Film Production Lighting

Why you MUST use Fresnel Lights!

Lighting in film is complex, important, but most of all experimental. Today we look at why you should use Fresnel lights in your next film. 

Funnily enough, Fresnel lights were originally built in the 1800s for lighthouses and were not even considered in theatres, let alone film sets, until much further afield. 

However, in the present day, it’s a mainstay and one of the most important lights in the world of theatre and film. That’s why in today’s article, we are going to find out more about Fresnel lights, how to use them correctly and where you can find them at an affordable price. 

Let’s dive straight into it!

What are Fresnel lights? 

Fresnel lights
Videomaker – Fresnel Lights

Fresnel lights, also known in theatre as the “Fresnel lantern”, is a spotlight that allows the user to adjust the angle of the light. It allows you to move the lamp and reflector closer or further away to change the light direction and intensity.   

Originally the light was created by Augustin-Jean Fresnel for use in lighthouses. Now it’s used in theatre and film daily. 

The Fresnel light has been quoted as “Saving a million ships” – an interesting quote for a light predominantly used in show business. 

The lens on this light form is interesting; it’s a lens made out of concentric rings formed to create the lens, instead of the usual lens being created from a thick cut piece of plastic or glass. 

You may also be interested in What is Practical Lighting in Film?

How do Fresnel lights work?

Fresnel lights are pretty simple lights to use whilst on a film set, but they are incredibly effective. The lights can come in various sizes and intensities.  

They work by placing a lamp of various wattages (Depending on your preference) that sits on a track behind the Fresnel lens that sits in front of a spherical reflector. The Fresnel lens is a large aperture lens and short focus length, without a huge area behind it as a conventional design would need. 

This reflector will now direct most of the light to the Fresnel lens, which creates this and produces a beam. This is encased within a unit of four brackets. There is a control at the back of the encasement that allows you to select whether the light beam is either a “Flooded” beam or a “Spotted” beam. 

The four brackets are usually all fixed bar ones that you can alter. This allows you to add speed rings, bard doors and other add ons. 

The final part of the Fresnel light is the AC power jack that provides electricity to the light itself. Sounds complex, but trust us, they’re incredibly easy to navigate. 

Why not read: Natural Light: How to shoot using Natural Light

What are fresnel lights used for? 

Typically Fresnel lights are used in theatre and for lighting in film. They are used to light up television sets, commercial studios and theatres. 

In terms of the usage on Television and film sets, the Fresnel lighting is incredibly diverse, and since you can adjust the size, angle and strength of the beam, it’s an asset on set. 

The adjustment of the beam can help you with a multitude of lighting setups, like high key lighting, low key lighting, and softer setups. 

It’s also a great asset for Three-point lighting, as with the larger, more intense beam, you can use it as a key light. For the lower intensity and narrow beam, you can then use this as a fill light. 

Perfect for most scenarios, these lights are an incredibly diverse light source and one that will add value to your film set.

What accessories are there for Fresnel lights?

Now you know what a fresnel light is, how it works, and what they’re used for, here are some interesting accessories you can add to improve their performance. 

The accessories are used to control the light and manipulate it to your preferred setup. The following accessories are quite common for the Fresnel light and allow you to do all sorts with the light, including softening the light to increasing the intensity. 

  • Round Scrims – reduces light intensity. 
  • Fresnels, do not have dimmers, but you can add these onto your lighting setup by using external dimmers and attaching them to the case – CineFoil is one of the most prominent dimmers.
  • Four-leaf barn door – added onto the front bracket. 
  • Speed ring – allows you to attach softboxes to soften the light source. 
  • Change the colour using gels. 

The accessories for your Fresnel lights allow you to manipulate the intensity, change the colour and much more. This allows you to be flexible with your lighting setup; you can even create a High Key lighting setup – perfect for commercials.

Read more on Key lighting here: Key light in film. What is key light in film?

Where can I buy fresnel lights? 

Surprisingly fresnel lights are pretty easy to access. But finding quality lights at a good price is usually the biggest hurdle for most filmmakers. If you have a huge budget, this isn’t a problem. But if you’re an indie filmmaker working to tight margins, it can be a little harder. 

