Lighting Basics: Going With What is Available

The exciting thing about the Arri Alexa, F-3 and the new wave of DSLRs is their high ISO range to minimum noise ratio. This has opened up a whole new way to light as a cinematographer. Whether it be daylight interior or exterior, dawn, dusk, night exterior or interiors the option now exist to use available light in new ways, as well as working with less. On the films that I shot prior to Act of Valor, our lighting package fit into a 48’ semi truck along with multiple 10-ton truck drop loads to expose film. We are in very exciting times and they are being shaken again with Canon’s November 3rd announcement . Using available light is one thing, but shaping the available is what cinematography is all about. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Here is a perfect example. St. Germain Puerto Rico. We needed to light 8 city blocks. I had two lighting technicians. So I rented two 1200 watt HMI par lights and a 3000 Watt Honda Generator that I hid behind the church to block the sound so that it would not effect our dialogue. Added six 4’ green and yellow single KINO Flos in the store windows behind the actors as they walk in the plaza, this would also help add color dimension as well as great out of focus highlights when I went in for close ups. Their key light would be two stings of carnival bulbs that were 200’ long, and the edge/back lights would be the street lamps that lined the side of the plaza as they took their stroll. There was way too much light at 1600 ISO. So I started to manicure and shape the wide shot. Bottom left corner I used black wrap to block out the streetlamp because it was too hot on the left side of frame and took my eye away from the actors on the cobblestone street in the center of the plaza.

The building on the left that has a coolish tone was smoking hot. I wrapped Neutral Density .9 gel around that so that I kept the cool color contrast but it took it down. A church is such an important part of the Hispanic culture. I wanted to highlight the steeple as well as its body. We were under serious time constraints that day and I should have taken the 1200 HMI par down about two stops that hit the body of the church. The steeple looked great but I burned the church up just a bit too much. I added Rosco full plus green to the HMIs so that they felt dirty and not perfect.

Here are the units that lit the Plaza:

My lighting package now is pretty much everything you can either purchase from Home Depot or out of a Grainger catalog. I always used practical light to motivate my sources but now the practical can be the source. There is no need to hide lights or hang them to simulate what that particular light would be doing. I have a very simple package which is a mix of some movie lights, some theatrical lights and then your local hardware store. Here you go:


4-Single bulb shop fluorescents w/ cool white tubes, with daylight & tungsten bulbs. Vitalight for Daylight and Optima 3200 for Tungsten. This is easy to hide behind bars, bottles, in corners, great top light in a garage, office, etc.

4-Dbl Bulb shop fluorescents w/ cool white tubes, with daylight & tungsten bulbs. Vitalight for Daylight and Optima 3200 for Tungsten. This is easy to hide behind bars, bottles, in corners, great top light in a garage, office, etc. On Swing Vote I hung 4 double units in the kitchen with cool white globes in them to give a cool/green feel in Bud’s trailer. It felt real and not so polished.

4-12” Silver Reflector Clamp lights w/ 150 watt globes, 50 watt Halogen Spots. You can add diffusion on the front if you would like to make it softer. This can be used as a harder source with a spot globe.

4-6” Silver Reflector Clamp lights w/ 100 watt globes, 50 watt Halogen Spot

4-18” Under Cabinet Fluorescent w/ cool white tubes, with daylight & tungsten

6-MR-16 50 Watt Flood screw in household socket

6-Household socket dimmers

6-1000 Watt in-line dimmer

6-600 Watt Wall outlet dimmers

2-70 Watt Dusk to Dawn lamps Metal Halide (MH) This is my go to source for lighting the exterior of barns, houses, and in the case of Swing Vote this Dusk to Dawn was to illuminate his driveway to his trailer and bring ambience to his truck driving in at night. I also mounted it to Kate’s garage to give me some color contrast in the deep background. They’re so versatile, lightweight and require little power.

2-100 Watt Dusk to Dawn High Pressure Sodium (HPS)
I used this in the night scene on Swing Vote where Molly finds Bud in his car drunk. She walks down the street and then gets to his truck and looks off camera. The HPS fixture is giving her a beautiful back light and then I used a 12 x 12 ultra bounce to reflect light into her face.

2-Wall mounted 70 Watt High Pressure Sodium (HPS)
Great to mount in background of night exteriors for out of focus highlights, hide in tight spaces to light people.

