Is it worth the extra trouble? Web viewers, you may argue, have very low production standards, so why bother?
Well, that's true; most of the content on YouTube and even on many business websites looks pretty bad, from a production standpoint, and viewers seem to put up with it. But what this means is that, with a few minutes of extra work, you can stand out from the crowd. And rest assured that anything you can do to make your videos look more professional will make you look more professional.
I shoot a lot of client videos with with this simple lighting format for my Wichita marketing clients, and it's very popular because it saves them time and money compared to hiring in a full video crew with $10,000 cameras. I use a flip cam whenever possible because it's less intimidating to the interviewees, which allows me to get more relaxed interviews.
How it's done
The biggest problem with most web videos is that they use too little light, which creates noise (staticky fuzziness in the dark areas) of the shot. So the first secret is to get plenty of light on your subject. If you don't do anything else, place the subject near a bright window or point a desk lamp toward their face at very close range. Yes, it will be a bit uncomfortable, but, hey, welcome to show biz.
Better yet, use a bright window as your "key light," a desk lamp or other handy light source as your "fill light," and something considerably dimmer--like a clamp-on work light with a low wattage bulb--as your "back light." Always position the light sources at 90 degree angles to each other, and 45 degree angles relative to the camera position. (see Figure 1)
Figure 1This is called "three point lighting" in the video industry, and it's popular because it creates definition on the subject's facial features, rather than washing them out. If you work with three lights, rather than two lights and a window, try to position them at a 45 degree angle above the subject's face. Under all circumstance, position the back light overhead and behind the subject; its purpose is to create a "rim" of light around the head and enhance their separation from the background. (see Figure 2)
This was shot with a Kodak Zi8 flip cam, and it took ten minutes to set up the lights. A web cam can give you similar results, as long as you move it to a position that's 45 degrees from the key and fill lights.
It doesn't matter whether the key light is to the left or right of the camera; that depends on what's easiest in your shooting environment. The frame shown in Figure 2 was shot with an open window as the key light, a desk lamp as the fill light, and a clamp-on work light as the back light (attached to the book shelf you see in the background). Notice how the back light creates the desired "rim" effect on my head, separating me from the background.
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