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Forums Lighting Design risky question about eyelight

  • risky question about eyelight

     Todd Terry updated 5 years, 3 months ago 5 Members · 11 Posts
  • Bob Cole

    September 3, 2015 at 8:22 pm

    Risky because the answer is probably so obvious that it will be embarrassing, but anyway, here goes:

    On the show “Humans,” for example, the robots often have a weirdly bright reflection in their eyes. It seems to affect only them, and only their eyes, without causing major fill. Do you think this effect is augmented in post?

    How, in short, do you create a prominent eyelight without destroying the modeling of the overall lighting?

    Thanks and be gentle.

    Bob C

  • john sharaf

    September 3, 2015 at 8:29 pm


    Intuitively you already know!

    Because the eye light is seen as a specular in the eyeball, it can be set at a really low intensity and not destroy the modeling created by key light.

    All lights used for this purpose (ring, obie or otherwise) have a way to “slow” them down.

    LED’s are great for this; like the CINEO Matchbox, because their color doesn’t change as it dims.

    Same for Gekko “George” the mother of all ringlights.

    Panavision made (probably still available) a tungsten unit with shutters to adjust the intensity with out changing the color.

    If all you have is a tungsten unit, then you have to use ND gel or scrims to adjust, because if you just dim, you WILL warm up the fill area on the face, and that’s a dead giveaway.


  • Mark Suszko

    September 3, 2015 at 8:47 pm

    Same answer, but also, these days it is trivial to track the eyes and add enhancements in post to the irises and whites irrespective of the on-scene lighting.

    You can get a “monster kit” from one of the stock houses that lets you layer clips of weird eye parts,scars, skin textures, fangs, gooey wounds, noses, and other facial details onto a comp of a normal actor, for those “transformation” type scenes like they use on “Grimm”.

    You question reminded me, fondly, of the over-exaggerated lighting effects they used to apply to Captain Kirk’s eye-lighting in close-ups, in the old Star Trek TV show, whenever he was “posessed” under an “alien spell” or something like that. It was an over-zealous use of the Obie light, or just a normal light with a mask pattern cut in the diffusion, to combine hard light in a band just across the eyes, amid a softer overall lighting effect.

  • Todd Terry

    September 3, 2015 at 11:21 pm

    [Mark Suszko] “…reminded me, fondly, of the over-exaggerated lighting effects they used to apply to Captain Kirk’s eye-lighting…”

    LOVED the eyelighting on Kirk, which always seemed to me to be thrown in on him (and only him) for no apparent reason whatsoever (maybe to distract from the hairpiece?). Suddenly it was 1940 old Hollywood!!

    Ahhh, good times….


    Todd Terry
    Creative Director
    Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

  • Bob Cole

    September 3, 2015 at 11:28 pm

    Thanks for the suggestions.

    I wonder whether there are some other tricks. Perhaps eyedrops to make the eyes even more reflective? Contacts?

    The ringlights that John mentioned made me wonder, too, about the size of the eyelight. Larger source -> larger eyelight area.

    re Kirk and the “synths” in Humans: intense eyelight seems to connote extreme emotion. Perhaps we associate extra-luminous eyes with eyes full of tears?

  • Todd Terry

    September 3, 2015 at 11:43 pm

    I wasn’t familiar with this show, but I went online and watched a couple of trailers.

    I’m betting some quick Googling would find production notes that would tell you exactly how they did it… if I wasn’t heading home in three minutes I’d look myself

    BUT… my guess (and the way I would do it) is that is it a combination of contact lenses and post production.

    The robots (at least the ones I saw) all have very iridescent green eyes, very large pupils, and dark rings around the irises. Those are easy enough to do with contacts, there are a couple of places online where you can readily buy FX hand-painted contacts in all kinds of creepy variations (I’ve been wanting to buy a pair of the all-black ones for Halloween for a couple of years, but I think they were about $400 and I didn’t want them that bad).

    Those combined with a little bit of “intensification” in post would certainly do the trick. Eye reflections showed frequent tall/narrow lighting sources as well.


    Todd Terry
    Creative Director
    Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

  • Erik Anschicks

    September 4, 2015 at 2:49 am

    There are several methods, one of my favorites is to use a small florescent like a mini-flo and just wrap a bunch of diffusion around it or otherwise slow it way down and place it slightly above camera-level and then move it left or right until it’s in the right spot. Could easily do the same with an LED or a larger flo, like a kino single tube, what matters more is the shape or effect you want to create. As the others have pointed out, you can dim it or take it almost down to nothing to control spill, as long as it’s ON (and the right size/shape), the eye will reflect it as long as it’s placed right.

    One off-the-wall trick to create a very unique eyelight in some situations is to use Christmas lights wrapped around themselves or something else and backed off until the ratios and size are what you want. They give off little light in footcandle terms, so they don’t fill very much and create interesting light shapes and tons of reflections since you’re basically using multiple point-sources. Be judicious with the amount you use though, as too many wrapped too closely together will just start to bleed together and ruin the effect. Don’t use diffusion either to slow them down further for the same reason, use ND gel or black hairspray or something akin.

    I learned about this via the Lord of the Rings DP who used this to create an ethereal eyelight effect for the Galadriel character. I believe they even nicknamed it the “Galadrielight” 🙂

  • Mark Suszko

    September 4, 2015 at 4:57 am

    I’ve used Italian White xmas lights that way: In a wad, and also, attached to a reflector board of foam core. Agreed, it makes a neat effect. Also, turned around to the camera and shot out of focus, the bokeh is out of this world.

  • Bob Cole

    October 5, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    [Erik Anschicks] “use ND gel or black hairspray or something akin.”

    Black hairspray?

  • Erik Anschicks

    October 6, 2015 at 3:46 am

    Bob –

    Yes, black hairspray, otherwise known as “streaks and tips”. It’s a relatively common expendable in grip packages, and available at Filmtools or Barn Door Lighting, or other places where such things are sold.

    It is basically tinted dulling spray, and I use it to slow down the light of bare bulbs and neon lights. It’s a good method for this since dimming will change the color temps considerably and gelling bare bulbs is never really the best idea. Use some of the black spray and it cuts down the brightness in the bulb in the same way that wrapping a double or other such net around one would. I’ve even seen a gaffer quickly spray the outside of a cheap China ball to slow it down more quickly than wrapping it with something would!

    When done shooting, it removes easily with soap and water and the bulbs are perfectly clean again.

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