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  • Peter Murray

Why light for television?



Lighting for television production has been a part of the action since the first camera was invented.

Originally, cameras required enormous amounts of bright lights. But vast improvements in cameras have lessened the wattage need (and also downsized video cameras!).

But, it does not mean lighting is less important, just that the needs of the camera are different.

There is a technique to lighting. A light pointed at the talent will assure the iris is working, but make for a bland, flat looking object. There will be no noticeable depth. If at all possible, use three lighting sources. A key (front); a side (fill); and a back or hair light.

The key light adds depth to your video shot by defining the object from side to side in a technique known as “chiaroscuro”, literally “light/dark” . The fill light illuminates the dark side so it can be recorded and the backlight provides the depth needed, top to bottom.

Some diffusion may be needed to lessen any harshness. The Lee filter company makes hundreds of light filters and each filter has a purpose! Some emphasize flesh tones. Others simply add nice colour to a backdrop. And simple, low opacity sheets reduce brilliance.

The difference between a hard light and a soft light can mean the difference between capturing the less flattering texture of the talent’s skin or the more flattering beauty of their face.

Artificial light sources are changing with the use of LED and compact florescent lights replacing tungsten and other incandescent lighting equipment. Colour temperatures (hot reds and cool blues) can vary widely depending on the choice of these technologies.

When variable lighting sources occur during a shoot, only colour correction in post-production can solve the jarring effects of changing spectrums.

Because the eye is an unreliable judge in setting up lighting, a light meter or high quality colour monitor is an indispensable tool. A reflected light meter can help with contrast, where an incident light meter can tell you how much brightness is falling on the talent.

Scrims, gels, dimmers and focus all modify the “flavour” of the lighting you design so a reputable video shooter (Director of Photography) will depend on his Lighting Director just as an executive chef does with a sous chef.


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