Camera and Lighting This document is based on the requirements that C31 Melbourne have of their producers in meeting the stations technical criteria. It is also to accompany the training DVD on Camera and Lighting. A full list of the technical criteria and copies of the training DVD are available from the C31 office.
Camera Framing Framing is about composition of the picture. Still photographers pay particular attention to the composition of their pictures. It is also important for videographers. It is a creative process as much as a technical function. Framing is the position, size and balance of all the elements in your picture – the scene, the people and other elements or items or points of interest on the screen. When framing you need to remember the rule of thirds. Imagine your camera view finder is divided into 3 sections – both vertically and horizontally. Bad framing is one of the fastest and surest ways that a viewer will know if your production is professional or amateur. Some basic shot choices are: -Scenery -Action -Interview -Hosting Scenery – the rule of thirds applies almost strictly. Horizons should not be in the centre of the frame. Balance and composition is the key to a great shot. Make sure there are points or objects of interest in the shot. A bit of movement, either panning to or from a point of interest, or zooming in or out to establish the scene are techniques to make the entire shot more appealing to the audience. Don’t make the shot too long – attempt to replicate the natural eye movement. Action – follow the action. Shoot wide to ensure all the action is understood to the audience. Only shoot a close up if you’re using a tripod. Use the zoom sparingly but to follow the action after an establishing wide shot or if the action moves so rapidly that you risk losing it out of frame. It is preferable to use a tripod. Interview & Hosting - generally position the height of the camera lens at the same eye height of your subjects. For an interview or a host talking to camera, a close up or a medium shot is better because it allows your audience to see clearly and focus on what is being said without being distracted by things cluttering or distracting in the frame. Again apply the rule of thirds. Put your talents eyes up at the line of the top third. By doing this you fill the screen and put your subject up at the same level as your audience.
Remember, thirds are both horizontal and vertical, meaning that if your talent is talking to the camera, their eyes need to be aligned along the top ‘third’ line and positioned in the center. When conducting an interview, the subjects should be slightly apart to the sides, to give what’s called talking space; but it should not be so wide apart that there is a vacant and distracting space in between. And at all times watch the headroom, too much just looks bad. If there is more than one subject on camera, or you are showing graphics, then you need to balance the frame by having what’s on the left of screen balanced with what’s on the right of screen. Make sure your camera is at the same height as your subject. The people on screen should appear to be the same size. It can be distracting if one person appears significantly smaller than the other. This is a matter of juggling the camera position and positioning of the talent. As well as positioning, good framing is also about using different shot (focal length) sizes. A wide shot is valuable for showing large groups or telling your audience where you are. A wide shot shows your audience everything, but you need closer shots to focus on the important details and keep your audiences interest. The better technique is to shoot the wide shot, reposition to separately shoot the closer shots, and then cut the shots together in the edit process. Tips to remember: Remember, you are trying to recreate what the natural eye might see if your audience was actually there in person. Make all movements natural, not jerking, and not too quick or slow. Support your camera. In almost all situations use a tripod. It will enable you to better frame your picture and perform a zoom movement (albeit sparingly) with greater control and shoot much better composed pictures. Of course the easiest way is to hold the camera in your hands, but it is hard to keep it steady. Try to avoid this and use a tripod. If you are going to shoot hand held with a small camera, the best way is to support the camera with both hands and keep your arms tucked-in close to your body. Place your legs approximately shoulder width apart to provide a stable ‘platform’ from which to shoot the scene. That way you reduce any shaking and you won’t get tired. Be aware that even small movements of your body will translate to large and shaky movements of the picture. Its looks really bad and will turn your audience off very quickly. If shooting a hand held scene, avoid the use of the zoom. It takes great skill to successfully use a zoom and is best avoided. Also avoid rapid movements of the camera; it can be visually sickening to watch. Generally keep your camera zoomed out and reposition yourself (camera and tripod) closer to the action to get much smoother and better framed shots. This will also contribute to keeping in focus. In almost all situations use a tripod. Only hand hold a camera if you want to be in and amongst the action. Note this technique should only be used if it is in context with the story, not all the time. It takes great skill to make an entire program using a hand held camera.
Shooting for the edit is something that you need to be aware of when making television. It’s the process of getting different shots that can be used to highlight and add colour to your story. It also provides cut aways to support the narrative of your story and fill in the gaps. It’s very important that you shoot a variety of footage so when you edit you have enough material to help tell your story. For example when conducting an interview, it’s necessary to edit it down to fit the time requirements of your show. Shooting for the edit means thinking about possible shots you can use to cover these edits, as well as generally improving the look and feel of the piece. You may not use everything you shoot, but having more than you need is ALWAYS better than finding out you don’t have enough to cover what you need.
To achieve focus, zoom in on your subject, get your image in focus and then zoom out to your original shot. If you are using your cameras auto focus, then you need to know that the camera is programmed to focus on whatever is in the middle of the frame. If your subject is standing to the side, your camera may be focusing on something completely different. If this problem occurs, move you’re subject to the centre of frame or switch on manual focus and zoom in to adjust. If everything is in focus when all you want to see is your subject, then move your camera further back and zoom in. The more you zoom in, the smaller the area in focus, known as the depth of field, becomes. Understand depth of field. Used skillfully in can enable creative composition. Some auto focus cameras have difficulty in dark situations. If you notice this problem, then switch to manual focus. If you are confident in your ability then you should be using manual focus whenever you can.
