Education: Lighting for the “Run and Shoot “Videographer
We are seeing a massive rise in independent filmmakers and “content” creators. It seems these days anyone can pick up a camera and begin shooting. In part two of our four-part series on lighting, we want to focus on the videographers. A videographer who doesn’t have the convenience or luxury of a fully staffed and equipped production crew. Someone who just has a camera and an idea. They are not afraid to experiment and learn from their mistakes. However, there is one thing that these videographers don’t have; time or money. The average independent filmmaker is not going to have the time or resources to shoot a single scene ten to twenty times. At best, you are given one to two chances to get the scene how you want it. It is because of this reason; it is crucial you understand everything you can about lighting. Learning about lighting and its relationship with the film will allow you to get the right image faster, so you don’t waste time with trial and error.
CRI and TLCI
In our first article in this series, we went over some basic terms and techniques. In part two, we want to get a closer look at some concepts that will help you perfect your image the first time. We would like to give a shout out to our friends over at Aputure for helping with the research. The first things to consider when setting up lights for a scene are the CRI and TLCI. The CRI, Color Rendering Index, is a metric to examine the accuracy of the light to reproduce the full range of colors in a scene/subject. To calculate the CRI, the director or cinematographer will examine a range of nine sample colors under daylight or an artificial source. A score is then given from one to a hundred. Ideally, you want to be as close to one hundred as possible.
As technology has gotten better, so has our ability to analyze light and color. Recently, a new metric has been created to color accuracy, and that is the TLCI. The TLCI, Television Lighting Consistency Index, is almost exactly like the CRI. The only differences between the two are that the TLCI uses a computer program to analyze the color samples instead of the human eye. Also, TLCI examines twenty-four colors. The TLCI also uses a scoring system of one to a hundred. It is widely accepted that TLCI is more accurate then CRI.
What does this all mean? Well, if you are just starting out as a director or cinematographer knowing CRI and TLCI can save you both time and money. As well as producing the best image as possible. Every aspect of the production process will benefit from getting a good CRI or TLCI score before shooting. Like we stated above when you are a beginning videographer, every shot matters. With a good score, you will be spending less time shooting and less time editing. I would also recommend you get all your readings done during pre-production; especially if you are on a tight budget. Knowing beforehand what kind of lights you need will allow you time to find/purchase the equipment you need.
If you are ever concerned about what a certain CRI or TLCI score means here is a quick reference guide from our friends at Videomaker. If you score between an 85 to 100, congratulations you will need little to no color correction. A 70-84 would indicate a small amount of color correction would be required. A 50-69 would require a significant amount of color correction. Fourthly, if you score between a 25-49, you would only be able to fix your image by using mattes, and even then, your image would still be bad. Finally, anything below 25 would be unable to be fixed.
When buying lights for your set, my only recommendation is to make sure it has a CRI and TLCI rating above ninety. Also, we would recommend getting a good color meter. The Sekonic C-700-U, it is expensive, but it is by far the best on the market. If you are looking for a color meter on a budget, we recommend using the Cine Meter II app. At only $25, this app will get the job done for your small production. The only downside to the app is it cannot read colors as accurately than its more expensive counterparts.
White Balance and Color Temperature
Continuing on, we are going to discuss two essential factors in video production. White balance is a necessary but straightforward process, where you set your camera to replicate white more accurately. This is essential on set because it prevents you from shooting unrealistic color tones. Changing your white balance is a simple process. Most if not all, professional grade camera has a white balance menu. This menu will allow you to control the Kelvin, or K, of your image. The list will include preset options with names like daylight and fluorescent. Some cameras will even have an auto white balance meter. We think using the auto white balance is the best method for videographer who are new to white balance. We recommend taking a photo of a white piece of paper and then letting the auto white balance meter use the image. Once, you get more comfortable with your ability to read white balance, you can also manually change the K level. If for any reason you would like to use an external white balance meter, you can use the Sekonic C-700-U to handle your white balance needs.
White balance and color temperatures are one and the same. White balance is the process of telling the camera what white is. Color temperature is you, as a videographer manipulating that white to produce a specific tone or color pallet. Just like with CRI and TLCI, the closer you get to your desired number, the less work you have to do in production and post. Also, a videographer who has a better understanding of white balance and color temperature will be able to make smarter and more creative choices on set. If you are having trouble understanding the best ways to use color temperature; don’t sweat, it. Tyler Perry is notorious for having terrible lighting on his movies, and he is still a respected filmmaker. To help get a basic idea behind what certain color temperatures look like, our friends over at LensProToGohave helped us throw together a guide to help you with color temperature.
2000K – Candle
2800 to 3400K – Sunrise and Sunset/Tungsten lamp
4500 to 5500K – Natural daylight/Fluorescent light
6000K – Overcast sky
8000K – Moonlight
A couple weeks ago we reviewed Hashtag Perfect Life, directed by Michael Paulucci. We bring this up because we think it is an essential short film to watch if you want to see the power of proper color temperature. The most iconic scene in the movie is the TV interview scene. During this scene, Michael Paulucci wants the audience to experience an extreme feeling of anxiety. He achieves this by having bright fluorescents beat down on the camera for the whole scene. This simple yet powerful use of light and color temperature in this scene achieved that goal.
A final thought about color temperature; don’t rely on post-production editing to fix everything. We understand that for the run a shoot crowd, you don’t always have time to make sure the lighting is perfect. There are two reasons why you should take the extra time during production, One, depending on the resolution you are shooting at, too much editing could tank your resolution. This leaves you with a poor image after editing. Second, if you do too much color correction, especially if you are new to videography, you run this risk of creating an artificial looking image.
We are living in the golden age of filmmaking. We live in a world where anyone has the opportunity to become a videographer. With affordable cameras continually hitting the market. To websites like YouTube that allow us to upload anything we choose. No generation of filmmakers has been given an opportunity like the one we have. With this being said, I think it easy for us to forget the craft and respect that goes into proper filmmaking. If you ever want to move up from being a one-man run and shoot videographer to a full production filmmaker, you need to go deep into the craft of filmmaking. We hope to help you along your journey. Join us next week when we show you how to work with HMI lighting, and we go over why you need Tungsten lights. Let us know in the comments what color temperature is your favorite to work with. I know I like working around 2000K, allows me to have more fun working with shadows.