How to get Charlie Rose lighting at

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Old March 23rd, 2009, 09:48 AM   #1
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How to get Charlie Rose lighting

Does anybody have suggestions for achieving the interview lighting technique whereby the subject(s) are lit (and ideally backlit) and the background is perfectly dark, without any spill, like on Charlie Rose?
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Old March 23rd, 2009, 10:21 AM   #2
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From set pictures I have seen, these setups seem to usually be done with overhead soft boxes with grids (2, 4 or more), sometimes with skirts to add additional control.

For two people the basic setup would be one for each face, the bottom skirted to control downward spill, and then a second for each person behind for the backlights. I also have seen only two boxes used, each serving as the keylight for one person and the backlight for the other.

On the other hand, though I haven't seen Charlie Rose's set, Tom Snyder use to have a similar look. The chairs were in the middle of a huge studio (NBC in Burbank), with black drapes quite a distant in the background around the edges of the studio (and I think sometimes black flats were used, too), and the lighting was done in a traditional manner using large instruments hung overhead. The performers were also located a few feet above ground on a black platform which negated spill on the floor in the background from appearing in the shots.

Last edited by Jack Walker; March 23rd, 2009 at 08:57 PM.
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Old March 23rd, 2009, 01:06 PM   #3
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Video noise ?

I had been reading about noise problems when shooting areas of pure black ("Placing Shadows" 3rd ed., pp 121-122). Would a black background create such a problem? Will properly lit subjects prevent any noise problems in the black background?

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Old March 23rd, 2009, 01:23 PM   #4
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Black is not inherently noisy on video. However, when noise is present, while it is usually throughout the video image, it will be seen first in the blacks.

What typically leads to noise is the use of gain to create a brighter image when the subject is not well lit. If a consumer or prosumer camera is set to auto exposure, gain may automatically go much higher than you want as the cam tries to expose for the whole scene.

The issue is complicated by the small viewfinder/lcd image, that doesn't really show details such as video noise.

The solution? Shoot in manual, and/or, set auto-gain limits if your camera has that capability. Good lighting and good exposure with no gain, or perhaps up to +6db, depending on the camera.
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Old March 24th, 2009, 01:16 AM   #5
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It's not particularly difficult.

You light the people while keeping light off everything else.

Softboxes and grids are the beginning. Enough space to allow the spill to fall off over distance helps. As does being able to make the space non-light reflective (drapes, flat black paint, flats, whatever.)

in the analog days, noise in blacks was a huge problem. In the digital realm not so much. Tho as someone else noted if there is noise in your signal chain, there's nowhere for it to hide in a dark field.

For Charley Rose - those gazillion dollar studio cameras and in-house team of video engineers and lighting pros likely didn't hurt either. ; )
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