You can get a useable tripod for less than $500. If you just need something that can hold a camera steady then you can pick up a cheap tripod for an amateur photographer for less than $100. These tripods won’t produce the smooth shots of a more expensive tripod, but it gives your tired arms a rest. The ‘head’ is the top part of the tripod that connects to your camera. The head allows you to control and adjust your panning and tilting which is important for smooth continuous shots. The legs are easily adjustable so even if the grounds not level at least the camera is. Tripods vary in price according to the quality of their head movement and general strength and weight. The higher the price, the better the tripod and the smoother the shot will be. Some examples of good tripod manufacturing companies are Manfroto, Sachtler and Miller. They are about $1000 and are perfect for video production with lightweight cameras like a PD 170 or Z1P.
Lighting Lighting is the mood and style you want to create with your camera shots. Lighting is a creative process. But do not underestimate the importance of adequate lighting for videography. Even when you are filming outdoors, additional lighting may be required to get the quality shot. A camera’s iris is a mechanism that controls how much light is let into your camera and this affects how bright or dark your image is. If your image is too bright then it’s over exposed, meaning you need to reduce some of the light by closing the cameras iris. If your image is too dark then it’s under exposed and you need to let in more light by opening the cameras iris. As with Auto-Focus, your Auto-Iris may not expose your image correctly. You should always make sure the most important thing in your shot is correctly exposed. With a Sony PD 170, iris control is located at the side of the lens. By adjusting your iris, you can control the brightness of your image. Different types of light have slightly different colours. Changes in colour are called colour temperature and are measured on a scale called degrees kelvin. Outside, the light from the sun can be around 5600 degrees Kelvin, meaning that everything can have a blue tinge to it. Electric lights like the ones in homes are around 2800 degrees, meaning that they make everything look orange. Setting your white balance is fundamentally critical. It’s a ’must do’ every time you shoot. You can either use auto white balance settings such as a preset for outdoors or manually white balance by zooming in on a white piece of paper and setting that as your white balance. This process needs to be done every time you setup at a new location and whenever you change your light source. The biggest, cheapest source of light we have is the sun. When positioning yourself and your subject you don’t want the sun shooting directly down the lens of your camera as that causes spots known as lens flare and usually ruins your entire shot. Ask your talent to stand at about a 45-degree angle towards the sun so they get plenty of light on their face but not directly in their eyes. To fill in any dark shadows try bouncing some light with a reflector. Reflectors start at less than $100 are light weight and fold up into a pouch which means they’re easy to carry wherever you go. You can also use anything flat and reflective like a big piece of white card or sheets of polystyrene. If you’re having trouble with the sun and can’t control your light, the best thing to do is move your shot. If you want to control the light then you need to go indoors. Using a few lights inside will give you total control of your image and greatly improve your shots. Some of the most common lights used for low budget video production are a Redhead, named because of its colour. It’s a bright light that can be used for lighting up a large area of a room or you can use it on your hosts and guests by putting some diffusion over the light to soften the shadows.
To get an even more dynamic look, put a coloured gel in front of the light to really help your subject stand out. Three Point Lighting is the common method used in video production. The technique uses three lights called the key light, the fill light and the back light. The Key light is the main source of light on the subject. It is placed in front of the subject on one side at approximately a 45o angle to the subject. The Fill light is not as bright as the Key and is used to lessen or fill in the shadows on the subject. It is placed on the opposite side of the subject and will usually be softened with diffusion. The strength of the fill light will decide the mood you are trying to set. Lots of fill light will make the subject seem natural and friendly while little or no fill light can give the impression of trouble or mistrust. The Backlight is placed behind the subject and is used to make the subject stand out from the background by highlighting their edges. Aim the light for your subjects’ shoulders to get the best results. This light is often ignored. It should not be! It’s as important as the key light. Three-point lighting is not just restricted to a studio and doesn’t always require three separate lights. Understanding three-point lighting is also very valuable for location shooting. When outdoors think of the sun as your key light and a reflector as your fill light. When indoors light from a large window can be the key. And if you have a strong key light, but no fill light, then you can use a reflector as a replacement. Correction gels are usually included when you rent lights or can be purchased along with coloured gels and diffusion from a specialty store such as John Barry or Lemac. You may think buying lights will be expensive, but there are bargains available if you look around. If you only need lights occasionally then they can be rented either singularly or as kits for very affordable prices from Open Channel. Buying low cost work lights from hardware stores may seem like a cheap alternative but be aware that they can come in a variety of colour temperatures and don’t offer the same benefits. Lights don’t become out dated or super seeded, so what you buy today will be just as reliable for years to come.
One: Always aim to use a tripod. Handheld camera looks best when you use two hands and keep your camera zoomed out, but to get the smoothest, steadiest shots (and professional look) you can’t beat a good tripod. Two: Frame your images using the rule of thirds, and take note of shot sizes to get the best use of your space on screen. Think creative composition. Three: Having the correct white balance and exposure is mandatory for great images. Four: Wherever you are, take control of your lighting. Whether it’s using the sun to your advantage, or taking the time to setup, a great looking shot is the result of paying attention to your light.
If you have any questions, you can watch the camera and lighting training DVD or contact C31â€™s Ingest Manager for more help and advice. Donâ€™t forget there are other training DVDs and support sheets available to give you the knowledge you need on a range of topics. These are available from the C31 Office.