A Guide To Lighting For Video

How the subject you are filming is lit can make or break a video. Obviously you want your audience to see what you are filming, but how it is lit can determine how your audience reacts emotionally to the subject you are filming. Different lighting techniques vary on different projects, and here is a quick guide to those techniques.

LED-Video-Light-and-DSLR-CameraAttaching A Light To Your Camera
When filming on the go, a good thing to have attached to the top of your camera is a small LED light. This comes in handy for lighting subjects close to camera. Things to look out for is making sure the subject is lit evenly. If that subject is a person, light them well, but make sure you don’t blind them.

 

 

3pointlightingsetupThe Three Point Lighting Setup
When setting up lights as a set piece, a good place to start is a “three point lighting system”. (This involves three separate lights.) This starts with a key light and is the main lighting source. This is placed next to and level with the camera, lighting the subject in front of camera. In interior locations with windows, this will be an extension to emphasize sunlight coming through a window lighting the subject from the front.

 

 

This light on it’s own will generate a “hard” lighting effect. One side of the subject is lighter, the other side much darker. This creates an expression of mystery and darkness. Great for drama and horror, but if this is not the intended expression, a fill light is needed. This light goes on the other side, level with the camera facing the subject and fills in the shadows created by the key light. Now your subject is evenly lit, a “soft” lighting effect. We can go softer, and create a romantic look. This is done with a back light. This light is placed high and behind the subject, creating a halo effect around the subject. This is the complete three point lighting system.

3pointlightingphoto

shootingwithgelsLight Intensity & Coloured Gels
Some lights can emit intense light or an unwanted colour temperature, so it’s important to balance everything out. For intense light, diffusion paper can be used to reduce the intensity of the light. You can also use coloured gel sheets to change the colour temperature of the light. This can be useful when correcting the balance of your light, or creating aesthetic effects.

 

 

 

reflectorBlocking & Bouncing
At times you will also need to block or bounce light on a subject. Another great and cheap trick I picked up from filmmaker Owen Benson is to get a big piece of white polystyrene board, and paint one side completely black. The black side can be used to block any unwanted light on a subject. The white side can be used to reflect light. Instances where light may need to be reflected is when you are filming outside in intense sunlight from above and you need to fill in the shadows by placing the white reflective board below the subject.

Please check out Owen Benson’s website below.

www.owenbensonvisuals.com

tinfoilwindowFilming Day For Night
If you are shooting inside with windows during the day, and want it to look like night, simply closing the curtain will not do. It will look exactly like it is, daylight with the curtains drawn closed. A brilliant, cheap trick I picked up from filmmakers on a feature film set is to wet the windows, and completely cover it with tin foil (shiny side out) and then shut the curtains. No light comes through the curtains, thus making it look like night.

 

 

 

 

Things to remember when lighting:

  • Attach a light to the camera for on the go shooting.
  • Use three point lighting for camera setups.
  • Adjust the lights intensity using diffusing materials.
  • Use coloured gels to create different lighting effects.
  • Block unwanted lighting.
  • Bounce light to enhance your lighting setup.
  • Completely block sunlight from windows when shooting day for night.

You are now ready to light your subject. Make it look good!

 



Filming To Tight Schedules

A lot has to be calculated when producing a video. To be honest, I’ve been doing this for a long time and I have to think deeply about these calculations because they’ve become second nature when I’m filming. It’s an advantage when filming to tight schedules. Even with the subconscious nature of my skills, clients ask for near impossible deadlines, mainly because they don’t know the level of detail that goes into crafting a video. They only see what’s in front of them, and have no contemplation of what’s gone into producing the images and sound. Every single aspect is meticulously scrutinised by the filmmaker.

Lighting For Video
When I’m filming, I’m not only looking at the subject, but also how the subject is lit. Lighting can have a big effect on how an audience reacts emotionally to the image. When the lighting is soft and even, it gives a sense of positiveness. When the light is intense and hard, it gives a sense of negativity. Lighting happens after blocking the movements of the subject and the camera. There are two types of lighting sources, natural and unnatural. Our Sun is a natural lighting source. Manufactured light bulbs are an unnatural lighting source. We cannot manipulate the Sunlight’s direction and intensity, something that changes with time. But we can change it’s effect on the subject by blocking parts of the sunlight and reflecting it. Every aspect of manufactured lights can be manipulated in order to get the intended aesthetic lighting effect.

LED-Video-Light-and-DSLR-CameraThe Camera
I’m also manipulating the camera’s reaction to the light. The main points of control are the aperture, shutter speed and the ISO. The aperture when changed effects the amount of light going into the camera and also the amount of space the focal depth covers. The shutter speed when changed effects the amount of light going into the camera and also effects the clarity of a moving object. The ISO changes the sensitivity of the light going into the camera without changing effect on focal depth and clarity of movement.