2-50’ Strands of Rope light, I use this to light under counters, under cabinets in kitchens. I use very long strands of it that I fold back and forth on itself about 6 times to create what we call a colon light. Look at the still shot from Act of Valor. That warm glow in the background was the colon rope light giving that beautiful glow.

Next week I will go into depth on how to built this light that emulates the warmish glow of a oil lamp.

1- LED Hockey Puck Light kit w/ 3 heads perfect to light paintings, under light bars, streak walls, light bar backs, under light bottles,etc.

2- 100 Watt Tungsten Hockey Puck lights, perfect to light paintings, under light bars, streak walls, light bar backs, under light bottles,etc.

2-12”, 2-18”, 2-24”, 1-30” China Balls w/ 100 watt & 150 watt globes. These are beautiful key and or fill lights. I use black wrap to shape them sometimes by blacking the back half to cut down on spill. Philippe Rousselot uses these on every film he shoots, wonderful soft ambient lighting tool for cheap.

1- Fluorescent Trouble light, hang in places quickly to give yourself nice out of focus highlights in the background

4-50’ 12 Gauge Stingers

4-25’ 12 Gauge Stingers

6-Power Strips

8- Cube taps

This lighting package should get you started on your way to create and light on a budget. Try new things work with less and see how it turns out. Remember the secret to exposing HD is to starve the CMOS chip of light. Stay tuned for next week’s post where I give you all the instruction on building the perfect Key Light.

  1. Joseph 4 years ago

    Absolutely wonderful blog post. You just can’t find this type of detailed information anywhere. You are awesome, Shane!

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Joseph, this is what I like to hear, why make a blog about tools, when it is the way you tell a story, light a story and move and audience.

      • Adrian 1 year ago

        This is why you are my favorite DP, you share your knowledge, you work on big budget movies and yet you are not telling us to go and rent HMI, Kinos, you are telling us that its about mood and style and that you can light with anything, thanks Shane, i always come to your blog for inspiration!!

  2. Nicko 4 years ago

    Amazing Shane!

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Nicko, thank you for the support

  3. Martin 4 years ago


    What a brilliant article literally shedding light on a complex subject.

    It’s great that technology is changing movie making and making it more accessible for filmmakers and allowing us to take the rule book and give it a bit of a shake.

    I find your sharing of knowledge liberating and generous and helps to break down barriers that form when a person feels lacking in knowledge amongst his peers. I wonder how many films have been hampered by the divides that form amongst a crew when someone is unwilling to simply say “I don’t know how to do that”.

    Your blogs give people the confidence to follow the only rule that matters in film – if it looks good, it probably is good.

    Thanks again from a UK filmmaker who is happy to be learning loads!


    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Martin, thank you so much for all of your wonderful words. My mentors were very gracious with sharing lighting and camera technique, so I feel the same to tear open the top of the box and give all of you a look inside my lighting. Shaking it up is what I do best. When people tell me to go left I usually right.

  4. Rochelle De Larzo 4 years ago

    Shane, your blog posts are always spectacular! Now I know how to light on a tight budget. What would you say your best lit film is? I love the samples you have from Swing Vote..although you left out Kevin Costner! He’s a real ding-a-ling.

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Rochelle De Larzo, Kevin Costner is one of the most talented filmmaker’s I have ever worked with. Dances with Wolves changed me as a cinematographer. I watched that movie 4 times in the theater and then about 15 times on DVD. My best lit movies are: Greatest Game Ever Played,Terminator Salvation, Swing Vote, The Rat Pack and Crazy/Beautiful.

  5. Sebastian Kubatz 4 years ago

    Shane, I cannot overemphasize the importance of this blog to me and what I learned about filmmaking.
    I’m really excited for next weeks post.

    Have you ever thought about putting all that information in a book… about lighting for example?
    Or can you recommend a good book or books about lighting on filmset?

    Again, thank you very much.

    – Sebastian

    • Duane 4 years ago

      I agree – this blog is my go-to, and I too would appreciate a really good, comprehensive resource regarding lighting for on the set… Any suggestions?

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Sebastian Kubatz, thank you so much for your wonderful words. We are thinking about a subscription to a high end lighting e book that Hurlbut Visuals would publish. We will keep them coming. Next weeks post will be well worth it.

