How to Light Your Sets - Haunted House Lighting Tips

Fri, May 29, 2020
Light Your Sets 
From the team behind Haunted Overload 

Lighting a scene to provide the most visual impact has always been very important to us at Haunted Overload. Lighting should always enhance a scene not detract from it. A mediocre scene can be brought to life with good lighting, just a fantastic scene can be ruined by the wrong choice or bad lighting job.


 
Fantastic effects can be achieved with a relatively low budget. Coming from a home haunt background just starting out we did not have the funds to purchase expensive lights and effects. We made do with cheap colored spotlights that stuck in the ground. We found that with just standard red, blue, green and orange spotlights we could achieve great effects by the proper placement and combination of colors in a scene. Using black wrap and gaffing tape we are able to feather the lighting effects or dim them down at will by bending and shaping the wrap over the light to suit our needs. These simple techniques are in use at the haunt to this day.
 

Mainly lighting from the ground up illuminating the natural environment, trees and structures provides dramatic shadows and highlights to each area. 
Since our attraction is outdoors, we prefer big bold powerful lighting effects that cover a wide area. Our 500 W halogen work lights are slowly being replaced with LED versions covered with gels to change the color.


 
 A good rule of thumb is to use warm and cool colors in each scene.  For example if you are lighting something in the foreground with warm tones such as red or orange, a cool color in the background like blue or green tones will really make it pop and vice versa.
 
Rules are made to be broken and experimentation is always a good thing.
 
This year, I wanted to try to light one particular scene in the outside queue line with only natural light from candles or flames.
This may not be possible at every haunt location but if your fire marshal allows it in certain areas this could work great. I wanted it to look 100% authentic so we lit real jackolanterns with candles in jars and the outside perimeter of the scene with tiki torches. With a lot of fog pumped in, it made the scene look incredible with all the flickering natural light. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Another successful experiment was achieved by using a powerful LED blacklight. We knew we needed something spectacular for the main queue line so we built a massive four-story skull structure. But the lighting had to look incredible. So my idea was to mix glow-in-the-dark paint with invisible fluorescent paint and spray the entire sculpture with a Wagner power painter. We painted the whole thing black first to provide a deep rich base for the fluorescent glowing mixture on top.
The black light was turned on while the paint was being applied so we could judge the effect and intensity of the glowing areas.
 
Even though the photo is fantastic, it's hard reproduce the intensity when printed and to describe the finished results seen in person. The combination of tones and shadows produces an almost 3-D effect without the glasses. That entire section of queue line and skull structures can be lit with one 40° UV light by Elektra Lite with lighted pumpkins for accents. Impressive light output delivers incredible fluorescence at distances of more than 75 feet. Red LED lights in the eyes of the skulls on either side help make it pop.


 
 
I wanted to improve on this technique the following year and experiment with different colors. The same approach was applied to a 50 foot dragon bridge sculpture. Additional black lights from Fright Props were added to light up the entire length of the sculpture. Care was taken to cover them from the elements as well as position the lights high to avoid shadows from patrons entering the bridge.
 
This is one of my favorite lighting effects because patrons are really blown away when they are viewing such a large glowing object from far away that gains in glowing intensity as they move closer.

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