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A Low-Cost Lighting Technique for More Controllable and Dynamic Shots


Sometimes all it takes to bring a shoot to the “next level” is a little DIY work and a couple of cheap accessories. In a recently published video, videographer Alex Perri goes over how he used an affordable light shaping modifier along with duct tape and cardboard to create some iconic film-noir looks for a short film he produced for fun at home.

The short film (see below) garnered Perri a lot of attention from Reddit who asked him how he was able to achieve the various lighting effects seen in his very short film, “The detective.” Specifically, Redditors were curious how he created the Venetian blinds pattern on the wall in one particular shot. While some may think simply hanging a set of blinds in front of a large light source will do the job, there is a much easier way to achieve this look that is more controllable and only requires a small investment.

The aforementioned affordable light shaping tool is the $260 Optical Focalize Condenser from Ambitful which allows users to create a wide variety of light shapes and colors using a series of included gobo inserts and gels. Some of these effects have been available in more expensive rigs from the likes of Dedolight for years, but the low cost of the Ambitful accessory makes it particularly appealing for a wider range of creative professionals for both photo and video applications.

This modifier will not only change the pattern of the light that is passed through it but will also allow users to adjust the focus and sharpness through a built-in lens (about a 50mm equivalent), which makes it very easy for photographers and videographers to create interesting patterns for a range of projects. In the video above, Perri spends a bit of time detailing what the light modifier can do — including the accessories that come along with it — before showing how he used it to create the mix of shadows and highlights for his short film.

“Film noir typically utilizes a low-key lighting setup where there are harsh contrasts between the light spots and the dark spots in the frame resulting in deep black shadows and a very contrasty look,” Perri says.

To achieve that, he used three main lights starting with the key light inside a parabolic softbox to throw a little bit of a softer light over the whole scene, then added a rim light from the opposite side to separate himself from the background. Lastly, he set up a third light outfitted with the optical condenser and equipped with a “Venetian blinds” cutout to create the light shape on the background.

The result ends up mimicking the effect of a light shining through an office window late at night, effectively completing the classic Film Noir look. Perri says the benefits of a light like this versus an actual set of blinds is that he can very quickly and easily adjust the angle, shape, focus, and intensity of the light, and therefore adjust his shot much more easily than if he had a physical prop.

Perri used an additional DIY cutout for a couple of other shots in the film. For example, he used a thin rectangle that only allowed a thin stream of light through it to illuminate small elements in a scene. It allowed him to move objects, or himself, from complete shadow into the hard light for important reveals while also maintaining the sought-after noir look.

For more from Alex Perri, subscribe to his YouTube Channel.