What lighting to use for Plasticine / clay animation

Lighting Kit - PROKIT Chelsea Kit

The modelling material used for Plasticine or Claymation stop-motion animation tends to soften under hot lights. At best this leads to more fingerprints showing on your models and at worst the models will refuse to hold their shape or collapse.

Daylight may seem like the obvious answer but it can create problems. The sun will move across the sky during the time it takes to complete your animation and the result will be moving shadows cast by your models. Also, if there are clouds in the sky these may cause the brightness of the light to vary and cause a flickering effect on the finished animation.

The ideal lighting would not reflect any heat onto your models, whilst being bright enough to do the job. Keeping the lamps well back would reduce any heat to a minimum but may result in casting a shadow of camera or animator onto the set. The normal ceiling light in your room may do a reasonable job, and is certainly OK for practice runs. When it comes to more serious animation you will want the ability to control the lighting.

Florescent lighting generates the least amount of heat. As well as florescent strip lighting the recently introduced energy saving light bulbs also use the florescent method of producing light.

Having decided on the type of bulbs to use the next decision is what lamp holders to use. Ideally you want the ability to move them around whilst having them firm enough so as not to wobble as you move around your film set.

Curva Chrome Floor Lamp

You need a minimum of two lights; one to act as a soft fill to bring the overall lighting to a sufficient level for filming; plus a key light to create modelling and shadows. A third light can be used as a back-light to create a rim effect that lifts the characters away from the background.

Let’s look at what the professionals use. They may be beyond your budget but it will give an idea at what to aim at.

The lighting kit – PROKIT Chelsea Kit is an example of a portable professional lighting setup. It has two focusing and dimmable 150 watt Dedo heads – use as a hard key, backlight or background light. Focus to a tight spot to highlight an area, or widen for broader coverage. A Lowel Rifa Lite 300 watt soft source – use as a soft key or fill light. One lamp for each light. All in a compact soft case. Price excluding VAT: £1295 from the PROKIT website.

For the home budget you could look at the Curva Chrome Floor Lamp. It has a chrome finish with a height of 143cm. The diameter of the shade is 17cm and it swivels in an up and down direction. It is suitable for use with low energy bulbs. It is available from the Argos catalogue at £29.99.

What lighting do you use? Please let us know in a comment to this post (You can comment without joining).

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One thought on “What lighting to use for Plasticine / clay animation

  1. Mary Green

    I purchased a 2 Light Studio Lighting and Umbrella continuous lighting kit from smick.co.uk for £127.99. It has daylight balanced compact fluorescent bulbs of 105 watt, the equivalent of 420 watts of ordinary incandescent bulbs. You can choose white or silver reflector umbrellas. If you get the white umbrellas one can be turned around so the light shines through it to give a much softer light.

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