One of the most often asked questions is, “How do I get all of these little jaggies off of the edges of my Chroma-keyed subject?”

And the popular cure-all seems to be the proper lighting of your Chroma-key blue wall (or back-drop). Not just a wimpy little 100 watt light aimed somewhere in the general direction of the background, but a host of lights that literally flood the background.

We’re talking a minimum of two 250 watt quartz halogens aimed at the backdrop from high and off to each side so that they will not inadvertently cast any shadows from your key subject (who should be standing at least three feet out from the backdrop).

The key subject should be illuminated with it’s own key light (another 250 watt plus) that is preferably diffused with either an umbrella or a diffusion filter.

If your camera and Panasonic MX-50 video mixer will not recognize your background as a solid, evenly lit blue, then the Chroma Keying will go crazy trying to determine where the background ends and the key subject begins.

Hence, the “jaggies.”

Every now and then, the background color of blue will reflect back onto the key subject. And this, of course, will cause background video to be keyed in onto the key subject, which you don’t want to do.

This reflected blue can be mostly eliminated by placing light colored amber gels over your background lights (the two lights that flood your backdrop). More specifically, ask for “bastard amber” at your local photo shop when purchasing these gels. They’ll know what you’re talking about.

As for the key subject light, place it about three or four feet off to one side or the other of the camera so as not to cast any direct shadows onto the background.

Once you have adjusted your “hue” and “slice” control on the Panasonic WJ-MX50 for optimum Chroma-key effect that you view on your monitor, slight adjustments of the angle and location of all of your lights will make the effect that much better.

In an earlier issue of MX (above) we discussed the lack of lighting on your blue background which often resulted in “the jaggies”. Be aware that too much lighting (i.e. two or three 1200 watt lights) could cause problems as well.

Over-lighting the background could turn perceived blue into an almost white color, which of course won’t work properly with the Chroma Key section of the Panasonic MX-50 or the Videonics MX-1.

Obviously, lighting distances and other factors like ambient light will vary from one person’s studio to another. So, experiment with various lights, gels, diffusers, and distances until you obtain the perfect combination.

Remember, Chro ma Key is much more than just a “turn it on – turn it off” feature on a digital mixer. It is an art form and a science in itself that requires a lot of work on your part to perform effectively. And don’t forget to white balance the Chroma key camera. If it doesn’t see true Chroma key blue, neither will your digital video mixer.

Learn more about the Panasonic MX-50, MX-30 and AVE-7. Check out our instructional videos in our Online Catalog.

What if you want to key yourself in front of a very large background, such as a skyscraper or mountain, and your blue or green backdrop is only about 8 feet by 6 feet?

Well, you could get a larger backdrop that would dwarf you in comparison. Or you could just miniaturize yourself electronically.

Begin by creating a Picture-In-Picture (about 1/9th size) with you and your blue backdrop inside of the P-I-P. On the outside of the P-I-P, select Background Color as the image that surrounds the P-I-P. Referring to the instruction manual, create a “custom” background color that identically matches the color of the backdrop in your P-I-P. What you’ll see on the screen is a little tiny you in front of a very large backdrop.

Now record this image onto a video tape and take that tape out and put it into your playback (source) VCR. With that tape now playing as the incoming source, set up your Chroma Key and let that gigantic backdrop be filled in with Mount Everest or the Empire State Building.

Since most video mixers can lock onto virtually any background color as a backdrop, try setting up a multitude of colors on your studio wall and set up the Chroma Key to reveal the keyed image through all of the color (by moving the cursor about the screen and pressing “OK”).

Now, with someone in front of the multi-colored wall, begin panning your camera from left to right and back again. What you will see is portions of the background image revealing and un-revealing itself (even though it will not appear to be moving). What you’re doing is deliberately confusing the video mixer setup so that it will only reveal a background when it’s right on axis with the pre-registered color. Truly a bizarre effect.

If you’re picking up jagged edges off of your keyed in subject, it’s usually because the backdrop color is somehow bleeding onto your subject.

The first thing to do is move your subject away from the backdrop. Then make sure that your diffused lights illuminating the backdrop are not creating shadows out of your foreground subject. And then make sure that you are not trying to key in a shinny object, such as a silver-colored model airplane (which will allow your backdrop to “bleed” all over it causing jaggies). For shinny things, such as metallic objects or bald heads, try some of the matting sprays available from art supply stores (i.e. Glare-Away) which should take out most of the shinny objects reflective qualities.

Another “color bleeding” problem solver for Chroma Key is the use of amber-colored gels over your backdrop illumination lights. These gels will have a tendency to absorb the bleeding characteristics of the color blue (which is the color most people use for Chroma Key backdrops).

Play around with the Chroma Key section. See if you can come up with a few effects and tricks of your own.

This topic is very complicated to discuss since making a feature is not like shooting your average corporate video. I can’t really get into detail since it would mean writing a book, but I hope these tips will help.

To begin, lighting a feature is different from corporate or commercial projects. For a corporate project, we might set up our lighting first and then place the subject or subjects within it. When lighting for a feature or documentary re-enactment, we need to light for the script.

This means, if you are hired by a director or producer to DP and/or to light a feature, you must get a script and you must read it carefully. If storyboards are available, get those too. You and the director must agree with how the scenes are to look. You must determine the feel or mood for each scene and location and what the director expects the audience to feel when watching the movie. It doesn’t matter what the budget is!

Next, determine what equipment you will need to light each location. This can be done by reviewing the size of the space for each location and then following the principles mentioned in our Lighting Class and DVD for choosing lights. You can do this by using the conversion charts supplied with the class workbook. If you haven’t purchased our DVD as yet; simply put, you will need to evaluate, in foot-candles, what each location will demand for shooting with a particular aperture setting and match that output to the lights that you will be using. By doing this well ahead of the shoot date, you can determine what lights you might need to rent or borrow.

