Posts Tagged ‘lights’
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.
Friday, July 29th, 2011
A few months ago I was working on a video shoot for a client. As we moved our equipment inside and started setting up, my client said, “I had no idea this much was involved in producing a video.” This is a remark I often hear when producing videos. People will comment on the amount of gear we have to carry around with us and at the amount of time it takes to set up and shoot each scene. They talk about our attention to detail when it comes to lighting and blocking camera movements. They marvel at how much footage we shoot just for a thirty-second TV commercial or a three-minute corporate video. Producing high-quality videos is something we take great pride in, but it’s also something that demands a lot of our time and resources.
Even before we roll onto the location for the first day of shooting, our work has been going on, behind the scenes, for a few weeks. There is so much that has to be accomplished during pre-production to ensure that the actual shoot runs smoothly and efficiently. For articles on the importance of pre-production, you can browse through these articles, “Preparing for a Video Shoot,” “Scheduling Your Production,” and “If Only the Flux Capacitor Was Working.” Some of the tasks that demand our time and attention during pre-production include:
- Creative meetings with the client to go over conceptual ideas
- Writing a script
- Revising the script
- Scheduling the shoot
- Location scouting
- Securing locations
- Casting (if necessary)
- Hiring the crew
- Prepping and loading the gear
Depending on the size and complexity of the project, our time spent in pre-production may last as little as five hours, all the way up to forty hours. Once the shooting date arrives and we arrive on location, we have to:
- Unload the gear
- Conduct one final walk-through
- Move furniture to make room for the gear
- Set up and light
- Set up the camera
- Block camera movements
- Tweak background elements that are in each shot
- Direct the talent
- Prep the talent for audio
- Slate, shoot, and log each take
And this process will repeat itself for every location. Again, our time in production will vary depending on the size and scope of each video project. We might spend as little as 1/2 day on location, but we might spend as much as five to seven days to capture all the footage necessary for the final video.
Once the shoot wraps, we take all the assets back to our office to begin editing. This is a process that largely goes unnoticed, but here are some action items that we must accomplish throughout post-production:
- Transfer all footage from tapes or external hard drive to the editing system
- Set up the project and import all assets
- Go through all the raw footage, shot by shot, and make notes on what’s happening in each scene
- Mark shots as usable or unusable
- Begin rough assembly of the video to formulate the narrative structure
- Record a scratch track of the voice-over to be used temporarily throughout this initial phase
- Listen to any and all on-camera interviews for relevant and usable sound bites; mark these for use later
- Insert the interview segments and compile them with the b-roll segments
- Present the rough edit to the client for notes
- Make revisions; tighten the edit
- Make music selections
- Insert the music
- Direct the voice-over talent during the recording session
- Insert the voice-over
- Mix all audio
- Create and insert all graphics and titles
- Present to the client for notes
- Make additional revisions if necessary
- Color correct every shot to ensure optimum quality and color accuracy
- Render and export the final video
- Deliver to the client
Post-production can, by far, be the most time-consuming aspect of the production process. It’s not uncommon to spend as much as 40 hours on a 3-5 minute video for a client. To date, I believe, the most we have spent in post-production on a project has been 80 hours for a 7-minute promotional video.
I believe that video production is an artistic medium, and, as with all art, doing it well requires a certain amount of time and effort. So, the next time you want to work with a professional video production company, just know that the cameras, the lights, and the familiar call of “Action!” is only the tip of the iceberg.
Thursday, November 12th, 2009
One of the things I enjoy most about working in video production is the variety. Every job is unique. One of the most recent jobs we worked on was for a producer based in Charlotte, NC. His client, a marketing firm from Milwaukee, handles a lot of work for Microsoft. Recently, a new video game was created for the XBox 360; a racing game called “Need for Speed: Shift.” To promote the launch of the game, Microsoft and their marketing team scheduled a demo with legendary race car driver Hurley Haywood. They needed a local production crew to come out to the Barber Motorsports Park to document the event.
