When I set out to launch my new talk show “MIND & MACHINE: Discussion the Future” (http://youtube.com/c/MINDandMACHINE), everyone said make it cheap and fast — it’s challenging to sustain a weekly production series as long as necessary to build a successful show online. A complex, cumbersome production will not survive. And on YouTube it’s not necessary — quick and cheap is all that’s expected. This is the viewpoint that experienced web series creators gave me.
However, I had come from a photography and filmmaking career defined by high quality production. My work was based on a polished style, and my personal taste — the aspect of making art that excited me most — was crafting a nuanced tone that complemented the content. I loved enhancing the story or substance of the narrative through a stylized look.
I have always loved dramatic lighting, and this show is addressing a lot of heavy, serious topics: the technology that will transform our world, potentially in some dramatic and dangerous ways.
Wrestling with these two conflicting sentiments (sustainable efficiency vs. dramatic, stylized high production look), I was determined to make the final production work on both accounts. The setup has to be easy to build up and take down regularly, since the shoot would take place in my loft where I host a lot of meetings and related events. The set is not permanent.
The setup has to be easy to build up and take down regularly
But it also had to have a style and production quality that I could feel good about, and would enhance the substance of the on-air discussions. The lighting style had to be cinematic — gentle, backlit, carefully placed. It had to fit with the urban loft look of the set.
My lighting preference has always been big soft light sources with precise control of directionality and elimination of any sloppy spill. The light goes where I want it, and nowhere else.
But the fewer lights the better — that’s the key to speed and efficiency. Less is more. Use ambient lights in the set background (away from the people in the foreground) to make the lighting feel more complex and sophisticated, but for the primary lights on the on-camera talent, use a few premium light-shaping tools.
The lighting quality for people on the MIND & MACHINE show is achieved through the use of Chimera soft boxes with 45 degree soft grids and a barn door on the inside — placed close to the subjects to keep the size of the light source large and control spill, while adding depth through a faster fall-off rate (falling off from the more specular parts of the face and body closer to the light source, to the more distant increasingly shadowed parts. The closer the light source, the faster and more dramatic this fall-off).
More can be done efficiently and economically today than ever before. And lighting is a great place to squeeze more production value out of any budget. In the video above I walk through this basic production set to show how the look is achieved efficiently.
lighting is a great place to squeeze more production value out of any budget
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