How to Light in a Television Studio


The biggest advantage of lighting in a television studio is control. All the lights will be at the same color temperature, 3200 degrees Kelvin. You'll also have the luxury of being able to return to the same functional lighting set up another day. Begin by understanding the tools at your disposal.

Things You'll Need

  • Studio
  • Ladders
  • Lights
  • In most cases you won't be using stands to hold your lights; you'll be hanging them from a pipe grid which will require climbing a ladder to reach. When lifting a light, be sure to keep one hand on the ladder and one on the light. Keep your crescent wrench in your pocket until you reach the grid, and put the clamp over it. Make sure that your light' s barn doors are firmly attached to the light with a safety chain. If not, while adjusting your light the barn doors can fall with the effect of a guillotine.

  • It's useful to have at least two people handle studio lighting. After you've set your lights on the grid, you'll be plugging them into an outlet controlled by a dimmer board, which will handle light intensity. With tungsten halogen lamps, dimmers will also lower color temperature, so if you have to compensate by dimming a light too much, you will see a lamp produce a warmer color. One worker should be on the ladder, the other on the board, looking at the effect not only with the eye but a monitor. Remember to light for the camera, not your eye. Your eye can handle a huge range of detail in contrasting light. Standard definition NTSC video can reproduce a contrast ratio of about 10:1. That means if you hope to have any detail in the shadow side of a person, you'll need more light on it than you probably suspect at first glance.

  • Master the principles in my posting, How to Light a Person for Video. (The link is below.) The basics still apply. When lighting a person set a key light, at about a 45 degree angle up and to one side of the nose. Use a fill light to minimize the shadows caused by the key. Back lights are used to separate subject from the background, adding three dimensionality to a shot.

  • Know the basic differences between lamps. A focused source like a fresnel produces a hard light. Aim it first with the carriage pulled back in the housing then flood it to create the desired effect by sliding the carriage closer to the lens. Lamps like broads or soft lights are more diffused and are used as fill lights. Lekos are hard spots that can project a pattern called a cookie or cucalorus on a background.

  • Take particular care when lighting for chroma key. We watch this effect every day when a weather man stands in front of a map warning us of storm patterns moving in. In the studio, the meteorologist is in reality standing in front of cyclorama in green or blue with the map combined electronically through a switcher. It's essential that you light this background evenly with no shadows. Don't forget to remind talent that they should never wear a color that matches the background. I saw this once while working news broadcast in Los Angeles. We could literally see right through the top that the weather girl was wearing.

Tips & Warnings

  • Keep these principals in mind. Screens cut light without diffusing it. Gels color light and cut a lamp's output. Tuff spun or diffusion, both soften and cuts a light' s output. Use a lamp's barn doors to cut off the light as needed.

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