Video Lighting - Part III
Last month we
covered the basic three-light interview setup. This time around
I thought we'd tackle lighting for other applications.
you'll encounter the need to photograph someone at a podium. There
is a simple, but effective two-light technique that works very well
for these situations.
Pick the point,
or the side, where you'll place the camera, and stick to it (you
don't want to "cross the line" of continuity, else you'll confuse
your poor viewers). Set up your key light so that it illuminates
the side of the face away from the camera. Set up a fill light on
the same side of the "line" as the camera. This will give your subject
definition and visual interest. Both lights should be out of the
way of the audience. If your camera is around to one side of the
podium (rather than straight on) you'll also get a nice "rim" effect.
Use your remaining fixture(s) to light the background and/or the
Let's say you're
shooting a meeting in a smallish-room that is illuminated by overhead
fluorescents. And let's say you want to brighten up the scene a
bit. You can always use direct light on the subjects, but you run
the risk of having all sorts of ugly shadows (including your own,
when you move in front of a light). I often set up a couple of open-face
fixtures and simply bounce them off the ceiling. This will raise
the over-all illumination half-a-stop or more, and makes white balancing
If this room
has windows that are letting in substantial amounts of daylight,
take care about mixing your light sources. Indoor fixtures are typically
3200 Kelvin, and daylight is 5600 Kelvin. If you're balanced for
indoors, the mix of daylight will usually (but not always) add an
annoying blue tint to the scene. If you try balancing for the daylight,
the warmer interior lights will add orange to the scene, which is
just as bad, if not worse, than the blue. You can try to find a
happy medium between daylight and tungsten with your camera's white
balance circuit, or you can try gelling your lights with Full Blue
or Half Blue to cool them down.
If you are asked
to shoot in a large, dim hall, well, unless you take along some
big lights, you're probably going to be out of luck. I'll never
forget walking into a meeting room in Washington that a CBS Lighting
Director had lit with four "trees" of 1000w PAR lights. As I was
setting up, he was walking around the room measuring the illumination.
He came over and said, "Well, the whole room is a 5.6, except one
place where it's only 4.5." The room was uniformly lit, and looked
as flat as a white sheet against the snow. How I wished for something
more interesting. If you encounter such a space and don't have an
LD with bins full of PARs, you might try lighting just a small area,
or you may have to use what the Brits call a "hand-basher," better
known as a portable light. I hate these things, but sometimes you
just have no other choice. If you do end up lighting the whole room,
one technique is to put a light in each corner. You lose some definition,
but at least you'll be able to see your subjects.
If you're setting
up outdoors and want to throw some fill light on your subject, unless
you have some 1200w HMIs it's usually best to use a reflector. The
Flex-Fill-style is easy to carry and versatile. It folds into a
compact disk and opens, literally with the flick of a wrist, into
a roundel ranging from 18-48 inches in diameter. I prefer the ones
which are white on one side, silver on the other. You can also get
them in gold and black. I think this is a true story: a British
cameraman got the idea for these when working in China. He saw people
working in the rice fields wearing round hats. Upon closer inspection,
he was amazed to discover the hat folded up, figure-eight-style.
The secret was a piece of thin, flexible bamboo. When he got back
home he tried making one, but used a spring-steel band instead.
The rest is, as they say, history. A sheet of foamcore or poster
board can also be pressed into action. And if all else is lacking,
any white material can be used (even a newspaper).
of newspapers, here's a neat technique you can use to add interest
to your interview backgrounds. Take a one page section of the paper.
Fold it in half, then in half again. Then take a pair of scissors
and cut a pattern into the thickest edge. When you open the paper
again you'll see that the pattern is repeated several times. You
now have a "gobo." Hang it about a foot in front of your
luminaire and watch how the lighted pattern transforms the background.
If that sounds a lot like making paper dolls, well, it is. Exactly.
You can also
use this technique to add interest to a still-life or 2D art. Uniform
illumination is simply not interesting. By breaking up the scene
with light and shadow you'll get a much more pleasing effect.
If you ever
have to shoot someone in silhouette, take great care. The best method
is to light only the background. Then set your camera's iris to
expose for the BG, striving for a minimum of a three-stop difference
between foreground and background. Check the scene on a monitor
with the brightness turned all the way up. If you see any recognizable
features on the subject's face, boost the BG light.
Next time we'll
take a look at some special lighting tools, like HMIs and the Dedolight
used as a pattern projector. Happy New Year!