How to Do Streaking Light in a Video

By Quinten Plummer
Find out how you can create light trails in your videos.

Light trailing -- generating streaks from a light source -- can be used to both enhance the luminance of a shot or draw attention to light sources in a recording. The effect occurs when a light source in motion is over exposed on a film, and the amount of competing light from stationary sources is slight. And while the effect is one of photography's most common techniques, you can also generate light trails with your camcorder and incorporate the effect into your video projects.

Attach a lens hood to your camcorder's lens. Cue up the tape in your camcorder, and then place the camera onto a trip if you desire. Power on your camcorder, and then set it to "Record" mode.

Enter the device's menu options -- press the "Menu" or "Settings" button. Locate the "F-Stop" or "Shutter Speed" option in your camcorder's menu options -- you might find these options stored under "Exposure" in the menu.

Lower the "F-Stop" and "Shutter Speed" values to allow your camcorder to capture an excess of light (for example, if your F-Stop value is set at F/8, lower it to F/11). The f-Stop value determines how wide your camcorder lens's aperture will open, while the shutter speed dictates how long the shutter will stay open to receive light.

Exit the camera's menu settings, and then review your environment through your camcorder's viewfinder. Slowly pan around your environment to generate light trails, if the targeted lights are stationary. Keep the camera fixed to capture moving light sources, such as headlights on a freeway.

Begin recording your video if you're satisfied with the light trails you see. Because the amount of light will vary with your environment, no one setting can be pinned for your recording. Revisit your camcorder's exposure settings, if you aren't satisfied with the light streaks you camcorder captures.

Lower the exposure values to take in more light, if you can't capture enough light streaks. Conversely, raise the values to temper excessive streaks. Exit the menu, and then preview your environment through the viewfinder.

Start recording, if the new exposure settings produce desirable light streaks. Return to the exposure settings, if you still have not found the ideal exposure settings for your environment.

Tip

Dimly lit environments are ideal for capturing light trails because less ambient light is available to compete with the target light sources. Dawn and dusk can be great times of day to capture streaking lights in your videos.

About the Author

Quinten Plummer began writing professionally in 2008. He has more than six years in the technology field including five years in retail electronics and a year in technical support. Plummer gained his experience in music by producing for various hip-hop acts and as lead guitarist for a band. He now works as a reporter for a daily newspaper.