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Old 02-17-2018, 05:14 AM   #1
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DIY candle/fire low light techniques?

So, I am a total newbie having fun filming myself & partner singing and playing guitar.

I'd love to get to a point where I can make a video in low/ambient lighting like this one:

So, we have got as far as simply pointing the camera and pressing record:


Obviously nowhere near the target yet. There are things I think have a fairly good idea of how to improve (setting up the 'stage' - i.e decluttering, making ourselves look 'nicer'. Ok maybe I can't fix that second one...), but there are many many things I have no idea how to go about changing. Here are my key areas:

- Quality. The video we took seems completely grainy to me, despite the camera being 'HD' (Camera is a Sony HDR-MV1). It was shot indoors at night (which is our only option right now). Now, I want to do this in 'low light', but if I reduce the lighting, the quality goes down even now...

- How to shoot this in low lighting? As in the example video, I'd love to do this in a more darkened room with some low backlighting - Candles or fairy lights. I've been reading about setting up *actual* lighting, even for filming 'dark' shots. So I've been to the hardware store and bought a couple of the brightest bulbs they have. Bringing my equipment up to the Sony camera and 2 bulbs

- How to frame two people? In the example video, there is one guy so its' easy - put him in the middle. I read a lot about dividing your scene into a grid of 9 squares. Not sure how to fit two people into this. My only thought so far is to make one (the singer) more prominent by putting her forward in the shot, with the guitarist a little behind...that way they could be a bit closer together...
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Old 02-18-2018, 01:25 PM   #2
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The sample you reference was not shot with ambient light. It was very much lit for the camera. There’s a key light from camera left on him, and a rim light off camera right highlighting the back of his head and shoulder. There’s also an accent/fill lighting up the corner of the room behind the candles.

Further, the placement and semi-hard edge of the key light destroys any look of this having been shot in ambient light. The trick to good lighting is for it not to be noticed. Every light source should be motivated. In other words, it needs to have what the viewer will see as a logical reason for that light being there (other than, y’know, the subject needed a light). If this had gone with a softer key source that was balanced a bit more toward tungsten, and the rim light was a little more subtle, it could have pulled off the look of candles lighting the room.

Grain is often the result of the camera not having enough light and having to make up exposure through ISO or gain. The camera wants light. Lots of it. HD has nothing to do with that. The camera you’re using has a very small image sensor, which means it wants even more light.

So, the trick to shooting in low light is... don’t. Light your scene.

Last edited by AcousticAl; 02-18-2018 at 01:30 PM.
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Old 02-19-2018, 12:59 AM   #3
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Agreed. Use lots of light as if it was a normal (non candlelight) scene, then bring the brightness down in editing. Light the person a little brighter than the walls and background. Expose for the person's face. Do NOT push the gain on the camera. Shoot at zero-DB if you can. Pushing the gain will create grain.
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Old 02-21-2018, 01:43 AM   #4
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Thanks for the replies, especially about what lights were used (and the correct names...good for googling).

Got a couple of big lights and will post back with my experiments...
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