Video Production & Lighting. A Guide.
So you’re producing a video and you aren’t sure how to light it? Well, let us help you out! First of all, you could drop us a line if you like. Video production is what we do full time. Lighting for video production is a tough ask and takes time to learn. Let us help!
When we look at things, our eyeballs play lots of tricks on us which our brains sort out for us. The bit of the eyeball in which things are in focus is actually tiny. It’s called the Macula. It’s a tiny little collection of cells. When the image is focused on it, that’s the bit we perceive as in focus. The rest, is spread all over the retina and it’s actually out of focus completely. Our brains tell us that it’s all in focus, because we can move the image around our eye balls and focus on what we want to. But it isn’t. It’s a trick. Good lighting a composition skills take these facts and work with them. This post will start you off on lighting journey.
The difference between the videos you make with your phone and the videos we make is mostly to do with the lighting, not the camera. I reckon we could shoot similar quality stuff on your iPhone if we had the same lighting set up. As a creative video production company, we of course have a range of amazing cameras at our disposal. But the real quality difference is not in the BSC (big sexy camera) or what the framerates are or CODEC’s or any of that, but where to point the lights and what to shine them through. It’s very simple.
There’s a great example on our social media video page. If you’re more into practical learning, this is a good place to start!
You might want to take a look at a couple of different styles of lighting. Here, on our talking head videos page, you’ll find two totally different styles. The darker one we call ‘low key’. The brighter one ‘high key’. High key is easiest to go for. Here are a couple of examples:
How do you get good lighting for videos?
- Firstly, find the frame.
Get your camera, set it up how you want it and then sit your subject down in the right spot and take a photo. Blow the photo up on a big screen and have a look at it. Is there a fire exit sign in the way? A bin? Is it messy? Is the subject comfortable? Which way do they naturally look? Are there reflections? Sort it out!
- Second – find a source of light and set your exposure.
The general idea of lighting Corporate Video is to draw attention to the subject of the film. This might sound obvious, but there’s lots to think about. In feature film production, there is another aim – to convey mood.
Anyone a fan of Ozark? It’s dark AF. That’s because the subject matter is dark. Very dark. Mood isn’t as important in corporate or brand video production.
In corporate and brand video production, lots of time, the actual background -if it is in focus – is just a distraction. For this reason, if you can, you probably want to open up your aperture to about F4 or less to de-focus the background.
When we de focus the background on screen, we mimic in the video what the brain is doing with our eyes and it creates a ‘natural’ feeling image. If you can’t do that – skip to point 3!
Lighting is about mimicking how the eyeball works and emphasizing it
But it creates a problem; by opening the aperture, we let a lot more light in to the sensor and everything gets brighter. Probably too bright, so something needs to give… At this point what we do is apply a filter to the front of the lens called an ND filter. It makes everything darker. Expensive production cameras have them built in.
- Thirdly – once you’ve got your frame and you’ve got it looking nice, then bring in your key light.
Having made everything darker, you then need to draw attention to your subject by shining a light at them. This is the Key Light.
Your key light is the light which illuminates the face of the subject. For this we use the Aperture LS 600D .I love this light more than life itself. It’s like having the sun in a suitcase. For us, it means we can create a source of light which looks like it is coming from outside the room, because we can put it outside the room and shine it in. We also shine it through a modifier of some sort to ‘soften’ it and make it look natural.
Get a torch, shine it directly at your subject. This is ‘Harsh’ lighting. Now shine it through tracing paper. Note the difference.
In this way, you can make creative decisions about how bright you want your subject to look and how much they stand out.
However, a source of light can be just a window. The problem with windows is cloud. When a cloud blows over the light goes down. If you have a sexy camera like we do (Sony FX9) you can set it to automatically adjust the ND filter and keep the exposure the same. If you don’t, your video will look slightly more rubbish. But this is natural order of things and why you hire us. You might also want to reflect the light back. You can use a sheet, foil, paper, a white floor or wall…anything at all.
- Fourthly – is that a word? – consider the background. Remember – we made it really dark? We now need to make decisions about how bright the background should be.
You’ll see no expense has been spared in this post, especially in the graphic design. However, I love the lighting on this video and it’s a great example.
It might be that you’ve stopped with the key light. In this case, we have more to play with. The second bit of the lighting – is the ‘hair’ light. If you shine light onto someone’s head and shoulders from the opposite way you lit their face, you’ll get a very subtle silhouette. It makes the subject stand out just a little bit. In the case above, this was provided on the hoof with an existing light source.
The last part are the colors in the background. The red textures I have illustrated here are provided by Aperture MC’s. They are little credit card size lights and we use them all the time in our videos. Here –
– we use them to create a completely different backdrop color from a really boring (sorry guys!!) wall:
Anyway, hope that was useful to you. There is tons more to talk about. Remember Ozark? If you’ve been following this carefully, you’ll remember I was saying about how it’s necessary to open the aperture to de-focus the background, but this makes everything else really bright? In Ozark everything is always dark…but they are always stood in front of windows in which the backgrounds also appear correctly exposed?
It’s because there is film stuck all over the windows darkening everything and giving the crew control over the light inside the room.
Ahhhh. I’m a total geek. Thankfully you’ll never have to watch a film with me as I drool all over the lighting techniques.
Give us a call if you’re thinking about a project.