One thing I have observed is that every filmmaker (and photographer) understands lighting is an essential part of their work, but many indie filmmakers don’t have funds to acquire all the tools necessary to make their work a success. Most have to rely on renting or borrowing, options that are not always guaranteed. The good new is, there are many DIY lighting setups indie filmmakers can embrace to enhance lighting inexpensively.
Here are several DIY lighting setups that filmmakers can implement:
DIY Light Bar
The first setup I’m going to talk about is a DIY light bar, which was fairly easy to assemble and use. I bought a light bar fixture from eBay at just $20 then got some wire extension, wires, wire strippers, screw driver, nuts, a baby pan wall plate, screws, a combination connector, electrical tape, and a drill. All the items I needed to buy cost $60. It might be lower for your case.
Next I proceeded to open the light bar by unscrewing the socket caps to expose the wires that lead to each cap. I took the extension cord and cut the head to expose the wires as well. Then I connected the wires together in the right sequence then I made sure I placed the wire nuts and wrapped the joints with a tape for maximum security.
After this I took the baby plate and placed it on the surface on which I wanted the holding holes to go. When drilling was done, I fixed the extenders and finally fitted the plate to the back of the fixture and my light was ready. The baby plate was useful in allowing me to shift positions of the lighting depending on the effect I wanted to achieve.
Here’s an example from our friends at Film Riot:
DIY Bank Light
The DIY bank light setup cost me $71 compared to buying an already assembled setup which goes for between $1050 and about $2,000. For this I used a shop light, four bulbs, and a bracket, all the items totaling $71. After removing the light from the box, I lay it down and removed a screw at the back that secures the ballast. This is where I placed the bracket before putting the screw back.
I put back and all exposed wires and screwed the setup tight. I then did reinforcement at the ends of the light holder, and this provided room where I placed the four lights. Setup was complete in five minutes. One benefit about this I noted is the even diffusion of light so during film making you don’t get spots that are too illuminated than others.
Here’s an example from our friends at Basic Filmmaker:
To start off, I assembled the items needed and among them are soft pine wood strips (18mm by 10mm) and a 20 gauge fencing wire. I also used an aluminum foil, which served as the skin of the softbox. Additionally, I needed a duct tape and staples and finally white cotton fabric for the front diffuser. Step one was assembling the frame using the wood strips by making a 100cm by 60cm box, which is perfect for portraits.
The ends were joined using L brackets and screws for reinforcement. I made a casing for holding the flash and ensured the distance behind the diffuser would be 50 cm. I tied wires on each end of the frame and drew them back to the frame holding the flash, and this was to allow me to place the aluminum foil with the shiny surface facing inwards. Next was pinning the white cotton fabric at the front and the setup was complete. In terms of DIY lighting setups, this softbox helped to diffuse the light during filming and was a great way to add mood to the scene.
Here’s an example from filmmaker Dustin McLean:
DIY lighting set-ups provide filmmakers with excellent alternatives to expensive store-bought equipment. Some DIY configurations are complex, like the DIY bank light. Others, like the clamp flashlight stand, are very simple to put together and require little to no technical skills.
Through my experience, I found many DIY lighting setups can be created with simple materials, many of which I already had around the house. I hope that these ideas help you find the right lighting set-up for your filmmaking, so that you never have to worry about hunting down or borrowing equipment again.
D. Scott Carruthers is a travel enthusiast who loves photography and has since he was a teenager. He also is a vegan. You can find more of his writings at CarruthersPhoto.com