Even though the shooting schedule might be tight, the crew small and the budget low, you still must maintain the overall quality of the lighting throughout the entire movie. If you are limited by budget, crew and lighting equipment, you must plan a look from the start, that will accommodate your resources. So, don’t plan complicated setups if you won’t have the time, equipment or crew to pull them off the right way. You may need to convince the director to broaden, but not limit, his expectations of his vision in order to render a pleasing mood throughout the entire script. You can remind him that the other alternatives to rendering the scenes, as he would like them, may be to increase the budget, extend the shoot time and get a larger crew.

I have found that when shooting a feature (especially a low budget on HD or Mini-DV) the amount of lighting and grip equipment ends up being a lot more than what might be expected so, we need to be prepared for the unexpected. You should think in terms of needing at least 8,000 – 10,000 watts of tungsten light to start with for a “no” budget feature on mini DV and at the very least a 3-ton grip truck with an extensive tungsten package for a low budget feature shot on HD, rather than thinking that a light kit with 2500 watts will do the trick.

You will need power distribution at each location as well. So, be sure to check each location to see if you have enough power to use the lights you are bringing.

8,000 Watts of light will need at least 4 – 20 amp circuits. Other considerations for power includes renting a generator or doing a “Tie-in”, if time and budget allow. The type of lighting instruments needed for each location and setup should also be determined prior to the shoot. You can rent special application lights like Flo-Banks or HMI’s for specific shoot days and can be returned when that location is wrapped.

Next, after reading the script, determine what daylight fixtures you might need and what you might need in grip equipment for both indoor and outdoor locations. When setting up outdoors, I have noticed that some of us forget to consider any other lighting but the sun, but that is a mistake. On a bright day you may need butterfly silks, along with 4’X4′ silks to diffuse the sunlight and shiny boards to reflect it. On an overcast day the sun may not be intense enough to use a reflector with, so you may need to rent HMI lighting. Depending on the output of light needed, you may also need a generator.

Don’t forget to bring enough sandbags to the location. I know this sounds a bit silly, but without enough weight on stands outdoors, one gust of wind can send an entire set sailing, and sandbags are cheap to rent.

Remember; on a feature you will have many setups to do in a very limited amount of time, so the more you can prepare for each location with floor plans and lighting diagrams, the faster and more accurate you will light.

How to properly light talent in front of a green screen is one of the most asked questions that I get. When lighting a green screen, the screen should be at least 4 feet behind the subject, the more distance the better, and lit with an even soft source. I have noticed that many stations have hard bright lights on a green screen which causes most of the problems they encounter. I compare lighting a green screen to using a garden hose. If you stand near a wall and set the hose nozzel to get a hard spray, it will splash back drenching you with water. If you set the nozzel to a soft spray you can wash the wall without any of the spray reaching you.

Light reacts much the same way, the harder you light the green or blue screen, the more splash of color you will get on your talent. So, we need to diffuse the light hitting the green screen and light it evenly.

You should then be able to light the talent any way you want as long as the shadows do not hit the background. This should not be a problem if the talent is far enough away from the screen.

For exposure, the luminence of the green screen should render the same setting as your key light being usde for your subject or you can take the background down one half stop darker than the key if you prefer. Just remember to avoid overexposing the background and you should have a nice clean key.

I often get emails asking how to light a scene in order to get the “FILM LOOK” I would like to begin by saying that the “FILM LOOK” that everyone is trying to achieve can only be obtained by actually shooting film since the “Look” is derived from the chemical process that takes place within the structure of the film its-self. But, the next best thing is to achieve a beautiful, soft image on DV or HD that is so inviting that people will perceive it as something other than video.

Getting a great looking image on video is a culmination of a few different elements. If we are going to try to get a film look, we will need to approach shooting a scene “Film Style”! Here are a few elements to remember.

A. Every setup dictates a proper focal length lens.
B. Will the camera be moving or is it a static, tripod planted firmly on the ground, shot?
C. Are there enough different shots planned to accommodate the needed coverage?
D. Do you have the right type and wattage lights to cover the area you are shooting in?
E. Are the light sources diffused and color corrected properly?
F. Have you established the ISO or working speed of your particular camera so that a light meter can be use to establish exposure levels?
G. Do we fully understand exposure control and are we familiar with the aspects of lighting that can effect exposure?
H. Do we have enough time to set up the needed lights and do we have the right tools or lights for the job?

These are elements that should be addressed in order to successfully obtain the “Film Look” or any other desired look. Our DVD covers these topics and more. Once you have studied the information on the DVD and answered the questions in the workbook, we can then discuss the approach to lighting for “FILM LOOK ” (one-on-one) over the phone.

Any light meter that can read incident and reflective light will work when lighting for video. It can even be a photography meter, but choose a digital meter that displays the f-stops. This will allow you to read the meter quickly. I use a Sekonic 558 meter because it reads incident light and has a spot attachment built-in to read reflective light. I also recommend the Gossen Digital Luna Pro. It is the less expensive of the meters and is very small and compact and is just as accurate.

When using a light meter, it doesn’t matter what format camera you are shooting with. To calibrate the meter accordingly. You must refer to your owners manual to get the lux rating of your camera. With most new cameras, the sensitivity will be f-11 @ 2000 lux. If your camera sensitivity is f-11@2000 lux, set your meter at ISO 800 when shooting indoors and at ISO 500 when changing the color wheel filter for shooting outdoors. If you have an older camera that has a lux rating of f-8 @ 2000 lux, then your ISO will be 400 indoors and ISO 250 out doors. You will need to enter the ISO information into the meter along with the shutter speed (or frame rate if the meter is made for cine or Motion picture). The shutter speed is normally 1/60. ISO + Shutter Speed = f-stop

You will get a difference between the incident and reflective because the incident measures the light coming from a source and renders it as 18% gray. So what you are reading, when using an incident meter, is the uninterrupted light output that is reaching your subject at a specific distance (which is also foot-candles). Reflective readings render the amount of light that the camera will be sensitive to AFTER it is altered by the color or density of whatever it reflects off of. Darker tones will render a reading that will indicate that you should use a wider aperture setting while lighter tones will render a reading that will indicate that you use a smaller aperture setting. This is because the meter assumes you want, whatever you point it at to be 18% gray or the same as your key or subject light.

