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TV Studio Lighting

Published : 11th July 2004


I may be involved in LD'ing a lighting setup for a regional TV station newsroom. I am always amazed at how much the old school of lighting these sets seems to be with plenty of slightly diffused fresnels and leko's for accents. Yet the end result is often fairly flat looking lighting.

While I don't question the way most of it looks I do wonder why softer lighting approaches aren't more common. Larger diffusion frames and so forth. The trend nowadays seems to be toward news people moving about the set and precision hard lighting seems to be more of a problem than a solution. Am I missing something?

Jim Sofranko
NY/DP



> Am I missing something?

Maybe. First of all video folks do not use large diffusion.

The common practice is to work with diffusion comparable to the size of the fixture.

Secondly, most all newsrooms (I've designed over thirty) are all fluorescent and very soft. Actually too soft for my liking but that is what everyone wants these days.

Walter Graff
Producer, Director, Creative Director, Cinematographer
HellGate Pictures, Inc.
BlueSky, LLC
www.film-and-video.com



Jim,

I've been in a fair number of newsrooms and find that in the past few years there's alot of softer sources being used. It's common to see a combination of Videssence (not Kinos) and smaller fresnels (650 or 1k) for a little "snap".

Another interesting addition to many news sets is robotic cameras... pedestals that dolly and boom as well as pan, tilt and zoom.

Look Mom..... No hands !!!!

Jack Cummings
Buffalo/DP



>It's common to see a combination of Videssence (not Kinos) and >smaller fresnels (650 or 1k) for a little "snap".

Hi Jack,

Yeah, that's what I figured would be the trend based on what you and Walter are saying.

The problem I am encountering is that to re-light the set by outfitting the studio with new fluoro's is an expensive and probably prohibitive cost. Maybe $30-40K is a ballpark guess. They have about 200 tungsten lamps from 5K's down to scoops which I'm sure they would like to utilize, so my second best approach may be to go with Chimeras and soft frames.

>Maybe. First of all video folks do not use large diffusion. The common >practice is to work with diffusion comparable to the size of the fixture.

For what reasoning?

Thanks.

Best Regards,

Jim Sofranko
NY/DP



>They have about 200 tungsten lamps from 5K's down to scoops which >I'm sure they would like to utilize, so my second best approach may be >to go with Chimeras and soft frames.

Jim,

I get hired to light or relight 3-5 newsrooms every year. One thing that I try to keep in mind is that there are often many hands tampering with your lighting plot, either because there are other projects (sets) lit from the same grid, or they just decide to "play" with the lighting.

I try to keep the lighting plan as simple and grip arm free as possible. Sometimes even an innocent knock with a ladder on a finger, flag, or arm can be disastrous.

I guess the other way to look at it is if you build a grip jungle on the grid, you'll get a call back every 6 months to re-adjust.

Jack Cummings
Buffalo/DP



>Maybe. First of all video folks do not use large diffusion. The common >practice is to work with diffusion comparable to the size of the fixture.

> For what reasoning?


Nature of the beast.

You ought to see their faces when you set up a 4x4 frame. They think it's Hollywood. Many in the 'video only' field don't have strong backgrounds in lighting and especially in the film style training we take for granted. Most 'video only' field folks are trained to put 216 on an open face barn door with clips and consider that diffuse soft light.

In TV studios, most have upgraded to Videssence or other less expensive systems to replace the hot and amperage eating incandescent. For the others, it's smaller 650watt up to 2 k fixtures in the many studios I have been in. I have done some set ups rather inexpensively but effectively by building my own light banks made from curved aluminium channels or simple birch ply painted white on the inside and black on the outside with color correct fluorescents in the channels below eyesight that wrap a set for general illumination and then use small fresnels for punch where needed. But in general in studios, fluoro's are very in right now.

Walter Graff
Producer, Director, Creative Director, Cinematographer
HellGate Pictures, Inc.
BlueSky, LLC



Walter wrote :

>You ought to see their faces when you set up a 4x4 frame. They think it's >Hollywood.

I recently had to shoot Diane Sawyer on the Good Morning America set, setting up a white seamless background to the side of their operational sets. I had to mix their crew and mine due to political/union reasons. Their LD was really great and super helpful but it was sorta funny and a tiny bit stressful to work with his crew (who worked very hard, btw). I was keying with a 5K through a 6x6 Lt.

Grid which their guys were supposed to assemble. First of all they couldn't figure out how to attached it to the stand. I sent for some Cardellini's from our truck and you'd have thought they'd just discovered fire. They asked me to write the name of the clamp for them to buy some. Then I sent them to get the frame and heard one say to the other, "What's a Light Grid?", to which the other replied, "I dunno, but just go get it".