  6. Jim 4 years ago

    Hi Shane!!
    While all other film makers in the blog world raves about the new Canon and Red cams, you are simply putting cinematography to it’s core. What a great post! Simple things as practical lights and cheep china balls, if all blogs just could be so true to the art of cinematography and image making as yours are. Wow man, just another post filled up with awesome tricks to make your image look way better than just buying a new camera…..

    Do you still recommend the Leica R glass man?
    You got me into the old Nikon AIS, and I got a whole lot of them now for my 5DmkII. I love the look they give but are very keen on trying out the Leica R glass after seeing the stuff you shot with it. Should I go for the Leica R or should I simply start building a Canon L glass set instead??

    Thanks for giving away so much information man!
    Keep on rocking out those great blog posts.


    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Jim, first off you are very welcome and thank you so much for the kind words and your continued support of our blog. You could not hit the nail on the head better about what our blog is about. To educate and innovate you have to create, a lot. My love for pulling the top of the box off and looking in is what my mentors did for me. I am kindly giving back. In regards to the Leica glass, yes I think you should buy them, not the Canon L series.

  7. Christian 4 years ago

    Shane, this is an insanely helpful post, thank you so much for the in depth analysis of your scenes and how you lit them. Great work!

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Christian, thank you so much for the wonderful words, I am glad I can help.

  8. Ian Lautsch 4 years ago

    Shane, these posts are truly great and packed with detail that you cannot find other places. It is the best resource for comprehensive film lighting ideas that are tried and proven. Not only that but the idea of creating that balancing act between the lights, the camera and the lens. Keep em coming, we are eating it up!

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Ian Lautsch, thank you so much for the kind words of support. Our blog is not about gear, it is about using story, lighting, and the ways to move and deliver mood, tension, comedy, etc. onto the screen. We are different because we are Armani not the 99 cent store.

  9. Atom Magadia 4 years ago

    I love this article. You actually clarified a lot of question I had regarding practicals and DSLR shoots…including the new Canon Cinema EOS C300.

    Great stuff!

    Take Care,

  10. Maxi Claudio 4 years ago

    THANK YOU! Very helpful, and appreciate the details and links.

  11. mel haynes 4 years ago

    loved this blog entry, Shane. I have to say my go to light source are those fluorescent tubes from home depot. With the HDSLR, that type of lighting is in reach to us now. Our stories can be told a lot easier now with tools like this.

    Really have enjoyed the publicity you have been given around the new Letus rigs. I think they are bad ass.

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      mel haynes, thank you so much for your support and kind words. I will keep trailblazing with this technology because the C300 is still not delivering the quality of the 5D. Thanks for the support on the MCS rigs.

      • Steve M, 4 years ago

        Hey Shane, Thank you for sharing, it’s always a treat to read your blog post! I had to read your reply twice on this one. So, just to clarify I’m nit seeing things, you are of the opinion the new Canon C300 doesn’t have the image quality of the 5DMarkII? From what I’ve seen on the web, I couldn’t agree more.

  12. Alex O'Toole 4 years ago

    Perfect blog post thx !!!

  13. Gregory Bennett 4 years ago

    Thank you Shane! This comes at exactly the perfect time for me. I’ve always been a fan of using “non-film” lighting fixtures and you’ve made some suggestions that I hadn’t thought of. I’ve got a short I’m DP’ing in a couple of weeks and will be using several of your ideas. Of course, there are still times when one needs a punchier, sourcey light and it’s hard to beat HMIs in that regard. Here’s an item I recently added to my tickle trunk. Cheap and easy to hide:

    Thanks again!

  14. Malcolm Matusky 4 years ago

    What do you do with the HPS bulbs, I though these were “non-continous” light sources and could not be corrected? Are you leaving these “natural” in the background and using a correctable source for important parts of the scene and actors?

    Great article!



    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Malcolm Matusky, I don’t correct, the beauty is their color temp. I light with HPS if they’re street lamps in the background then I use these units to light with. The medium shot of the girl at the pick up truck was lit with a 400 watt HPS on the roof of the trophy store in the BG and then a 150 watt bouncing into a 12 x 12 Ultra Bounce to bring up the light on her face.

      • Bill Hamell 4 years ago

        Shane, another great blog! Was the 150 watt also a HPS and how far from the talent was the 12×12? HPS lamps come in temperatures from approximately 1900 to 4000 degrees Kelvin do you vary the Kelvin rating with the shot or do you stay with one value? Thank you, Bill

  15. Chris Baron 4 years ago

    Thanks for sharing this. Very informative and practical. Many people in the industry seems to think that the more expensive the tool the better it will make you. Thanks for helping to bust that misconception.

