Everything you ever wanted to know about lighting Part 1


Anyone starting on the long and winding road of lighting might well be baffled at the number of very different approaches that he or she might find in books and articles. I certainly did, and that was probably because my training in Television had been engineering based, where the very nature of engineering provides specific answers to specific problems.

I think it is important to state that lighting is largely not like that. The difference between lighting and engineering is that when you are doing it for real, you can often break the rules. However, you can usually only break some of the rules some of the time!

I need to say that most of my career has been spent within the BBC which has devised and developed professional ways of working that are admired throughout the world of Broadcasting. It is only when on some of my early secondments abroad that I realised that all I took for granted in the Beeb was not to hand elsewhere.

Having said that, my approach to lighting is, perhaps, surprising in that although trained as an engineer, I am not a slave to Mireds, Lumens, or degrees Kelvin. Although I am aware of such technical things, I only measure the intensity of light with a meter when I know it will save me time and effort later. Having said that, my experience and preparation counts for much, and I know that by the time I get to a studio floor or a location, most of the important decisions will have been made by myself in advance. Once there and after focussing, I like to make my assessments of the absolute colour or brightness of a scene on a quality picture monitor.

OK, so a lighting cameraman (customary term, no sexist implication) will usually have to work to a ridiculously short time scale with no budget and only the lighting kit that he carries with him in the boot of his car. He/she will probably have to rely on the camera viewfinder for picture/lighting assessment. Having said that, I suggest that it would be a wise investment to start saving for a small, high quality colour monitor (such as can be seen elsewhere in this magazine) because it really will be your first important step to creating a better lit image.

I am familiar with the pressure when there’s no time for a recce; just rush, dash and compromise. Under those circumstances, it is hardly surprising that the end result is ‘illumination’ rather than ‘lighting’. What I hope to do in the scope of these articles is to give the reader the ability to come up with shots that are nicely balanced and lit in a believable and acceptable way.

Let’s just step back to the basics and a few techy facts. A typical modern camera sensitivity might be expressed as: F8.0 with illuminance of 2000 lux and 89.9% reflectance peak white with a 60db signal to noise ratio. This is an engineering specification and not to be taken as an indication of a working light level! I have been in studios where, unfortunately, this was literally taken as the case. But that’s another story.

However, 89.9% is a Japanese interpretation of peak white. After all, they tend to make the cameras and image ‘chips’. Most other countries use a 60% peak white, which is based on our need to expose Caucasian face tones without information being lost in any peak white areas. This translates as:

F8 with illuminance of 3000 lux and 60% reflectance peak white and 60db signal to noise ratio. However, engineers will only use cameras at F8 in the Lab. (we hope)

In the real world of television, we take advantage of those expensive bits of glass and metal at the front of the camera. Just by opening up the lens by two stops, the illumination requirement goes down from a toasting 3000 lux to a much more manageable 750 lux at F4. Even more manageable if we open another stop to F2.8 as that gives us less than 400 lux.

The working lens aperture (as opposed to the engineering spec) is principally determined from depth-of-field considerations. The incident light level used in any television studio depends on the light required by the cameras in use in that studio to give a similardepth of field to that found in other television studios. The thinking behind this was to give a consistency to images produced in BBC Studios throughout the UK.

In recent decades, operational practice has become more flexible as Lighting Directors and lighting cameramen exert more influence on picture quality than engineers. This is not to denigrate the engineer but really to reflect the huge improvements in television camera quality and stability that has occurred. Lighting people use differences in colour temperature to give their pictures character and style rather than seeing them as bad practice. The great thing about lighting is that it’s about ‘what you like’ and ‘what I like’. There are rules that we need to know, but then we can (selectively) break them if it produces shots that ‘you’ and ‘I’ like.

At this stage, let’s state the obvious. There are essentially two broad categories of lighting situations. Either you have total control of the lighting: i.e. a studio or ‘black box’ situation or you are working in an ambient or a mixed light situation. For the time being I would like to talk about the first situation where everything is under your control. I was trained and practised my lighting for many years in such well controlled situations; BBC Studios around the U.K.

A working range of light levels for most lit studios would be in the region of 200-600 lux. Cameras, lamps and lighting control equipment have all improved but there is an irrefutable law that governs the fall off of light intensity with respect to the inverse square of the distance of the source from the object to be illuminated. It is called the Inverse Square law and affects all lighting people everywhere. Ignore it at your peril!

