View Full Version : Everything I ever wanted to know about lighting
August 20th, 2003, 01:47 PM
I shoot event (DV) video and normally I have little or no control over the lighting. However, I'm beginning to do more and more interviews and need to have a portable lighting solution for them. I'm a novice at lighting and don't even know the terminologies that are being used in these threads.
Is there a good web based reference for the beginner on the basics of lighting, especially with a bent on lighting for interviewing? I'm looking to spend less than $1000 on my first solution. Should I be able find an acceptable and complete solution for interviews in the $750 t0 $1000 price range?
August 20th, 2003, 02:38 PM
John Jackman of DV magazine has a lighting video out that will help you enormously. Go to here to check it out:
August 20th, 2003, 02:57 PM
Here's a thread about a low cost studio solution:
For interviews, say on the street, one light will do.
August 20th, 2003, 04:25 PM
Tell him Richard - The lighting guy from Chimera sent you
August 20th, 2003, 06:00 PM
September 4th, 2003, 09:21 PM
Hey, Jacques, thanks for the plug for the video. But at the risk of seeming self-promoting, I'd also recommend my book Lighting for Digital Video and Television. Most folks have found it very helpful.
September 5th, 2003, 11:51 AM
great to hear from you and I'm glad to have you on this board.
Well, in the case of your book, I thought
I was giving the URL to purchase your lighting video, but it turned out
that link directed them to your book purchase (which I didn't know about).
So, I guess I plugged that too without knowing ;)
I hope you stick around this wonderful community enough to become
one of the "inner circle", but at least you aren't listed as a
"new boot" . . . yet :)
September 5th, 2003, 12:57 PM
In addition to John's great book (which I recommend), I've also written a few tutorials on basic interview lighting.
September 5th, 2003, 01:02 PM
Thanks again everyone. Stephen, I plan on reading your tutorial and your AE6 tutorials too. I'm new to AE, with version 6, and am going through the total training disks now. I'll be sure to use your tutorial as part of my education.
September 5th, 2003, 01:11 PM
Definately go through the Total Training for AE6 discs, but don't be surprised if you see ALOT of 5.5 screenshots. They only did new production for those areas of discussion revolving 6.0. Needless to say I was a little dissappointed it wasn't all new material. But, then again, I'll have all of that in a review next week.
September 8th, 2003, 11:00 AM
Looking forward to that, Stephen -- many thanks,
October 15th, 2003, 09:57 AM
I thought that I would post a follow-up and thank you. I used the 3 point lighting (with 4 lights) as described in Stephen's online tutorial. Overall, it worked great, however I probably had too much light coming from the back and I think that my 4th light used to cast a shadow on the background with a cookie was too strong (bright). Overall, it was a great first experience and the client was pleased.
I usualy do event video where I cannot control lighting and by doing this interview, I could really set my camera up properly and it really shined under the good lighting. The color and detail were outstanding. Anyway, thanks for the help, I'm sure that I will have more questions for you experts.
October 15th, 2003, 10:41 AM
Glad you were able to use the method described for a great shot.
As far as the bright or too intense light, there are two things you can do: 1) Get a dimmer, which will change the color temperature of the light as it gets dimmer (good for effect, especially a nice orange hue on the hair) or 2) place a neutral density gel on the lens (or scrim, etc). A third possibility is to get bulbs that are of lower watage... for example, if your key light is a 500w, use a 300w for the fill or rim lights.
The big challenge for you now is to take the information you gained from the tutorial and modify your light set up.
Here is a quick exercise for you to practice with.
Take one room in your house/office (I prefer the office as it is more often than not the same setup you will find in the real world), and light that room five different ways to give the illusion that you are shooting in five different locations. I have done this a couple of times, and it is amazing at how changing some lights around, using different setups, props and camera position can truly alter a boring room.
