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Video Basics: 3-Point Lighting

Lighting is the fundamental aspect of video production that separates the amateur from the pro. Lighting brings depth and texture to an interview or scene and help prevent shots from looking flat or boring. The basic technique for lighting a scene is known as 3 point lighting, and it’s the topic of this week’s first installment in our Video Basics Series.

So what is 3 point lighting? The term is pretty self-explanatory: it’s the standard method of lighting a scene for video, film, or computer-generated design. The crew utilizes 3 lights, known as the Key Light, Fill Light, and Back Light (or Rim Light) to light a scene.

Key Light – The keylight is the most important of the 3 lights. This is the main light source in your scene and has the most influence in the composition of your shot. The light is placed to one side of your subject to create light on one side and generate shadows on the other.

3 Point Lighting Diagram Key

Fill Light – The fill light is the second most important light in your setup. This light is placed opposite of your key light to fill in the shadows. The fill light typically needs to be less bright and a little softer than your key light to create depth on the front of you subject. The fill light doesn’t even always have to be a light. It can actually be light from your Key bouncing off of a card or a wall, filling in the other side of the shot.

3 Point Lighting Diagram Fill

Back Light (or Rim Light) – The back light is the unsung hero of the 3 point lighting technique. Though it is the least important of the 3 lights for this method, it is the one aspect that helps provide definition between your subject and the background, adding depth and creating more a professional and three dimensional look. The back light is typically placed behind the subject to light it from the rear to help create a highlight on the edge of the subject.

3 Point Lighting Diagram

If you find your video is looking flat or needs a little style, try adding some lights to spice things up. You may be surprised at how a few lights can really make a difference.

Video Basics Series: Color Temperature

Color Temp ChartColor temperature in the video world is the term given to the color generated by a light source as seen by your camera from red to blue. Understanding the basic rules of color temperature is one of the fundamentals of getting a good exposure. So here are a few things to keep in mind before pressing record.

Color Temperature is recorded on the Kelvin scale, a unit of measurement for temperature. Cooler colors like blue and white register at the upper end of the spectrum, usually around 7,000K. Warmer colors like reds and oranges register around the 2,000K range. While this scale can be used to generate a certain look or style, it is more often used to expose colors correctly.

White Balance is the feature in your camera that tells the sensor at what temperature the light is being recorded. By properly exposing for white, you can assure that the colors in your scene will turn out as you see them in real life.

As an example, white on a sunny afternoon outside will register in camera at around 5,200K, but that same white on an overcast day might be closer to 6,000K. If you want your footage to look a little warmer or cooler, you may turn that up or down to get your desired effect.

Different types of indoor lighting also register in various color temperatures. For example, a standard tungsten light bulb may register around 3,200K but a fluorescent light is around 4,000K.

A common mistake people make when they start shooting (me included) is what I call the Ron Popeil Syndrome: they set it and forget it. They may set the white balance while shooting an interview inside, and head outside to shoot some shots without changing their settings. This results in some seriously blue footage. Blue footage is no easy task to color correct in post in most situations.

So take the time to make sure all your settings are correct, and always carry a white card to be sure you have something to set your camera to. The small amount of time it takes to white balance a camera will save you valuable time in the the edit bay.