But fear not. Here are two affordable fresnel lights that we’ve used before and highly recommend you try them out or at least consider them when looking to purchase new lighting equipment. 

LS-MINI 20

LS-MINI 20
LS-Mini 20

The LS-Mini 20 is a compact, powerful light that’s adjustable and provides an intense light source that can be manipulated and softened for your preference. In terms of cost, it’s one of the cheaper lights out there but doesn’t lack in quality. Some of the key features are: 

  • 40,000 lux @0.5m (LS-mini20d)
  • Manipulate the light to your preference
  • Barndoors included
  • 3200-6500K Adjustable Color Temperature
  • Portable
  • Color Temperature 7500K
  • Supports NP-F Batteries
  • Adjustable Beam 
  • CRI/TLCI 97+, High Color Rendition
  • Dual Power Supply
  • Lightweight

Overall it’s a great product. We love how adjustable it is and how you can soften the light; it creates a perfect environment for commercials, comedies and coming of age films. Creating a soft lighting setup has never been easier, providing you with flexibility and quality. 

Cost: $719

Neewer 2 Pieces Bi-color 660 LED Video Light and Stand Kit 

Neewer 2 Pieces Bi-color 660 LED Video Light and Stand Kit

Not so much a Fresnel light, but it does the same job – even better. This Neewer 2 Piece Bi-colour LED light provides you with a strong light source that you can manipulate to fit your scene. 

It’s affordable, of the highest quality and gives you an incredible light source to work with. 

The key specifications are:

  • P600-2.4G LED Light
  • LED Quantity: 600 pcs SMD (300Yellow+300White)
  • Color Temperature: 3200-5600K(±100)
  • CRI: 96+
  • Power: 38W
  • Lumens: 0.5M 5600LUX 1M 1700LUX
  • Battery Voltage: 7.2V
  • Voltage: 110-120V
  • Power Supply: DC12-15V 5A or NP-F series battery
  • Light Panel Size: 10.4 x 7.3 x 1.6inches/26.5 x 18.7 x 4.2 centimeters
  • Maximum Height: 6.5 feet/200 centimeters
  • Light Panel Net Weight: 23.6 ounces/670g
  • Solid locking capabilities
  • Light stand
  • Folded Height: 3 feet/92 centimeters
  • Material: Metal
  • Tube Diameter: 25-22-19mm

What the Neewer packages contain:

  • 2 x P600-2.4G LED Light with Barndoors
  • 2 x Power Adapter2 x Ball head Adapter

Cost: $190.99

Naming conventions for the Fresnel light

When using a Fresnel light, there are some interesting naming conventions for the wattage. These names are creating a one Mole Richardson, and his nicknames have stuck for a long while… Well, in The USA anyway!

The nicknames are as follows: 

  • 100-watt light is called an “inky.”
  • 200-watt light is called a “midget.”
  • 650-watt light is called a “tweenie.”
  • 1k-watt light is called a “baby.”
  • 2k-watt light is called a “junior.”
  • 5k-watt light is called a “Senior.”

There you have it, some interesting nicknames to use when you are next on a film set or on a stage. 

Fresnel lights for TV and film.

Fresnel lights are predominantly used within theatre, but they have their place in film, and that place is reserved. Why? Well, they’re a great addition to your latest TV documentary or a commercial.  

They’re used in the following frequently: 

  • Interviews: Using Fresnels, you can create a great 3-point setup, utilising the Fresnel as a key light and a fill light. 
  • Commercials: Fresnels allow you to light up your product correctly and create a high key environment that will allow you to shoot a high-quality commercial. Using them as key lights and fill lights, you’ll achieve the look you want using these monsters.
  • Documentaries: Similar to the setup of the interview above. Using Fresnel lighting, you can create a great set for your interviews to create a focal point within the interview.

Overall, Fresnel lights are a powerful tool. They’re diverse, reliable and of the highest quality. When you’re looking to shoot your next film, commercial or interview, Fresnel’s must be of consideration. 

We just want to say thank you for reading the article “Why you should use Fresnel Lights in your next film!” and for supporting us here at www.ifilmthings.com. We hope it was useful to you; please let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

For more filmmaking articles, check out our blog down below. Happy filmmaking!

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