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Lighting for Video: Tips and Challenges

written by: Misty Faucheux•edited by: Amy Carson•updated: 4/18/2011

You're ready to start your new film or video. But, you're wondering about what to do for lighting. Learn about lighting for video in this video production tutorial.

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    Video Lighting Overview

    Lighting for video is very similar to lighting for photography. But, it’s almost more intense. While in photography, you are just trying to enhance the natural beauty of something. Video production involves creating false lighting to improve the scene. So, you need to know some video lighting techniques before you attempt to use lighting on your next film, commercial or clip.

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    Creating Contrast

    Video Production While modern digital cameras are very advanced, you still need external lighting to help improve how your scene looks. While your eyes can handle extremely high contrast ranges, even the best video cameras can only provide you with about one quarter of the eye’s normal contrast.

    So, you need external lighting you usually either need to improve or reduce lighting (if the area is overexposed). Use fill lighting to improve shadows, especially on people’s faces. Position the lighting both behind and in front of the scene. If necessary, add some side lighting to add some contrast to the scene.

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    Change the White Balance

    While photography usually looks to just enhance the natural scene, digital video lighting generally involves creating very unrealistic lighting. The camera doesn’t pick up natural real well. For example, night scenes are never fully night scenes. If they were, you’re camera would either pick up nothing or just grainy images. So, you add muted lighting or overhead lighting to simulate light from the moon.

    Nearly the same goes for when you use natural lighting. If you shoot in a room with fluorescent lighting, and move the camera across a doorway, your subjects will either become very over-exposed, or they’ll turn into silhouettes. Your camera just can’t handle the contrast, especially if it set to the Auto or Manual setting.

    So, the first thing that you want to do is manually change the white balance on your camera. Generally, this involves setting up your lighting, and then zooming into a white card. The camera’s white balance will calculate the needed settings and adjust them.

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    No-Budget Lighting

    If you are on a budget, invest in florescent lighting. It nicely lights up a room, and you can place them nearly anywhere. Purchase lighting that has full spectrum, natural color tubes. You can place these lights on a light stand or ladder.

    If you want muted lighting, buy some reflectors. Reflectors work really well if you have actors since you won’t blind them with full lighting. But, this lighting also decreases shadows on faces.

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    Lighting Kit

    If you do have a decent budget, invest in a light kit. These kits include a variety of lights, including on-camera lighting. These lights are especially useful if you are filming a news program or interview. To prevent the actor from squinting, ensure that the lighting is at least 5 feet away from the actor. If that doesn’t work, pull back either farther.

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    Experimentation

    If you do have a decent budget, invest in a light kit. These kits include a variety of lights, including on-camera lighting. These lights are especially useful if you are filming a news program or interview. To prevent the actor from squinting, ensure that the lighting is at least 5 feet away from the actor. If that doesn’t work, pull back even farther.

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    References

    Jackman, John. “Light Right – A Crash Course in Lighting Video”, http://www.techlearning.com/article/1162

    Bill Myers Online, http://www.bmyers.com/public/857.cfm?sd=30

    Permanently scatterbrained, http://www.flickr.com/photos/iamagenious/2988121630/sizes/m/in/photostream/