We are also able to use a spot meter to read luminance on a set. Once we establish, with our incident meter, what f-stop our key light will be set at, in order to render our subject at 18% gray or let’s say 80% on a waveform monitor, all we need to do to be able to control other reflective light in a scene is to measure it with a spot meter and adjust it’s output until it matches that of the key light or slightly over or under as desired.

By understanding the contrast range and capabilities of the format camera that you are using, and then using a light meter to measure the ratios of a scene, you will be able to control the high lights and shadows scene to scene so that little adjustment will be needed to be done in post.

Trying to fiqure the ISO for a mini DV camera when all the manual gives as a reference is a minimum lux can be a bit confusing, so here is some math to help fiqure out what the ISO may be.
Using my camera’s sensitivity of f-11@ 2000 lux and it’s established ISO of 800 as a reference, we can illustrate how to find the ISO from a minimum lux rated camera.

If we already know that f-11@ 2000 lux is the maximum illumination for an 800 ISO camera, and we want to find out at what f-stop and lux rating my minimum illumination is for that same camera, all we need to do is run down the math as follows:

2000 lux = f-11
1000 lux = f-8
500 lux = f-5.6
250 lux = f-4
125 lux = f-2.8
60 lux = f-2
30 lux = 1.6
15 lux = 1.6 with 6db of gain (every 6 db of gain = 1 stop)
8 lux = 1.6 with 12 db of gain
4 lux = 1.6 with 18 db of gain

It seems to me that If I were to include my maximum gain setting of 18db as part of my minimum illumination, my 800 ISO speed camera would have a minimum illumination of approximately 4 lux which would put a minimum illumination of 3 -5 lux. Our example is pretty darn close, if not exact.

The question regarding “what is a good, general light kit” is a common one and the answer is one that is sometimes a little different for each person depending on budget and need. First I suggest that you choose lighting that will last and that you can build from and not need to replace often. So, buying quality equipment from the start is important, even if you start with less and add to it later. Unlike cameras, computers and software, lighting and grip equipment hold their value.

You are most likely able to get back what you paid for quality lighting and grip equipment, if you ever need to sell them later. You can’t say that about digital equipment. It is almost like we need to think of cameras as being expendable and lighting and grip equipment as being permanent.

The sooner you put a good light kit together, the sooner you can begin to do the kind of work companies are willing to pay more for!

In our class, we demonstrate using an ARRI SoftBank I kit. This kit contains (1) 1000 watt open face light with a small Chimera soft box, (2) 650 watt fresnels, (1) 300 watt fresnel barn doors and steel scrims (full doubles, full singles, half doubles, half singles) and light stands.

In time you may want to add an additional ARRI 300 watt fresnel w/barn doors, scrims and stand and maybe a Source 4 Junior by a company called ETC, or the like.

In addition to a light kit, there is an array of grip equipment that you will need to add at sometime to compliment your light kit (C-stands, grip arms, flags, nets, silks, ceiling clamps etc.). I like the “Bogen/Avenger” line because they are made to hold up under heavy use and the machining of the grip equipment is of very high quality. This will make up a basic but fundamental light kit for handling most small jobs that you might encounter.

The largest problem in lighting is created by those who do not know how to light. If you use a hard, or undiffused light, you will create unwanted contrast and shadows. You will not be able to correct this problem by merely placing a diffusion filter over the lens.

KNOW THIS! DV needs as much light as any other video format if you are lighting an image correctly. The rule of thumb that we teach in our class is that you start out with a 1 stop, higher wattage key light source, than you think you need, so that by time it is diffused, you still have enough light to shoot at a decent f-stop with. Every time you add a layer of heavy diffusion to a light, you will lose about a stop of exposure. So you will need to have enough light to begin with before you can diffuse it.

I recently had the opportunity to try out the “BARGER-BAGLITE.” This is the perfect key light. And, it will go great with the ARRI soft kit, as the optimum combination. The “BARGER-BAGLITE GT-3″ holds (3) 650 watt bulbs on a small 13″x13″ square, flat face fixture that is 2” thick. It is very small and compact. The GE FCM 650W lamps, that can be obtained for the unit, put out more light than a conventional 650W bulb so you end up with about 2800 watts of light when all three lights are on. Each lamp has it’s own switch and when the entire fixture is on, it only draws 15 amps.

The advantage of this light is that the bulbs throw a soft, gentle light and once the key is set (using one or two of the lamps in a soft box) and you need to move back for a larger shot, you can accommodate the light loss by clicking on another lamp. This will save time when need to switch out to a larger light . The fixture is very rugged and is made to accept a number of different size soft boxes, which is great when you need to be versatile with your lighting setups.

You can access the companies mentioned by going to our sponsor page and clicking on to their logo.

This tip is primarily directed toward producers who are constantly insisting that the production team move faster when setting up lighting for a scene. Even though we work in a high pressure field and most of the time under unrealistic time deadlines, it is important that the producer on a set has a full understanding for what it takes to light and shoot a job correctly. The fact is, no crew wants to take any longer to set up than what is necessary. But all producers need to understand that we live in a physical world and not a make-believe world.

It is not the crew’s fault that the producer did not schedule enough time to light and shoot a job correctly. A producer’s job is to assess the needs of a production and then plan a realistic approach and budget to accommodate those needs. Trying to squeeze a two day job into a one day shoot and then pressuring an under staffed crew to perform the task of “saving the shoot,” is not only unprofessional, but in most cases, will contribute to the end product being of inferior quality which is then, also sometimes blamed on the crew.

When we pull up to a job site, we will first need to unload the vehicle and load the gear into the location. This could take 20 minutes to a half hour for a small “run and gun” shoot depending on how much gear we have and how many are on the crew.

As a reference, time yourself and see in minutes how long it takes to open a light case, set a stand in place, go back to the kit for another light and then put it on the stand and affix the proper barn doors, diffusion or softbox. Now do this with the other 3 or 4 lights that you brought and now run the appropriate cabling for power to each light.

