Lighting with Candle light (4 replies and 5 comments)
Is there any advice on how one would light scenes with candle light? I know John Alcott used super fast lens in Barry Lyndon. I saw Roger used a ring light in Prisoners but is there any other way?
Also what exposure would you suggest I try and hit for the face for this situation?
It's a matter of getting enough exposure. "Barry Lyndon" used special-made triple-wicked candles, which burn brighter but melt faster. Today it is not uncommon to use double-wicked candles for a bigger flame thus more light.
From there, you might need to augment the light in some manner if the candles are not enough, or if you want less contrast or want to suggest off-camera candles in the room. Usually that extra light would be warm, dim, probably soft, though sometimes people will hide a tiny bulb behind the candle, which would not be soft therefore.
To get an idea of the light levels in "Barry Lyndon", they used 100 ASA film push-processed to 200 ASA, an f/0.7 lens, and triple-wicked candles. 200 ASA at f/0.7 would be the same exposure as 800 ASA at f/1.4. So the faster the lens and camera, the easier to shoot by real candlelight.
Wow, that sounds incredibly challenging! Amazing that they pulled it off. Beautiful film.
Is the reason of using lower ASA films for low-light situations to take advantage of the dynamic range in shadows? Will the same concept work with lowering the ISO in digital cameras and lighting accordingly? I'm just worried I wouldn't get enough exposure.
The triple-wick candles sound like a good idea, I'll have to research about how to make them.
"Barry Lyndon" didn't have any choice, there was only one Kodak color negative film on the market at the time and it was 100 ASA. Higher-speed movie stocks didn't come along until the 1980's. I believe you can buy 2-wicked candles from some theatrical supply companies but 3-wicked candles would be a special order from a candle-maker. I'd go with 2-wicked candles myself, the flames from 3-wicked candles are unusually large, it may look a bit odd today. Plus they burn down so fast! Kubrick ordered thousands of them made, he had some leftovers in his storage for years afterwards.
May I add that the candles used on the film were designed especially for that film. They had extra thick wicks to provide the 3 inch plus flames, normal wicks are usually much thinner. Thicker wicks do burn brighter but absorb wax at an alarming rate. A single very ‘thick’ wick will produce a very long flame on its own so it’s the size of the wick and the amount of wax it can absorb will burn the brightest. Paraffin wax is brighter than bees wax but bees wax smells better. Interestingly. I have sacks of Paraffin wax left over from TV dramas, it was mainly used to paint glass windows as a substitute for dripping ice or iced up windows on cars or a house etc. Very handy stuff and easy to apply.
'Wolf Hall' (currently on Amazon), used kicker lights made of banks of additional candles.
'Kingdom of Heaven' used tungsten with warming gels for fill light.
'The WItch' used triple-wick candles.
I think "Marie Antoinette" used strings of tungsten Christmas tree lights off-camera.
I often hide a small halogen bulb behind a candle flame. Something like a 250 watt bulb dimmed way down will mimic the color and add that little bit of exposure and shape to the light.
How about an LED 'Flame Bulb'. https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07JLR2ZRF/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o03_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1