Jason Robinson took time out from his busy
schedule to give us some pointers on the basics of TV lighting.
Jason is the LD for WWF, which keeps him busy every week of
the year. He has also done HBO boxing, numerous ‘Bill Graham
Presents’Ice Shows, and one of the Woodstock 1999 stages.
This article is meant to give the basics of
lighting for TV. It will give you enough insight to be able
to understand basics of lighting for TV.
The most important thing above all else is Balance.
There are a couple of factors involved: One is intensity, the other
is color balance.
Color balance is probably one of the most important
factors for unifying the look and feel of a show. The standard has
always been 3200-Kelvin degrees and 5600K. Most incandescent sources
( par cans ) are 3200K and moving light technology is generally
5600, just like spotlights. 3200K is the more popular as it gives
the overall look a ‘warm and healthy’ feel. Neither of the sources
is necessarily wrong but as a general balance it’s preferable to
use either one or the other. That’s not to say that you couldn’t
use both, it’s merely a preference choice. You can use gels to correct
the color temperature. The most basic are CT Orange and CT Blue.
Quite simply, the orange drops the temperature from 5600K to 3200K
and the blue works in the opposite direction. You get different
levels: eighth, quarter, half, & full.
Intensity in TV doesn’t always work the same way
as a live show. Cameras today are more sensitive than they have
ever been. The old cameras required 125 foot candles, but today
you can get away with 50 to 80 foot candles. If someone seems to
be too bright on the video, avoid dimming the fixture. The simple
reason is that you are also affecting the color temperature, which
can make the talent look very orange. Confirm how many sources are
coming from one direction. 2 sources with 50 foot candles do actually
add up 100 fc. The less intensity you have overall, the more the
camera can see into the dark.
The biggest mistake people make is to think that
the main talent has to be brighter than the rest. So they grab a
spotlight and use it only on the talent. Un-balanced or corrected
the spot light can be 5 to 6 times brighter than all other sources.
You can take the intensity down on a spotlight by diffusing the
light a little or dowsing the spot itself. If you can get your hands
on half CTO, quarter CTO, & quarter minus green you can deal
with 75% of the spotlights out there.
If you are shooting outside, light the darkness.
The sun will always beat your lights. Color correct to 5600K if
you are using incandescents.
Try to get a monitor by your station with a router
(a box that allows you to switch between cameras). Once they have
white balanced (a process where they focus the camera on a white
surface to get a true color balance ) the cameras, you can see how
your color temperature and intensity will look. When you are dealing
with image magnification on a local or touring basis, ensure that
the video crew does a white balance. Not only will the paying punters
on the lawn seats appreciate the show a lot more, but you will also
be in safer hands if the boss asks the video guys to record the
One person you want to ensure you get to know on
the camera crew is the engineer. He’s the one who balances and sets
the iris on the cameras. If you have an unbalanced show, especially
on the intensity side, he/she will be the one who can save you.
He/she can ride the iris. The iris controls the amount of light
the camera will see. If you have a balanced show, it will be a lot
easier for the engineer. The LD will be the first scapegoat for
the engineer if things don’t look right.
Angles are an important aspect in your balance.
The easiest way is to do a straight front and backlight. This can
cause some shadow issues especially if you are dealing with multiple
cameras. A solution is 2 sources on 45 degree angles from the front.
Avoiding the dilemma of shadows can be challenging.
If you’re doing a country act you stand a chance of getting cowboy
hats in the way. If you can get some MR-16 strip lights in for
footlights then you are loving life. You may need some color correction
to balance the color temperature. Watch your intensity as well.
Be prepared to make changes to your show. You have
to ask yourself what is more important, the video or the live audience?
Many times the video crew will bring in a TV LD. Egos can clash
as the touring LD will feel like his feet are being stepped on.
Let the TV LD do his thing since his main interest is to make your
show look good on TV.
Another thing to consider is where the cameras will
be placed so you can avoid lights shooting straight into them (
Flare ). You may have to refocus or kill a light that is doing this.
If the director asks for more light, he may mean that the main talent
is too bright. Again, this refers to balance of the overall stage.
For further reading, Jason suggests the following.
If you want to go all out you can buy a color temperature meter
and intensity meter.
We hope these little tidbits have helped you.
Your thoughts on the Message Board.