Posts Tagged ‘lighting’

Video Production Lighting Adopts LED Technology

Friday, March 9th, 2012

Camera technology is constantly changing in the video production industry. It can be difficult to keep up with new image sensors, codecs, image sizes, frame rates, etc. and you can easily break the bank trying to acquire all of this new gear. Small to medium-sized production companies, as well as independent producers, need to pick their battles when it comes to the purchasing of new gear. However, it IS exciting to witness the continued evolution of this industry and how the tools of motion picture storytelling continue to improve.

One bit of technology that’s impressive is new LED production lighting. Everyone is familiar with LED (Light Emitting Diode) in one way or another. For years it was used for small indicator lights on all kinds of electronics and appliances. Only within the last 5-8 years, however, has LED become a serious alternative to traditional incandescent and tungsten lighting. LED fixtures are now being used in architectural spaces (offices, commercial, etc.), residences, and theatrical applications. And now LED is being used in video and film production lighting.

There are several advantages to LED that should cause any production company to take a serious look at using it for their next project.

Fewer Watts Used – Video and film production crews are accustomed to using fixtures that use high wattages in order to get the proper picture exposure. 650w, 300w, 1000w are common for interior locations. For exteriors one might see 1200w, 2000w, and even 5000w. However, LED production fixtures use much less wattage, but will emit an equal amount of light. So, instead of using 650w, an LED equivalent might use 80w.

Fewer Circuits Needed – One of the considerations that must be made while shooting on location is knowing how to patch in all of your lights to avoid overloading one circuit. This can be especially dicey when working in older buildings. LED production lighting features DMX control, which allows the gaffer to daisy chain several fixtures together, then load all of those fixtures into one outlet.

Daylight and Indoor Color Temperatures – If the video production crew is set up for an exterior location with a light kit consisting mainly of indoor-balanced lamps, the gaffer must compensate for this difference in color temperature by placing gel over all of the indoor-balanced lights. This is quick and easy to do, but you also lose light output in the process. For exterior shoots, this loss of light could be unacceptable for the Director of Photography. You could use a fluorescent light bank with interchangeable daylight and indoor bulbs, but this might not give you the punch you need for exterior applications. LED production lights can come with interchangeable arrays, so you can quickly change from interior to exterior color temperatures without sacrificing light output.

No Heat – Every production light we have ever worked with, even a small 300w fresnel, produces an enormous amount of heat. That’s due to the infrared wave lengths that are emitted when the light is working. Up to ninety percent of a 2000w fresnel output may be heat. Once a shoot wraps, grips must either wear gloves when handling the lights, or wait until they cool down. This is why television studios are kept at a very cool temperature. LEDs, by contrast, produce almost no heat, because they operate with far less wattage than traditional tungsten sources. Think of the energy savings for production and TV studios. Less wattage means a reduction in energy consumption. Less heat from the light fixtures means that a studio doesn’t have to cool the studio as much, resulting in a significant reduction in utility costs.

Retrofit options are also available for studios who have a large inventory of fixtures.

There are several good reasons for using LED in video production. In the coming months and years this technology will continue to have an impact on the lighting industry.

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Behind the Scenes – Photos From Our Latest Video Shoot

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

We were hired by Hall Marketing to produce two promotional videos for one of their clients, Hoover City Schools. The school system offers counseling programs for Middle School and High School students, called Middle Ground and Bridges, respectively. Each program is designed to help students open up the lines of communications between themselves and parents over various issues that teens face. We shot the videos in one day at Hoover High School. Post-production should be complete by the middle of January.

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You can view more pictures from our shoot by visiting our Flickr page.

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When Video Directors and Clients Have Different Working Styles

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

img_5638b2In my experiences as a video producer and director, I have learned that clients can fall under two extremes: On one end of the spectrum are clients who are heavily involved in every stage of the process.  On the other end of the spectrum are the clients who take a “hands off” approach. They approve the creative strategy and then let the production company produce the video. Then, they will come back in during the editing process to give notes. And, of course, there are clients who will fall somewhere in the middle.

Ultimately, it’s your responsibility as a producer/director to give the client what they want. You need to recognize their particular work habits and learn to adapt accordingly. But if you are faced with a client who prefers a “hands off” approach it can be difficult to determine if you are on the right track. You could be faced with a big problem if you have already shot all of your footage and invested a lot of time in the edit only to discover that your client didn’t like the way you shot a particular scene. Or they might not like the wording of the script in a particular section. Or they might not like the look of a certain location. However, there are things that both the client and the video director can do to avoid costly re-shoots or extra time in the editing suite.

