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Weekly Video Tip: Three Point Lighting

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By Stephen Schweickart

If you want to shoot a video that doesn’t look like it was filmed by your 86-year-old grandmother at your family’s 1998 family reunion, you gotta know a little something about lighting. You can’t just grab a camera and start shooting. Applying this simple three point lighting technique is the easiest way to take your piece from home video to, well, better than home video. Let’s get into it.

Three point lighting requires, you guessed it, three lights: a key, a fill, and a back light. Your number one light is the key. It’s there to be the main light on your subject so who or what you’re filming doesn’t just look like a black splotch in your shot. It should not be placed directly in front of your talent, but slightly off to the side. For an amateur, this light may look like enough, but don’t stop there! The other two lights give your shot much more dimension.

The fill light does exactly that, it fills the dark side of your subject. This is where you can control the overall feel of your shot by dimming or brightening the light. Leave it dim to create a harsh film noir style shadow on your talent’s face, or crank it up for a more even look that lends itself to more light hearted stories. You don’t want to just leave this light out or you might look like you’re filming a Law and Order interrogation. Always have a fill light in place, even if you want a shadowy look to your talent, so that you can see a little detail on the dark side, and if you place it right you may even get a nice glint from the light in your talent’s eye. It will look cool, trust me.

Finally we move onto the back light. Just like throwing your background out of focus, a back light adds another element to your talent and really pushes him or her off the background. Simply place a light behind your talent pointed at the back of their neck and high enough to be out of frame and you’ve got yourself a rim light. Be careful you don’t make it too bright.

Stephen Schweickart is the co-founder of VScreen. For more information on this topic visit VScreen’s site at http://www.vscreen.com/.

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