If you double the distance from the light source to your meter, the intensity goes down to a quarter. That is definitely not in your favour! As you can see from the chart above, a light source of one candela emits one lumen into each square metre which equates to one lux. Manufacturers of lamps (properly called luminaires) will quote their light output in peak candelas. It’s then relatively easy to work out the light incidence at the ‘subject’. A colleague of mine has created a pretty exhaustive table for most of the TV lamps available to the European L.D/cameraman that will be featured in a future article.

So far, I have talked about an even field of light arriving at a flat, featureless surface and have measured its value as incident light in lux or foot-candles. If only the world were that simple! Foot candles tend to be regarded as a historic unit here in the U.K. although they are alive and well in the U.S.A. [One foot candle is equivalent to 11.1 lux.]

Colour Temperature

As well as intensity, light has colour. The human eye is remarkably adaptive to changes in the colour of what we call ‘white’ light. Outside in daylight, we accept sunlight as ‘white’ light. When it illuminates objects they appear coloured by virtue of the light absorbed or reflected from the object. When we go indoors into a room lit by electric light, (lets call it a studio) then we also quickly adjust our eye/brain to accept that tungsten light is also ‘white’. Our TV cameras, however, are not quite so clever.

We have all seen TV footage of someone being interviewed indoors, which has been very orange in appearance, and conversely, sometimes seen an outdoor shot, which is very blue. These are both examples in which the thinking part of a TV camera (the cameraman) has forgotten to change the colour temperature operating point from the previous shoot. Easily done I guess in a rushed situation and with no colour monitor reference.

A good way to visualise the ‘colour temperature’ of a light source is to visualise a bar of metal being gradually heated up in a blacksmiths forge. As the bar gets hotter, the colour of the bar will change from dull red, through orange, yellow, and white to pale blue if the forge is hot enough. Those temperatures can clearly be measured and do relate to the colour of the light which is produced.

Below is a simple chart, which illustrates the relationship between some typical light sources and their colour temperature measured in degrees Kelvin. The Kelvin scale begins at absolute zero which is –273 Celsius but its individual units are the same size as Celsius.

Choosing the colour temperature operating point

The two most important colour temperatures for lighting people are the ones encountered either in daylight which equates to around 5600K or in a ‘black box’ environment (Studio or windowless room) where tungsten filament luminaires are used at a colour temperature of around 3000K. Most cameras have the ability to change between daylight and tungsten lighting at the flick of a switch.

Cameras are designed to be at their most efficient when working in tungsten light (3000K) and it relatively easy to shape the response curves electronically for daylight working. This involves a loss in sensitivity, but this is not usually a problem in view of the normally much higher light levels of daylight.

Historically, cameras used to have an optical filter, which was known as a ‘minus blue’ (actually a CTO [colour temperature orange]) needed to prevent overload of the blue tube. Modern ‘chip’ cameras with their excellent highlight overload abilities can cope with the range of colour temperatures purely electronically. Life as a lighting person has actually got easier over the years!

In television studios the colour temperature of the light sources that illuminate people will usually be within 150 K of the ’line-up’ colour temperature i.e. 2850K +or-150K. That tolerance used to be quite strictly applied in the early days of colour television when drifting electronics were a major headache and engineers were very much in charge, but extension of these limits can be (and are) used as a creative tool by enterprising L.D.’s. Having said that, it is still a good idea to start with a studio line up light set at a known colour temperature and intensity lighting a line up chart when working in a multi camera situation.

On location, I would say that +or- 400K is an acceptable swing from the colour of ‘Daylight’ which is defined as 5600K. Similarly, an enterprising L.D. will use colour temperature variation between sources as part of his creative process when appropriate.

To summarise: we have chosen an operating point for the cameras based on the colour temperature of the ambient light. We are able to measure the quantity and assess the quality and colour of that light arriving at the subject and ensure that that is within the operating requirements of our camera(s). So does that mean that we’re ready to shoot? Well, not quite. It’s helpful to know about contrast ratios and handling of the camera and the scene itself and how lighting can help. That’s the scope of my next article which will also lead into portraiture lighting.

Tags: lighting | colour temperature | lens aperture | depth of field | tungsten light | iss019 | N/A
Contributing Author N/A

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What is Serial Communication
Mike Colyer

Don’t get me wrong - the advent of IP technology has done wonders for the broadcasting universe, especially here in Special Cams land where changing a setting could have involved a rather long walk and climb to a remote camera location! Nevertheless, this said, I still feel that serial communication is a huge contender - not only just in the realm of odd robotics systems, but also across broadcast in general.