BTW: I have added two additional lighting tutorials on my site. This is the 201 series "Beyond basic lighting". The first lesson take a look at lighting transparent and semi-transparent objects, and lesson two take a look at how to use negative light to achieve a good contrast on your subject when shooting outside on a cloudy day. This week (maybe thrusday), I should have a third installment on how to shoot a subject on a bright sunny day using diffusion material and reflectors.
October 16th, 2003, 07:32 PM
Lighting on a bright sunny day is now online on my site.
November 4th, 2003, 01:23 PM
I did some interviews last week in a very confined space and could not do any back-lighting, I did, however, turn on a 60w table lamp. I had subjects in chairs right against two walls at 90 degrees of each other. I used three lights, key light at 5 O'clock, second one at 7 O'clock, and a third at about 3 o'clock. Without all three, I got bad shadows on the wall directly behind their heads. With all three, I had a very flat composition and I had to use my ND filter to cut down the brightness. I think that I need some lower wattage lamps. I used umbrellas to diffuse the light of the two less powered omni lights and a reflective umbrella for the 700 Watt tota light. I was pretty much just experimenting and this scheme was the best that I could come up with.
Are there any rules for lighting when the background is right behind the subjects? What can be done to reduce glare off off a subject's glasses? I had to have one subject take off his glasses because the glare was so bad that he looked like he had lights coming out of his eyes.
November 17th, 2003, 09:19 PM
wow Stephen, that is a great site you have. I read all the lighting pages and feel like I have a handle on it now.
November 18th, 2003, 12:00 AM
Best way to avoid shadows behind your subjects is simply to move them away from the wall!
For the glasses issue, raise the lights as high as possible without the shadows getting too deep on the face. Also moving your lights off axis so that the highlights, if still present, don't cover the pupils. Sometimes you can get the subject to angle the glasses down on their nose, or slide the ends of the frames higher up on the ears into the hair to help kick out the reflection.
November 18th, 2003, 01:30 AM
Thanks Charles. For this one interview that I had, we had to do it in their office which was VERY small. Moving the subject away from the wall was not an option and the ceilings were very low too. So I guess that I did not do too bad considering the challenges of the environment. I think that I am improving each time out and this is due in large part to the contributions people have provided me here. Thanks again everyone. I'm sure to have more questions in the coming weeks.
November 18th, 2003, 02:07 AM
Gotcha. Well, if there is no other option but shoot against the wall, try to light so that the shadows are thrown out of frame, or at least blocked by their own bodies. Keeping your keys high will help achieve the latter.
This may not be applicable in this case, but back in my corporate shooting days, I would occasional have a job where the individual was convinced that they knew what the best environment to be shot in was, which was usually the ugliest space in the building. Sometimes they could be coaxed into the atrium or conference room or somewhere that had at least a little character and physical depth, and of course they loved the results.
February 20th, 2004, 08:53 PM
Okay, I interviewed a subject and the light was reflected off his glasses. So, how can I fix this in post?????
February 21st, 2004, 06:18 AM
Depending on how much reflection exists, it may be neer impossible. I've done this a lot in photoshop for stills and its hard to make it look natural for a single still if the reflection is so great that there is no detail in the "flash" spot. IF you had to do this for many frames of video, even in after-effects, I think that it probably would not look very good or be very time consuming to rotoscope. But if anyone has done this successfully, I'd like to know how to do it too.
February 21st, 2004, 10:58 AM
I have to second the praise for your site. Great stuff, simply presented and goes the extra yard to show variartions. A great teaching tool.
April 27th, 2004, 09:58 AM
I've got a short shoot this week with an African American celebrity. My previous attempts to properly light darker skin tones were not 100% successful. Are there any tips for properly lighting dark skin tones? I'll be using a green screen background and a white background for this shoot.
I use a 750 watt tota as my key light. I have 2 500w omni lights and 2 tungsten 250w lights. I have white and silver umbrellas and gold and silver reflectors.
Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks.
April 27th, 2004, 10:09 AM
Don't use a hard light. Use a diffused light source to light the subject. Think reflections in this case. If you were lighting a glass object, you wouldn't want to light with a hard specular, you would want a large soft specular to define the object. The same goes for dark skin.