Now let’s begin setting the camera on the tripod, loading tape and running bars. Now, set up a monitor and start running back and forth to it as you adjust the lighting ( We can eliminate this “monitor shuffle” by using a light meter). OK, now look at your watch; How long did that take? Approximately 20-30 minutes to unload and park the car with about another 30 minutes to set up the first interview. And this is a small set!

An average interview set up just cannot happen in 10 minutes! Now, do you want quality with that, and is there time to adjust the lights once the talent gets in place? If you are using a standin to set lights to, it will help if the clothing, complextion, hair color and height of the standin can match that of the actual subject. Otherwise, you will need to re-light once the talent gets into place.

If I am doing a full blown production shoot with a 3 ton grip truck and full camera package (audio, dolly, track etc.) depending on the amount of crew (usually 3 – 4 plus myself) and the access to the location, we figure at least 2 hours for load-in and setup of the first shot. After that, the time per shot in the same location drops to about half once the equipment has been loaded into the site. To cut the setup time, you may want to talk the producer into budgeting for one other person more than your usual crew. This other person can pick up the pace considerably and move the shoot-day along as needed.

Try to plan the schedule with built in time for travel, set up & breakdown and bathroom breaks (other kinds of sub-contractors, like plumbers and painters, even get occasional breaks while on the job). Make sure the crew is treated with respect and are fed properly. A happy and energetic crew will accomplish more in a day than a resentful one.

I often hear videographers referred to as “shooters.” I don’t know what that term means? A camera operator (camera-op) or camera-person is one who operates a camera in a studio or on location for an event and is linked to a director who gives instructions as to how to set framing etc. A stringer or news shooter usually runs out with a camera on his or her shoulder and shoots what is in front of the lens with no regard for lighting. OK, I know this isn’t true, but that is what it sounds like. With all the talk about film look, film this and film that, isn’t it time that the title of DP, or Director of Photography, be given to those who coordinate the camera setups with the lighting and then render the overall look of the scene regardless of what camera is being used? Yes!

So from now on, if it appeals to you, you can refer to yourself as a video DP. By the way, in the future we will address the topic of a Video Camera AC (or Camera Assistant). Just because we choose to shoot on video rather than on film does not mean that a camera assistant is no longer needed. As a rule, no matter what the format, I include a Camera AC (who is checked out on the particular camera being used) on all my shoots.

When shooting on DV or HD, and editing on a non–linear system, time in correcting light levels, by using filters in the software, can be greatly reduced if a light meter is used to measure output from key lights, fill lights and luminance levels during the actual shoot. A light meter can be especially helpful in keeping all light levels within a workable exposure range. With latitudes of video formats being around one half-stop (over or under the optimum exposure), using a light meter correctly can assure a constant, even lighting ratio from one scene to the next.

The contrast range of DV and HD cameras can be greatly controlled through correctly lighting a scene and by using the right lighting instruments. I cannot emphasize enough that if your expectation is to render a beautiful, soft, warm image with your video camera, you will not do it using small, low wattage instruments with inadequate or no diffusion. Regardless of the camera format, regardless of misleading articles on lighting found in monthly video magazines, regardless of the pitches by light manufacturers for “DV LIGHTING” and regardless of all the magical software claims, the result will be nothing more exciting than a piece of news or wedding video footage unless your key light source is at least twice the size of your subject and properly diffused.

Small instuments are perfect when used for what they were designed for, kickers, rakes, rims etc, but when used as a key, small hard lights (even with a sheet of diffusion) can keep you chasing the problems that they create. Let Peter Pan chase shadows, our job is to light and shoot a scene quickly and accurately.

When shooting a large interior under fluorescent lighting; rather than turning the fluorescent sources off and creating a dark background, by intruducing a hard sharp light from a tungsten light kit, add a Rosco 1/2 CTB color correction gel to your tungsten lights and then balance the camera to the mixed source using the #1 or tungsten filter setting on your camera. The results should be a well balanced and pleasing color rendition. If you can keep the key light about 1/2 stop brighter than the amient light, the talent will stand out a bit more from the background without the background going too dark.

Another approach would be to use a fluorescent light bank fitted with the same Kelvin temp bulbs that are in the overhead fixtures (cool whites, etc.) as your key and fill lights. Tungten lights, with or without correction gel, can be used in conjunction with Flo-banks. Several companies, such as Kino Flo and ARRI, make professional Flo-banks that can be used for this application as well as with Tungsten and Daylight balanced setups.

The distance from light to subject affects the contrast of a scene. The further away the light is from your subject, the flatter and more muted the tones will be. Don’t set up lights for a master shot at the back of a room and then zoom in to fill the frame for a close up under the same lighting. Always re-set the lights closer to your subject as the camera moves in. When increasing the size of a shot (going from a single person to a two shot or three shot), you will need to increase the output of your light source in order to maintain the same contrast that you had in your close up. Having larger wattage fixtures will assure you this type of versatility.

Merely moving a low wattage light back to fill a larger scene area, and then opening the aperture to accommodate the light loss, will render a well exposed flat looking image!

When determining how you want your lighting to look, you should first form a style of lighting that will accommodate the scene or job that you are about to shoot. I like to use a very soft light when I shoot, so I am prepared to use higher wattage lights to accommodate the light that will be lost when I add diffusion. You need to establish your own look and style.

Don’t over do hair and rim lights. Remember; the eye is attracted to the bright areas of a shot, so keep your selected contrast ratios in mind when setting rakes or kickers. Rakes or kickers should not be more than 3/4 of a stop brighter than your key if you want to stay within the contrast range of video. If you do not need a hair light, don’t use one. Sometimes it is best not to use a hair light on someone who is bald or who has blond or white hair. For this instance, maybe all you would need is a background or shoulder light to add separation between subject and background.

