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Old July 11th, 2007, 11:36 PM   #1
Join Date: May 2004
Location: USA
Posts: 1,189
How to get lighting right

I've had problems with clients complaining the video for their dance recital is too dark. And by clients I mean the dance directors who have hired me to shoot their performance not the parents buying the dvds. The main problem is that the perimeter of the stage is unevenly lite (front, back, and sides). The highlights get blown if you try to expose for these darker areas. I understand that its unfair to blame the videographer for an poorly lite stage, but its hard to convince the client. All they know is that when they watch your dvd it looks dark and they want you to fix it. For future events I'll have to make it abundantly clear that a poorly lite stage will result in a dark dvd. Anyone else have similar problems with clients?

The other issue that I feel is my responsibility is getting the exposure right in post production. I'm not sure what to trust. My computer LCD monitor looks a lot darker than my CRT TV. I'm using Final Cut Pro, I use the 3-way Color corrector filter to adjust the levels and the range check zebra to gage the proper highlights.

But how do I know if my TV is giving an accurate depiction? Now a days they could be viewing it on an old crt or a new HD LCD or plasma. I just don't know what to say when a client says its too dark? Is there a way to test my TV to determine whether my exposure is correct?
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Old July 12th, 2007, 12:38 AM   #2
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Location: Toronto, Canada
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You can get a broadcast monitor and calibrate it to color bars. That should give you a pretty average picture.

Old TVs tend to crush the blacks and appear dark... avoid them.

Of course if you get a broadcast monitor, some viewer's sets will be a bit darker than it. So you just account for that.

2- The ideal method of shooting this is to get lighting that works for video. The human eye can see a much bigger dynamic range than what video can do... so the audience saw a decent image live and you have to give them something reasonable on video. You can't do a reasonable job if the lighting really does not work for video. Stages tend to be evenly lit so you don't have the situation where people are standing in (unintentional) pockets of shadow. You need reasonably even lighting. So I guess you have to make sure the lighting is reasonably good so that you can do your job.

*The other situation is that stage lighting tends to be very high contrast and footage tends to blow out if your leave your camera on auto-exposure (manual exposure or AE shift can solve that). So in that sense, stage lighting tends to be bad for video. But that kind of stage lighting you can still get a usable image.

3- The other thing to try is to raise the gamma on the image. In the 3-Way, drag the middle slider below the color wheels up. You may find that the colors look a little whacked out. The alternative is to use the RGB levels filter and change the gamma (this applies gamma to the RGB channels instead of the Y channel; it looks better). A small downside is that the RGB levels filter clips off superwhite infornation... that information is useful if you need to deal with overexposure.

But anyways, even the RGB levels filter will screw up the colors. And you bring out noise. It's not an ideal fix.
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Old July 12th, 2007, 02:29 AM   #3
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Location: Belgium
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I have filmed a dance recitel a few times but it's not really my thing as I do weddings for a livin, at weddings you get to deal with quickly changing lighting conditions as well but it's still something different compared to an uneven lit stage.
What I did during the dance recitel was to bring a tv with me which I hooked up to my camera so I could see how it looked in real life :) and adjust the exposure on that and then set it to manual. In this way you can look for a good balance between over- and underexposure. That was only for the camera that had a total view of the stage. A second camera doing the closeups had it's exposure set to automatic because of the constantly changing light conditions and since it was following the dancers in close up across the stage it could adjust accordingly.
The camera's were both Sony vx2100's which allready perform very well dark situations.

During post I use an old crt which is actually darker then what I see on a regular tv, since I visit many clients, I have a quite good idea how my demo's look on different tv sets. Therefore I have a secondary display which is a lcd tv, it also has a connection for pc and I have a dvd recorder hooked up to it so I can see my finished dvd on it as well. This lcd tv is quite reliable when it comes to getting the exposure right or for colour correcting. I know it's not a real broadcast monitor but for weddings it's more then adequate, especially because I know that at a client my footage lookes allmost the same.
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