Module 34



 Module 34






Special Lighting



Although the three-point lighting approach we've discussed can be relied upon to produce excellent results in most situations, we also need to look at some special lighting needs.

Let's start with a simplified design that creates a softer effect than the three-point formula approach.

In the drawing below note that a soft front light replaces both the key and fill. The umbrella reflector shown here, Umbrella Reflectoror a light bounced off a large white card, will provide similar results. 

In this case the broad area covered by the key acts as both a key and a fill.

Although the picture produced will not provide the same depth and dimension as formula lighting, the softer effect may be more flattering for subjects, especially if wrinkles and age lines are an issue.

If the background is close behind a subject, this may eliminate the need for a background light.

Since you are using a diffused light source, the background will probably be softly lit and shadows on the background will be less noticeable. A backlight is still desirable to provide needed subject-background separation.


Using a Window Light as a KeyWindow key

Sunlight from a window can also be used as a key.

The fill light shown here comes from an incandescent light on a stand.

Without a blue filter over this type of  light, it will look unacceptably yellow compared to the sunlight.

A light meter (or a good video monitor) can aid in creating the desired 2:1, key-fill lighting ratio.


   Bounced Light

For short ENG segments bounced light can be used. The drawings below show approaches for large and small rooms.

Although the soft lighting effect leaves a bit to be desired, this approach may be adequate for short segments.

Note that this design uses a single light bounced off the ceiling. Obviously, bounced light 1you must be working in a room with a relatively low white or light-gray ceiling.

The white, acoustic tile commonly found in offices works well.

Bounced light creates a soft, even light throughout the room, an effect that is similar to what we are used to seeing with overhead fluorescent lights.

If the camera is back far enough, a light mounted on top of the camcorder can be aimed at the ceiling for a bounced light effect.

The camera and attached light should be far enough back from the subject so that the light will come down at an acceptable angle. If the light is too close to the subject, dark eye shadows will result.

If the walls of the room are a light, neutral color, they will reflect part of the bounced light and more fully fill in shadow areas.

The second drawing assumes a smaller room. bounced light 2To keep the light from coming down on the subject at too steep an angle, it's aimed at the back wall. Again, this approach creates an extremely soft effect, which may or may not be desirable.

Although much light will be lost in the double-bounce process, with today's highly sensitive professional cameras this should not be a problem.

To help compensate for the color that the ceiling and walls will add to the light, be sure to white balance the camera under the bounced rather than the direct light.

More traditional (and better) lighting for a typical office interview is covered in — this article.  


Lighting Multiple Subjects

Thus far we have covered the lighting of one subject only.

Life isn't always that simple.

First, we'll take a look at a typical three-person interview setup and a lighting design that provides maximum control on subjects. While banks of fluorescent lights or LEDs would be simpler, you would not have the control provided in the design below.

Note that even though things appear to be much more complex in the design below, we've only just repeated the basic three-point lighting setup for each of the three people.

three subjects

A simple news, weather and sports set is shown below. By panning to one side or the other, the two cameras can get one of the co-anchors or the sports or weather person.

Also note that the positions of the key and fill lights provide three-point lighting coverage for each of these camera positions.

Background lights are not shown — and they may not be needed because of the accumulation of ambient light on the background.

By studying the drawing you can see how each subject has a key, a fill, and a back light.

Through the use of barn doors the light from the Fresnels (in red) can be confined to the intended subjects.

news set lighting

As previously noted, some lighting directors prefer a flat, high-key approach to lighting news anchors. This is done by making the key-fill ratios even (1:1) or using banks of fluorescent or LED lights. 

Now let's take a look at a rather complex lighting setup. This is designed to provide maximum control for each of the subjects. Simpler designs might depend on banks of fluorescent to cover key areas.

Complex Lighting Example

Note that two large Fresnels are used to key all of the subjects on the left and five smaller Fresnels are used as back lights on these subjects.

One of these back lights also keys the person on the right. Two scoops provide the necessary fill light for the entire set. Barn doors keep lights intended for one person from spilling over onto another person or area.

Sometimes you may need to develop non-formula lighting designs for special dramatic effects. The author once did a cabaret-style network series where — the following low-key lighting design was used.

Area Lighting

So far, we've covered subjects conveniently confined to one place. But what if one or more subjects must be free to roam around a set while on camera? There are four ways this can be handled in a dramatic production.