When lighting people who wear glasses; keep your lighting more to the side and a bit higher than normal to eliminate light reflections in the lenses. Also, have your talent keep their chin lowered a bit. This will help eliminate reflections in their glasses and give them a warmer look by widening their eyes a bit. A soft high light from the key or fill in the lens is acceptable as long as it does not cover the subjects eye.

Do not get carried away with using fill lights or cards to light under the chin. Your shot should not reveal that you placed a heavy light below the camera lens. A fill light under the chin should not cast a dominant shadow. If adding an eyelight, keep it close to the top of the camera lens and about 2-3 stops less in brightness than the key light. An eyelight is used to fill the eyes and shouldn’t compete with the key light.

When shooting outdoors, you can use camera Neutral Density filters to limit depth of field. This will help keep backgrounds soft which will help focus attention to your subject. Auxiliary Neutral Density filters that attach to the front of your lens, come in a variety of densities that hold back light ranging from 1 stop to 4 stops. These filters can be purchased through your camera or lighting dealer.

You may choose to purchase a matte box to accommodate square filters. These auxiliary type filters also come in “Grads.” Auxiliary ND’s are great because you can use densities that may not be available on your particular camera’s filter wheel and they can easily be used indoors with the #1 or tungsten filter setting.

Sony camera users will notice that the daylight ND densities on their camera are in fractions. In case you were wondering how much light, in stops, each fraction represents, here is a reminder: 1/2=1 stop, 1/4=2 stops, 1/8=3 stops, 1/16=4 stops, 1/32=5 stops and 1/64=6 stops.

When shooting outdoors, choose a background that is not brighter or lighter in color than your subject is, if you can help it. Shooting your subject against a bright background will be difficult to light since it can reflect light as much as two or three stops brighter than what would be on your talent. Choosing a darker background outdoors to shoot against will allow you to light your talent without the background becoming over exposed. A great and simple way to light a subject outdoors is to first silk the talent from bright sunlight. Collapsible silks, that can fit into a stand bag, are made by a number of companies such as Bogen, Chimera and Westcott.

Using a grip arm to attach the silk to a C-stand (minimum size of silk should be 40″x40″) raise it above your subject to diffuse the intense sunlight. The silk will absorb about 1-2 stops of light. You may need to kick in some fill light and this can be done by using a white fill card or reflector board set at the opposite side to where the sun is being diffused from. I prefer using reflector boards over fabric discs because any moving light from a disc flexing in a wind will be very evident on video. These fabric discs were originally devised for still photography use and a more rigid reflector might be a bit more user friendly.

Once the talent is lit outdoors using a silk and reflector, the background can appear a bit bright. Introducing a double net just behind the talent, on another C-stand, can bring the background down a stop. Be sure that the C-stands are well sand bagged so they don’t fall over on the talent. You may need 2-3 bags on each stand or have a crew member hold the stand as a precation. Using a long focal length lens will help eliminate picking up detail in the net that is behind the talent. With larger sets, you will need larger silks and nets and more intense reflector boards or daylight balanced lights.

To get a shallow depth-of-field, when shooting indoors or outdoors,use a longer focal length lens and set your camera further away from your subject. If a shallow depth-of-field is desired when shooting indoors, you can white balance your camera under the daylight filter setting and use the built in ND filters to enable you to use a wider aperture setting. This will allow the background to go a bit more out of focus. It is not necessary to position talent 10 feet from the background to accomplish a shallow depth-of-field if the proper focal length lens is used. You may also be able white balance your camera indoors using the daylight filter wheel in order to use the ND filters. More about depth of field and lenses later!


Diffusion Filters, such as Pro Mist, Black Pro Mist and Soft F/X are available in various intensities. Choosing a diffusion filter for a particular job or scene should be well thought out. The more intense the effect of the filter is, the more distorted the image will become. This can make your scene look out of focus or “fuzzy.” It is always safer to choose a less intense diffusion filter, over a more intense filter, until you know exactly how your image will look after it is edited.

The camera settings that you choose to use with a particular filter can alter the intensity of the effect of that filter. The larger the aperture (i.e., f•2.8 – f•4), the more effect a filter will have. The smaller the aperture (i.e., f•11 – f•16), the less effect a filter will have. The longer the focal length lens is, the more effect a filter will have and the shorter the focal length of the lens is, the less intense the effect of the filter will be.

I hate to keep preaching this, but proper lighting will control the softness of an image more than a filter will. I shoot film various formats of video and I rarely use any filter on the camera lens. In a rare instance I will use an 1/8 or 1/4 promist, black promist or soft FX just to take more of an edge off, but never want the image to look like we used any kind of special effects filter over the lens.

Other considerations for choosing a diffusion filter can include camera compression, lens quality and resolution, chip size, tape format, edit process and form of distribution.

Remember; what you see on the field monitor is lacking the effect of tape format and editing process!

Tom Musto Productions
30 Hillside Road
Shavertown, Pennsylvania 18708
toll free 877.TMP-FILM / 570.696.4774 / fax:570.696.6765

  • Get permission to put the camera where you need it to avoid the disappointment and embarrassment of getting shut down in the middle of an all-day or all-night shot.
  • Make sure your film is the right speed for your application. For example, when shooting a star-filled nighttime sky use high speed film, and when shooting a cloud-filled daytime sky use low speed film.
  • Set up your time lapse camera on location several hours before the planned event or transition is to occur. Start the shot early so you will have enough ‘head’ or lead-in time of exposed frames on the shot.
  • Rope or cone off the area around the camera, paying special attention to the area in front of the lens so that passersby will not ruin the shot inadvertently.
  • Mount the camera securely and check that it is evenly balanced on the support. Once the camera is rolling, make sure no one touches it.
  • Determine the desired screen time of the shot. Base your interval calculations on the desired length, but lean toward a slightly longer shot because nature is unpredictable. In post production it is easy to speed up a shot but nearly impossible to slow one down.
  • If you expect light conditions to change, set your exposure for the ‘climax’ of the shot, such as a sunrise or a sunset.
  • Similarly, filtration and color temperature should be set for the climax of the shot.
  • Generally, daytime shots call for clouds. Be sure you have proper rain protection for the camera and for yourself.
  • Have plenty of food and water with you.

