Review - DV Lighting Tutorial

May 31, 2004

Review - DV Enlightenment

DVD: Runtime 55 minutes.
Price $99.00
Special Price $75.00
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into the 'coupon code' box on the order form.
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Review By Ken Stone

People are always asking, 'How do I make my video look more like film?'..... well for starters, light it like film, that is to say, light it professionally. I have been a still photographer all my life and I can tell you that it is all about light. So many people pick up a camera, turn on auto-exposure, set white balance and start shooting away, totally unaware of the fact that they are neglecting one of the most important elements of composing a scene, lighting. It is lighting that adds mood and character, time and place, depth and tone, light is an actor in your story, a most important actor at that.

'DV Enlightenment is the first tutorial from's new DV Cinematography series and is a complete course in Professional lighting for the beginner, for people ready to learn the art of lighting. If you sit down with this 55 minute tutorial you are going to come away with an excellent understanding of lighting, not just the basics of lighting but how to use light to help tell your story. You will be surprised to learn what you can do with light, how to do it, how easy it is to employ the lessons of this tutorial and what a huge difference it will make in your finished story. Bad or even just ordinary lighting is something that can not be fixed or enhanced in post production, it must be done right at the time of shooting.

This tutorial starts off with 'Light Essentials', a basic primer on light and then moves on to the four main sections: Four Point Lighting, Working with Sunlight, Lighting Green screen/White/Black Backgrounds, and Bright Ideas.

It is not necessary for you to be shooting with a Professional camera nor to have a large budget for lighting to employ professional lighting in your work. This tutorial is for DV shooters as well as users of large format video cameras. The video on this tutorial DVD was shot with Canon Prosumer cameras and the lights used, for the most part, are from a basic Lowel lighting kit. Aside from a basic lighting kit, most of the additional accessories used are inexpensive items like white reflector boards, gels, black wrap (cinefoil), barn doors, flags, gobos, scrims, diffusing fabric and even 'clothes pins'. Before I give you a quick tour of this tutorial I want to explain how it works and why I think it works so well. Josh Mellicker is our host and instructor but is on screen only briefly as he introduces each section. The lessons are demonstrated or played out on screen as Josh covers the topic. If the discussion is about light direction we see a 'gaffer' slowly moving the light on set and as the light is moved we can see the effect that this is having on the subject. It's one thing to talk about something, another to actually show it on screen. This is where this tutorial excels, seeing how light can be used and all of the options and possibilities brings understand and a flood of creative ideas.

Light Essentials
This first section goes into the basics of light, point source and diffused light, light intensity, color direction, color temperature, ND (neutral density) and colored gels, scrims and some of the other simple tools used in a basic lighting setup. It is in this section that we learn about the basic properties of light and how to use these properties to advantage.

Light direction and placement is one of the more important elements in lighting and can dramatically change the way the subject looks. Above, below, left, right and combinations of these dramatically change the mood and feeling of a scene. Remember when you were a child and you held a flashlight under your chin in a darkened room, scary.

A very important concept, color temperature of light, is demonstrated and lessons given, to correct for and work with different color temperatures of light that you might find in your shooting situation. Even how to simulate different color temperatures to create a special ambience or to match to other scenes. Shown below; incandescent light, outdoors and sunlight, fluorescent light and simulated candle light and moonlight.

Four Point Lighting Method

Since the first photograph was taken, photographers have been working with lighting to achieve unique results. Over the years, it has been recognized that there can be up to four differing components of lighting, four different light sources, each one having it's own function and each one adding to the ambiance of the scene in it's own way. 'Key Light', which is the primary or main light source. 'Fill' light, which is light that bounces or is bounced into the shot. 'Back Light', a light source that comes from behind the subject. And 'Background Light', light striking the background or background area of a scene. Understanding these four different sources of light will enable you to create the lighting 'look' that you want for your movie. A good understanding of the 'Four Point Lighting Method' is essential to producing professional lighting in your movie.

Key Light is the main light source in the shot, the primary source of illumination and can be the sun when you are shooting outside, sunlight or moonlight from a window or skylight, or often an artificial light source. The Key light sets the tone and feel of the shot and can be varied depending on position of the light in relationship to the subject, both vertical and horizontal placement. A spectral or 'point light' source will produce vastly different results than a soft or diffuse light source. Most often this is the first light that you will set as the Key light has the largest impact in the lighting environment of your scene.