1. First, the entire area can be flooded with a base light, which is an overall, even light. Scoops, LED banks, or color-balanced fluorescents will work here, assuming the area isn't too large.

Important close-up camera talent positions are then keyed with lights at twice the intensity of the base light. Small pieces of tape placed on the floor can provide marks for the talent to "hit" as they move from one major camera position to another.

With this approach you will probably not want to barn off the lights any more than necessary because illuminated areas should be kept large enough to give the talent a margin of error in missing their marks.

2. The second approach involves keying, filing, and backing the entire area -- generally, a dramatic setting. Here the whole working range — assuming it's not too large — is treated as a single subject. This will require a powerful (high-wattage) key light positioned at a great enough distance to cover the entire area.

If the key is placed in the center of the set, 90 degrees to the back wall, the angle will be appropriate for cameras positioned at each side of the set.

One or more Fresnels with diffusers placed at either side of the set can serve as fills. (Scoops or banks of color-balanced fluorescent lights will not throw light far enough to reach the back of a large area.)

If multiple keys are needed to achieve a high enough level of illumination over the set, they should be positioned as close together as possible to reduce the problem of multiple shadows and multiple catchlights in eyes.

Interior TV setOver a large area multiple back lights will have to be used. They should be aimed to create slightly overlapping pools of light over the whole talent area. The talent should be able to walk from one area to another without obvious variations in back light.

3. The third approach to lighting a large area is to divide the set into individual areas, and key, fill, and back each area.

Often, large interior settings are divided into four or more parts for keying, filling, and backing.

Typically, the lights at the edge of each of these areas will just begin to merge. With this approach it's important to make sure that close-ups on the talent will not be in the transition points between lighted areas.

Keep in mind the sources of light that may be suggested by the setting — visible table lamps, windows, etc. Place the key lights so they will be consistent with these suggested sources of illumination. As we've previously noted, this is called following source.

4. The last approach to lighting a large area would be appropriate to simulate an interior at night. This technique would use a low key lighting ratio from 3:1 to 6:1, and the talent would move in and out of specifically defined set areas. Only important, close-up areas would be lit, leaving the rest of the scene relatively dark.

With this approach it's especially important to follow source; i.e., place keys so that they are consistent with the visible or suggested sources of light within the setting.

If a person was sitting next to a reading lamp, the key would have to be angled so that the light would appear to be coming from that table light. In some cases you may want to use a low-level base light over the entire set to keep in-between areas from going too dark.

Using a Stand-In

Whatever lighting approach you use, the lighting can be checked on camera by having a stand-in (a person of similar height, skin color, and clothing as the talent involved).  

This person should slowly walk through the various designated talent positions on camera as the lighting is carefully observed on a good color monitor. In addition, if a waveform monitor is used, it makes it even easier to judge variations in the levels of illumination.

During the show's dress rehearsal with the actual talent any remaining problems can be spotted and then fixed during the break between the dress rehearsal and the actual production.

Existing (Natural) Light

In news and documentary work the most "honest" approach to lighting is to make use of the existing (natural) light present at the location. This shows things as they really are (within the limitations of the video process), rather than after they have been altered or embellished by "artificial" lighting.

The problem is that existing light is often unsuitable. The contrast ratio can be too extreme; there can be mixed sources of light (sometimes daylight, incandescent light and fluorescent light all at the same location); or, the light level can be too low for a quality video underexposure/high contrast ratiosignal.

Note that the existing light photo here suffers from both underexposure and a high contrast ratio.

There's also another consideration: people are used to seeing interviews, etc., enhanced by good lighting. Without it, it appears to many viewers that "the picture's dark," or "the picture isn't good."

This is not unlike the situation photojournalism faced a few decades ago when existing light still photography was first used in publications such as Life magazine. Since people were used to seeing flash-on-the-camera photos, natural light photography seemed unnatural — even though it accurately showed the actual conditions being photographed. (Flash was necessary in the early days of photojournalism because of the relatively slow speed of film and light from computerlenses.)

Occasionally in dramatic productions you have to fake lighting to make it look real.

Here, the light from a computer screen is insufficient to illuminate the child's face.  So to simulate this setting, a light with a blue filter is positioned on the other side of the computer monitor.

>>As videographers strive to add an artistic dimension in their work they start to rely more and more on shadows to convey meaning. By studying — these photos again you can see a few of the ways this can be done.

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