Because of reciprocity failure, Kodak 5248 should be exposed at about 50 ASA at 1/2-second exposure to print in the 30s. We got back dailies only once a week and had to shoot and break down set-ups before seeing dailies. For lighting we had to trust our light meters, eyes, previous notes and the Nikon D-100.

Davey, Goliath and friends were mostly outside in the snow. To make the lighting look like natural sunlight outside, we used one “sun” key light whenever possible with one hard shadow. With deep multiple layers of sets separate “suns” lit each different layer. It was usually not possible to get a good sidelight on the sets and decent light the puppets with the same light. A single sidelight on the set would be 3/4 back light on the puppets in front, which is not a good light on the puppets.

My basic lighting philosophy is to establish the FEEL of a shot with the set design and lighting and then light the actors/puppets however necessary to look their best and still approptiate for the desired FEEL of the shot. Puppets with paste-on features should not be lit from the side. 3/4 front or back light with soft fill is OK.

We had discussions about key light direction consistency during exterior sequences. I feel that consistancy should be maintained as much as possible, but when forced into a bad lighting situation, that maintaining the right feel of the scene is more important than the direction of the key light. Continuity in editing should be condsidered so that no two shots side-by-side have a flipped key. In live production there are often compromises made such as shooting establishing shots at the exact right time, but the rest of the shots of a scene are compromised as best as time and the budget will allow. It is the job of the DP to keep a consistent look. I believe that the audience, other that gaffers and DPs, won’t notice a flipped key. Notice that in films the closeups are usually lit to express the character of the actor best and the lighting often changes with every different camera angle.

There were also discussions as to where people would be on a real mountain and where the sun would be at what time of day. While I was gone for a couple of weeks to my son’s wedding, the map of the mountain changed and the sun position flipped around. Some sets were already designed for the key coming from the opposite side. People who observe where the sun is and what a certain place that they are acquainted with looks like at different times of the day will be more critical than an audience watching fiction. The right feel of a shot is more important than where the sun should be on a real mountain, especially when dealing with a talking dog.

We had many different exposure and lighting situations; snow day, snow night and at magic hour, house interiors day and night, a cave lit by a flash light and puppets inside vehicles for blue screen. It is helpful to keep good records of each shot for any retakes or additional shooting that has to match. When the key is close to camera (3/4 front), read incident exposure facing the key. When the key is at right angles to the camera, (not good for puppet close-ups) face the light meter 1/2 way between the camera and the light. If the key/sun is behind the puppet and the key is only a kicker, face the meter toward the camera and let the subject be a little under exposed, as they would be out of direct sunlight. The key on the set is now a kicker on the puppet and will be over exposed on the shoulders and head of the puppet, but this will look good. The rest of the set should look back lit too. Shadows help keep interest in the background. Your spot meter is a double check on exposure.

It is very helpful if production can plan it so that animators can finish a shot during a day whenever possible to avoid problems that can happen when sets are left over night or over a weekend. Sets expand or shrink, line voltages can change, bulbs blow often when turned on and some of the crew can forget what they were doing on last Friday.

To get realism for our snow scenes, we studied a lot of ski and snowboarding magazines and tapes and decided that cross lighting, edge lighting, blue shadows and a warm sun just above the horizon looked the best. In mid-day situations where we had little choice for terrific lighting we added trees and tree shadows to build contrast. Large spaces of snow with no detail were either framed out or detail added, sometimes in post.

For soft skylight fill we used daylight flourescents some of the time, bounce light off blue foam core, and often a blueish source close to the puppets that did not reach the background to kept background contrast high. 2 foot square soft boxes made out of foam core worked a lot. They had hardware store work lights inside with various amounts of blue gel to get the right amount of blueness. The fronts were covered with heavy diffusion, Rolux. There is no problem with fluorescent flicker at 1/2 FPS.

For night snow scenes we added blue to the keylight. For a star field we drilled holes in a blue painted sky with white Christmas tree lights through the holes for stars. We rotated the sky and used different parts of it to avoid the same star pattern that would result in a jump cut if used as stars in a supposed different part of the sky. Lots of hard shadows helped create a night effect on the snow. It was a problem getting enough light on a darker dog Goliath and the Bear and not on the rest of the set. Carefully flagged additional light from the sides gave them enough expsoure without destroying the night feel of the whole shot.

We tried to keep the printing lights in the high 20s so there was room for correction in the transfer of the negative to tape. It can be a mistake underexposing the negative to look just like what you want with one lite dailies. A thin negative leaves no room for corrections. Ask the lab negative timer for a night look on your negative report. If you are getting one lite dailies make sure that your night footage is on a seperate roll and not mixed with daytime footage. Many timers will give you a free correction or two for a one lite daily. If you do get only one light and your night scenes look too bright, you will have some explaining to do to the non-camera crew about negative timing. If you are printing in the mid to high 20s you will be OK.

For magic hour we raked the key light at low angles to the snow, added orange gels to the key and more blue to the fill. We used long shadows from the puppets when possible. For wide shots the puppets can be lit from any angle.

For long dolly shots into the house interiors with wide lenses it was quite a challege to keep the lights out of the lens, the look dramatic, a maximun depth of field and set coverage with the cameras dollying in so far. I made a mistake in one set of using a Christmas tree decorates with LEDs for lights. It required an almost open lens on the pop bottle zoom we used. These lenses were quite OK at f-8.0 to 22, but were pretty soft wide open. Art had been using the lenses for years and our tests shot stopped down were fine. We found that true with most of the zooms that we used. (Note that Mitchell ground glasses shows you MORE depth of field than you actually get on film. The opposite is true for Arri ground glasses. Also the film will resolve much finer images than you can see on a ground glass. Trust your depth of field tables.)

