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>How can I get good lighting when I do interviews. What advice can you offer me? Specifically about getting good lighting on my subject. Where did you get your lights, what kind of lighting do you use, what do you recommend, where would you recommend I get them?

You want to use flat sources in front of your subject, usually two of them, one on each side with one a bit stronger than the other (you can control this by the distance of the light from the subject. Then you need to get a light to behind the subject to back light them. We usually call this a "kicker" or a hairlight. This puts a rim of light around the subject which is especially noticeable coming through the hair. This rim of spectral light (there's all this physics stuff you can read about re: light refracting around the edges of objects creating spectral glare) is beneficial because it causes the subject to pop out of the background. It's really the key to cool looking lighting. To get the flat light in front there are big softboxes that go on the front of various kinds of lights - a very popular one is made by a company called Chimera and thus "Chimera" is kind of a Jello or Kleenex type name. has a softbox light they call the Starlight (kind of ironic since a star is the ultimate point source) for about $500 in 500w and 1,000w versions including the instrument, collapsible box, and stand. The cheaper way to get flat light is to use photo umbrellas to bounce the light. These aren't as efficient since the bouncing looses some light, but it works pretty well. I'll respond to your next message w/specific light models.

> How do you make your lighting softer?

Bounce your lights into white or silver umbrellas. ( I got one in my Lowell kit) or through diffusion material. The idea is to get a large source instead of a point source. This is called "flat" or "soft" lighting. It makes faces and cars and bottles (anything with compound shaped surfaces and/or high reflection) look much nicer.

> What wattage to you use in your bulbs. I could use a little advice.

I am currently using broad lights (Lowell V-lights) which are 500 watts. And a little Lowell Pro-Light which is 250 watts for a hair light. I have used Lowell Omni-Lights a lot which are 650 watts and Lowell Tota-Lites which are 1,000 watts. The cheap halogen work lights you can get at Wal-Mart could make good lights and I've heard of guys using them for video. You will have to adapt them to some kind of stand. They would be best used bounced off a reflector or through diffusion (even a big white sheet could work - but not too close - it might ignite). Soft light from a source of large area tends to wrap around the subject. Direct light on a curved surface (such as a car or a face) tends to create very hot glare spots or lines and then drops off very fast around the curve. That generally doesn't look good on a face.

Your basic set up should be soft light from the front and a backlight which can be hard or soft. Classic lighting would use two lights from the front, a key and a fill, with the fill being about a stop or two under the level of the key light. In practice I often use only one front light, but usually have it off to the side so it favors one side. Usually I'll put my backlight off to the other side. In other words, if you are looking down from a bird's eye view, the front light and back light are on a line pointing at each other. This line is about 45 degrees off from the center axis of the lens. Does that make sense? This makes for pretty nice looking lighting on a face for video using only two lights.

One thing I can't emphasize enough: you must have backlight! It is the secret to getting images that snap. The rim of spectral highlight that the backlight provides makes the subject pop out against the background. It gives depth. TV studio lighting has traditionally been very flat. TV students for some reason have traditionally not learned to use backlights. Film students, on the other hand, have it hammered into them. Backlights are usually the biggest pain because you often have to hang them or go to great lengths to hide the stand or whatever the support is. Do whatever you have to do to get some backlight! It's worth it. A handy item I've used but don't own is a large boom arrangement that allows you to have the backlight supported by a stand out of the shot but the boom lets you position the backlight anywhere you want it. I need one of these, but finding something that checks as baggage easily is a challenge.

Your backlight can be directly behind a above, but usually you will have it off to the side because if it's on a stand, you want the stand to be out of the way. Your back light should be a stop or two under your front light. Something called spectral glare or spectral highlight causes a back light to look brighter than it is. Make a fist to represent your subjects head (if no one is sitting or standing in place) and see how the back light looks along with the front light hitting your hand. After a while, you will be able to judge the contrast ratio very nicely this way.

When trying to soften a source, you can use a wall or the ceiling to bounce light off of as well. Just don't set anything on fire! And speaking of that, don't set off a sprinkler. Also be aware that when bouncing, the majority of the light will get soaked up by the reflector. Your exposure will be drastically different than you would get with the same light shining directly on the subject.

Direct lighting is best used for lighting big areas. Like lighting a big section of an audience. Then you need all the horsepower you can get out of the light and a big area looks much better with direct lighting than a face, which looks awful that way.

On more thing about back lights. Don't be afraid to shoot into stage lights with your VX. In the old tube days you had to stay out of the lights to avoid tube damage. Not so with chips. Including colored stage lights in your shot when shooting a singer or musician will add a lot. Even panning through looking into the beam of a spotlight can look very cool. Light shooting at the camera instead of in the same direction is very dramatic looking.

So ends the lesson! I have to move on!