  16. Markeda 4 years ago

    Thank you for posting this Shane. This article is very helpful!

  17. Patrik Vale 4 years ago

    Thank you for this post, a lot of useful information..

  18. Oli Kember 4 years ago

    Thanks so much for taking the time to do this. Much appreciated by all and super helpful as always.

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Oli Kemper, it was great meeting you in NYC. Thank you for the kind words and support always.

      • Oli Kember 4 years ago

        We are yet to meet sir – Although interesting to know there is a Kemper to rival my Kember!

  19. Josh 4 years ago

    unbelievably helpful! Thank you for all your sharing you do Shane.

  20. Joe Widner 4 years ago


    How incredibly refreshing it is to hear someone of your caliber and experience using tools us mortals can use to achieve beautiful images to tell a story.

    Thanks for sharing your experience and techniques with us, it is so appreciated!


  21. ramon B 4 years ago


  22. Adrian 4 years ago

    Shane I feel a bit of an infidel asking this on a blog subject which so clearly transcends what camera are you using, but i just can’t help myself – what camera were you pushing to 1600 ISO, not the 5D surely – I was under the impression that one shouldn’t go above 1250 on the 5 and that would be really pushing things.

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Adrian, yes the 5D at 1600 ISO will hold. Go with it and it will amaze you.

  23. Steve M, 4 years ago

    Shane, 5D image vs C300 what are your insights?

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Steve M, I want to really test the C300 the way it needs to be vetted. This will take a bit of time, along with trying to work it around my schedule. You will have to stay tuned on this. I will continue to give you insight on what is essential which is lighting and storytelling not the tools, because that is all that they are. Imagine I shot 17 features on this stuff called film, and during that time it was not what the new camera was, it was how can I best assist the story. Don’t get blinded by all this techno hype, that is all that it is.

      • Will Wernick 4 years ago

        Couldn’t agree more with the general idea of this post. People put way to much emphasis on what gear and specs etc. Go out and shoot! ;) That being said, when I first saw the C300 footage I was totally unimpressed, but after seeing the films those guys shot, I am pretty stunned. ISO 20,000 looked pretty clean. That is a game changer. Wish they could record RAW.

        • Will Wernick 4 years ago

          Oh, and thank you so much for this blog. Always love reading your posts. Always interesting insight.

        • Author
          Shane 4 years ago

          Will Wernick, I was right there with you. Uninspired, rudimentary, not groundbreaking. RAW is not what is it cracked up to be.

  24. Caroline Carrigan 4 years ago

    Great article, wonderful suggestions. Love the photos with specific placements so we can see what makes the shot. Thank you.

  25. Shawn M 4 years ago

    Hey Shane,

    Thank you for all you give back to the filmmaking community. I’ve been following your site for a few years now, and was surprised you didn’t mention those batton lights you’ve used before. Were they difficult to build?

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Shawn M, I love those lights but patented design. Cannot give that out.

  26. Chris 4 years ago

    This post is an incredible resource, thanks so much for doing this! The set photos you gave are invaluable.

  27. Darren 4 years ago

    hey Shane..i read somewhere you said the best way to expose these sensors is to starve it of light. Why would you do that? Can you expand on that pls.

  28. KahL 4 years ago

    And this is why I keep referring back to you for lessons, Shane. Awesome blog post. Completely.

    I’ll be referring back to this several times over the course of this week.

  29. Darren 4 years ago

    Fantastic insight to a DP’s mind and eye. I’m often blown away at the subtle look that lighting can bring to the scene. In shots like the St. Germain Puerto Rico, I never would have thought about lighting the church.

    Keep up the GREAT teachings Shane. Hurlbut all the way!

  30. Alexander Peacock 4 years ago

    Brilliant! Thanks so much for putting all this work into helping others out. Really wonderful stuff.

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Alexander Peacock, you are very welcome and thank you for the kind words and support.

  31. Steve Landon-Smyth 4 years ago

    Fantastic post Shane. I am not a huge fan of blogs but what you have shared here is wonderful, especially for the up and coming DP’s of the future. I’ll be reading your posts regularly from now on, and putting to use what I learn!

    Rock On Man!

