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Old September 9th, 2011, 02:01 PM   #1
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Lighting someone with a dark complexion

Hey there

I am a Nashville based musician who does some guerilla and even live performance videos with prosumer equipment.

My problem is that my skin complexion sucks a lot of light. For most of the projects it doesn't make any sense for us to use a complete lighting kit. Further, these things aren't very portable. I wonder if anyone has any suggestions on what to use.

Here is an example of a video we recently shot. That's yours truly on the left. We were also gonna use a JTL Everlight Softbox (that I actually bought from someone here) - but the light burn out before we started the actual shoot.


Are there other recommendations? I've been eyeing the Comer 900b second gen LED light from Taky Cheung. Would that be a good choice?

Thanks in advance for your suggestions.

Peace.

Charles
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Old September 9th, 2011, 04:00 PM   #2
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Re: Lighting someone with a dark complexion

Hi Charles!

Wasn't able to see the video but the thumbnail (if representative of the video look) gave me an idea of what you mean.
The Comer light you mention is an on-camera. I don't think that'll do what you are looking for. Not enough light output and spotlight-type throw.
If you need portable, I've been using a set of Cool Lights LEDs that can take battery power. They're 12" squares and throw plenty of light even when I put a diffusor filter on them. There's several other manufacturers that offer similar size kits. They come in a carry bag and are super fast to setup with the battery power.
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Old September 9th, 2011, 04:55 PM   #3
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Re: Lighting someone with a dark complexion

hey Robert

I think I found them. Are these the ones?

CL-LED600 600 LED Panel Dimmable - Cool Lights USA

Do you know if there's something similar available around the $300 mark. Maybe I can look and see if there's something used floating around.

Thanks for the tip.

Charles
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Old September 9th, 2011, 05:30 PM   #4
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Re: Lighting someone with a dark complexion

Charles,

Enjoyed the song. But I agree you're approach isn't doing it justice visually (or accoustically for that matter.)

Here are some thoughts.

The human eye is always drawn to the brightest object in any frame. In this case, that's the light in the corner - which is NOT the object you want everybody to focus on.

You're mixing tungsten light (the lamp) with cool fill light from whatever the source is that's reflecting off the body of your guitar. (not sure if it's maybe a window, doorway, or perhaps a softbox - but whatever it is, it's putting out a cool light that's not strong enough to make YOU the scene's brightest object, and as the singer, that's not good. In a performance video, people want to see the ones doing the preforming. Period.

So either get that softlight a lot closer, turn down the overly bright background light, or better yet, turn off ALL the room lights, light you and your accompaniest as well as possible using the movable lights, then bring the background up just enough to let it establish the surroundings. Never let the room lights be the starting point and just add to them - unless you're selling furniture!

Also, to my ears (hard to determine in a simple internet delivery that might be getting the sound squished) but it sounds like you're mudding the highs by putting yourself way off axis to the vocal mic. You have a very nice voice but it lacks any "bite" and I suspect that's because you've got it almost 90degrees off axis to the mic. Generally people sing toward mics, not across them. There's a reason for that.

All that said, I really enjoyed the performance.

Just a couple of ideas.

Oh, and as to skin tones, I used to think that was a primary issue as well. Then one of my friends who does a lot of wedding work reminded me that they often face extremely dark skin tones - that have to be held along with totally white wedding dresses. That's WAY more contrast than you're dealing with here. He reminded me that when he lights, he lights for the primary person first and foremost (in weddings ALWAYS the bride) and let's everything else go where it needs to. That would also be good advice for you. Light yourself as the performer properly. Bring in your musician, and add, subtract (flag) or dim as needed to balance them to your proper lighting - then bring up the background. That's the successful recipe for everyone, regardless of complexion.

Good luck.
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Old September 9th, 2011, 07:05 PM   #5
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Re: Lighting someone with a dark complexion

Adding my opinion to the mix.

We all have different skintones. They fall over a very wide range of luminance. I work to get them right meaning representative of their reality. If I were lighting the video above I would not light you so much to push your skintone too high in luminance. I would light you enough and correctly to move you to the foreground, show expression and detail, but not so much to make you look unnaturally lit.

Depending on the scene you are trying to establish some lights gelled to primary colors are nice for showing texture and highlight without raising the average luminance. A rich red/yellow combination would be a great rim light for you in my opinion.

And as already pointed out, those lights in the background are terribly distracting and only take away from the image. I would take them out or at least dim them down to match the scene.
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Old September 9th, 2011, 07:50 PM   #6
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Re: Lighting someone with a dark complexion

hi charles

i would second the coollights led,s
they are good value for the money.

let me tell you how i would light it.

move the subjects further away from the background.
turn off all background and house lights.

place one led on the right and one on the left 3-4 feet aprox away from subject
the one on camera right then becomes the key for you and the backlight/edge for the girl.
the one on the left becomes the backlight/edge for you and the key for the girl.
tweak until it starts to look ok.
i would go with daylight 5600 led,s and add lee filters "188 cosmetic highlight" gels to the lights.
188 warms and diffuses the light and is great for darker skin and makeup.

lower the camera to eye hight or lower (when sitting) and sit as close as possible (knees touching)
get a mic in there.......two tricks to sound. point the mic at the mouth and get it as close as possible.......

thats great....lets shoot it...

cheers,
ian

ps. really like the song

Last edited by Ian Dart; September 9th, 2011 at 07:58 PM. Reason: because.....
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Old September 9th, 2011, 09:00 PM   #7
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Re: Lighting someone with a dark complexion

Wow, you guys thanks for all the amazing feedback. Especially to you Bill and Ian respectively.