Directors, don’t ignore the client while on set. If you see that they are standing off by themselves, encourage them to come over and take a look at each shot before you start filming. Ask them if the lighting, framing, blocking, etc. is what they had in mind. Before moving on to another scene, ask the client if there is any other shot that they need before wrapping the gear. Clients, make sure that someone from your team is on location to supervise the shoot. Don’t be afraid to look over the director’s shoulder. Ask questions. Be honest about what you would like to see. Make sure that the footage you are getting is the footage you want. Better to have the footage and not need it, than need it and not have it.

Ultimately, a video production is a collaborative process, so both parties should respect each other and listen to any creative input. The client and the production company both want to produce the best video possible. And that’s some common ground from which to start.

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My Video Is Fuzzy

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

This question came to me recently…

We have a cannon XHA1 and are having issues shooting dark objects inside. The pixels within the dark areas become noisy or fuzzy. It seems like lower shutter speeds help this issue but don’t resolve it all together.

If you are shooting video in low light and your camera is set to auto iris, the camera will maximize all available light to boost the exposure. This results in grainy, or noisy video. You can also introduce grain onto your video if you increase the camera’s gain to compensate for low light. Many video cameras with manual controls allow you to control the amount of gain, usually in increments ranging from 0db to 18db.

To ensure that your image is clear, sharp and clean, you need to ensure that there is enough light on set for a proper exposure. If your script requires that you shoot nighttime scenes, or scenes in dark interiors, remember that the illusion of darkness is created NOT by taking away the amount of light on set, but by increasing the amount of contrast. You can shoot nighttime scenes without grain by knowing how to properly light the set.

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Shooting the Grocery Store

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

Twice this week I have been up all night working as the DP for Filament Artists’ latest short film, entitled “Love at the Grocery Store.” The screenplay was selected as the winner of the Production Prize at the 2008 Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival and will premiere at this year’s festival on September 26.

Shooting inside a grocery store has its particular set of challenges and so I wanted to pass along some things to remember if any of your projects take you inside the same environment.

LIGHTING & TONE

Most grocery stores are lit with fluorescents, meaning that everything will be washed with a flat, even, diffused light. If the tone of your piece calls for high-contrast lighting, you might want to see if the grocery store manager will allow you to turn off the overheads, giving you more freedom to light as you see fit. If this isn’t possible and you still want to create a surreal look with high-contrast, you can always light your subject with hard, direct light, that comes from the side, creating harsh shadows. The hard light will force you to stop down your f-stop. This should darken the background, while leaving your subject properly exposed.

Since fluorescent bulbs cast an even, diffused light, your subjects can come out looking drab, flat, and uninteresting. You will need some additional light to help create more natural skin tones and make colors that pop just a little more. However, reflectors alone won’t get the job done. They just won’t provide enough reflected light underneath fluorescent bulbs. And aiming a 1Kw or 650w tungsten at your actors will create an obvious difference in color and tone.

To give your shots a warmer look under fluorescent lighting, start by using your tungsten lamps and reflectors together. Mount a large piece of white foam core onto a c-stand and then bounce light from a 1Kw lamp onto your subject. The result is a soft, diffused light that isn’t overbearing, and yet one that warms up the scene a bit more. And I always recommend a little rim lighting to help your subjects stand out more from the background.

Bear in mind that the above solution assumes that you want a natural, warm tone for your project. If the mood of your film is a bit darker and somber, then you might like the sterile, flat, “blue” tone that the existing lights create.

LIGHTING & COLOR

Shooting under fluorescent lights can affect the white balance of your shot. If not properly monitored, the lights may cause the color of your shot to drift slowly from a cool tone to a warm tone, then back again.

However, I’d advise you to look back at our previous post for a more extensive look at shooting under fluorescents. To that article let me add that using a Kino light bank will be a big help. Kino’s do use fluorescent bulbs, but unlike the bulbs installed overhead in a grocery store, these bulbs burn at a constant color temperature. This will give your shots more accurate color representation while maintaining a consistent look with the rest of the lighting in the store.

Fluorescent lights might also appear green on camera. A green tone might work well for your project if the mood is more sinister and the location of your story more urban, decayed, or threatening.

Look for the comedy, “Love at a Grocery Store” at this year’s Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival. The screening is tentatively set for 9pm at the Alabama Power Building.

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