Chapter 7: Lighting and Design

Lighting is a complex art that directly shapes the overall impressions and emotions created by recorded visual images. The expressive lighting designs fall into three categories: realist, modernist, and postmodernist. The realist approach involves creating the illusion of using a setting’s original light sources. The focus is on recreating reality using artificial lights. Modernist lighting allows the lighting and design directors more freedom to create abstract techniques. Lighting is used to stylize the setting and add to the emotion of a shot. Mood and atmosphere are manipulated with stylized lighting techniques. Postmodernist lighting involves a mixture of techniques and styles to evoke a more complex emotional response in the viewer. This style blends classical and modern, traditional and contemporary, with elite and popular patterns.

Kelvins (K) are used to measure the degree of color temperature. Degrees Kelvin is “a unit of measurement that refers to the type of light that would theoretically be given off by a perfect light radiator” (217). White light is composed of equal parts of red, green, and blue light. For example, sunlight has a high color temperature of 5400-5600 degrees K and contains more blue light. Tungsten light has more red light. Video and film recordings are very sensitive to these different kinds of light. For this reason, the light sources must be chosen carefully and controlled. Sunlight creates harsh shadows. Tungsten light comes from electrical sources, such as an incandescent lightbulb. Tungsten light produces longer wavelengths. Carbon arc light produces intense light with a high color temperature. The light itself is generated by a spark between two carbon poles. The light generated produces a lot of heat and noxious vapors and exhaust. Adequate ventilation is required and the equipment is bulky and requires electrical generators at the location to power the light source.

The halide light is the newest development in location lighting. There are three different types: halogen-metal-iodide (HMI), compact iodine daylight (CID), and compact source iodide (CSI). HMI is the most popular of the three because it generates four times the amount of light as tungsten-quartz-halogen lamps.

Fluorescent light is different that the types of light previously discussed because it has been discontinuous throughout the visible spectrum. The bands of red, yellow, and blue light are strong, while other colors are nearly nonexistent in a fluorescent light source. Color films can be used to compensate for the discontinuity. Fluorescent lights also produce an audible humming and flickering. This interference can be picked up from microphones. Light-emitting diodes (LED) lights are controlled by a built-in microchip and incorporate the manipulation of groups of red, green, and blue LED chips.  The light produced it high-energy and efficient without generating excessive heat.

White balance is important to establish in each shot, so as to maintain a true white throughout. The lighting needs to be set first. Next, point the camera at the subject area, with the focus on a white card. The white balance must be established repeatedly, especially with a change in location or lighting.




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