Skip main navigation

£199.99 £139.99 for one year of Unlimited learning. Offer ends on 28 February 2023 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply

Find out more


Film lighting can be effective even with limited resources. Watch video of Mike Figgis talking about lighting on a low budget.
Now when I– sometimes I go to the supermarket or something, I always check out the lighting department. Because there is so much digital innovation through digital lighting now. So I just brought something in to show you, which is my own very cheap lighting box. I bought this little wooden box from an art shop. I don’t know what it’s for originally. I think probably putting paints in or something. But it’s just a wooden box, quite well made. I then bought three lights, they were nine pounds each. And then I bought some Velcro. So the lights can go on the Velcro or I can stick them on a wall. I have three options. It’s very simple. One light, two lights, three lights.
Now, these are strong. So they’re a little bit crude on the face. If I want to do a horror film, I’d definitely use these to light myself because I know it’s not going to be pretty. But I can also use them to throw light onto a subject. But like I say, I wanted to be a little bit more sophisticated. So I made a frame for myself. Just cardboard and gaffers tape. And I used a neutral density filter called Rosco. But I could just as easily have used baking paper or some kind of kitchen product, which has exactly the same diffusion kind of effect. And so now I’ve diffused the lights. And if we turn off our main light now.
That’s gone. And I just say I could now use this to replace that light. And this cost me 30 pounds. But I could do a 10 pound version or a 20 pound version, depending on how rich I think I’m being. And then it is your duty just to look at, do I look better from this angle, this angle, this angle, or is direct light going to work better for me? Like this. So you use your eye and you just find out where, you know. And hope that our actors are incredibly handsome and in good shape, anyway. So that’s always a help. But basically, there are lots and lots of lights on the market that do exactly what this light does.
And they run off batteries. Because they’re LED lights, they use very little power. So these lights will stay hot and useful for me for really quite a long time. And then you just remember, in between takes, to turn them off. Lighting.

Mike Figgis is well known for his innovations with equipment, particularly on a budget. Here he demonstrates how to make a simple but effective light very cheaply.

Sometimes aspiring filmmakers assume they will need expensive and heavy duty lighting equipment, but it is possible to do a good job with limited resources and ingenuity.

In Week 4, you will be given an opportunity to undertake a small scale task with lighting.

This article is from the free online

Explore Filmmaking: from Script to Screen

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education