I'm looking to achieve something similar to this effect in a short film for 2 shots :

Elf effect form The Hobbit

This is from the new Hobbit movie, with of course a massive budget. To me it looks mostly a digital effect they used.

I'm looking for ideas on how i could achieve something close to this - I don't expect to achieve something so polished as Peter Jackson et al. The story uses the "angel" motif as a representation of personal power and self confidence, and this would be a way to demonstrate that visually, as the character feels it, we see it.

I'm not sure if a strong light source behind my actor, and some form of filter (i know little about filters) on the lens would work on it's own?
Or if it's better achieved in post-processing - perhaps in a grading step? If so, ideas on software i should investigate would be much appreciated.

  • Thankyou all for the feedback and ideas. The concept ended up getting reduced to not have the angel light effect, mainly because the story was reduced so it no longer made sense to have it twice (she would perceive the effect on others, then later see it on herself). In the end we're grading it so the majority of the film is graded a sort of cold colour, but becomes slightly warmer by the end - a more subtle approach in the end. I still like the original concept, and hopefully find another reason to use it one day, so hopefully all the fine suggestions do lead to something! :D
    – Spiffeah
    Jul 4, 2014 at 4:11

2 Answers 2


You certainly could get a long way in camera. You might want to add a diffusion filter to your lens - or a stocking if you can't afford one, certainly a strong backlight, and by the looks of it maybe a touch of diffused fog. Then in post grade it up until the skin tone is starting to get crushed to white.

  • I would add to that that there is probably a fairly strong spotlight to the side aimed at the face/side of the actress as well. Otherwise the face would be much darker if it was all just backlight. In this case the backlight is key and the side is fill and both are over-exposed intentionally.
    – AJ Henderson
    Feb 19, 2014 at 15:10
  • I agree with the answer and the comment above, and I have a couple things to add. The first is obvious: set your camera's light meter manually, so it doesn't just compensate for all the light. Second: you may want to try a "star filter" instead of a diffusion filter. Feb 19, 2014 at 21:07
  • This is great. Love the stocking idea. Genius. I'm just beginning to try and get my head around grading - Are you able to advise on grading software at all? I've done some frame-by-frame adjustment in photoshop before, but it was pretty naff.
    – Spiffeah
    Feb 20, 2014 at 22:55
  • That stocking idea is as old as the hills BTW. You get different types of glow with different colour stockings. They also used to use a thin smear of vaseline on a filter in front of the lens.
    – stib
    Feb 24, 2014 at 4:55
  • As for grading software there's a lot of possibilities. Grading in Potatoshop is one option, but as far as workflow goes an application that was designed for it will be easier to use. Adobe Speedgrade is the Adobe offering, and there's plenty of others: Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve or Apple Color two popular (as in I've used them). Alternatively there are grading plugins for NLEs Like Baselight, Synthetic Aperture Color Finesse for After Effects, or Colorista from Red Giant which has a free version. redgiant.com/news/featured/coloristafreelutbuddy
    – stib
    Feb 24, 2014 at 4:56

I like @stib's suggestions, and I have another option. (This will only work if the actor/actress doesn't move across frame much, and the camera isn't moving.) Shoot the actor/actress in front of a green screen. Take a still of the background, and doctor it up in Photoshop or some similar program so there is a "glow" around that part of the image. When you composite the shot, if the lighting is similar enough it could look very cool.

The effect would look even better if you dissolved between different backgrounds that were pretty similar. The glow would look more alive. In fact, the glow could "appear" if you dissolve or iris out from an undoctored background photo to your background photo.

  • Even if they move around, you could probably use layer blending options to create a glow around/over the actor.
    – AJ Henderson
    Feb 19, 2014 at 21:12
  • That might work for one shot, that is still and could give me a lot of control - nice. The longer, final shot will involve a camera dolly away from the subject, which introduces perspective issues that might not work. Still, I love it for the static shots!
    – Spiffeah
    Feb 21, 2014 at 2:54
  • @Spiffeah I just sat here imagining options for your dolly shot, and I haven't been able to come up with anything good (other than Photoshopping each frame of the shot). If I do come up with another suggestion, I'll be sure to add it. Feb 22, 2014 at 0:30
  • 1
    If you use green screen you can track the camera in 3D if you are using After Effects or similar compositing software. But doing that will mean you have to match your background. If it's a distant or flat background that won't be a problem.
    – stib
    Feb 24, 2014 at 4:43

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