More Complex than They Appear — Lighting and Video
Any discussion of the relationship between lighting and video can quickly run many layers deep. Physical principals bind light-driven technologies and physics is not very forgiving. Many of our clients don’t understand this and we don’t expect them to. We integrate the audio, video and lighting details, so they can focus on the content. At the same time, many clients ask us why we make the decisions we do about lighting and video, so we thought it was time to provide some basic insights about light.
Avoid Lighting The Screens. Sounds ridiculously obvious, but this is not as simple as it seems. Lighting designers must make certain that the light is on the stage and the speakers and doesn’t spill over to the projection screens. They are very good at this. Consider, though, that not all of the light striking the screens is direct. Ambient or bounced light can be the worst enemy when it comes to screens.
Beware of Reflective Surfaces. Meeting planners often forget that the light on the stage is intense and can reflect off of nearly every type of surface. Set pieces, the podium or even the flooring on the stage can reflect light onto the projection screen. Black furniture in a semi-gloss finish can reflect as much light as a direct stage light aimed at the screen.
Don’t Forget About the Carpet. We’ve learned that the lovely carpet on the stage, which looks so great to the audience, can actually take away from the images they see projected. It’s not that everything needs to be matte black, but thought needs to be given to the question of reflections in the design of the set. We recently ran into a situation where metallic fibers in the black carpet specified for a trade show booth created annoying reflections where intense light fell. Another flooring was selected that reflected half of the light of the original. This is why we test so many details.
People Should Look Human. Now we’re talking about color temperature. It’s important for presenters to have warm skin tones. When people look naturally warm and human, it lends to their believability and trust.
Products Are Always the Hero. Often, lighting is provided uniformly across a stage or set. If you use our rule about making people on stage look warm and human, does that mean your products will shine too? Probably not. Light the products to stand in their own light. Light them with more intensity and they will stand out as the heroes. Call this one the “halo” effect.
What About the Background. OK, so your stage is set and the speaker is ready to rehearse. Is your logo part of the background? If so, look to make sure it is lit in a way that accurately reflects the brand guidelines for color and presence. Also, make sure you have not made the photography 101 mistake of a letter growing out of someone’s ear. Don’t forget video views as well — things look very different on video than in real life.
Beware of the Up Lights. As LED lighting becomes more widespread, it’s important to consider how different sources of color light appear on camera. Certain LEDs colors actually appear to vibrate or take on an off glow on camera. Just when you did the right thing for the planet, your audience is needlessly distracted. Test, test, test.
Reference Monitors are Worth Their Weight in Gold. Take a minute to see what the engineers see. It’s worth the time to go backstage or to the back of the ballroom to see what they see. Their equipment is calibrated to monitor the output of video-generating devices, such as video cameras, dedicated playback devices or computers loaded with graphic content. Reference monitors are critical for broadcast or live events because they do not perform any video enhancements and produce as accurate an image as is possible.
Watch Out for the Naked Eye. Humans are blessed with the most forgiving and adjustable sense of vision. Our newest video cameras are smarter than they have ever been, but they are not as forgiving as our eyes. What happens at the awards banquet when the camera pans to the audience after it was calibrated for the stage? Your eye won’t see the difference in color, but the camera will. That is why we use studio camera technologies designed to adjust camera images on the fly. Then, as the camera shifts its view of the room, our engineer is making adjustments to keep it looking natural.
Trusting your A/V partner is important, but being aware and asking questions will be key to your success.