be successful. But, as can be expected, money spent in some places will give better results, or at least make it easier to get good results.

    Basic Lighting Concepts

    Lighting is so crucial that there are books, youtube videos and a fair portion of both photography and video web sites devoted to this one subject. As was discussed earlier, one primary consideration is the color temperature of the lighting. Keep in mind that it is possible to modify the color of lighting easily by using colored transparencies (known as gels) as well as choosing different color temperature bulbs.

    For most cases, basic lighting requires three light sources, known as “3 point lighting”.

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    It is possible to improvise with fewer lights, but 3 is considered the minimum for most lighting. 4 Point lighting includes an extra light that illuminates the surface behind the objects.

    Note that sometimes even lighting is not the goal; it may be to accentuate or hide. This is part of the challenge and capability of lighting; to give a scene dimensionality and nuance.

    Inexpensive Lighting Equipment

    Good lighting is crucial for a project to be successful. Having control over quantity, color, focus and intensity gives projects a much richer look. Shadows and highlights not just convey lighting origination, but reinforces the dimensionality for 3D objects. For the majority of flat, drawn animation, having even and controlled lighting is a must.

    There has been a small revolution taking place in lighting over the last few years, both in domestic space (our homes, our offices) and in production work. For many years the two choices for lighting for production work have been either incandescent or halogen lighting. But now, there are two more forms of lighting, fluorescents and LED lighting.

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    Which lighting is best? As incandescent light bulbs go way, CFL’s (compact fluorescent lighting) are the low-cost replacement. Off-the-shelf “daylight balanced” will be about 5000 – 5500 Kelvins, which is a good choice. More expensive bulbs cover more of the color spectrum (often labelled “full spectrum”) bulbs. These will give fuller, more true color, but often cost quite a bit more. For tabletop use. 13 watt bulbs are the equivalent of 60-watt light bulbs. Ironically, these can at times be overpowering, so some sort of diffuser can help. LED lighting is gaining popularity for professional use, but is more expensive. There are the very expensive screw-type LED lights, but for photography/videography use, Inexpensive panel lights designed for camcorders are nice. They generate very little heat, and are very energy efficient, but pricing for small no-name panels hover around $50.00. At the end of the day, cheap off-the-shefl CFL’s are better than no lighting at all. 

    For many small scale projects, desk lamps may suffice. It’s recommended, but not necessary, to buy lamps that use the common screw-base socket (known as an “edison” socket) that household lighting uses. These are cheap and come in a variety of form factors.[nggallery id=2]

    The staples of small-scale lighting are desk and clamp lamps. Desk lamps that can bend or swivel are a must; the choices tend towards either gooseneck or what are known as architect or task style desk lamps. Both work fine, but “architect” lamps are a little more flexible in how they can be positioned. Lamps that clamp on to a desk come in the same form factors, and are great for freeing up more task space for animation. Watch for inexpensive versions where the clamp-on base is made of plastic. These will not survive rough treatment, tending to snap-off at the base of the lamp.

    Another kind of lamp worth considering is the ubiquitous clamp lamp, as pictured above. These are used a lot in low budget video production because they are so flexible and cheap. Mounting them for use in production requires a ledge or some sort of fashioned stand. One simple design uses a pole cemented in a large can or small bucket.

    Another option is even simpler, which is to use Christmas Tree stands with PVC piping used for plumbing. These have the advantages of being very easy to make, and can be broken down for easy transport. In this picture you will see a variant on the clip light, which has a goose neck, making it even easier to position.

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