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DIY Light Box / Back-lit Light Table – White Background for Table Top Video’s, Unboxings

Paul Shillito backgrounds 2 Comments

Back in the old days (all of about 4+ yrs ago)  when I had a video production business, most of our business came from big electronics manufactures and national retailers.  Their videos where for online use only as effectively a video addition to the still photos but with voice over and showing the products in use.

On of the main remits was that they should be on a white background just like the photos which were shot for the websites or manufactures. We had to make sure that when the video was played on the website that the white background of the video was the same as the page background which is normally absolutely white.

Now getting a pure white background in a photo is easy because you can cut out the object and place it over a white layer in Photoshop but video is not one image, its 25 images a second for several minutes, that’s thousands of images, so you wont be cutting them out.

YouTube Link to video

You could use rotoscoping or even chromakey but that can create other problems and it will be more difficult in either the filming or post production, so really the best solution is to shoot it right in the first place.

Getting a really white background whilst filming can be quite tricky, we used to put items on a turntable with a white top and then use a lot of light to blast out the shadows. The problem with this is that you can “over light” the products trying to make the background to look really white or blow out shadows which can make it look worse..

A couple of years ago, I was making some videos for shaving equipment which I was selling and I had the same problem. I wanted to show the items with me holding and in some cases taking them apart and putting them back together again on a white background but the shadows from my hands and the products themselves looked made them look ugly.

And this is where I had the idea of using a light table for video presentations. I wanted something that was big enough to sit at and lay out the products on. After looking around at professional light boxes I had the idea to use a glass table and a piece perspex with a light under it.

I bought a glass table new from eBay for £99 but now if you look you can see secondhand ones starting at £0.99, so if your lucky you can get one for a few pounds or dollars. The most expensive item was the perspex but if you get a 2mm thick sheet the price would be about half of the £40 ($60) I paid for a 4mm thick sheet.

When you videoing, you want expose your shot so that its just not quite peaking out on the whites. You can then boost it in the editing so that the white is then just maxed out without blowing out the rest of the video.

The best thing about doing it this way it that you can get rid of  nearly all the shadows, something which is very difficult to do with topside lighting only.

So watch the video and see how it looks in practice.

{Video Transcript}

If you’d like to present small items like these in video but make them look like they were photo shopped onto a white background but still in video like this this, this or this.

Then in this video I’ll show you how you can get this lit from beneath effect and make your videos and products really stand out.

Now there are lots videos out on YouTube where people show off the latest products, maybe the latest toys, maybe jewellery collections, perfume collections, Electronics, camera’s, you name it anything small and that can be easily handled.

They normally do it on something like table top or a white background or something similar but very few people will actually do it on this under lit background here and this can give it a very distinctive look as we can see.

When we zoom in on these with another camera and we can see the actual item and if I take my hands out the way this looks like it’s been photo-shopped. You could almost say that it was a Photoshop image and someone just cut these out and just put them onto a white background but of course this is not a white background that’s been photo-shopped electronically, this is all in video so you can pick this thing up and you can show it.

This really super white clean background is lit from top, beneath, left and right was no shadows, there’s no sort of dark areas but let’s see what this looks like if we were just light it normally without the underneath lighting.

Now we’ve got the lighting off and we can see we’ve got the top down lighting but this is creating awful lot of Shadows now and although the actual product and everything is still well lit, it doesn’t sort of shine and glow like it did before when we had the lighting coming up from below.

The glass bottle, the light shone through it made the red liquid in red glass really sort of come to life the beads as well, really sort of look much nicer with the light shining through them.

The Skylander toy with the base that glows effectively orange when you put it near a light source that doesn’t glow as much, it doesn’t look as good and you’ve got a lot of shadows as well.

If you look at my hands here you could see my hands are moving above everything and you can see the shadows even if they are in the shot and the products themselves cast shadows take my hand out of the way and you can see the shadow of the Skylander there.

When it’s lit from below you don’t get the shadows anywhere near as much, in fact you can virtually eliminate them and this is where you can get that really nice white clean background effect and obviously keep things looking really well lit. They lit from not only above the sides but also from underneath.