We spent two days on location, shooting footage of the Porche vehicles on the race track and on the Barber test courses. We covered the action with two Panasonic HVX-200 cameras, shooting 1080i HD video to P2 cards. We had cameras placed at low angles next to the track, inside the vehicles, and up in scissor lifts. For the actual game demonstration, we pre-lit a Porche driving school classroom where we could get footage of Haywood as he raced other drivers on XBox Live. To conclude the shoot, we shot a sit-down interview with Haywood as he gave us his impressions of the game. The people at the Barber Motorsports Park were great. They were very accommodating and hospitable. At the end of the shoot, they even allowed us to select an item from their gift shop. It was certainly a fun and unique experience and I had the opportunity to work with some wonderful people.
Friday, September 18th, 2009
There are many corporate videos that feel staged, rehearsed… unnatural. Every action seems forced and the blocking predictable. Budgets often prohibit the hiring of professional actors, so sales and marketing videos usually rely on actual employees to communicate a company’s message. Using real-life employees, however, does have its advantages. It gives the company some transparency, allowing viewers to see the people behind the brand. And it can be a necessity. After all, if you’re producing an employee orientation video, wouldn’t you want to feature other employees within the company?
The challenge for the director then is to instruct non-professional talent so that the video seems personable, open, and natural. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Be clear with the talent regarding the content of the video, what you expect of them, and what you are trying to achieve.
- If they are to be interviewed, go over the questions with them beforehand. Again, tell them what you’re looking for, but be careful not to lead them. The answers need to come from them, in their own words.
- Before you start shooting, take some time to get to know your talent. Get them talking about things they are interested in. Being in front of a camera can be intimidating for some people. So you need to help them relax before you start rolling.
- In some situations, you may find yourself working with children. If so, take some time to joke around with them. Get them laughing. go outside and play with them for a little bit. If they consider you a friend, then they will perform better on camera.
- Children are very curious, so let them look at your gear. Show them the camera. Let them look through the viewfinder. Get them excited about being in the video.
Each of these suggestions is designed to help your talent feel comfortable. If they feel at ease with you, your crew, and the situation, then their on-camera presence will be incredibly strong.
Thursday, July 23rd, 2009
I’ve heard it said that video production is 75% furniture moving. There’s a lot of truth in that statement. Shooting on location can be a very intrusive process. There’s a lot of people, a lot of gear, and a lot of commotion. A lot of re-adjusting takes place while on location to make room for the camera, the lights, the crew, etc. Many times I will arrive on location to shoot a corporate video and my client can’t believe the amount of gear my crew and I have brought with us. If your company has hired a video production company to come out and profile your business, it’s important to know what to expect and how to prepare.
In previous articles I have gone over important tips for mapping out your entire production project and scheduling individual shooting days. In this article, I would like to give some advice on how to prepare your office before the production company arrives.
If you work for a large corporation, more than likely you will have to reserve areas of your office in advance. Talk to your office manager. Make sure he/she has the video shoot written on the calendar. Find out which rooms in the building are available and which are not. There have been moments when my crew and I spent valuable time just walking around with my contact trying to find available rooms in which to shoot.
Make sure other employees in the office know about the shoot well in advance. Let them know what’s expected of them. Let them know which areas of the office the production company will be using. Make sure that everyone comes to work that particular day dressed appropriately. There have been days when my crew and I have arrived on location, only to discover that no one else other than my contact knew we were coming.
When conducting employee interviews or client testimonials, a video production company will seek out those places in your office that look the best. Usually, a producer and/or director will scout your offices before the shoot, but budget constraints can sometimes prevent a tech scout. So that means it’s up to you to have areas in your office prepared before the production company arrives. Here are a few things to consider:
- Look for areas in your office that have character and color. Conference rooms are usually bland and therefore not a great option for conducting on-camera interviews.
- If you have to use a room without much color, can you bring items in from other areas in your office to dress up the set? Artwork, plants, pictures, books? Look for anything that can support the look and the subject matter of your video.
- Remove any unwanted posters, etc. from the room. Look out for anything in the background that advertises someone else’s brand.
As mentioned previously, video production can be intrusive. The crew will need furniture and other items moved in order to make room for equipment. Find those areas in your office that provide the most space in which to work. Find out what furniture can and cannot be moved. Also, make note of the most convenient elevators, service ramps, loading docks, etc. to help the crew maintain efficiency as they move in and out of the office.
The most important part of the video production process happens well before the camera starts rolling. A well executed pre-production ensures a more enjoyable and efficient production experience for all involved.