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Old February 3rd, 2006, 10:17 AM   #1
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How to light a conference

I'm at a bit of a loss here, so I would like to solicit as much advice as I can get. Here's the deal: we shoot conferences such as CES and post the interviews as HD files on Did a test at the 2006 conference to see if it could be done, and it works great. Outside of talent, there were two big problems: audio and lighting.

Audio was no big deal; it sounded fine but looked bad to have a mic in the interviewee's face. That has been fixed with a Countryman mic for the talent and a boom for the interviewee. What I have yet to fix is the lighting.

It's hard to light the interviewee on a conference floor where you have no control over anything, can't plug power into anything, and can't blind the other people trying to walk through the booth. It's that last part that's getting me, not blinding people. I need a very, very, very portable system for fill and hair (something better than just a shoe light), that's rugged, small, won't blind everyone, but will provide enough light to make the interviewee look good. I assume Iíll need 3 to 4 lights for fill, hair and background.

I have heard from more than one source that LED lights = bad. Tungsten would be too bright unless we brought a bunch of diffusion and/or umbrellas (which I would like to avoid as that adds setup time and bulk), and florescent is, in my experience, fragile and wonít take the massive beating they will receive.

Does anyone have any ideas how to light a conference like this, off of battery power, and make the talent/interviewee actually have depth? Specifically, what product or type of light would do the best job? Right now itís a soft spot on their face, and it makes it look like a bad news interview, which I donít want. I would like to keep the budget around or under $2,000 for the kit (without batteries), but that can float if needed.

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Old February 4th, 2006, 09:13 AM   #2
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Need more information on the interview itself. Is the location of the interviews fixed or are "running and gunning"? How much control do you have on where you shoot? If your light is blinding others it sounds like you are in the middle of the conference with people walking by. Am I seeing this right?
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Old February 4th, 2006, 11:05 AM   #3
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Run and gun baby! You're correct in assuming that we're in the middle of the show floor. We have thousands of people around us on all sides, and since we are in the vendors booth, they don't want to be turning away crouds for a video shoot, which tends to happen when you blind them with big, sexy lights.

We do have control of where in the booth we will be shooting, but that position is usually limited to one or two spots at the front of the booth where we have a decent background, company logo, and something to look at other than crowds of people walking by... So this does limit our options a bit, but it's different from booth to booth, and it's usually at the discretion of the videographer.

I have a test 480p encode here:

The intro shot sucks, I know, and "talent" (me) is awful (I'm usually BEHIND the freaking camera). Look at the interviews after that. See how they have no depth, and it looks like we're just shining a shoe light in their face (which, uh, we are). It looks like news, and I hate that.
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Old February 4th, 2006, 12:21 PM   #4
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It is news

Hi Benjamin:

Basically what you are shooting is news; it is very difficult to control anything around you except the interview; It looks like the camera is on auto, because in the Samsung interview it was irising everytime the screen in the background got brighter. You actually need more light on the interviewee; expose for him on manual. Also, in the beginning; your pitch was fine, but you need to be lit. If there is a way you could use a shotgun mic to pick up both you and the interviewee, that would be helpful as well. It just looks cleaner than the back and forth with the mic. Better yet, use a wireless.

Jack Hubbard
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Old February 4th, 2006, 12:42 PM   #5
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It sounds to me like the thing to do is FIRST use a 20 or 30W on cam light - throw a softbox or piece of diffusion on the light and go for it. If you're shooting news style in a crowded area like it sounds like, you don't have time or space to get fancy.
As for audio-put a wireless on you and use either a shotgun or something like an SM57 or SM63 or EV-R50 for the other person. I do it all the time. Is it a perfect setup? NO does it work and get good audio and decent image? You bet. In a situation like you described you can not have your cake and eat it too at least not without dropping some on the floor.

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Old February 4th, 2006, 01:00 PM   #6
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You could try using an L-shaped bracket like the Mini Rover so the light's off to the side a bit. That will give a little bit more depth.
"Ultimately, the most extraordinary thing, in a frame, is a human being." - Martin Scorsese
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Old February 4th, 2006, 02:34 PM   #7
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Don is right about having minimal control over this situation. No way you should ever attempt to get 3 point lighting here.

I would recommend a frezzi with a built in dimmer and a Chimera Micro Light Bank. After watching your video, you have a number of backgrounds, some very bright, some not. The dimmer gives you some control. If you have a darker background, dim the frezzi and open up the lens (always stay in manual exposure and focus) until the subject and background are somewhat balanced. With a bright background, like the large screen TV, turn the dimmer, probably 100%, then close down the lens so the subject and background are more in balance.

If you feel you need a hairlight to separate the subject from the background, put another battery powered light on an extended stand (the feet should never be extended - tripping hazard)and have someone hold the stand and point the light at the back of the subjects head. Wedding photographers do this frequently (with flash) at dark reception halls.

Have plenty of battery power, diffusion, and even some ND gel, to help control the light and prevent "blinding" others at the conference.
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