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Steve Landon-Smyth, We are glad to have you. Thank you so much for your wonderful words. Welcome to HV, where we don’t blog we create, educate and innovate. We are not a gear site, I use my 17 years of experience of being a cinematographer to help filmmakers tell their stories.

  32. Jon Chema 4 years ago

    This is an excellent article. I like how you choose to use practical lights that aren’t specifically designed for filmmaking/photography. I mean if its in the background or used as a backlight then it shouldn’t matter what it is right? Shane have you ever built “wagon lights” or “bat lights”?

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Jon Chema, no I haven’t, what the hell is a Wagon light or a Bat light?

      • Jon Chema 4 years ago

        Its called a wagon light because it looks like an old school covered wagon. Bat light short for “Baton.” Essentially, you just take a piece of 2×6″ board and cut it to desired length. You then take ceiling light fixtures and screw them to the board and wire them to an edison plug. I throw 250/500w photofloods in my fixtures. Next you take a piece of metal mesh and use it to cover the fixture stapling it on each side of the board. This allows you to attach diffusion or filters without coming in contact with your globes. I use bleached muslin because its neutral and make the light soft. Basically, its a poor man’s Kino. However, I feel that its softer and more directional/controllable. You can cheaply make this from materials you can get at any home depot. Quality of light is super soft and you can throw a baby plate on the back and mount hang it anywhere. Like you said earlier, you don’t need thousand dollar lights to make a good image.

  33. Ryan E. Walters 4 years ago


    Thanks for the break down- fun to see. :)

    You ended the article with: “Remember the secret to exposing HD is to starve the CMOS chip of light.” Can you expand on that further? Do you mean under exposure? Do you mean something else? In your example above, the scene doesn’t feel starved for light- from the bright street lamps to the shadows of the building there seems to be a good range of exposure values so I’m a little confused by that statement. Especially as I’ve found on other HD cameras starving the camera of light results in noise. Please enlighten me … ;)

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Ryan E. Walters, I underexpose the Canon 5D about 1.5 to 2 stops on everything I shoot resulting in no noise. Look at all the work on Hurlbut Visuals website that is all underexposed HD. The Histogram that everyone swears by I never use, but if I did my exposure would never go into the 3 field.

      • Ryan E. Walters 4 years ago

        Thanks- that helps. I’ve never used the histogram as I haven’t found that to be very helpful. However, I do use my light meter. I’ll start experimenting with underexposing the image and see how I like it. You’ve got some nice images up there so it must work. :)

        A couple of follow up questions:

        – When you underexpose are you under exposing at the ISO you are rating the camera at, or are you rating it faster? (So shooting at ISO 800, but rating and exposing it at ISO 1600 – 3200, or shooting at ISO 1600 – 3200 and exposing at that level when you would have been at ISO 800.)

        – Are you using any de-noising filters in post on a typical production? I remember else where in your blog you talked about some great post tools for noise removal and showed examples. So I wonder how much this actually gets used in the post pipeline?

        Last question- I promise- Have you found much of a difference when using the 7D?

  34. Helder Mendes 4 years ago

    Great article!! The brain is always more powerful than money.

  35. Marc A Hutchins 4 years ago

    Thanks for confirming what I’ve been teaching others.

    I actually stumbled into lighting to fill a gap in our local production community, investing $40K into a box truck, lighting and grip gear. It’s a sweet package (shy on HMI’s) and gets me lots of gigs on indie films and commercials. I also use my teaching background to share my knowledge as a way to support others in the area.

    I learned over the years that as technology has boomed in sensor development, and as indie productions have continued to soar, that lighting is also changing. I wouldn’t kick myself for the purchase though, because I still think that rolling up with some top of the line GNE says a lot about my level of professional development; add to that my ability to use what’s around me, and I manage to impress a producer or two.

    A special thanks to you for sharing your knowledge and teaching me to be better at what I do. Your work and blog continue to inspire me.

  36. Noel Occomy 4 years ago

    Shane, this is why I keep coming back to your site, since I took your Bootcamp in L.A.(Aug 2010) . These project reports given in detail have truly improved my skills as a Director/Cinematographer. Thanks to you and I can see it with each job I’m involved in and this shows in the movie trailer ‘Acts of Valor’. The movie you shot looks unbelievable can’t wait to see it in the theater. I’m looking forward to your next entry.

  37. Carter Dias 4 years ago

    I adore your wp web template, exactly where do you down load it from?

