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by Mike Perry, Photon Beard
W e often get asked why lighting for
a virtual set is not working well.
The client has fitted a virtual studio
painted with domestic green paint and fitted
with presumably suitable lights, but the camera just can’t
get a decent image. Where’s it all going wrong? Well, to
answer questions about lighting a virtual studio, we need to
understand some basic principles about light.
The type of lighting you need depends on a multitude of
factors, such as whether you want to simulate a natural or
artifi cially lit scene. In the case of a natural scene, such as
in daylight or a night sky, there is only one light source.
With artifi cial lighting, such as a city street, there are
multiple light sources, often in different colours and
intensities. Indoor and outdoor scenes also make a big
difference. The quality of lighting will interact with the
materials used for the greenscreen, which might require you
to change the colour or intensity of various sources.
Colour is, of course, a critical element of lighting. You might
think of light as ‘white’, but if you look around you’ll fi nd
that light casts many different colours, even supposedly
“white” light. For example, a tungsten light in your home
emits a yellow hue with tints of orange. Department store
fl uorescents emit a variety of pinks, blues and greens. All of
this affects what you see bouncing back off ‘white’ goods
or clothing. Speaking of clothing, some clothing will appear
whiter than others because brighteners have been added
to fabrics to make them appear to pop off the hanger, to
be ‘whiter than white’. It’s a trick of chemistry specifi cally
designed to take advantage of lighting choices, and it’s the
same in a virtual studio.
If you are used to lighting properly for TV or fi lm you will be
familiar with three-point lighting. It’s a very fl exible technique
common in cinematography and photography, and it can
be used to illuminate a subject in a virtual studio in the
same way. Three-point lighting consists of three separate
lights that are used to control the lighting, shading and
shadows of the subject.
The Key Light is the main light source, it illuminates the
subject the most and it defi nes the overall lighting design
54 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 92 AUGUST 2014