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Best Bet:

Media College Lighting

Best Tip:

Don’t shoot directly at a light source.

For best results, avoid back-lit subjects. Have the light behind the camera bouncing off the subject.

To which I would add:movie_set_lights

Video cameras love light and there is only so much you can do later during the post-production editing process. Your best bet it to pay a lot of attention to lighting during the actual taping.

The most important thing to remember: the camera is not attached directly to your brain, as are your eyeballs. What you “see” standing in a room is not what the camera “sees” standing in that same room.

Example 1: Your eye will adjust to a dimly lit room and see plenty of details. To the camera, those details will be a grainy blur.

Example 2: Your eye will adjust to a white shirt. To the camera, that shirt will be a blown-out white blotch and everything else will be too dark.

Solutions: use lots of light and don’t have any whites in the scene, especially characters’ clothes. Dark solids work best.

Your options, from most to least desirable for a well-lit scene:

1 – on a stage like the TV studio on the lower level of Main or the Lecture Hall. There are no windows, so you have complete control over the light. The TV studio offers the most lighting options.

2 – outside on a day with no sun but only light cloud cover; lots of light and no shadows.

3 – inside in a big, well-lit space like a gym where the lights are out of the way and tend to cancel out the shadows.

4 – outside in sun. Keep the sun behind the camera and be careful about reflections off windows and cars. Shooting from shadow into light or from sunlight into shadow requires special attention to exposure and focus.

5 – inside with artificial light.

6 – inside with daylight through windows.

7 – outside at night.

Light sources

movie_set_lighting2Video cameras on automatic focus make note of the brightest thing in front of them and focus on that. The human eye, however, especially in combination with the human brain, sees things differently. Thus, if you shoot a scene indoors of two people talking with a wall lamp in the background, your eye will see a lot of detail in their faces. The camera, however, will have the lamp perfectly in focus and the people’s faces dark and murky. Switching to manual focus can solve the murky faces problem, but only getting rid of the lamp’s light can solve the dark faces problem.

Don’t point at a light, whether indoors or outdoors at night, and especially the sun or sun glancing off metal and glass surfaces. Turn it out, move the light, move the actors, move the camera.

The College has a light kit that you can borrow. It is designed to be used indoors on location.

In general, point the camera away from the light and have the light bounce off the actors’ faces.

Please note that these guidelines are for well-lit scenes. If you want murky suspense, or a sun-dazzled washed-out ski scene, go for it!

Light in the TV studio

The light board in the TV studio isn’t as complicated at it looks at first glance. It’s a two-scene set, which means you can set the lights for the following scene (Y scene) while the first scene (X scene) is being taped and then re-set X while Y is being taped. It has a cross-fader so you can smoothly transition from one set to the next.

For our purposes, we generally need only one light setting. The relevant passage comes from the Dove Systems’ Techmaster Owner’s Manual:

The channel sliders are arranged in two scenes called X and Y. With the crossfaders both pushed to the top of the slots, the X scene is active and channel levels set on the X scene appear on stage. Levels for the next look may be set in the Y scene without affecting levels on stage. At the appropriate time, the operator slides the crossfaders to the bottom of the slots, and the Y scene becomes active and the look set in the Y scene appears on stage. Levels for a new look may then be set in the X scene.

A show is typically run as a series of crossfades from the X scene to the Y scene and back again, but there are additional controls available to “finesse” the production. The grandmaster slider affects all channels proportionally and is used to fade to black or up from black. The blackout button is used for a sudden blackout: all lights on stage go out and the LED flashes red, reminding the operator to press the button again to leave blackout mode, preferably with the grandmaster slider down so the lights can fade up smoothly from black.

Although the crossfaders are generally run up and down together, they may be split in either of two directions. When split with the X fader up and the Y fader down, both scenes are active and “pile on”, i.e. the higher of the levels set in either scene takes precedence. When split with the X fader down and the Y fader up, both scenes are inactive and the stage fades to black. Splitting the crossfaders enables the operator to produce uneven fade rates or introduce a delay in the fade from one scene to the next.

The SS/2S switch toggles the controller from two scene to single scene mode. The switch is only read on power up, so be sure to remove power before changing the switch and apply power after changing the switch.

Techmaster lighting console

Techmaster lighting console