Light and Sound
Understanding basic principles of light and sound
Why is lighting important?
It is important that whatever you film is clear and easy to see; good lighting helps the audience to see your subject clearly. You don't need fancy lighting equipment to film your video, you can just use whatever is available.
- The best light you can use is natural daylight.
- Don't have the sun in the background, or else the person you are filming will be in shadow.
- If there is too much shadow to one side use a piece of white card or a white wall to reflect the sun and bounce more light onto your subject.
- If filming indoors, use natural light to your advantage and film near a window.
- A large sheet of white card can be used to reflect light from the window onto your subject to decrease shadows.
- You could use household lighting such as a desk lamp or a torch as background lighting.
Understanding the basic principles of three point lighting
Professional cameramen and directors use three point lighting to light their scenes. It uses three lights called;
- key light
- fill light
- back light
If you only have one light, this is the key light.
If you have 2 lights, one is the key and the other is either the fill or the backlight.
If you have 3 lights, one is the key, one is the fill and the other is the backlight.
What do all these lights mean?
- What is a key light?
The key light is usually the main and strongest light. If filming in daylight, your key light will be the sun. Set up your scene so that the subject being filmed is well lit with some shadow to one side.
- What is a fill light?
The fill light is used opposite the key light, to fill the shadows. It is often softer/less bright. For example with the sun as your key light you could use a white sheet of card or a white wall to bounce reflection as your fill light.
- What is a back light?
The back light is placed behind the subject, highlighting the outline and separating the subject from the background creating a three-dimensional effect. You could use household lighting such as a desk lamp for your back light.
- Be very careful with bulbs as they can get very hot. Use a dry cloth if you need to handle or move lights.
- Trip Hazards; beware of cables, tape them down and advise people to stand away from them.
The sound of your film is very important, it can be used to provide information and atmosphere. The audio sound track of the film can consist of audio recorded on the shoot i.e. background sounds and/or a presenter and audio added in during an edit i.e. a voice over, music and sound effects.
- Microphones; most cameras will have inbuilt microphones. These are not always the best quality for a ‘clean' recording of sound, because the microphones also pick up the hum from the machine. Try and use a second microphone that can be plugged into the camera.
- Check your levels, if it's too loud, the recording will sound distorted. Look at your camera settings, most cameras have an indicator showing green to yellow light, but if it hits the red this indicates that the audio is peaking and needs turned down. NB if you're recording musical instruments its ok to have some red peaking.
- When recording outdoors, think about the location. Is it near a lot of traffic, or near a building site? Will the background noise interfere with your filming? Try to record in a quiet spot if you are recording audio.
- Are you going to use a voice-over in your video? This can be used to highlight certain elements of your film's message or story and provide the audience with more information. It is a good idea to record this separately in a quiet room, you can do this during the edit.
- Are you going to include music in your video? Use rights-free music or music you have composed yourself. If you don't use rights-free music you will have to get permission from the composer.
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