Fill Light, most often the Key light will be striking the subject at an angle, from above or below, left or right. This will cause a shadow on the side of the subject opposite to the Key light. The greater the angle of the Key light to the subject, the greater the shadow. If you are looking for a very dramatic effect this will work, but often, this is not what you are looking for. Fill light is most often produced by bouncing light back into the shadow area, opening it up and allowing for detail to be seen. Almost anything can be used to bounce light on the subject. A white piece of foam core, a store bought reflector, or even a wall will bounce light. If you have ever shot at the beach with white sand or in the mountains with snow on the ground, then the sand and snow are acting as a fill, bouncing light up onto the subject. Adding fill light gives us the opportunity to control the dramatic look of the scene.

Backlight (aka edge or rim lighting) is often used when the area behind the subject is dark causing part of the subject to disappear into the background. A light source coming from behind the subject will light the edges of the subject causing the subject to stand out from the dark area behind. Lift and separate. One common use of backlighting is to add highlights to the subject's hair. Backlight can be use to add dimension and intrigue to the scene.

Background light. Often when shooting there will be a natural background in the shot, however, sometime the background will be a plain wall or other uninteresting backdrop. Using a background light with a colored gel or irregular light patters can turn a dull background into something a bit more interesting. Shown below center, is a piece of black wrap with holes cut in to create a mottled lighting effect. Black wrap is nothing more than extra heavy duty aluminum foil with a heavy black coating on one side.

Working with Sunlight
Shooting in sunlight can be a challenge. You need to think of the sun as being one huge Key light. Direct sunlight is difficult to work with, overcast days provide a much softer light. One common technique is to place your subjects with their backs to the sun, so that it becomes like a backlight and then use a reflector to bounce light onto the subjects. When shooting inside with sunlight entering into the shot, you will want to gel your lights to match the color temperature of sunlight.

Lighting Green screen/White/Black Backgrounds
When it comes time to Chromakey in FCP you will quickly discover that success in FCP is totally dependent on how the chromakey was shot in the first place. Proper lighting, placement and exposure of the colored background is essential and using the camera's 'zebra stripes' plays an essential role in shooting good chromakey footage. Proper key light and back lighting will help you to pull a good key.

Interesting visual effects can be achieved when shooting against a solid black or white background, exposure here is critical and using zebra stripes in the camera is a must. You can pull a key from an all white background using a luma or color key.

Bright Ideas
This section covers other important lighting concepts such as 'Motivated' and 'Practical' lighting, simulated moonlight and candle light using colored gels, lighting large areas and the use of broad lights. The use of accent lighting to draw attention to a specific area or subject and using fog and other lighting elements to add special qualities to your shot.

Lights get very hot and can draw a lot of power, top heavy light stands and electrical cords are areas where proper safety on the set can help prevent fire, injury and disaster. The DV Enlightenment tutorial gives proper attention to safety issues.


Over the years I have worked with a number of tutorials from and have always felt that the production values of their products are excellent, this DV Enlightenment tutorial is true to form. I found this tutorial to be exceptional. It explains and demonstrates the different components of lighting and does so in a clear and interesting manner, it makes professional lighting seem intuitive (which it really is once you have understanding). There are reasons that this tutorial works so well. It is thorough and covers the basics of four point light, who's understanding is fundamental to producing professional lighting. It demonstrates that you can produce professional light 'on the cheap', with just a few basic lights and inexpensive accessories. It teaches you how to use creative lighting that will help add visual mood and ambience to your work, which will help you tell your story. It does all this on screen, you actually see the crew setting up lighting for different situations; indoors, outdoors, mixed light and green screening. You see how light is controlled and shaped for use, testing and controlling exposure using the zebra stripes in your camera, work with different color temperature light, the positioning of lights for effect and even the aesthetics of light and the uses for spectral (point source) and soft light. This DV Enlightenment tutorial from is one of the best I have ever seen.



Special Price $75.00
To receive this discount, enter "kenstone"
into the 'coupon code' box on the order form.
Purchase this product at the lafcpug store


Review copyright © 2004

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