We have put the following free production advice together covering the areas that most callers ask about.
Why light for camera?
The key is the main frontal light. It is as big as possible and as soft and diffuses as possible. If you want your film to look like a Rambrant, you're going to want a huge key to gently wrap your subject in light. One way to make a huge, diffuse key is to pass it through a large white linen sheet placed in front of the light or, to avoid the risk of fire, to use large rolls of plastic gels that the professionals use. Ask for ROSCO 216. Another fast way to setup a soft, large key is to use a Chimera light -- basically a tent with a light inside.
The fill is weaker additional frontal light that is used to give some illumination to the dark side of the face. It is therefore placed on the other side of the camera. The relative brightness of the key vs. fill determines the contrast of the shot. Pronounced contrast is typical of dramatic scenarios and low contrast (also called even lighting) is typically used in upbeat, comic and corporate work.
The backlight is rigged behind the subject to separate them from the background. It is also called a hallo light because of the angelic rim it creates around the head and shoulders of talent.
These three lights working in tandem create the classical Hollywood "look." While it's old -- and artificial in a natural setting -- it makes the talent look great. The formula needs to be modified for the specific talent being lit. A strong backlight on someone who is bald is only good for a comic effect. A man or woman with angular cheekbones can benefit from a lower backlight that accents this feature. Someone with an asymmetrical face can benefit from more contrast between the key and fill lights. The adjustments are endless -- the intensity, height and position of each of the three lights will depends of your talent and the desired dramatic effect.
Other important lights are used to great effect. A small light placed close to the camera -- often called an eye light or twinkle light -- will insure the talent's eyes are not dark. The light fixture is noticeable reflected as a spark in the talent's eye. Another common fixture coming in from the side of talent -- called a kicker -- is a good way to give punch to the shot without the artificiality of a backlight. The idea is to have the light be enough from the side that it doesn't look like a poorly positioned backlight that's hitting the tip of the talent's nose. These lights are often used to dramatic effect to light half the face and just the eye on the dark side of the talent's face. It also comes in handy to avoid glare when filming talent with glasses. Another important light, called a practical, is a fixture intentionally positioned in the shot. Examples include table lamps, fluorescent banks, neon signs, Chinese lanterns, streetlights ... the list is endless. These fixtures create mood. They can also provide motivation for the key and backlights. Practices are useful for night shooting, as a way of creating depth and something that burns bright in a shot where everything else is dark.
How to keep lip-sync when
shooting a music video?
The secret is to make all the song copies you will need for the shoot and for editing at the same time. Take the master song -- often the CD -- and make the time-code DATs or 1/4 reel-to-reels and the video master -- probably DigiBeta -- at the same time. Confirm that your timecodes for all your copies match.
While some music videos require live sound recording, this is the exception. Most music video shoots require playing back the song -- the band's best master recording that they have spent thousands of dollars perfecting -- so that they can lip-sync to it. Here's the critical part. When you film them lip-syncing to their song, you'll need to know when you edit where you are in the song? This is where that timecode you married to the song comes it. By using a smart slate or Aton timecode, you burn this reference code into the film footage while you shoot. When you're using a smart slate, the cameraperson makes sure that they get a quick shot of the timecode numbers in the slate. Aton timecode works by burning the timecode numbers into the perf area of the film. I recommend using the smart slate even if you are using Aton time code. Aton code will save you time in the film-to-tape later -- but you'll have no way of guarantying that it's working during the shoot.
After filming the band, the next step is to transfer the film footage to video. This will involve booking a supervised film-to-tape session at a Telecine Room. If you haven't worked at the facility before, you want to call before the shoot to make certain that they know how to work with Aton code etc. Many facilities don't. Also, you'll want to make certain that they are ready to lay back the song -- from your 1/4-inch audio reels or DAT -- while they transfer the film. Additionally -- and this is key -- they can make you two layoffs of your footage: one, that is clean that you'll use for the final edit and a second that have a timecode window box burned visually into it that tells you where you are in the song. Be careful here, confirm that you want the Timecode box to show where you are in the song -- that is the Timecode from the 1/4-inch audio reels or DAT -- and not the timecode of the film layoff tape they are making. The reason this is so important will instantly become clear when you start to edit your music video.
There are no rules about how
to edit but invariably you want to make the performers look good and to
do this you're going to want to screen all the shot footage to make a
log of all the best shots. By knowing where you are in the song, you can
instantly discover which parts of the song have the best coverage.