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Casablanca in the Classroom
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Television is a two-dimensional medium. The image projected on a TV screen has height and width, but not depth. Lighting techniques, therefore, are often used to create the illusion of three dimensions by combining placement with intensity of light sources. This page provides an outline of lighting basics that will give you suggestions for creating three-dimensional effects by dealing with shadows, too-bright light, not enough light and uneven lighting.

  • Base lighting is flat or frontal lighting that gives overall brightness, but doesn't help to create depth. A certain amount of base light is necessary for video images. Insufficient light will cause video to develop "video noise," especially in darker areas of the picture.
  • Key lighting is the main light on the talent (usually a spotlight). Lighting from a key is hard and highly directional. Used alone, it creates deep shadows on the opposite side of the talent's face.
  • Fill lighting partially fills the shadows created by key light. This helps create a three-dimensional look.
  • Back lighting creates a "halo" around the talent's head and shoulders, helping the subject stand out from the background and increase three dimensionality.
  • Bounce lighting uses reflective "flats" or light-colored ceilings and walls to reflect light on a subject. Bounce lighting can provide base light and is sometimes preferable to lighting the subject directly.
  • Diffusers soften the lighting effect to tone down hot lights and eliminate shadows. Photo umbrellas and specially manufactured diffuser paper are often used.
  • Gels are colored plastic materials that can be used to change light color. Gels are often used to create colored "spills" on backgrounds to add visual interest by producing a multitude of effects.
  • Bounce boards are white or reflective surfaces (foil) that bounce overhead light into shadowy areas under the eyes, nose or chin of a subject. Bounce boards are very useful when shooting outside on sunny days.

Basic Tips and Hints

Many schools are using standard shop-type lights, which can be purchased at most hardware and home-improvement stores. These lights usually come equipped with quartz bulbs that create a slightly yellowish light, particularly when used as the primary light source. Bulbs with a more "color correct" white color are available to replace the original bulbs.

Avoid combining natural and artificial light sources because differences in color temperatures will result in tones, usually with an overly red or bluish tint.

Many public buildings, schools and offices use fluorescent lighting that can either be daylight in color temperature (5400k) or incandescent color temperature (3200k).
  • Lights emitting a blue-white radiance are in the daylight range
  • Lights emitting a softer, yellowish radiance are in the range of incandescent lighting

Fluorescent lighting may flicker. If test footage indicates flickering light, turn off the florescence and light the scene with standard incandescence only or move to another location with a different type of lighting.

Always be extra careful when it comes to lighting. Lights get extremely hot in a short period of time. Always use work gloves when working around lighting.

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