In this article, I will walk through the very basics - introducing a few different types of serial and how they work.

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Contributing Author Mike Colyer Click to read or download PDF
Delivering on the 4k Promise
Lorna Garrett It’s happened. Consumers are demanding 4K UHD content. They have the TVs, smartphones, tablets and other devices they need, and with much of Netflix and Amazon original content in 4K, as well as sports coverage from BT and Sky, consumers have tasted the future of content quality and are hungry for more. But broadcasters need not worry if their customers have enough bandwidth to receive 4K content - the solutions are ready to make 4K distribution a reality. New viewers are waiting if you’re ready to get to them first.
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Contributing Author Lorna Garrett Click to read or download PDF
Security, Identity and Privacy
Bruce Devlin - new Put your hand up if you have more than one online-identity. Keep your hand up if the adverts for your latest online purchase follow you between identities as you surf the web. You can now let your hand fall into your lap because adverts that follow you indicate algorithms that have merged your multiple identities into the one and only you.
Tags: iss131 | class | Security | Identity | Privacy | gdpr | Bruce Devlin - new
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Artificial Intelligence and Economics
Dick Hobbs - new It’s May, so it seems inevitable that this month’s column should be a bit of a reflection on NAB. And it will, in due course. But first, some news which I think is interesting. Cisco, the IT giant, is selling off its video software solutions business. It is being bought by an as-yet unnamed new company, backed by venture capitalist Permira Funds.
Tags: iss131 | AI | dejero | evs | sky news | xeebra | state of the nation | Dick Hobbs - new
Contributing Author Dick Hobbs - new Click to read or download PDF
Broadcasting Indoor Sky Diving
Daniel Harker Barnes When you say you’re broadcasting skydiving, there are two types of reactions. One is the creative, who’ll say something along the lines of “Wow. Those shots must look great” and other is the engineer who’ll say “That must be a real hassle to get all the infrastructure in and secure.”
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Contributing Author Daniel Harker Barnes Click to read or download PDF
TV Futures, Tales on Location
Georgia Thirtle If I think back to last May, I was just finishing my second year at the University of Portsmouth, studying Television and Broadcasting, and winding down for the summer. Then out of the blue I got a message from my course leader, saying I might be getting a call from someone who was a location manager working for Raider productions, you know, the production company behind the upcoming Tomb Raider film, I mean, what!?
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Contributing Author Georgia Thirtle Click to read or download PDF
VR and the importance of tracking
KitPlus I would like to begin this article by clarifying what we at Shotoku mean when we talk about VR in live production. It’s not the production of immersive, 360 content where you need to wear a headset; we are talking about virtual studio (VS) and augmented reality (AR) work, such as placing graphics into a green screen environment or physical set. The technology used for this work is entirely different, though equally specialist – therefore it is important to understand the challenges of this kind of production in order to make informed kit choices.
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Contributing Author KitPlus Click to read or download PDF
Transforming asset management and monetization
Chad Hamilton FremantleMedia is one of the largest global television-production companies in the world — with one of the biggest and most valuable catalogs. We operate in 36 markets, creating, producing, and distributing content across traditional TV and digital platforms at a rate of more than 10,000 hours of programming per year.
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Contributing Author Chad Hamilton Click to read or download PDF
Grand slam IPTV and digital signage platform
Joe Walsh Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, is home to major league baseball’s Kansas City Royals. Built in 1973, “The K” has a proud baseball legacy, and goes down in history for winning two World Series championship titles; one in 1985 and another in 2015 — exactly 20 years apart. The most recent win brought a resurgence of baseball fever to the stadium, hosting more than 2.7 million fans during its 2015 winning season.
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Contributing Author Joe Walsh Click to read or download PDF
The shining star of Dancing On Ice
Rod Aaron Gammons Lighting is an incredibly important part of any TV production, and it can make a huge difference to what is seen on-screen. If the right lights are used in the right way, it can create a mood, set a tone and convey a certain atmosphere.
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Contributing Author Rod Aaron Gammons Click to read or download PDF
Out of the box: Sennheiser Ambeo VR microphone
Jon Pratchett 2 The use of 360 video, especially on platforms like Facebook and YouTube is really starting to take off. Gone are the days when you needed to buy multiple GoPros and rigs in order to get something decent looking. Now players like Insta360 and even GoPro with their fusion 360 camera are providing single camera, high quality solutions, enabling the masses to put out reasonable quality, certainly watchable, 360 video.
Tags: iss130 | vr | virtual reality | audio | ambiosonic | Jon Pratchett 2
Contributing Author Jon Pratchett 2 Click to read or download PDF
Interview with Peter Rowsell, Polar Graphics
Polar If you don’t recognise the name Peter Rowsell instantly you no doubt would recognise him in person, from the famous ‘Pink Coconut’ parties during IBC (Brighton) in the 80s or the name ‘Polar Video or Polar Graphics’ both companies which he’s built up over the years.
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Contributing Author Polar Click to read or download PDF
Technological advances in the broadcast industry
Alan Wheable Since it is Omnitek’s 20th anniversary this year, I thought it would be interesting to look back over the technological advances in the broadcast industry over the last few decades and look at the similarities between then and now.
Tags: iss130 | omnitek | test and measurement | smpte 2110 | untra tq | 2022 | sdi 2022-6 | Alan Wheable
Contributing Author Alan Wheable Click to read or download PDF
Six steps for award winning sound design with Jungle Studios
Chris Turner Few can argue that great sound design is one of the most important elements to any moving picture. Mute most horrors, and the difference in fear factor will be enormous. Visualize Jaws or Star Wars, and John Williams’s iconic score will instantly come to mind.
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Contributing Author Chris Turner Click to read or download PDF
State of the Nation
Dick Hobbs - new