Bill, I needed to hear that and how the whole scene is just "wrong" from a lighting perspective. Still I'm going to take Robert and Ian's advice and pick up those LEDs. I just wish they were a little less money. Wonder if Home Depot or Lowes have fairly inexpensive equivalents.

As for the sound, we thought it was best to orientate the Neumann from the top, as opposed to just anchoring it like a regular mic. In the bottom up configuration it was hard to have it somewhere without obstructing the shot. Still we'll try to figure it out for next time.

Ian thanks for the how-to as well. I'll try to see what we can do next time. Again, budget being an issue - I wish there was a better way to use the softbox so that it throws enough light as well.

Chris - thanks as well for your input.

My very best regards,

Charles
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Old September 9th, 2011, 09:34 PM   #8
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Re: Lighting someone with a dark complexion

Throw a gel on a light to create a nice contrast on the wall and then light up your foreground subject as in the attached.

Lights in and of themselves won't help you. You need to learn to light. Look for an online tutorial on 3 point lighting to get started. It will take some time.
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Lighting someone with a dark complexion-screen-shot-2011-09-09-10.30.29-pm.png  
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Old September 9th, 2011, 11:05 PM   #9
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Re: Lighting someone with a dark complexion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Alexander View Post
hey Robert

I think I found them. Are these the ones?

CL-LED600 600 LED Panel Dimmable - Cool Lights USA

Do you know if there's something similar available around the $300 mark. Maybe I can look and see if there's something used floating around.

Thanks for the tip.

Charles
Well, since everyone else hit the other points I wanted to mention (now that I have watched the video!) I'll stick to your question. That is the light. There may be some cheaper ones but I have yet to find them. A friend bought a set of similar LEDs that don't have nearly the build quality of the coollights and cost the same. He didn't get a case included either! I would recommend at least two of the 600s and a 256 as a minimum kit. Not exactly pocket change as a total but if you want to take it to the next level, you need to drop a bit of dough. Then consider a single name-brand LED would have cost more than 3 of the Cool lights 600's!

Looking forward to your next video!
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Old September 10th, 2011, 03:30 AM   #10
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Re: Lighting someone with a dark complexion

The Comer and Cool lights are not the same color temperature as the Everlight Softbox. Mixing tungsten and LED lights means putting CTO filters on the LEDs. That cuts down on output.

Since you already have a softbox, an inexpensive companion light is the Lowel Pro.
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Old September 10th, 2011, 11:32 AM   #11
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Re: Lighting someone with a dark complexion

Hello again friends,

What do you folks think of these selections from Amazon. The "Fancier" brand just seems wrong - but has pretty good reviews. But the ePhoto stuff looks legit.

Your (collective) thoughts? At less than half the price of the Cool Lights LEDs - this is more in my budget...

Amazon.com: 500

Sorry to be so lame per $$. But it is what it is...

Peace.

Charles
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Old September 10th, 2011, 07:55 PM   #12
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Re: Lighting someone with a dark complexion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Les Wilson View Post
The Comer and Cool lights are not the same color temperature as the Everlight Softbox. Mixing tungsten and LED lights means putting CTO filters on the LEDs. That cuts down on output.

Since you already have a softbox, an inexpensive companion light is the Lowel Pro.
Actually, Les, Richard sells his Coollightsin both 5600 and 3200 versions. (I own 3 of the 3200 versions myself.) Gelling those to match tungsten obviously isn't necessary.

FWIW.
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Old September 10th, 2011, 09:22 PM   #13
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Re: Lighting someone with a dark complexion

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Originally Posted by Bill Davis View Post
..Richard sells his Coollightsin both 5600 and 3200 versions....
That's good to know.

@Charles, if you're buying Chinese anyway, might as well get a Coolight LED that will match your Everlight. Mixing color temperature yields awful skin tones.
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Old September 11th, 2011, 01:56 AM   #14
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Re: Lighting someone with a dark complexion

Thanks Les (& Bill), will keep that in mind. Some of the ePhoto options also allow for 3200 - though I don't know if that's accurate. Will do more research.
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Old September 28th, 2011, 09:08 AM   #15
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Re: Lighting someone with a dark complexion

Hey Charles,

I use and love the Cool Lights 600 dimmable with softbox and grid. I got a battery pack too and mount them on an Avenger C-Stand and it's great. Actually shot video of Governor and several commercials with it.

This is indeed a great forum I've been hanging out in for years now.

Harry
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