After long discussions we decided that the cave was lit by a flashlight one of the kids had. When the flash light was first turned on Jasmine shines it around the cave. The flashlight beam was animated to match her hand and flashlight movements. The practical flashlight had a 12-volt grain of wheat globe lighting the plastic red tip. The similated flashlight beam was a 10 watt 12 volt with a built in reflector (MR-11). Once the flashlight was placed on a rock cloaser to camera, a different 10 watt bare globe behind the rock became the source. The prop flashlight still glowed red on top of the rock.

The the color of the cave set was very important because it had to photograph right in relationship to the light on the puppets. Neutral grey was a good average tone for the back rock walls. We did D-100 tests before painting the walls. The puppets were placed half way between the key / flashlight under the rock and the back rock wall. That exposed the back wall two stops below our key on the puppets. We cheated the size of the beam from when it was first pointed around the cave and then placed on the rock. The light pattern was then much larger to light all three puppets. The puppet’s shadows moving on the back wall were dramatic.

We gave a blue base fill for the whole set with a blue compact flourescent from above. (There was an opening in the top of the set for icicles, lighting and rigging.) It was important to keep the relationship of the puppets from the similated flash light key to the back wall consistant. We added cutters just for the puppets heads if too much blue fill from above was appearant. Careful design of the cave considering lighting was helpful. It could have been it easier with more break-a-way panels, but it would have been much harder yet for Ross to build. Making sets strong enough to not move during animation and still break-a-way is no easy chore.

Ross made icicles out of Lucite rods that we lit through their bases. These icicles had to be animated later in the story.

When the rescuers broke through the snow, light from the snow cat outside filled the opening. The puppets squinted with about one stop light over key exposure on them.

Judging blue sky brightness and color was difficult. Incident readings had to take into consideration the angle of the light on the sky backing. The color of light was a problem. Tests with the D-100 and notes helped. We were constantly fighting for room for the lights. Skys needed distance to get even coverage and maintaining the same stop all over a large sky was a problem. Real skys are brighter near the horizon and darker higher up.

We found that we could judge color temperature of different lights on slightly different colors of snow best by eye. We changed lamp voltage and / or gels to get a better match.

If you are setting up exterior sets on a stage make sure you have lots of room for lights.</p >

We lit a 16-foot long mountain range with one light. The set was coved so that the further range faced camera more and appeared brighter to camera. The closer set was more edge lit. Consider the angle of a light to a flat surface. At 90 degrees the maximum light is reflected. At 180 degrees no light is reflected, From 150 degrees to 180 degrees the amount of light reflected drops off very fast. Use your reflected meter or digital camera. An incident meter with a ball would measure much more light than is actually reflected. A flat disk on the incident meter would give a more accurate reading.

© Copyright 2004 Ron Dexter. All Rights Reserved.

KEY LIGHT: The dominant light on people or objects.

FILL LIGHT: Light that fills in the shadows not lit by the KEY LIGHT. Fill light is often from the sky, clouds, reflected off nearby objects or created by the lighting or grip crew.

BACK LIGHT, 3/4 BACK LIGHT, KICKER, RIM LIGHT or EDGE LIGHT: Light that hits a person or objects from almost behind that does not hit much of their face (or object) and hopefully not their nose. Any type of BACKLIGHT is NOT the KEY LIGHT. A rim/edge light might be added to separate a dark side of a face or object from the background or make up for a lack of FILL LIGHT on that side. Most types of BACK LIGHT can be over exposed and still record well on tape or film. Adjusting backlight is usually done by eye.

SIDELIGHT: (50/50 LIGHT): A situation where the light comes from 90 degrees to the line from the camera to the person. This is a difficult to handle situation for close-ups. Lots of FILL LIGHT or a RIM LIGHT can help. Side light with no fill can be fine in a wide shot where people are small in frame and the scenery benefits from overall light. People can even be semi-silhouette and be OK.

TOP LIGHT: Light directly from above is a difficult situation. A white SCRIM will reduce this light if the background balance permits it and diffused light from the SCRIM will supply FILL LIGHT for the harsh shadows. Putting people into BROKEN SHADE, under a tree branches, can also work if the background is dark enough to balance with the foreground lighting.

HARD LIGHT: Light from the sun or small source. Hard light creates hard shadows and accentuated detail such as lines in the face.

SOFT LIGHT: Light from a large angle relative to the subject. Skylight is from many directions and is soft. The sun bounced from a wall can be soft, but is hard if bounced from a mirror.

THE I SQUARED R LAW: Light decreases with the square of the distance from the source. In every day terms; it you get 1/4 the light every time you double the distance from the source. Remember across the street is almost the same distance from the sun. The sky is also far away, but as the total amount of sky that lights a person is reduced, the amount of light is reduced.

© Copyright 1999-2004 Ron Dexter. All Rights Reserved.

At a recent American Society of Lighting Designers seminar, Brian Reynolds, director of photography for NYPD Blue, said this crew is usually pressed for time when lighting the TV series, so he uses Chinese paper lanterns with 100- or 200- watt lamps inside to provide scenes with soft general illumination. The lanterns are placed on a pole and moved with the actor, just outside the frame line. The paper not only softens the light, but provides a surface to which black tape or aluminum foil can be attached to control the light’s direction.

From: Dick Reizner
To share your tips for possible inclusion in his article in Videography magazine, contact Dick at:
Reizner & Reizner Film & Video
7179 Via Maria, San Jose, CA 95139
All submissions become the property of Reizner & Reizner. None can be returned.

You’re shooting video in a large office. The ceiling is covered with fluorescent lighting fixtures. Your camera can do an acceptable white balance, but the overhead light is causing bad facial shadows. You need a fill light, but you don’t want to go to the trouble of gelling a quartz unit.

I often recommend the use of portable fluorescent “shop lights” as fills in this situation. Fred Schuller of Spotlite Video in San Jose has gone a step further in shrinking the size of his fill light. Fred uses a screw-in adapter to install a circular fluorescent lamp in a clamp-on work light. The instrument is easily attached to the top of the camera or some other convenient spot, and provides adequate fill for close-ups.

I’ve found that I get improved results by putting a high shine on the reflector with metal polish. The lamp tube is so big that this increases the instrument’s output without creating hot spots.

