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Lighting for Digital Video and Television, Third Edition

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I participate in a number of Internet forums related to video production and often field questions about lighting issues. After a thread where several of us explained to a beginner why he needed to light his videos, one wag posted: “Remember, without lighting all you have is a black picture.”

Facetious, tongue-in-cheek, but true! The most common mistake beginning video shooters do is to overlook the importance of good lighting.

I’ve always been interested in lighting. In my earlier days it was theatrical lighting; I just loved playing with the light boards (built one myself) and figuring out dramatic lighting effects. Then I became interested in video production.

That was back in the days of the Sony PortaPak®, the genesis of “guerilla video” however, and we didn’t do no stinkin’ lighting. Point-and-shoot was pretty much all we did outside of the studio. The PortaPaks® ran ½" reel-to-reel tape, black & white only, about 150 lines of resolution on a good day. The tape deck was about the size of a mini-tower computer today, with a shoulder strap and batteries that seemed to last about 10 minutes. Then along came ¾" U-Matic® and then ¾" SP. And then came the day when a great program I had done was rejected for network broadcast because of poor lighting in some critical interview scenes.

I got back “into” lighting with a vengeance. My earlier fascination with theatrical lighting effects was reawakened and I started to experiment. When the first 3D programs came out (anyone remember DKBTrace, the original Caligari, and Turbo Silver?) everyone else was playing with reflective surfaces—but I was playing with the lights! I’ve been playing with lights ever since.

Once you discover the difference great lighting can make, you’ll be playing along with me!

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