lighting - AmVid

lighting - AmVid - below 7.5 units while Zone 11 is from...

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Unformatted text preview: below 7.5 units, while Zone 11 is from 7.5 up to 20 units. Zone III is at 20 units. Zone IV is at 40 units. Zone V, the middle grey zone, is at 55 units. Zone V1 is at 80 units. Zone VII is at 100 units, while Zone VIII is at 120 units. The zone system, used in this way, becomes equally ef- fective at predicting contrast reproduction in video as it is in film. Basic Lighting for Video by Ross Lowell Rass Lowell, a multiple Academy Award nominee, is a veteran documentary director, producer, cameraman, writer, teacher and inventor. In 1959, he founded towel—Light Manu- facturing, makers of portable lighting equipment for video and film production. Mr. Lowell received an Academy Award tech- nical certificate for lighting design in 1980. In his book "Matters of Light and Depth" (Broad Street Books, PO. Box 41075, Philadelphia, PA 19127), Mr. Lowell offers a warning: "I t is all too easy to confuse effects with efl'ec— tioe lighting, startling images with unforgettable ones, quan- tity offootcandles with quality of light. Today’s sensitive equip- ment means that merely recording an image is not the real chal- lenge. Creating separation of planes, implying depth, revealing the character and subtleties of the subject and establishing a meaningful mood are at the heart of our miraculous craft." An excerpt from Mr. Lowell's writings on the lighting of small scenes: The One-Light Approach Very often a single, large, soft source carefully placed in relation to the right subject can produce startlingly dra- matic and beautiful images. The worst place to position that light is on top of the video camera. Such single-source lighting close to the lens-subject axis results in texhireless, characterless illu- mination with washed-out foregrounds, distractingly shadowed or totally black backgrounds and little sense of depth. Those without a choice, such as fast-moving news crews, should at least diffuse and reduce the inten- sity of the camera-mounted light so that any existing sources are not overwhelmed and shadows are softened. When working with one light that is not camera- mounted, it is advisable to use a relatively large, soft source, preferably one with bamdoors or an egg crate. If 151 an umbrella rig is used, it is a good idea to have flags or large cards to control lens flare and to provide subtle shading of parts of the subject or background. The flags can also be positioned to reduce overall subject brightness, allowing more light to fall on the distant, presumably darker background in order to reduce contrast, increase ' separation or prevent the background from disappearing. Conversely, a flag can be set to reduce an overly bright wall, perhaps making it darker toward the edges or top of the frame. The reason a soft source should be used in preference to a hard one is that a large, diffused source helps to con— vey the subject’s character as a result of subtle gradation between broad highlights and soft shadows. Also, spill from the softlight can provide fill illumination that will reduce contrast ratio. lf contrast is still too great, some subtle fill (front) or kicker (side-back position) can be added by using a large white card, a polystyrene-centered Fome-Cor Board,’ or a soft»silver reflector placed on a BACKGROUND SUBJECT stand and angled to reflect spill light from the same single source (Fig. 1). There is no one perfect position for the single light appropriate to all subjects and moods, yet the exact posi— tion of the source is important. Movement of the light or subject by only a few degrees can change the overall look significantly. _ To find the best angle for the light as quickly as possible, it may help to mount it on a small boom with casters so it can be swung, elevated and rolled around easily. If time allows, try different lighting angles and evaluate the reasons for success, failure or mediocrity of each. Later, experience will determine where to place the light in order to emphasize the signifi- cant planes with little wasted motion. It should be remembered that many subjects, settings and styles are inappropriate for this single-light treatment. Two-Light Techniques There are many situations when one light cannot adequately model complex, multiple-plane forms or illu- minate and separate foreground, middle-ground and background or control contrast. A second light source can help solve some of these problems. Traditionally the second light is used to soften the harsh shadows and dark areas left by the first source. If there is a lot of spill from the first light, or if dark shad— ows and high contrast are desired, this may not be nec- essary. if your subject does need fill light, the second source should be soft enough that it does not introduce any new shadows. The amount of fill should be appro— priate to the subject, mood and medium of reproduction. Avoid overkill-fill. If the dark edges of the subject disappear into a black background, there are two ways to create some separa- tion. The second light can be put to work to brighten the background behind the subject. The light should be po- sitioned above and / or to the side to emphasize shapes and textures and to avoid casting shadows on the back- ground. Another way to separate the subject from the back- ground is with backlight. Position the second light above 153 .