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Five Tips for Better Lighting of Your Videos
To shoot better video, you don’t need a more expensive camera. The key to any good video is in the lighting. Good lighting can make a cheap camera look good and bad lighting can make a pricy camera look bad. Make the most out of your present camera with the following lighting tips.
Here are five ways to improve what you do without blowing your budget:
1. Set the White Balance Properly:
The first tip and cardinal rule of video is, always white balance your camera. Too many times we’ve seen video with the wrong white balance setting. This simple mistake can ruin a video right out of the box. A bad white balance setting means you will have to correct in postproduction, and even then it may not look ok. Open your camera manual and read the White Balance section. Essentially all you do is point to a white object and press a button, and the video is balanced.
If you are using a simple camera, like the Flip, you have no control over the white balance settings because it is set to full-time auto white balance. In this case, you have to make sure you are dealing with only one type of light at a time. So, open the shades in your office and turn off the fluorescent lights, and you will have the control you need.
2. Use the Sun:
This first major source of light is also the most awesome source of light. If you are able to shoot video near a window or outside on a nice day, then position your subject one of two ways; either shoot them with the light shining directly in their face (if they can be comfortable and don’t feel the need to squint too much) or at an angle so that one side is hot and one side is not. The sun has a full spectrum of light, it renders colors well, and it’s free! Try not to shoot at noon, because the shadows come from above and are hard avoid. Early morning and afternoon means the light is softer, has a more golden tone, and fills your subject better.
3. Add an External Camera Light:
For those of you shooting with a camera like the Flip, which performs poorly in low light, I suggest investing in a portable LED light. There are a variety of neat light sources like the Sima SL-20LX Ultra Bright Video Light that you can screw into the tripod mount on the bottom of your Flip, and it includes a shoe bracket you may use to mount the light. If you have a bigger camera, you can add a bigger light; there are a lot of them out there. Pick one that fits your budget and use it every time you shoot. A camera light is excellent for filling in the annoying shadows on people's faces that occur when the lighting comes from above, like a gym, or an office, or outdoors at midday.
4. Buy a Light with a Stand:
Lights with stands can be plugged into the wall and provide brighter light over a larger area. Now you can move your camera and not upset the lighting. Your subject and his or her background can now become part of your story. When you set up a light and stand, place it slightly to the left or right of your subject's face to create a gentle shadow on one side. Make sure you are careful to isolate your light sources, i.e. close or open the shades and turn the office lights on or off. When you mix light, your primary source has to be the brightest. If you have a bigger budget, why not buy three lights and position two in front and one behind your subject to create classic three-point lighting? I recommend incandescent lights for this task; they offer the most bang for the buck. Specifically, I suggest purchasing a Lowel pro-light with an umbrella. They can be found at most good camera stores and make any video look better. They are smaller than traditional video lights and are rated at 250 watts each, so they won’t blow any fuses.
5. Know your Kelvin:
Kelvin is the unit used to measure the color temperature of light. Each source of light has unique properties, and it’s important to know what they look like so you can work with them.
Fluorescent: 4000K (degrees Kelvin)
Generally speaking, fluorescent lights are a bit green and do not mix well with other colors. This is good to keep in mind when shooting in an office or a conference room. It’s best to eliminate all other sources of light if you plan on using fluorescent lights for your main source of light. When you white balance it will “remove” the green and everything should look fine. Fluorescent lights are very popular in filmmaking nowadays because they use less energy, last longer and don’t radiate as much heat as incandescent lights. However, if you buy them as a lighting kit they can be pretty pricey.
Incandescent: 3200K (degrees Kelvin)
Incandescent lights are generally yellow in color, like a standard light bulb. You will find them in most lamps, but in an office environment they compete with the fluorescent lights for video. Remember to always have one dominant source of light. So turn of those ugly shadow-making overhead fluorescent light banks and turn on the desk lamps for nice accent lights, especially in the background.
Sunlight: 5200K (degrees Kelvin)
The sun is generally bluer than other kinds of light, and as you can see, the difference in color temperature between the sun and incandescent is pretty huge. That’s why it is the most common and obvious mistake people make in lighting. Lots of cameras have the sun logo or bulb logo already built in to the white balance settings; just make sure to switch them when you move from indoors to outdoors. The sun is also a very powerful source of light; even when it seems low it can generally overpower all other lighting. When you are outside use a piece of white foam core or flexible reflector to gently ‘bounce’ the light into your subject's face. The results can be excellent.
LED (5600K degrees Kelvin)
LED lighting is new to the scene and has gained a lot of popularity due to its dramatic change in cost. LED is bright, uses low power (battery operated), and is totally portable. The disadvantage is that is very blue, so when you are in a mixed light setting, you have to make a choice of what you want white balanced, your subject or your background. Hint: always white balance your subject; flesh tones are the real deciding factor here. Some LED lights come with plastic filters (gels) that will adjust the color of the light to match other types of light. I recommend that you purchase the filters if you buy LED lighting. You can get some great camera mounted LED kits for around $300, and they can run on rechargeable batteries.
That’s it! Now go open your instruction manual and white balance your camera!
Tuesday, 05 April 2011