Lighting web videoPoor video lighting isn’t something you can only find on the web. Amateur videos of all sorts suffer from its effects.

I wrote a little article on three-point lighting at the Wikipedia that describes the most basic lighting setup.

The three point lighting setup may be simple but it’s useful in 80% of cases – or even close to 100% if you’re shooting talking heads.

Let me give you an example of a bad lighting setup (see the image on the right). Both shots come from interviews that Miranda July did for her indie movie.

As you can see there’s a remarkable difference when you go from top to bottom. Note: the second one was shot by iFilm.

So what are the guys at iFilm doing right? Here’s a short list for you:

  • Use soft light – a single large softbox is enough
  • Use a fill light – if you don’t have a large softbox
  • Use a back light – see that highlight on her hair, it creates much needed separation between subject and background
  • Use a background light – if you’re shooting talking heads, it’s best if you use a background light with a color filter (blue) to improve the separation between subject and background

Apart from lighting, it seems that a little make up and a soft filter complete the magic.

Some journalists and filmmakers have started using WebEx video conferencing to record HD videos. The same lessons apply here: light it well or at least take it outside. If you install WebEx for iOS on your iPhone, you should be able to find a suitable location and send video that’s well lighted. Just don’t pick up a spot in the sun, unless you are in Norway and it’s 10pm.

For portraits, I recommend Tiffen’s Warm Soft/FX lens filters. Just make sure you turn the auto-focus off because sometimes it will hunt attemting to focus on the small particles in the lens filter.


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