On the most recent occasion I was trimmed, my hairdresser had just returned from a holiday in Hawaii.

Where she thought she was going to die. She thought this because the state’s emergency alert system was triggered, sending messages across all available platforms, for 38 minutes, that a ballistic missile was about to strike. That, I suspect, is the sort of thing that casts a pall across your holiday.

Why did it happen? Essentially it happened because an operator selected the wrong menu item. “I feel very badly from what’s happened,” he is quoted as saying, in a somewhat mangled version of English which may at least in part explain his difficulties with menu items.

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Contributing Author Dick Hobbs - new Click to read or download PDF
NAB is all about people
John Smith -new The relative success of NAB is down to people. The individuals we meet, the relationships we make and renew with customers and the desire to work together to develop a technology solution to any given challenge.
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Contributing Author John Smith -new Click to read or download PDF
Reliable back-up at the Music City Bowl
Sam Gordon WLEX – LEX18 – is the NBC affiliate in Lexington, Kentucky, and part of the Cordillera Communications Group. As a very popular local station with a broadcast area that covers 40 counties across central Kentucky we have a big commitment to news, broadcasting more than seven hours of live programming on a typical day.
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Contributing Author Sam Gordon Click to read or download PDF
Tried and tested: DPA d:vice
KitPlus KitPlus recently took delivery of an interesting piece of equipment for review. We like our iPhone gadgets here. For us, useful iPhone gadgets started when the Olloclip lens gave us a wide angle adaptor. This was a good start, finally evolving into a proper tool when Ziess produced the Exolens system for the 5,6 & 7 series iPhones. Around the same time as the Olloclip came out we were testing the Fostex AR4i which was a very exciting development at the time. You have a portable device, that you carry everywhere with you, connected to the world but with very limited audio capabilities. A stereo interface with decent microphones was a real boon!
Tags: iss130 | dpa | dvice | iphone | journalist mic | filmic | ios | microdot | KitPlus
Contributing Author KitPlus Click to read or download PDF
Why OTT needs multicast ABR
Damien Lucas Last year, Netflix’s global revenue reached $11 billion, with 24 million new names added to its subscribers’ list. Viewers are certainly making their preferences heard – and voting with their remote controls to show that over-the-top (OTT) content is here to stay.
Tags: iss130 | ott | abr | adaptive bit rate | cdn | dsl | lte | Damien Lucas
Contributing Author Damien Lucas Click to read or download PDF
How IP-based KVM can improve workflow in broadcast control rooms
John Halksworth One of the most significant shifts the broadcast industry has seen over recent years is the adoption of IP technology as a standard infrastructure across the entire broadcast workflow. IP provides a network suitable for routing audio, video and control around a broadcast facility and is providing the answers to many industry challenges.
Tags: iss130 | kvm | adder | adderlink | alif100t | John Halksworth
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Innovation in cameras moving to 4k
Tony Valentino For a number of reasons, wireless camera links needed time to migrate to 4K. However Broadcast Sports International, BSI, designs their own cameras and builds their own hardware and their transition to 4K is already complete.
Tags: iss129 | bsi | ref-cam | wireless | 4k | Tony Valentino
Contributing Author Tony Valentino Click to read