From: Dick Reizner
To share your tips for possible inclusion in his article in Videography magazine, contact Dick at:
Reizner & Reizner Film & Video
7179 Via Maria, San Jose, CA 95139
All submissions become the property of Reizner & Reizner. None can be returned.

Many of the projects on which I work involve big-screen video support for conventions, meetings and other events with large audiences. At most of these events, a great deal of effort and money has been put into spectacular stage lighting effects to impress the live audience. But lighting for the video is often a forgotten stepchild. I wish I had a nickel for every time the lighting crew failed to include a backlight to prevent the speaker’s dark suit and hair from blending into what is inevitable a dark background on the screen. Don’t forget that important backlight!

From: Dick Reizner
To share your tips for possible inclusion in his article in Videography magazine, contact Dick at:
Reizner & Reizner Film & Video
7179 Via Maria, San Jose, CA 95139
All submissions become the property of Reizner & Reizner. None can be returned.

by Doug Clark

If you have an opportunity to do a site survey (highly suggested) take into consideration the base level of lighting in the areas that you will be shooting. Most offices are flat lit with fluorescent lighting. Light your scene as you would normally and then look at the camera with the fluorescent lights on and off. Most cameras today will make an acceptable white balance combing the yellowish tungsten and the greenish fluorescent. The flat fluorescent lighting will fill in the shadows in your scene and if white balance is acceptable, provide an acceptable video level. It’s important to have a monitor with you (that you trust) so you can tell the color balance that you are getting.

The main lesson that I go by is to try and augment the existing lighting in the scene. I rarely turn all the existing lights off and completely light with my own lights. The main reasons that I do that is because of time constraints and also because I can’t carry all the fixtures and accessories that I would need. If you can augment what you have with a few properly placed fixtures you save time and still end up with the look that you want.

Lighting can be an easier task for you-and a less tiring one for your talent-if you use a silent stand-in, as suggested by Bob Stephanic, an AV specialist at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Clinton, Michigan. A Styrofoam head, traditionally used to display wigs and hats, can be mounted on a light stand to represent the talent in a standing or seated position.

(From Eyecon: It’s even more helpful if you were to have a small assortment of wigs so you could roughly match your talent’s hair.)

Dick Reizner
“Tips To Clip”
AV Video & Multimedia Producer
Reizner & Reizner Film & Video

Knowing your video camera’s “ASA” or exposure-value rating, is essential when using a light meter to set lights and to control contrast ratios. Most operating manuals, however, don’t provide this information.

To determine your camera’s ASA:

Point the camera at a standard chip chart.
Determine the proper exposure using a waveform monitor; not the f-stop
Replace the chip chart with an incident light meter.
Working backward on the meter, set the exposure at 1/30 of a second and the f-stop to the lens setting.
Adjust the ASA setting until the meter indicates a proper exposure.

From: Dick Reizner
To share your tips for possible inclusion in his article in Videography magazine, contact Dick at:
Reizner & Reizner Film & Video
7179 Via Maria, San Jose, CA 95139
All submissions become the property of Reizner & Reizner. None can be returned.

Tired of lugging around a ladder so you can reach and adjust high lighting instruments? Cliff Sheman, media producer for St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond, Virginia, attaches a two- or three-inch hook to the end of a broom handle, creating a handy tool for fine adjustments of lights and barn doors.

From: Dick Reizner
To share your tips for possible inclusion in his article in Videography magazine, contact Dick at:
Reizner & Reizner Film & Video
7179 Via Maria, San Jose, CA 95139
All submissions become the property of Reizner & Reizner. None can be returned.

When shooting people with dark skin tones, “Green is a great background color. Usually plants and trees provide it. I use a Lowcon filter (Tiffen) to help control the contrast,” wrote Chris Mason of Anguilla, British West Indies. Others said they use “warming” gel such as Bastard Amber and CTO on the key light to bring out the texture of dark skin. These cures can, however, change the color of other items, so use an accurate color monitor and allow time to experiment.

From: Dick Reizner
To share your tips for possible inclusion in his article in Videography magazine, contact Dick at:
Reizner & Reizner Film & Video
7179 Via Maria, San Jose, CA 95139
All submissions become the property of Reizner & Reizner. None can be returned.

The “golden hour” makes such pretty pictures, and you want to get started as early as possible. But, exactly when will the sun rise and set on the day of your shoot? provides sunrise and sunset times for any town in the United States and even some of its territories.

An attendee at my lighting seminar asked whether colored theatrical gel can be used on video lighting instruments. My advice? Be careful. Some materials that are intended for stage lighting can melt when used with our hotter quartz lights. If you’re careful, theatrical gels can be used, but leave extra space between the instrument and the gel frame. Also, don’t clothespin the gel to the barn doors. The metal can get hot and melt the gel. Try something like Rosco’s Cinegel series. Which is made to withstand the heat of quartz lights.

From: Dick Reizner
To share your tips for possible inclusion in his article in Videography magazine, contact Dick at:
Reizner & Reizner Film & Video
7179 Via Maria, San Jose, CA 95139
All submissions become the property of Reizner & Reizner. None can be returned.

Rather than shock an untrained subject by turning your video lights on just before you begin your shoot, try having the lights on when he or she enters the room.

From: Dick Reizner
To share your tips for possible inclusion in his article in Videography magazine, contact Dick at:
Reizner & Reizner Film & Video
7179 Via Maria, San Jose, CA 95139
All submissions become the property of Reizner & Reizner. None can be returned.

Mark Suszka, a producer for the Illinois State Information Service, has devised a way to soften the harsh shadows created by some of the new small camera-mounted lights: The mounting screw from a Lowel Tote Tilter (part#T-136) fits into the Tilter. When not in use, the Frame collapses and can be folded up against the camera.

From: Dick Reizner
To share your tips for possible inclusion in his article in Videography magazine, contact Dick at:
Reizner & Reizner Film & Video
7179 Via Maria, San Jose, CA 95139
All submissions become the property of Reizner & Reizner. None can be returned.