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Photon Management
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Old December 22nd, 2005, 09:47 PM   #1
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Location: Nevada City, California
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I am scheduled to tape a single person at a podium during a seminar in a Hilton Hotel Ballroom next month. Set up will be FX 1 on tripod with a Sony 20dw2 20watt light on camera about 20 feet from presenter. The room light will be on but might be dimmed. My questions are..

Will the 20 watt light be enough?

if not, What type of on-camera light should I go with?

Any tips for filling face shadows that might result from overhead from room lights?

Should I Shoot straight on or off to the side slightly.

B&H recommended this light, but looking at it I am wondering if maybe I should go with a more professional light. I thought maybe I coud get some advice before I opened it and can still exchange it.

Thanks for any tips or suggestions.
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Old December 23rd, 2005, 01:56 AM   #2
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Random idea:

1- If you can run power to the podium, then there are fluorescent lights you can use to light the presenter.

Look at the 8-watt fluorescent at

You'd place it on the podium (near the top of it). Unfortunately the low angle is not that great because it gives that campfire telling-a-ghost-story look if there isn't other light around.

2- If you can't run power to the podium, maybe the following would work.

Buy a bunch of LED flashlights. Position them like you would #1, except that you bounce the flashlights off a matte surface or crinkled tinfoil.
Play around with this beforehand, and bring some tape that isn't too sticky and doesn't leave residue behind.

3- The 20W light might be blinding and annoying to the speaker, since it's a hard source.
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Old December 23rd, 2005, 05:22 AM   #3
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Hire a 300w fresnel, place it next to the camera. Use difusion to soften.

Good luck
Alexandre Lucena is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 23rd, 2005, 08:47 AM   #4
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The 20w on-camera light will probably drain the battery quickly, so don't forget that aspect. I would use some diffusion gel (mount it a few inches away from the the light billowing out from it's bard doors) on a light like that so it's shadows aren't so harsh and so it doesn't blind the speaker. Also remember that dimmed room lights will go to a lower color temperature, so you might want to bring some 1/4 CTO (amber) gel for your light to help it match the room light. Mismatched sources reveal that you are using an on-camera light.
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Old December 23rd, 2005, 09:06 AM   #5
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The problem with using the on-camera light alone is that is such an unflattering angle for light to be hitting a human face. If you watch any local news segments, you'll see on-camera lights used when they are "running and gunning" in the field, perhaps interviwing people on the fly at night. Even when news crews do a hastily-set standup, they'll place a Lowel Omni, DP or similar off-axis from the talent, perhaps with a bit of diffusion.

The second problem is that a 20-watt light from 20 feet away won't even read as anything more than a small bit of fill. Just imagine if you placed a normal, bare household lightbulb 20 feet away from someone in a darkened room. How much light would that give you? Keep in mind that a normal light bulb is a 60-100 watt light!

Also, when it comes to diffusion, diffusing the light only works when the area of the light source is large in relationship to the subject. That beautiful soft light that models faces or cars and makes everything look soft and lovely is often created by a 6-to-20-foot silk placed awfully close to the subject. In fact, if you take a diffused light source sufficiently far away from the subject, it acts like a point light. The sun is 1,390,000 km wide, a pretty diffused source, but at a distance of 150 million km from the earth, it acts like a single point.

That being said, putting diffusion in front of a hard, point light will help your talent not to squint quite as much if the light is placed near the camera. It will also help soften the look, albeit maginally at that distance.

Scout the ballroom in advance. They may already have dimmable, stage-type lights in the ceiling that can be used for podium speakers. It is not terribly unusual for big-hotel ballrooms to have a modicum of built-in house lighting.

Another consideration is a Powerpoint or other slide show. You don't want your video lights to wash out the screen behind the presenter, if there is one. You want to keep the general ambient level of light low enough that the screen will both look good to the audience, AND read well on camera. Luckily, the camera you are using should be able to handle this just fine without even resorting to bumping the gain.

I would consider using the built-in house lighting first, perhaps augmented by a piece of white foamcore taped over the podium surface - hidden from view of the audience, but providing a bit more bounced reflection onto the speaker. Second, consider renting a 4x Kino-Flo unit with tungsten-color bulbs and perhaps a small fresnel from a local rental house. Place the Kino as close as you can to the speaker on the camera side without getting into the shot, slightly in front and above. Place the fresnel high up on a stand behind the speaker for a rim light on his head and shoulders. Maybe put some light diffusion and scrims to cut down the intensity. Dim the Kino to an appropriate level for your dimmed ambient light, and use the barn doors to keep the light from spilling onto the screen or the audience. You can also rent low-cost Lowels or similar, with lots of diffusion to create the same effect - just place them as close as you can to the talent, and make sure they're not too bright. The idea is to match the ambience of the room, not overpower it.

Make certain you know that the speaker plans to stay at the podium. I've had careful lighting set up at a podium only to find the speaker decided to take a wireless mike and roam all around the stage or into the audience. That's another advantage of using the house lights only.

Finally, shoot to one side of the presenter, but not at a full 45 degrees. Try to position yourself 15-20 degrees off center. That will make the presenter look his best.

I'm coming really close to rambling, here, but I hope I've given you some food for thought on your shoot. Good luck!
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Old December 23rd, 2005, 05:56 PM   #6
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Thank you all, for all the great suggestions. I now think that the on-camera light is not the way to go. I will use an separate soft light on a stand. The angle and placement information is great. I am amazed at the quality of information on dvi.
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