Using Retro Lighting in Film

We deeply admire how cinematic production has evolved over time, and like many movie enthusiasts, we appreciate the special glow in older films that’s so characteristic of retro lighting. Although we’re best known for carrying the latest in film production equipment rentals, we also carry a small inventory of retro lighting for those looking to take advantage of the special lighting effects they provide.

Primarily, we have a vast array of large high-amperage tungsten lighting units in excellent working condition. We’re also proud to say we’re the only source for carbon arc lighting on the West Coast, outside of Hollywood.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these two retro lighting options.

What is Tungsten Lighting?

Tungsten lights use halogen bulbs that produce a warm golden light that registers at 3200K. They work similarly to typical incandescent lighting. On the color scale, their light registers on the opposite side of daylight, with a yellow (versus blue) hue.

Tungsten lights are known for their versatility and have spent the most time as filmmakers’ lighting of choice. This was, however, before the recent move to more energy-efficient light sources like LED lights.

Tungsten lights can be used for interior night scenes, backlighting characters for a dreamy effect, matching a practical light, candlelit scenes, and simulating daylight when blue is added. Here is a video that explains how to use tungsten lights in a daytime-balanced scene.

What is Carbon Arc Lighting?

Carbon arc lights date back to the beginning of the 1800s and produce an electric arc with highly luminous carbon vapor that results in a bright light.

In the late 19th century, they were used for public lighting like streetlamps, and they took the back seat when incandescent lighting emerged in the early 20th century. However, for several decades, they remained in use for filming interior shots for movies, cinema projection, and spotlights.

Carbon arc lights are best used for: large area lighting, producing a subtle glow, and replicating the lighting of old films.

For retro lighting enthusiasts, here’s a helpful and brief video about the history of the carbon arc lamp.

And to get a better understanding of some of the carbon arc lights we have in stock, this is an excellent tutorial on how they’re operated.

Go Retro

If you’re considering the use of Tungsten or carbon arc lighting, reach out to us to learn what we currently have on hand. We want to help you get the exact retro lighting effect you’re looking for.