Lighting with mirrors for stop motion photography, as I have discovered, prove to serve 4 primary purposes:
- Efficient use of light, cutting down on the number of lighting sources per setup.
- Adding a “kiss” of detail to subjects.
- Creating special stop motion lighting effects.
- Aiding in green screen / blue screen extension in order to minimize green spill.
In a spot I photographed for Visine, I utilized a 12”x12” mirror to cast a shaft of sunlight behind the puppets for background separation and environmental lighting. My key light, a 1K Baby coming from off frame left through an 18×24 silk, is lighting the two puppets, with another 1K Baby backlighting the puppets as sunlight. The 12”x12” mirror with a baby spud attached and mounted in a gobo head was drilled down onto the set. This allowed me to position the mirror where I wanted and then lock it down. By opening up the 18×24 silk just a bit to let some spill light hit the mirror, I could use the angle of reflection to cast a clean hit of light behind the two puppets. Finally, to top it off, I placed pieces of black gaffers tape on the mirror’s surface in order to create the hard cut of light. This proved to be an efficient use of lighting sources as I was only using two lights in order to create a very clean, commercial look.
In the short narrative film, Nanuq, I would often use mirrors to add just a “kiss” of detail to the subjects. In this frame, my key light is hitting the subject off camera right. Again, using the 12”x12” mirror attached to the gobo head, I was able to position it to use the angle of reflection to my advantage again by catching it off the key and back onto the subject. This provided a very simple, yet effective touch of detail to the puppet that would have otherwise lost detail.
Frame right, the 12”x12” mirror catches ambient top light from 2 Baby Fresnels and fills in the shadows of the puppet’s clothing and face.
For this frame, again I utilized mirrors to add detail into parts of the puppet that would otherwise not have had them. I used a mirror for the teeth of these dog puppets by catching their backlight and bouncing the light up into their mouths to make them “glow.”
In Nanuq, the main character Nanuq in human form transforms into Nanuq in bear form. In order to create a visually interesting lighting special effect, I took a hammer to a mirror and then compiled the pieces, gluing them back together and mounting them onto a ball and socket rotatable arm drilled to the set. This allowed for the mirror pieces to be animated while catching the puppet’s backlight, which in the end created a water reflection/electrical magic lighting effect.
Finally, pictured here is a mirror used to photograph a green screen element. This technique provides a cleaner approach than green screening the surface underneath the puppet and helps control the amount of spill light bouncing onto the puppet from beneath.