This site has limited support for your browser. We recommend switching to Edge, Chrome, Safari, or Firefox.

Lighting for short films: Three basics to know

Lighting for short films helps create a visual mood, build the scene, and bring a sense of meaning to the audience. You will need light sources, modifiers, and stands to get a lighting kit to use in short film production. Setting up the lighting for different types of short films can be simple or complex according to your requirements. Read the article to get more film lighting information and go further in your short film career.

COLBOR CL60R is used to offer lighting for short dance films.

Why lighting is important for short films?

Short filming lighting is important because it brings a visual mood, ambiance, and sense of meaning to the audience. Specifically speaking, it plays a big role in the following aspects.

It tells the audience which to pay attention to. It directs the viewer's attention to a certain performer, item, or scene element.

It reflects the characters’ psychology. You can adjust the amount, color, size, and harshness of filmmaking lighting surrounding the character to stay in line with their emotions.

It defines and supports the film genre. Lighting is the most effective tool to convey moods. Film noir, for example, is noted for its specific lighting style, which is distinguished by strong contrasts between highlight and shadow, strikingly patterned shadows, and unusual framing and composition choices.

What should be included in a light kit for a short film?

In general, a light kit used for recording short films should include at least one light source, one or more modifiers to help shape or direct the film lighting, and a stand for positioning the light fixture in the right place and at a suitable height.

Lights for short film

There are four common light sources used in short film production: tungsten, fluorescent, LED, and HMI. Among them, LEDs are more and more popular. They offer lighting for short films that is soft and flattering and doesn’t have flickers or impure colors like fluorescents and bring the following benefits:

  • LEDs create little heat and give a relatively cool touch. This allows you to place them where conventional hot lamps can’t go. In addition, they ensure cooler room temperatures to make talents and crew feel comfortable.
  • They are energy-efficient. LEDs turn 80% of the energy they use into light. That's four times the output of a normal tungsten bulb.
  • They are available in various color temperatures and different beam angles.
  • LEDs also have a lamp life of 25,000 to 1,000,000 hours, which is cost-effective in the long run.

Light modifiers to shape or direct short film lighting

Use COLBOR BP45 softbox to soften lighting for short films

This lighting equipment for short film can shape or direct lighting in short films. You may use a light modifier to create a specific atmosphere in a scene, regardless of whether there is ambient or artificial lighting. You can use modifiers to draw attention to crucial elements in a scenario, create soft lighting in film, or flatter a person. Freestanding, portable, or lens-covering modifiers are all viable options. Others need room and careful handling, while some are foldable and portable. They come in the following types:

Light shapers: They bend lighting for short films into certain shapes and allow better control over the amount and direction of the illumination. Barndoors simulate the appearance of light entering a doorway that is only half open. Snoots and grids keep light concentrated in a more definite direction.

Bouncers, reflectors, and absorbers: Use reflective boards and umbrellas to reduce shadows as necessary. By reflecting light off surfaces, these items soften, diffuse, or refocus it. When reflection is not required or desired, use absorbers. Black reflectors called absorbers intensify shadowy regions of the composition by reducing reflections.

Diffusers and filters: Diffusers diffuse light by dispersing it across a wider region than the light's source. They can cover the bigger light and come in the form of softboxes, transparent panels, umbrella diffusers, or filters. Diffuser lenses for your camera might also help you get this appearance.

Light stands to hold film lights in place

Light stands are an often-overlooked expenditure that may consume a significant portion of your budget. It is recommended to purchase strong and hefty stands. The broader the feet can expand, the more stable the light stand. Typically, you will want high stands, so purchase those that can be extended higher.

Video: How to set up horror short film lighting?

In this video, the YouTube Sergio Mota | Academy makes use of the COLBOR CL60, a bi-color studio light for video, and COLBOR CL60R, an RGB LED light that offers up to 3,600,000 colors for film production, to illuminate the scene and subject for recording horror short films. He wanted to simulate a scary scene in which a person is investigating a house and hears some strange noises on the roof. He shot three scenes to complete this short film.

The first scene is recorded in a hallway. He placed the CL60R to offer lighting for short films at the back and the CL60 in front to illuminate the person when he approaches the camera. This is the lighting scheme.

Lighting scheme for horror short film

In the second scene, he placed a focus on the police effect behind the door, so that it can be appreciated that the police light comes from outside from the street. He also placed another focus on the front part. He set the CL60 not very intense to illuminate the person, and not appear completely dark at the moment when he turns to the camera.

The last scene happened in the attic. In this scene, the character opens the door and goes up the stairs. To illuminate this scene he placed the focus behind above the character. The CL60R is in compact size and weighs only 600g. Therefore, it is possible to place it anywhere you want without worrying about the power supply since it can be powered by a PD power bank and NP-F batteries. The CL60 is set at low brightness to illuminate the background when the door opens.