How to Avoid Flickering Video with Fluorescent lights

If you’ve shot indoors with fluorescent lights, you’ve probably experienced the dreaded flickering. It makes your video look terrible and will cause your editor endless headaches to make it look better.

Fortunately, we’re here to help you find a way around it. In this week’s video tip, Jonas explains how to get around it and make your video look great!

The problem

Essentially the problem has everything to do with understanding how fluorescent lights work. They’re not “on” all the time. Instead they flicker on and off at a certain frequency. They do this so fast that our eyes can’t sense it. This is what the fluctuations of a 50Hz AC fluorescent light looks like.

fluorescent light chart

Who uses what frequency?

We’ll discuss how to get around this frequency. However, as we go through, understand that the frequency of AC currents differs depending where you are. In much of North and South America it’s 60 Hz and in Europe, Africa and Asia, it’s 50Hz. Refer to this map for a general overview.

fluorescent light chart

If you set your camera up to capture a still frame at a certain frequency, it may mess you up. Here’s why. If you’re always capturing an image at the top of the curve (for example), you’re fine. However, if you start capturing video frames when the fluorescent light is putting out different intensities of light, you’ll run into trouble.

fluorescent light chart

The Solution

To get around this problem you have to match your frame rate with the frequency of the lights you are in. You need to shoot at frame rates that are divisible by the number of light pulses. So, in a 60 Hz AC area, you’ll need to shoot at 30, 60 or 120 fps.

fluorescent light chart

However, If your camera is set up for European PAL shooting, you may not be able to get these frame rates. You can get around it by simply shooting at different shutter speeds. Here is a chart to help you understand the best ones.

fluorescent light chart

Good luck shooting in fluorescent lights! We made this video as part of our Youtube Channel, Rob and Jonas’ Filmmaking Tips. It’s really fun to share these tips with you. Here is an intro to why we think video is such an important tool for everyone to learn.

Written by Rob Nelson

Rob is an ecologist from the University of Hawaii. He is the co-creator and director of Untamed Science. His goal is to create videos and content that are entertaining, accurate, and educational. When he's not making science content, he races whitewater kayaks and works on Stone Age Man.

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