April 27th, 2004, 10:37 AM
Stephen, thanks for your quick response and for all of your previous help with my lighting questions on this thread.
Should I forgo to total light altogether or diffuse it through an (silver) umbrella or bounce it off a reflector? To aid or maybe make things more difficult, the studio has defused skylights and the time of day may yield significant daylight during the shoot.
April 27th, 2004, 10:42 AM
Umbrellas and diffusion material will work great with the tota lights. Just don't go bare. Bill Holshevnicov (spelling) has an excellent video that talks about lighting those with darker complections.
Actually in the May issue of DV, there is a pretty good article on lighting subjects with dark complections too. Worth reading.
April 27th, 2004, 10:48 AM
DVCreators.net has just released their DV Enlightenment series on DVD today. They were showing previews at NAB last week, and I was able to snag a review copy (I'll have a review up on my site by weeks end).
It is a very fine put together intro to lighting covering nearly everything my Lighting 101 and Lighting 201 written series covers. The bonus is you get to see these lighting results as they happen and get to see actual video instead of still images. Josh and the crew did a great job in presenting the material covering this entry level topic.
They do light dark skin in the video, but do not touch on how they did it.
Overall a great DVD and well worth the price.
April 27th, 2004, 10:56 AM
Thanks, I'll check out the video and this month's DV article. I have not opened the new DV yet...
April 29th, 2004, 07:35 PM
Stephen, thanks for the help. I had my shoot today and I think that the lighting went OK. It was not perfect but I think it was acceptable and better than I have done before, I think. Here is frame sample. http://www.bigdigital.us/bb
April 29th, 2004, 08:47 PM
Actually that's not too bad at all! The main problem I see with the image (and it may be intential on your part), is that you have a huge contrast between your foregound subject and your background.
If you were going for that look, I still think it is okay (although a strong rim/back light would have helped a bit more). If you were not going for that look, you could have used a rim light for a nicer seperation (amber maybe?), and you could have given more depth to the image by breaking up the background with a pattern of some type.
Again, I think the image is good, and if that is the look you were going for then right on right on!
April 30th, 2004, 04:37 AM
I did want to use a back light but I did not have time to get it set up. The talent had a plane to catch and that whole story...I had to rush through the whole shoot.
The contrast difference is OK since I will key out the background. I wanted to shoot a second take with a green screen but again, no time. I would have shot green screen only but I did not have enough experience with green screen and wanted to make sure that I had a "safe" background just in case the chroma keying did not go well in post.
April 30th, 2004, 08:07 AM
You might want to check out Digital Film Tools Composite Suite Plug-in for After Effects (and Final Cut Pro ?). One of the effects allows you to apply a pattern on the background.
here is a quick sample I did with the demo version.
April 30th, 2004, 08:46 AM
Hey, that looks awesome! I really was not sure if I could actually composite anything very well over that graduated white. I'll check try it out. I've got AE 6 pro. BTW, I read your preview of AE 6.5 and it looks great. A lot of people are complaining about a .5 release and being charged, etc. But I'm fully on board with it.
April 30th, 2004, 09:43 AM
There is so much new stuff in 6.5, that a 99 fee isn't that big of a deal...
April 30th, 2004, 11:05 AM
I've already pre-ordered AE6.5. I can't wait.
I tried the DFT Composite Suite demo with PPro, and the Light! plug-in appears to work great in Premiere Pro once I figured out to use "multiply" mode. This package is really promising in its ability to create dynamic masks w/o a green/blue screen.
May 17th, 2004, 07:48 AM
Stephen, I ended up using a combination of DFT matte generator with AE's matte choker to remove the background entirely. I had to add a new matte here and there to remove some spots, but after I figured out how to use these tools in AE, it was surprisingly easy to do this.
You may view the work in progress at the following URL. http:\\www.bigdigital.us\bodyblocks