Video Lighting

The surface of the video screen is a flat 2D surface. It cannot represent a 3D space. We must use light to give the illusion of depth within the scenes. Painting a scene with light will create depth and invoke emotional response in the viewer. Follow the source of light naturally in the scene. A lamp or the sun may be used as the main light. Set up the direction of the lights so the shadows they cast don't conflict and confuse the viewer.

Lighting the subject front and behind creates good 3D depth. Lighting has 3 variables that can be controlled. They are:

  • Coherence or Hard & Soft Light. Hard light comes from small sources of intense light, like spot lights. Hard light creates dark, crispy shadows that bring out surface detail. Soft light creates warm, soft shadows that hide detail.
  • Temperature. Temperature is the color of the light and it is measured in degrees Kelvin. Light is usually between 3200 Kelvin (lamps) and 5400 Kelvin for average daylight. The temperature is what the cameras white balance compensates for. Make sure all lights lighting a scene have the same color temperature.
  • Intensity. This is the brightness of the light and is measured in lux. A lights intensity is controlled in two ways: It's wattage and it's distance.

Lighting Setup

A three-point setup scheme is usually used to illuminate a scene.

Key Light

The key light established surface detail and gives the subject detailed form and dimension. It should be positioned 30 to 45 degrees right or left of the camera, usually on the subjects best side. It is most often positioned 45 degrees vertical above the subject shining down. It can be positioned at eye-level and below shining up.

Fill Light

The Fill light should be setup on the other side of the camera at a right angle to the key light although it can be positioned anywhere from beside the camera to 45 degrees. The Fill light balances the contrast on the subject and minimizes the heavy shadows caused by the key light. It should be half the intensity of the key light. It also should be set above the subject shining down at a 45-degree angle. It can also be at eye level or below. White bounce boards of Styrofoam or chloroplast can be used outside if the sun is setup as the key light.

Back Light

The Back light separates the subject from the background. It should be placed directly behind and below the subject at 45 degrees vertical. They are usually lower wattage than the key light but set up closer to the subject to make it about 30% more intense than the key light.

Background Lights

Yes, the three-point setup has 4 lights. But this light doesn't illuminate the subject, but rather the background. This brings out the detail in the background if desired. It should be lined up in the same direction as the key light.

It's The Mix

Pay close attention to the ratio of intensities between the three lights. Each scene is different and a little tweaking is necessary. Trust you eye in the viewfinder or preferably on a good monitor. If you change the ratios of the intensities dramatically, you can alter the mood of a scene. You can change the relative intensities of the lights by moving them closer or farther away.

Electrical Requirements

Power usage is measured in Watts. You can only use so much power on an electrical circuit. To calculate your power requirements do the following:

  • Add up all the wattage of all the lamps on a circuit.
  • Divide by 100 to get Amps
  • The number of Amps cannot exceed you circuit breaker value.

For example, if you used 3 lights on a shoot and each light was 500 Watts, that's 1500 Watts total. Divide by 100 and you get 15. The lights must be on at least a 15 Amp circuit.