Meet the New

Tech Talk: LED Lights, Camera, Action!

Posted on March 8, 2013
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—Mike Graham comfortable in the spotlight.

Written by Mike Graham, product manager for CHAUVET Professional.

Over the past few years, we have covered a really wide range of topics. I don’t think we have ever covered video lighting.  So, with no further ado, we proudly present, [insert drum roll here] … lighting for video.

There are a few commonalities in how we approach this subject. It’s all about angles and elevation. Without even talking about fixtures, let’s approach positioning first.

I. Know your angle: 

There are three major types of lighting in video:
Key lighting — In an ideal setting, I would suggest getting your key lights (front lights that cover the subject being lit) at about a 20-degree angle above the subject and about 45 degrees off to each side of the subject. This will minimize the shadows on the front of your subject. Key lighting is the business side of video lighting; it makes up for the brightest lights in the room and are only there to highlight the subject.

CHAUVET Professional COLORado Zoom WW Tour

CHAUVET Professional COLORado Zoom WW Tour

Fill lighting — For fill lights, (side and back light that is used) angle higher (45 degrees plus to the top and 20 to 30 degrees to each side.) Fill light is less intense than key and often will have color in it. Fill light is used to give the subject depth and is the more artistic portion of video lighting.

Scenic lighting — is what is used to light up the set (same as in theatrical lighting). Scenic lighting is totally up to you, but don’t make it too bright as you want to make sure you don’t have to bring up your key light so much that your subject is burning up, or more importantly, the video director is not telling you to dim stuff down because all he can see is white glow on his monitor.

II. First steps for your design:

This is where I would start a design: much like in theatre lighting, you can divide up your stage area where the video is being shot into acting areas, and then create your lighting plot accordingly. Again, like theatrical lighting, video lighting is all about building a lighting position and repeat. This is why a TV studio looks like a lighting showroom. Each person who is sitting on a news set has his/her own key and fill lighting.

CHAUVET Professional Ovation E-190WW

CHAUVET Professional Ovation E-190WW

Tips for practical applications — When it comes to the more practical applications like corporate meetings, the common setup is to have a speaker in the middle of a raised stage between two projection screens. In some cases, there is a projection screen in the middle of the stage, as well. In these cases, you have a few obstacles in the way of your lightshow. You have to keep all of your key and fill lighting off of the screens and on the presenter, which shouldn’t pose a problem as long as the presenters stay at a podium in the center of the stage. A little front light, a little side light, a little back light and away we go. However, what if you have a “wandering target”?  Let’s say that you have someone who likes to walk and talk at the same time. How do we light that and keep our projection screens clear of any ambient light? At this point, sidelight becomes more important. We will have to raise our front light up to about a 35-40-degree angle and use more side light. Fresnel-style fixtures with barn doors are great for this application. You can cut off the light from the upstage side and flood out the front. Your sidelight will act as your fill in this case and should keep your presenter in good light no matter where he/she wanders. With regards to your front light, you just need more of it. I would suggest using ellipsoidal fixtures for this application. The beam is very directional and you can shutter-cut the upstage side to keep the light off of the screens. When you have your front lights all in position, you may want to throw them slightly out of focus so that the edges of each fixture even out with each other and prevent hotspots. To be honest, it is almost exactly how you would light a dance recital.

CHAUVET Professional Ovation F-165WW

CHAUVET Professional Ovation F-165WW

III. Know how to color:
So now we have a little information about positioning of lights and some suggestions about what kind of lights to use. What about color? What are my best bets for making all of this blend together and come out looking professional? Front light, as we have discussed is all about the cameras getting what it needs. Most cameras like warm light (3,100K-4,000K) depending on the camera. CHAUVET Professional Ovation E-190WW and Ovation F-165WW offer a 3,150K light source and it is possible to cool them down a little if needed with a correction gel. Another source of white light is the CHAUVET Professional COLORado Zoom WW Tour. This fixture has tunable white colors that can be adjusted anywhere inside of the typical range of warm white. It can also be zoomed from a tight to wide angle to assist with coverage if needed. For side, top, and backlight, it is very common to use more color in them.

CHAUVET Professional Ovation C-1280FC

CHAUVET Professional Ovation C-1280FC

Again side, top, and backlight are all types of fill light. The main purpose of these light sources is to add definition to the subject that is being lit.  Since you are blasting them with front light, your subject will be flattened out. The fill light needs to be just bright enough to add some definition to the subject that you are lighting. Personally, I like to keep it natural. A combination of warm ambers and cool sky colors is a really good way to make sure that your subject stands out; just keep it diffused and not too bright — just enough light to make your subject look natural. Scenic lighting is just that. It makes the scenery look better than it did when it came off the truck. Simple uplighting and some strategically placed gobos will  do the trick most of the time. It is amazing what you can do with a six-pack of WELL 2.0 battery-operated wash lights and two Ovation E-190WW fixtures with break up gobos installed.

IV. Remember your people:
Now that we have our lights positioned, focused and colored, we have to work more with the camera people. The first thing that they would probably do after they set up is a white balance on their cameras. This is the time when they will ask you to turn your front lights up to full. They will put a white sheet or something of that nature in the middle of the stage and adjust their cameras to the light that is reflecting off of the white material. This sets the camera iris and color sensors so that when they shoot, the subject does not get blown out and look like a ghost onstage. This is particularly important for live applications where there is no way to correct the images in postproduction.

By now you should be fairly set to run your show. Keep in mind that it will look too bright onstage for your taste in most cases. However, for the people who are shooting video, this is just perfect!