———_' br -_- -_u- er_.L-_'. CAMERA CAMERA REFLECTOR 0H CARD and somewhat behind the subject, aimed toward the camera. Keeping flare out of the lens is generally accom- plished by adding an extension flap to the top barndoor on the backlight or using an opaque flag near the light or camera. Backlight is essentially glare light, so a little bit goes a long way. It is most successful when it seems to be motivated by credible sources within the shot. If the main source creates excessive shadows or con- trast, the second light may be needed for fill. in this case, it should be a soft, relatively shadowless unit, perhaps with diffusion material added. Otherwise, new and con- fusing shadows may be introduced. Another limitation of the one-light approach be- comes apparent when photographing two people who are facing each other, especially if reverse angle, over-the- shoulder shots are planned. Generally, each subject is lit by a separate source from the opposite direction. The unit that illuminates the front of one subject can perform double-duty and backlightthe hair and clothes of the other. Barndoors, half-scrims, nets or gels can be posi- tioned to reduce the backlight relative to the front light. Some fill illumination, perhaps from a reflector or large white cards, will be necessary (Fig. 2). Complex subjects such as appliances, furniture and machinery with many planes that must be revealed often require a second light. Try not to have both sources at equal heights, equal angles or equal intensities. Symme- try in lighting is seldom a virtue. Each plane or surface of the subject should have a different brightness, with the top or side planes, perhaps, appearing to be lighter than the front. Sometimes Several Lights Are Necessary A second light should be used: 1) if contrast is too great; 2) if the subject doesn’t separate from the back- ground; and 3) if a single-source can’t successfully model multi-plane forms. Naturally, if several of these or other problems exist simultaneously, a second light will not be enough and three, four or more lights may be needed. At times, multiple keylights are required because two lights do not have enough output, or the areas being shot are too large, or dramatic effects are desired, or the subject moves around the room and looks in different directions. In such cases, restricting each light’s beam- spread to separate areas of the scene prevents unattrac- tive multiple shadows. On the other hand, you may de- cide to convert most of your resources into an apparent single source key by diffusing them or bouncing them using umbrellas, a white wall or a Fome-Cor Board. in video work, camera movement and, most impor- tantly, subject movement often dictates the use of multiple lights. Take, for example, the common situation of an ac- tor walking down a narrow hallway toward the camera (camera either stationary or moving with the subject). There are several ways to handle it. In a news~type situation, the light is almost certainly on top of or behind the camera. It's quick and easy but results in the characterless lighting we find on every nightly newscast. Other solutions emphasize movement and depth. Attach small broad lights to the ceiling at intervals of five Figure 3 or more feet. The trick is to hide them and cut lens flare when ceilings are low. With dropped ceilings it is possible to tuck them into the space available when acoustic tile panels are removed. But beware of flammable materials, wiring and automatic sprinkler heads! If practical, lights can be positioned on stands behind doorways so they will "spill out” into the hallway to create areas of light and dark, through which the actor walks (Fig. 3). Obviously, when there is opportunity for rehearsal on your newly lit set, use it. But when there isn’t, some sort of workable lighting plan is still needed. Although I don’t believe in formula lighting, there is one formula-like setup which ensures a relatively high degree of quality while allowing for considerable freedom of subject and camera movement (Fig. 4). The setup requires three fairly small, wide-angle broad lights. They should be positioned high enough to stay out of the shot while low enough to illuminate the subject’s eyes. The units should be fairly equally spaced, 156 one each in adjacent comers, for example, and one on the opposite wall. You may favor windows or other appar~ ent light sources. Select positions that offer pipes or beams for clamping, or use a door-top or wall-mounting device to eliminate stands. This versatile setup allows for unrestricted, 360—de— gree shooting if the cables are hidden. Wherever the cam- era is, subjects will have some front light, some side and some back light. If exposure allows, add frost gel diffu— sion to the lights or bounce them. There was a time when few self-respecting camera— men would consider a subject properly lit without a key, fill, backlight, background lights, kicker, eyelight and clothes light. This type of elaborate lighting has disap- peared because video, film and lenses are ”faster,” actors and non—actors have been granted more freedom of move- ment by many directors, and because lighting styles, or, if you will, fashions, have changed. CAMERA . ,1 WIDE-ANGLE " " LIGHT WIDE-ANGLE @ Q LIGHT © SUBJECTS © % CAMERA CAM ERA WIDE-ANGLE LIGHT _ Figure 4 157 ...
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