STEP 1: Set up the main light source
The key light is the main source used to light the subject. Its
direction and ratio to other light used establishes the mood of the
illumination. An Arri 650-watt fresnel is used for the key in this
setup. Place the light about seven to eight feet from your subject,
directly off to one side. Cover the light with a Rosco #3026 frosted
sheet to reduce hard light. Project a narrow beam from head to toe. Use
barn doors to reduce spill light hitting your backdrop. This bright
side light makes for interesting highlights but may cause harsh face
shadows. We’ll deal with this later.
STEP 2: Set your fill light
The fill light shines on the scene from a point near the camera,
illuminating the shadows caused by the key light. Use an Arri 300-watt
fresnel and position it adjacent to the camera, which is also about
eight feet from the subject. The light is covered with a RoscoSun #3410
1/8 CTO Orange Gel. This soft light focuses on the face, eliminating
shadows. The added filter also gives the face the appearance of a warm
STEP 3: Add your hair light
A good technique for lighting hair can be remembered as "Triple 5":
Using an Arri 300-watt fresnel, set the light on the opposite side of
your key light five feet back, five feet to the side and five feet
above your subject’s head. Use barn doors to create a narrow, bright
band and focus it on the subject’s hair beginning at the head and
trailing down to the shoulders. Don’t use a gel here; you want to
create a bright, harsh light that produces a glowing halo around the
subject’s hair.
STEP 4: Lighting the backdrop
The final light to be set is the backdrop light. The backdrop is set
about eight feet behind the subject. I frame the shot in camera before
setting this light to make sure I’m lighting the ideal portion of the
background. I use an Arri 300-watt fresnel with a snoot (above, left)
to precisely throw the beam needed for the desired effect. The light is
then gelled with a Rosco #80 blue gel (above, right) to further enhance
the scene.
STEP 5: Take a reading
Before shooting, take an exposure reading. The lights and distances
used here should yield an overall f/stop of 4.0 in your video camera.
When read separately, the key and hair light should read a little
brighter with an f/stop of 4.05. The fill light and background light
should each read an f/stop of 2.8. These readings will produce a
film-like look from the brighter side light and hair light. The fill
light is just bright enough to eliminate shadows, and the backdrop just
bright enough to be noticed, but not to overpower the key light.
STEP 6: Check your monitor
When viewing the set up in your monitor, make certain that your camera
is seeing the scene as you have imagined it. This step is your last
chance to make small color-temperature adjustments with your gels, or
to adjust the light patterns on your background. You can also check for
sunlight that may be coming into your set from windows. This light can
be color corrected, if necessary, with a RoscoSun #85 color correction
Gear: Arri 300-watt and 650-watt fresnel lights, Spectra Pro IV-A light
meter, RoscoSun #85 color-correction filter, Rosco #80 Blue Gel, Rosco
#3026 Frosted Gel, RoscoSun #3410 Orange Gel and Sony PVM-8045Q 8-inch
pro color monitor housed in a Porta-Brace field case.
DJ Johnson, partner, Pope Johnson Video Production
DJ Johnson began his career in 1997 as a producer for a national cable
company and is now a partner in Pope Johnson Video Productions in
Columbus, GA. The multimedia studio specializes in corporate,
industrial and retail television production for area ad agencies.
Johnson has been recognized with numerous national and regional awards
for videography and editing. He believes good lighting techniques are
essential for every producer to know.
Pope Johnson Video Productions
627 Second Ave., Suite 1
Columbus, GA 31901
ph: 706.324.3870