The Joys of Low-Budget Lighting

Lighting is a bitch.
Preparing and setting up lighting for a film or TV production is a tiresome, laborious process. It takes an insane amount of time to do, is difficult to get right, and is painfully obvious to everyone when it’s done wrong.
But that’s when lighting is treated like brain surgery and when the goal is perfection (there’s nothing wrong with that, but not everyone has thousands of dollars for lighting equipment and dozens of hours of time to spend on set up and tear down of the lighting).
There is a workable alternative, and it’s called low-budget lighting.

Low Budget Lights

I didn't actually use these lights, but I found this image and it cracks me up.

For the last eight weeks, The Underground Multiplex produced a live theatre piece that was also being filmed at Facets Night School. I was fortunate enough to help out with lighting for five of those eight weeks.

Instead of spending hours meticulously arranging the lights, I carried in a handmade cardboard lighting box, grabbed one or two light stands and can lights, and spent three minutes talking with our director about where he wanted them set up. The end result might not win awards for cinematographic excellence, but it got the job done and it looked pretty darn good.

In addition to saving time, money and energy, low-budget lighting forces creativity.

In fact, one time we needed to film a crowd in a theater and give the impression of a movie playing on the screen. We didn’t need some elaborate set up, though. Based on our director’s brilliant suggestion I held on to one of the lights (while wearing gloves, obviously) and shook it back and forth at the crowd. I wasn’t convinced it would work, but the final project beautifully illustrates the visual feeling of a film playing on the screen.

So save some of your hard-earned cash and much-needed energy and do lighting the low-budget way. You won’t regret it.


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