These camera settings are the main change on every video production I setup depending on how the subject is lit. I try to keep my shutter speed to 1/50 of a second because sometimes when it’s increased, something happens called a rolling shutter. Looks like a series of dark bars rolling up the screen, doesn’t look good and a pain to fix afterwards, best to resolve this when filming. This is a tip I picked up from well respected filmmaker Philip Bloom. His DSLR camera reviews online give great tips on how to best set your DSLR for video capture.
http://philipbloom.net/blog

microphoneCapturing Sound
The visuals and the sound is never synced automatically on a professional video production, syncing the sound to the video is done manually in post-production. A good camera can capture great video, but not great sound. The built in microphone in a camera has two problems for professional video production. First it’s not great quality, it’s automated to pick up every single piece of sound that’s happening 360°. Secondly the microphone is fixed in the camera, thus limiting where you want to place the microphone without moving the camera.

For profession sound I use a separate sound recording device with a microphone plugged in with a XLR cable and the microphone attached to a three meter boom pole, ideal for getting the microphone close to the sound in wide angle shots. This microphone is high quality and directional to capture sound 90°. Because sound and video is recorded separately, a marker has to be established for them to be synced afterwards. On profession video productions a slate is used. You’ve seen them, it’s that board with numbers and sticks on top that bang together to make a loud sound, this is the mark used to sync sound in post-production. Because I’m shooting to tight deadlines I keep the in built camera microphone on to use as my marker, giving me more valuable time in production and post-production.

editingThe Cutting Room
When creating my edit in post-production, I need as much flexibility as possible when manipulating my captured image. There’s a free to use software for DSLR cameras that helps this process called a Technicolor Cine-Style Profile. It gives enough colour information and provides definition to dark areas without overexposing lighter areas, and can be manipulated in post-production to create the desired image. This manipulation is colour grading. I use two steps to colour grading. The primary is correcting the contrast, brightness and colour of the image. The secondary is the aesthetic, the style of the image. This process I always do last, when everyone’s happy with the edited sequence of the video.

The sound goes through it’s own similar process. The primary, cleaning of any unwanted hiss, clicks, pops and leveled out. The secondary, the style of the sound, any manipulated effects. All sounds have to be mixed together with the final music. Currently I have a workflow setup from start to finish to deal with a video production project. This setup is built to deal with tight schedules. For every three minutes of video, it takes me four hours to edit a sequence, four hours to create any motion graphics, four hours to clean and design the image and four hours to clean, design and mix the sound.

In the coming weeks I will be releasing more articles diving deeper into everything mentioned in this article. Bye for now.

 



What Video Producers Want From Clients – 2 Bee Videos

In last weeks article I outlined what a producer needs for a video’s content strategy. This article outlines every need a video producer wants from their client for the entire video production. I have an objective with a series of goals. The objective is to create your video, and these are my goals.

The Initial First Meeting
It’s important for me to know you ‘the client’ inside out. Their brand, their ethos and their style. Their video has to reflect this. In most cases the client may have in mind something they want to produce, but it’s best to take things back to why I’m talking to you in the first place “What do you want your video to achieve? (And don’t say “make my website look good”)”. This would involve looking at what you’ve already achieved, how you work and the style of your work. This gives me a direction for your video and to be in keeping with you and your brand’s personality. It’s important to establish any deadlines. I recommend that the initial first meeting take place two weeks before the time the video definitely needs to be ready.

The Script
This is the subject I talked about last week. Once I know the ins and outs of the client, I start writing the script for their video. Every video follows a structure, and you always find similarities with a structured video production. This is where content strategy comes into the equation. To read my last article about content strategy, please click here.

Filming Itinerary
Some clients may have a certain event that needs to be captured on film. In this case, planning is everything. What? Where? & When? What is happening that needs to be captured on camera? Where is it happening? At what time is it happening? A detailed itinerary of the day’s events helps to carefully and meticulously plan the production around the event.

In the case of producing original content for camera. Filming dates can be arranged anytime between the client and the video producer. This being based on the content written for the video by the producer.

Who?
In videos involving people on or talking to camera, confidence goes a long way. Planning what will happen on the day of filming with the people in front of camera is the first step in helping them relax, it can be quite daunting for some individuals. There are some more techniques on helping people relax in front of camera on the day of filming. It’s important that I personally plan everything with the person that is going to be in front of camera.

Location, Location, Location
It might be that a filming location may not be suitable for the video production. This maybe because of aesthetic decisions, or the location may not be suitable for cast and crew because of health and safety or logistical reasons. Location recce and inspections are important, nothing can be left to chance.

Guatemala-sink-holeThe Subject
In the same way I would personally plan filming with a person whom will be in front of camera, I will be doing the same with filming around an object or physical product. I would liaise with the owner of that object to make sure everything goes to plan and make sure the owner is comfortable.

Graphic Materials
As part of my objective to make sure the client’s video contains content reflecting them, any branding, logos and other visual material representing the client helps the video. There is a quality threshold, and this is discussed in the initial meeting.

Formatting For The Platform
Knowing where your video is going to be hosted helps formatting the video correctly. The video has to retain high definition quality and the digital file be small enough it can be uploaded to your chosen platform speedily. Be that YouTube, Vimeo or your main website. With my services you can choose how you would like your video delivered. Be that a hard digital copy delivered physically, or digital transfer using Google services sharing via email link for a limited time only.

If you need a video and like what you’ve read, then contact me Benjamin Harding. Via email at ben@2bee.co.uk, or by phone on 07833 456766.