If you’ve never been part of a video shoot, the first thing you’ll probably notice is the incredible amount of equipment that is brought in by a film crew. In general, you’ll find dozens of pieces of production equipment on a typical shoot. You’ll find the HD cameras, of course, but also lenses, tripods, handheld mics, boom mics, lapel mics, backdrops, and gaffer tape…so much gaffer tape!

But wait, we haven’t even talked about lighting yet! Lighting is an incredibly important part of any video production, whether it’s happening outdoors (where light might have to be reduced ) to indoors (where it all has to be to produced by a variety of lighting sources). Most people who aren’t a part of a video production company don’t think about the importance of lighting, but it’s such a vital part of any shoot that we thought it important to write this article to remind you of the reasons why taking time to get the lighting correct is so important.

Lighting Creates Mood

The next time you watch a movie, pay attention to the lighting. In a comedy, nearly everything will be bright. In a horror movie, monsters are usually lit from below and pop out of pitch-black doorways. You don’t have to look any further than a movie such as The Third Man to discover how the use of black and white film and stark lighting makes an audience feel.

Lighting creates mood, often based on how it distorts or reveals human faces. It can highlight areas you’re supposed to pay attention to (key lighting on a gun) or obscure a character that’s supposed to remain hidden (like in a who-done-it). When it comes to video production, it’s important that the lighting reflect the mood of the overall piece. Lighting a simple interview is very different from lighting a musical performance.

BONUS! What is Soap Opera Lighting?

Have you ever wondered why soap operas look the way they do? They all have a flat, even look that’s anything but interesting. A lot of it has to do with lighting!

Because soap operas air every weekday, they have to shoot them back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back. That means their schedule is incredibly tight and their film crews don’t have a lot of time to shoot. To speed up shooting, they light the entire set very evenly so that the actors can move around in it without having to adjust lights. This lighting also ensures that the actors don’t get into any parts of the room that will make strange shadows appear on their faces. Further, soap operas use multiple cameras and live-switching film each actor at the same time, and even lighting means that they don’t have to adjust exposure much or worry that the background lighting from one angle won’t match the lighting from another.

Why does it look so weird to us? Because we know what real life rooms look like. We know that some parts of a real room are darker than others, and sunbeams create bright spots. When we see something so flatly lit, it just doesn’t look natural.

Avoid Shadows

The creation of shadows usually has to do with creating mood. But avoiding shadows often has to do with vanity!

The human face changes so much depending on the kind of light it is subjected to. There are shadows that are flattering and shadows that are not so flattering. All you have to do is take a look at this video to see how the direction of light can make someone appear otherworldly. While it looks like computer effects were used to morph the person, it’s actually a very simple practical effect: a single light is put on a circular disc and rotated. This not only changes the look of their face but also make it look like their hair is moving!

For most interviews with a guest, we’re not trying to create a particular mood but are doing what we can to make them look their best. A nice, even light that highlights their best features while still making their makeup unnoticeable is what we often strive for.

Increase Clarity of The Video

If you’ve ever taken video of a school performance on a stage, you’ve probably noticed the video noise that that appears in the picture. The camera is automatically raising its ISO setting and forgoing quality in order to get adequate exposure; while you can see what’s going on, it looks worse. It’s a tradeoff that most consumer cameras don’t handle very well. Professional cameras with larger sensors deal with the problem better, but it can still suffer reduced image quality if it’s very dark.

Auxiliary lights are the solution. Having extra lights on a subject lets the cameras keep a lower ISO setting, which means that there will be less noise in the video.

Highlight Surroundings

Video cameras (and digital cameras and film cameras) do not work the same way that the human eye does. What a camera meters on has to be chosen by the operator, which means that if you want a person in the dark to be exposed properly, a bright window in the background is going to be blown out and appear completely white.

What can be done? By increasing the light on the person, the difference between what is light and what is dark isn’t nearly as great, and the entire scene can be exposed better to show both the subject and their surroundings.

What if the scenario is reversed? Consider this example: a corporate safety video where a person is standing outside but wants to point to something in the dark interior of a building. In this case, the inside of the building will need auxiliary light so that both the person and the interior are properly exposed. Proper lighting can also allow the person to walk into the lighted area in one take instead of having to cut or adjust the exposure on the fly.

Ready To Get the Right Lighting For the Right Job?

If you need video production in NYC, it’s important to find a video crew that knows more about shooting than just how to run a video camera. Lighting is critical, and you should hire a film production company that knows how to use light to their advantage, whether they are shooting a music video or a corporate video. Contact us today to when you need a video shot!