How to create special effects with shadows using props & patterns.
A cucalorus is a lighting accessory made of cut out shapes that cast patterns of shadows when light passes through it. It is also used to imitate shadows of natural lighting from things like trees or window blinds.
Here’s a tip before you go into the studio. To make the shadows you wish to cast simulate reality, take a walk outdoors and see how the sun cast shadows on sidewalks, roads and walls. Different times of the day will have a harsher shadow than others. Morning light casts longer shadows. High noon casts very small diffused shadows. The cookie has to be big enough to cover the entire background area you’re casting to or your light must be very direct.
In a studio, cookies work very well on walls or objects like columns and statues to add depth and dimension to your subject and to make the shot look more dramatic, deep or symbolic. You can use any object you wish to make cookie patterns, depending on what you’re trying to represent. You can use patterned, industrial strength props like steel mesh, for example. Shadow examples include curtain lace, fishnet, spider webs, skeletons, or even smoke, fire or trickling water. Logos cast on a wall give your background an interesting feel, adding mood and texture and looks quite different than when using a computer generated logo or a sign tacked up on the backdrop.
Set the cookie in front of the light you’re casting from. When you place the cookie closer to or farther from the light, you make a shadow more or less pronounced. Smaller lights create a harder edge spill that cast very sharp shadows. The spill on a larger, softer light will create a diffuse spill. You can use real blinds or you can make your own if you wish to simulate shadows from windows that are cast on a wall or floor. When making most cutouts, use a strong piece of poster board or foam core that won’t flop without support. Make sure that you have enough of an uncut area along the edges so you have something to grab when you attach it to the stand. If you plan to place the cookie directly in front of the light to get a sharper edge, you can cut out a small shape using aluminum cans. This city themed pattern is available on our website. Tape the pattern to a piece of poster board, cut out the black part, not the white, to simulate a backdrop of the city scene.
Fire can be simulated easily by using a red or orange gelled light, spilling through fan blades. You can also easily simulate trees waving in a breeze by using real branches and attaching them in front of the light that’s casting the spill. These work well when casting shadows in nighttime exterior scenes or just to shoot through to add foreground in a wide landscape.
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