What Happens When the Video Crew Forgets the Light Kit

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You and your video crew are on the road, traveling to the interview location when you suddenly remember... The light kit is still in the studio! You're too far down the road now to turn back (plus you have a schedule to keep) and the interview location is in a small town where there are no rental facilities or other production companies.

What do you do?

First of all, don't panic. And DEFINITELY don't roll up to the location and announce to your client, 'Well, I left all of the lights back at the studio!" There are still plenty of ways to shoot an interview using only natural light. Here are a few things to try:

  1. Place the subject right next to a window. The natural daylight is usually soft and even. If you find that the light is too harsh, hang a sheet or a silk in front of the window to soften it. You might also try lowering the shade if the window is equipped with one.
  2. Take the subject outside. Make sure the background isn't in direct sunlight. Otherwise it will blow out. Use reflectors and bounce cards to add fill light to your subject. The image at the top of this post is from an interview I shot several years ago using only natural light and bounce cards. Notice how the background is dark, maintaining proper contrast and exposure. The light on the subject is soft, even, and has a nice fall-off.
  3. Use mirrors to direct light exactly where you need it. If you happen to be shooting in a tricky location where it isn't possible to take your subject to the daylight, then try bringing the daylight to your subject. You can achieve this by using a combination of mirrors (or any other highly reflective surface), bounce cards, and reflectors. In the video below, the production crew came up with a creative way to bounce the daylight around a corner and on to the talent.

Take some time to search YouTube and you will find hundreds of tutorials on how to light with natural light. Have any other suggestions? Leave them in the Comments below.

Why Cinematographers Should Be Using Pinterest

Image courtesy of  startbloggingonline.com

Image courtesy of startbloggingonline.com

We are inundated with content every moment of every day. It's important to have a system in place where you can collate, organize, archive, and retrieve that information with ease. Like other cinematographers, I come across compositions, color schemes, lighting setups, etc. regularly and I want to collect all of those inspirational images for later reference. Every shooter has his/her method for organizing look books and mood boards, but I really think Pinterest is an excellent way to keep all of these reference shots organized.

Since Pinterest allows you to create different boards for different interests, you can set up one board for compositions, another for lighting setups, and yet another for color palettes. Right now if you go to my Pinterest profile, you will see the following boards:

  • Blue Color Palettes
  • Compositions
  • Warm Color Palettes
  • Low-Key Lighting
  • Color Theory

I'm still in the process of adding more content, based on my current projects, but so far I've found Pinterest to be extremely convenient for organizing and accessing reference material.

What tools do you use for collecting inspirational images? Leave your tips in the Comments section. 

Use the Book Light Technique to Achieve a Wonderfully Soft Key Light

An interview set up using the Book Light technique

An interview set up using the Book Light technique

Sometimes you need to create a nice, soft key light for your subject, whether it be for a sit-down interview or b-roll. There are a number of ways to do this, but one of the best is the Book Light technique.

First, it's important to understand that creating a soft light source is a bit counter-intuitive. One might think that you need to use a smaller light source and then move it AWAY from the subject and then dim it in order to create softness. However, the opposite is true. You actually want to use a large light source and then move it CLOSER to the subject as a starting point for creating a soft key light.

From there, you want to diffuse the light as much as possible to soften it up. The Book Light technique is an excellent method for diffusing the light. Here's what you need to do:

  1. As stated above, use a large light source and move it close to your subject. In the picture, I'm using a 1x1 Bi-Color Astra LED panel at 100% undiffused, which is the equivalent of a 750W fresnel.
  2. Turn the light source AWAY from your subject and aim it into a bounce card or large flex fill.
  3. Diffuse the reflected light with opal or a silk (or both, if necessary).

Here's a diagram to show the set up in more detail.

The result is an incredibly soft light source that wraps around your subject nicely.

Weekend Reading: How To Light A Commercial

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Several weeks ago I started publishing an e-newsletter using TinyLetter. Each issue is a digest of the most interesting articles I've comes across throughout the week. I thought I would start sharing one of those articles here for your weekend reading. Hopefully these articles will help you to learn something new about video/film production & post and will provide you with some inspiration for future projects. I'd like to encourage you to click the Newsletter tab at the top of the page to have these articles delivered directly to your inbox every Friday. Until then, enjoy this article from PremiumBeat.com: 

The industry has always evolved by those further ahead teaching those just starting out. There used to be the time and money for apprenticeships, and to a certain extent they still happen, but more and more online resources can teach you what a real life apprenticeship might. On his training site, WanderingDP.com, Director of Photography Patrick O’Sullivan shares a treasure trove of information. 

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