Some of my favorite setups throughout my career have been trying to emulate fire and lamp light. In terms of complexity and logistics, this has to be one of the hardest setups to execute. Fire is such an organic and spontaneous source to replicate and it takes time to figure out how to get it right. Thankfully there’s a secret to getting it just right. The Trash Can gag!
I’ve auditioned countless methods to pull this off and what I’ve found to work the best is a DIY solution that I came up with -– the Trash Can Light. This tool is simply a panel cut out from a 30 gallon steel trash can, add (1) Mole Richardson Molette and (1) Two-Light Fay. We rig them to the interiors and then control each individual source via Magic Gadget Gag Controller. This rig (for me) creates the perfect source to emulate that flame-like quality. It’s extremely easy to build and it helps make the process streamlined for production use.
On Into the Badlands (2015-present), we utilized this light for specific scenes where Sonny (Daniel Wu) met M.K. (Aramis Knight) in torch light interiors. I want to immerse the audience in an environment that felt limiting and intimate…. Utilizing this fixture helped speed up the process and dial in the look that I was going for. In addition, we put the Kino Flo Celeb 201 & 401 to work to help accent the interiors and create an organic atmosphere to cut out our characters.
The Magic Gadget is the key to making this whole fire effect work. Essentially it comes with (3) 20 amp circuits which will let you control the intensity in the highs vs. lows, as well as creating a flicker pattern in the source. With the right combination in the settings, you can create that perfect flame-like source to trick the audience.
For this scene I wanted to focus on lighting the characters solely with the firelight and accenting the architecture with that source as well. I deployed my trash can light for Sonny and MK, then each arch is lit by its own trash can light. Then we utilized the Kino Flo Celeb 200 w/ ¼ Plus Green to create this eerie ambiance fill.
This location had a series of archways and I came up with the idea of illuminating each one to accent the interiors. With this concept in mind, we went ahead and placed a trash can light hidden from the perspective of the camera.
Understanding how to shoot and emulate fire is all about trial and error. It took time for me to understand the basics of organic lighting and how that’ll convey to the audience. With each stroke of light you need to always be aware of how that’s going to affect the mise-en-scene.
Now go out there and shoot!