has added so much to the quality of
video; every nuance in the talent’s face is
easily seen. With the advent of 4K, appropriate
lighting is even more important as less is
held to the imagination.
On a recent project shooting in 4K with
my students, I wanted the two opposing
characters to be as different as possible especially
with the lighting. The male lead will
always be seen in very hard lighting. Every
crevasse and line in his face would help the
audience relate to his character, while the
female lead would be the opposite.
Hard lighting is best created from a
strong source, in my case a K5600 Joker
Bug 200 Watt HMI. Although an extremely
powerful light, the HMI’s beams were
slightly diffused with its frosted glass lens.
At a distance of 10 feet
from the talent and pointed
slightly camera left, this key
source provided 650 foot-candles
of illumination. If
the light were positioned directly
in front of his face, the
lighting would still be hard,
but too flat. Angling the key
slightly to camera left, it
provided modeling but the
harshness of it still prevailed.
When the length of the nose shadow
reached the correct length, the light was in
the best position.
|Fig. 2 best illustrates the look I was after.
The key light is obviously only part of
the story. Still desiring separation from the
background, a strong backlight was also
necessary, in this case, a Mole-Richardson
750 Watt Tweenie. Because the Tweenie is
tungsten balanced, and the talent has darker
hair, a full color temperature blue gel corrected
the tungsten light to daylight and
also enhanced the hue of his hair. The first
image (Fig. 1), illustrates the positioning of
the lights within the environment. Because I
wanted the hard light to be very directional
(sunlight coming in through the window),
I had no fill light. The ambient light from
the wall opposite the talent added enough
subtle fill, but still gave the key light the directionality
The image of the final result (Fig. 2), best
illustrates the look I was after. Shooting with
the Canon C500 in its uncompressed RAW
mode takes up an enormous amount of
drive space, but allows many options in editing.
When shooting in 4K or HD, it is best
to light your scene shows the detail you require.
Shadow areas are no longer muddy,
pixilated areas are within the frame. There is
now great detail as cameras can shoot with
less light at higher ISOs.
Color temperature also plays an important
role in lighting specifics. The male lead used daylight-balanced illumination and I
adjusted the color temperature slightly
blue at 4950º K. Again, shooting in uncompressed
RAW allows changes in color temperature
as late as the post process.
Contrasting the male lead with the female,
in all of her lighting requirements we
utilized the softest light available. Since we
wanted her to almost glow like the glamour
shots of the 40’s, her lighting needed
to be completely different than the male
|Fig. 3: The first image of the female talent illustrates the lighting setup.
Using the same Tweenie as the key
source—placing it slightly to the left or
right depended on the practical source in
the scene—was only part of the effect. Using
a large piece of diffusion (Rosco 216)
extremely close to the talent would create
the soft look I was after and also enlarged
the area of soft light. Although the light is
placed much closer to directly in front of
the talent, a piece of white foam core always
acted as the fill. The first image of the
female talent illustrates the lighting setup
The closer the diffusion material is
placed to the subject, the softer and
broader the soft light appears to be. A light
source like fluorescents,
even a softlight
itself may also
be used as a soft
source; but the
softest look only
comes from placing
to the subject
and farther from
the light source
itself. This helps
the light’s beam
it a larger
source of illumination.
Using a tungsten source in this instance,
I also used a Mole Richardson 200 Watt
Inky as a backlight. Some might think that
using color temperature orange on a tungsten
light is overkill. If your talent has light
colored hair (blonde in this case), using a
full CTO gel on her hair actually makes it
appear lighter (more blonde?) and radiate
more light. The backlight was essential in
achieving this glowing look.
|Fig. 4: The talent’s white dress helped create the mood by reflecting the light and overexposing slightly. This is the end result.
The color temperature, although normally
3200ºK, was raised slightly to 3450ºK
to further enhance the warmth of the
scene. Her white dress also helped create
the mood by reflecting the light and overexposing
slightly. The end result is seen in
the last photo (Fig. 4).
All of these nuances work well in still
photography, HD video, and even more so
in 4K. It does not matter in what format
the end result may be viewed; properly
exposing the footage and knowing how
to best place and utilize your lighting will
make all the difference. And that’s a nice
reflection on you.
Chuck Gloman is Chair and Associate
Professor of the TV/Film Department at
DeSales University. He may be reached