    • Ryan 4 years ago

      This was actually a custom design. Glad you like it.

  38. Neil Oseman 4 years ago

    Thanks so much for this post. It’s always fascinating to see how other DPs go about lighting a scene. I’ve put a link to it on my own blog at
    John Chema – interesting to hear you mention wagon lights. My gaffer and I constructed something very similar recently and found it really useful. We had no idea that it already had a name so we rather dramatically dubbed it The Cyclotron!

    • Jon Chema 4 years ago

      haha yeah they are by far the cheapest softest lights I’ve found. It was actually a fun DIY project as well!

  39. Lliam Worthington 4 years ago

    Just a fantastic blog once again Shane. You offer so much back.

    Thank you

    Best WIshes


    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Lliam Worthington, cannot thank you enough for your support and kind words.

  40. Shane McLachlan 4 years ago

    I have learned how to shot with DSLR from your blog and a book by Kurt lancaster.

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Shane McLachlan, WOW, that rocks. Tear it up. I am just trying to throw gasoline on your creative flame.

  41. Nap Jamir II 4 years ago

    Hi Shane,

    Your blog has been a wonderful source of information re DSLR Cinematography and DYI lighting. I constantly tell my students to refer to it for deeper info. I’ve been shooting film (35mm)for about 25 years here in the Philippines (I will be 60 next year..)and never thought that I would see the day that anyone, literally, can shoot a film, with the quality that comes so close to celluloid. when DSLRs came into the scene, I was a bit sceptical..but I rose to the challenge when I dop’ed an indie film shot on location in Phuket, Thailand. I used an out-of-the-box Canon 60D with three lenses: Canon 50mm F1.4,Canon 24mm. F1.4 and a Zeiss 85mm f1.4.I lit the film with 4 chinaballs/150W bulb with dimmers & three 300w Arri Fresnels.
    It was all that I needed. the performance of the 60D blew me away. Never went up higher than 500ISO and didnt get noise. If you would permit me, I can send you BTS stills(chinaball skirts using a black collared t-shirt!)and some raw clips. Again, thanks for sharing your vast knowledge with everyone. You are an inspiration.

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Nap Jamir II, thank you so much for your wonderful kind words of support. I love that region of Asia. I travel to Thailand every Christmas. We do the circuit. Chiang Mai at Xmas, Bangkok and finish New Years in Rayong. I l would love to see the BTS stills. The black shirt for the china ball is genius.

  42. Jared Alden 4 years ago

    Shane, excellent as always. Any suggestions on where to pick up the string of carnival lights? Thank you.

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Jared Alden, I built those strands out of 14 gauge Red and Black wire with Add a Tap household sockets. Their might be places to buy them. Not sure, try party rental places.

  43. Bill Hamell 4 years ago

    Shane, another great blog! Was the 150 watt also a HPS and how far from the talent was the 12×12? HPS lamps come in temperatures from approximately 1900 to 4000 degrees Kelvin do you vary the Kelvin rating with the shot or do you stay with one value? Thank you, Bill

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Bill Hamell, Thank you so much for your support. Bouncing into the 12 x 12 was, yes another 150 watt HPS, it was about 10 feet away from our girl. The color temp range that these HPS’s function around is 2600-2900 Deg. Kelvin

  44. Paul Wieczorek 4 years ago

    Damn Mr Shane, this post is absolutely amazing! I’m not the daily reader of Your blog but from now on I surely will be! Many thanks for the time and effort You spend to teach us, trust me Sir, many of us would never get this knowledge by themselves!

    Kind Regards,

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Paul Wieczorek, these are the comments that continue to fuel my passion to educate. Thank you so much for the kind words of support.

  45. Skip 3 years ago


    I want to thank you for your exquisite website. This is such a valuable resource for independent producers, directors and hobbyists. It lets us gain access to a list of potential tools that can make our stories shine, also letting us all know that we don’t need conventional rental gear from companies that jack our budgets. Which only lasts for one shoot!

    This list has become my go to pre-productions spot to figure what color temperatures we can play with and what the different ways we can make it happen; efficiently and effectively. Helps us concentrate on making the story shine.

    Again thanks a MILLION for being a true new millennium filmmaker and passing your knowledge out to anyone that wants to listen, read, and soak up the info.

