building a reusable chinese or china ball lantern for use in film and video lighting that's safer than paper lenterns

Making a simple, reusable Chinese Lantern (continued)

gaffers use chinese or china lanterns for film lighting

Once the eye hooks have been prepared you can mount them into the lamp fixture. Only a single nut on the end of the hook is used since they need to be able to swing outwards to engage the holes in the globe. When the globe is attached, the open end of the socket should be about even with the opening in the globe. I used 1/4-20 self locking nuts. These are the ones with the nylon inserts in them. They will not turn loose on their own.


home decor lighting, paper lanterns, china lanternsThis photo details the globe in place and now hanging from the three eye hooks.

The beauty of this system is in the striking of the unit. When you are finished using it just lift up on the bottom of the globe and the three hooks fall away and into a straight down resting position. The globe comes away in your hand and the lamp remains in place to cool off!

compact fluorescent lighting (cfl), art deco recessed lighting fixtureThe Chinese Lantern project is designed to work with a standard ECA 250 watt or BAH 300 watt photoflood lamp. Both of these lamps have a color temperature of 3200K. These can be purchased from your local camera or photo store or from one of the many on-line bulb outlets. They look like ordinary household lamps and they have a frosted coating.

They are what is known as "overrun" bulbs. Bulbs which burn at a high wattage but only for a rather short period... around 20 hours. They also tend to change color temperature slightly as they age.

IMPORTANT:  Do not use any thing larger than a 300 watt lamp in the Lantern or you run the risk of melting the globe!

home outdoor lighting

This photo details how the lamp fixture is held in place by the grip head.

This technique allows for a secure mounting while still maintaining complete positioning of the assembly.


The completed project!

chinese pantern for film and video lightingIn case you're wondering, with the 250 watt (6500 lumen) ECA lamp installed, the output from the Lantern was as follows (measured from midpoint on the side):

@ 6"    500 FC
@ 12"  250 FC
@ 18"  190 FC
@ 24"    90 FC
@ 36"    50 FC

With the higher wattage (9000 lumen) 300 watt BAH lamp, an increase in about 40% over these values can be expected. With bulb installed, the Chinese Lantern weighed in at 2 pounds, less cable. Another feature of using the globe is the bottom has no opening like a real paper lantern. Just smooth, soft light in all directions. Perfect for your portrait photography work or to hang over that romantic dinner for two movie scene in your next independent film project.


Operation Notes:

The appeal of the Chinese Lantern, the ability to provide light over a wide angular area also presents the problem of light spill where it may not be desired...i.e. into the camera lens. Use of a small flag attached to the gobo arm holding the Lantern should be considered a necessity in situations where the Lantern will be stationary. If you plan to use the Lantern on the end of a pole so it may be moved with the actors, a "skirt" attached to the unit may be required. A flame retardant fabric such as Nomex can be hung like a drape around the Lantern using "S" hooks to secure the material through eyelets to the top opening of the instrument. Blackwrap can also be "molded" around parts of the Lantern and held in place with velcro pads. When it comes time to break down, I simply wrap the lamp fixture (sans lamp) in a cloth towel and store it inside the Lantern. A small duffel bag (even something from a Good Will store) can be used to store and carry the Lantern.

If you are having trouble, as some have told me they are, purchasing the white globe locally you can order one from a company called AZpartsmaster. When you visit their site, type in 12" white globe in the search window.

This construction project article is Copyright © 1998, 2013 George Odell. All rights reserved. This article, photos and/or the site itself may not be copied or mirrored on any other web site. You are welcome to link to this site and for that, I thank you.


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