Now in order to get this lit from below background you going to need something thats probably like a light box. Now a professional light box of the size which we were just showing will be very expensive but with a little bit of working around and finding stuff probably in the house you can actually make this for a lot less.

First thing you actually need is a glass table and i have one here. Its a glass dining table, if I lift this up you can see this glass table has got painted black border underneath here but the middle part here is see-through and it’s not tinted, It is clear glass and this sort of thing you can pick up for a roundabout £10-15 on eBay which is about $20, so they are really rather cheap used.

The second thing you need is then a Perspex sheet now this is the acrylic sheet which I’m using which is also called Perspex and this was cut to size for me by a local sign makers. The stuff you want to use is the white Perspex which is semi-transparent and used for making signs because you want obviously the light to shine through it if you get stuff which is solid Then it will just be a white piece of plastic and the light will not show through.

The third thing you need is a light source, this is the light I’m using its a twin strip light, it’s the twin five foot 58W strip light which I use for my illuminating my backgrounds, green screens etc,

Basically all we do here is we lay this on the floor underneath the table. So we put this under here like this.

The reason for having a strip light rather than a studio light is that the strip light will light from one end of the table to the other evenly and also across here, so you get then an even light all the way across table.

If you use spotlight or studio light under the middle somewhere or even two of them you probably find you end up with pools of light where it will be very bright and then it will begin to get dimmer around it which might not look quite so good, so a long strip by underneath will work a lot better.

Now once we have our light under the table and turned on all we need to do now is actually put our piece of Perspex on top off the table like so and there we are, that covers up the glass area.

Then we’ve got here a light on a boom pole, it’s an LED battery powered light and I can turn this around and then illuminate down from above. If you’ve got ceiling lights you might be able to do the same, if you have a studio light you might be able to bring it in from somewhere but I find these little lights here provide just enough light to actually illuminate what’s actually on the table and this is pretty much it.

All we need is the glass table, piece of Perspex and a light underneath and then we can get this under lit white background ready to actually start doing your videos.

So we’ve come to the end up another video and I hope you found it useful and informative and he did and you know someone else who might find it useful don’t forget to share it with them also don’t forget to rate and subscribe and leave any comments below in the box and go on over to video-alchemy.com and join our newsletter now.

My name is Paul Shillito and this has been a Video Alchemy production so until the next one see you later… Byeee

Comments 2

  1. Paul Larisey

    Great job! Used to film TV commercials 35mm in NYC, often did tabletop things (Alka seltzer, Elmers Glue, etc) Wish we’d been smart enough to figure out your light table. Such beautiful images with life.
    Saw your nice teleprompter video some time back as well. Not bad, but if you need variable rate, etc. (something you can set the pace for talent kind of at the rate you want it) there’s a software called Teleprompter I use on Macbook Pro that works well. Only a few dollars. Has glitches, and they don’t seem to be updating
    but you can mount your mac on the tripod with a (gizmo of some sort Like I made) right up next to one side of the lense, and even 4ft away, your eyes look like you’re looking into the lense. Program lets you flip the words if you prefer a mirror, but not as effective as being to side of lense, then move dialogue box to the side of the lense and make about 4 -5 inches wide. You can also fine tune speed of particular parts of dialogue by adding spaces, making the text bigger or smaller, or changing the width of the window it’s scrolling in. Just filme a 45minute talking head (of myself and wife) and it’s perfect as to eyecontact. All the best and keep up the good work. You come off highly intelligent and friendly. Nice combination. Paul
    PS liked the family touch at the end.

    1. Post
      Author
      Paul Shillito

      Thank you very much for your comments Paul :-). At the moment I’m trying to wean myself of the teleprompter (piece of paper cuecard) and instead just talk in small sections at a time in a free style manner for a more natural presentation. Looks better but takes more work in presenting, lots more takes etc.

      I just seem to have a problem with teleprompters, I just cant seem sync my self to them for more than a minute or so. Guess I’ll just have to learn my lines 🙂

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