    PS. Act of Valor was incredible…but did you really have to make us dig the main character and then have him do the ultimate sacrifice for his company!!! I was holding back the wet works at the end…

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Thanks so much for the kind words and support Skip. I’m always happy to share my knowledge with fellow filmmakers.

  46. Chuck 3 years ago

    These articles are fantastic; the knowledge you show us is interesting for everybody and is fantastic written. It’s just great!! Chuck

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Chuck, thank you so much for those kind words. We do things different at the HurlBlog, it actually involves creative content that inspires storytelling.

  47. Dan Heywood 3 years ago

    Just great info, Shane, thanks so much. A question I have is, is buzzing from the fluorescents ever an issue, and if so, how do you or the sound team deal with it? I am looking to set up simple lighting for indoor, on location interviews, and considered building an array of T8’s to simulate light from a window, or now, thinking more likely to use one or more china balls, perhaps with CFL’sin the balls. But I wonder if either choice, T8’s or CFL’s would be unwise due to buzzing.

  48. Nate Opgenorth 3 years ago

    “Remember the secret to exposing HD is to starve the CMOS chip of light.” – Can you explain this a little bit more? I think I understand it a little bit but can you go into more detail? Thanks. Good stuff. I’ve always looked at lighting as the key to a good film/video that said Its amazing what these cameras can do with just the right set up.

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Nate Opgenorth, because of the 5D’s limited latitude I found the best way to expose the camera was to starve the sensor of light, which means underexposing your digital negative. The cameras strength is in is shadow detail. So I would underexpose the 5D 1 to 1.5 stops while shooting and I felt it had much more of a filmic tone. That is how I shot all of Act of Valor. The new Canon 1DC 4K DSLR is more like how I would expose film, you need to overexpose the digital negative about 1/3 to a 1/2 a stop. This seems to be the perfect recipe for that camera. Each camera is like a new emulsion, no rules apply. You need to test.

      • Nate Opgenorth 3 years ago

        Thanks shane. I don’t use a 5D I use a Canon 550D but I’m assuming its a similar concept? I’m working on a short film soon so I will take this advice to heart. I will be shooting in afternoon-ish possibly dark as winter is coming…is their ever an “optimal” ISO to stick with? I was thinking stay under 1250 but stay around 320-640…Obviously the 5D can push the ISO much higher but still curious. Primarily using Canon primes. Using Marvel’s Advanced as my PP. BTW, Loved your work on Act of Valor and found the exposure to be offer just the right tone and didn’t find myself squinting or (god for bid!) turning the brightness on my TV up!

        This lighting guide helped a ton though! Went to Home Depot with this page on my iPhone…indeed a few strange looks but I’ve got the majority of this stuff minus the ultra quiet Honda generator, thats one thing that I simply can’t afford at the moment. Luckily I own a few other generators and my crew will hopefully be near a house to “leech” power off…if not I’ll have to get a little creative with the extension cords and position the generator far away to dampen the sound.

        I find it interesting that you mentioned the 1D C holds highlights similar to film…I always thought of it as digital holding shadows well but not so much with highlights and film holding highlights better and thats it…the 8-bit of the 1D C sorta threw me off but glad to hear a reputable DP approving of it. Again thanks for taking the time to reply to these posts, it means allot getting feedback from established persons in the film industry.

  49. PJ Palomaki 2 years ago

    Hi Shane,

    Really appreciate all your posts, some real gems here, thank you!

    On this topic, using DIY/’Practical’ lighting as your main lights, I saw someone mentioned about this but didn’t quite get it; if you were using only DIY lighting kit, how would you correct the colour temperature of these lights? With correct bulbs or would you balance the camera to the key light temperature and leave the others as is to add colour?


    • Author
      Shane 2 years ago

      PJ Palomaki, I embrace all of the different color temps and do not worry about color balancing at all. I feel they add the the reality of filmmaking.

  50. Geoff 1 year ago

    Great Post Shane! Do you recommend the silk china lanterns or the paper lanterns?

    • Author
      Shane 1 year ago

      Geoff, I love the paper ones, simple, cheap. I have to treat them as almost expendable items. I lay paper at the bottom so you don’t get any hard light bleed, then use black wrap to control where this baby goes, usually blocking half of it like a turtle shell.

  51. Ricky Laprade 2 years ago

    Your blog is an inspiration. It’s my go to site nowadays not only for tips, but for hope that one can create fantastic things even when on a strict budget. Thank you!

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