I thought that was kind of funny. Anyway they seemed to be used to just using Spun and job went off very well when all was said and done. I didn't see many flos, however. Lots of Fresnels.

Kristian Dane Lawing
www.danelawing.com
DP NYC/NC



>They have about 200 tungsten lamps from 5K's down to scoops which >I'm sure they would like to utilize, so my second best approach may be >to go with Chimeras and soft frames.

Hi Jim,

There has been some discussion here in the past about Formular polystyrene. I've seen boxes made of this (shallow with 45* sides) in a studio, set up as bounce boxes with 2Ks illuminating them. You can cut it on a table saw and drywall screw it together. Obviously super light weight. Not sure what the cost is or how much you'd need but it could be worth looking into.

Don't know where to find it though.

Best,

Anders Uhl
Cinematographer
ICG, New York



>I didn't see many flos, however. Lots of Fresnels.

My fluoro reference was to studio. In the field a fluoro would be on the ceiling!

Walter Graff
Producer, Director, Creative Director, Cinematographer
HellGate Pictures, Inc.
BlueSky, LLC



>There has been some discussion here in the past about Formular >polystyrene. I've seen boxes made of this (shallow with 45* sides) in a >studio, set up as bounce boxes with 2Ks illuminating them.

Thanks to everyone for the newsroom studio lighting suggestions.

Anders - I searched the archives and couldn't find a match for the Formular polystyrene but that sounds interesting. How stable is it for a semi-permanent setup? I'll search the internet to find out more.

Thanks for the suggestion.

Jim Sofranko
NY/DP



>Anders - I searched the archives and couldn't find a match for the >Formular polystyrene but that sounds interesting. How stable is it for a >semi-permanent setup? I'll search the internet to find out more.

Hi Jim,

Many friends of mine worked on the sitcom "What About Joan" in Chicago a few years ago. I would stop by the set when in town and this was the system that they used for what I think was a two season run (they had an absurd amount of 2Ks that lit the set by way of these boxes). So that was semi permanent. The Formular is an insulating product, so it is meant to last and as I mentioned it can be cut on a table saw and screwed together, so it is pretty meaty.

If you'd like I can put you in touch with the Gaffer from that show, I'm sure he'd be happy to share his experience and give you a lead on where to find it. Unfortunately I don't recall the name of the cameraman, but it was his trick I believe.

Best regards,

Anders Uhl
Cinematographer
ICG, New York



>The Formular is an insulating product, so it is meant to last and as I >mentioned it can be cut on a table saw and screwed together, so it is >pretty meaty.

Is it Formular or Foamular? I'm seeing two different spellings on what appears to be the same product. It also appears to be pink. But I'd love to contact the gaffer you know to get a sense of how they worked with it.

Thanks.

Jim Sofranko
NY/DP



>...I do wonder why softer lighting approaches aren't more common.

Jim,

As you already know, not all lighting design is created equally. Some of us DO use large soft sources. Look in news studio I've lighted and you'll find Chimeras, various fluorescent fixtures, zip lights, bounce cards, soft boxes and eye lights in addition to the usual batch of fresnels and ellipsoidals (but no scoops, thank you). I use whatever provides the appropriate quality light.

I believe that television lighting design and execution should be informed by all areas of lighting. A knowledge of photography (still and motion), video operation, theatrical, concert, architectural lighting techniques and even portrait painting should all be in play when you do a news set. If you think the set calls for a different treatment, do it!

Television lighting was retarded for many years because only engineers were in charge of lighting. It took the introduction of designers with film and stage backgrounds to take it beyond flat images. It still does.

The cross-pollination that happens when a gaffer or a DP light for TV strengthens everyone's efforts and enhances the finished product. The TV crew might not have used a gel frame (or a Chimera, etc.) before, but if they understand what it does, why it's there and how it works they will keep it working after you're long gone from the station.

Bruce Aleksander
LD/DP and chief curtain hanger
ABC / Disney



It's not just TV studio guys vs. film or field guys. When I shot a feature in Denver this summer I asked for a softbox for our key light and the guys didn't know what I was talking about. I had to explain how to make it out of foamcore and how it worked, and even after they saw it in action they were still dubious.

"But look, I can have soft light but it's directional and doesn't spill everywhere! And there are no reflections! Isn't the slot for diffusion clever?"

No sale.

Mitch Gross
NYC DP



It's known as Foamular (but I was surprised to see it pink on the Owens Corning web site) - and it used to come in white. The stuff that we used years ago I was told was the same material used in refrigerators.

It lasts seemingly forever in a truck on location, but it's more specular than bead board, and perhaps a bit more than foamcore. I know people who've taken sand paper to it in order to rough it up and make the light softer. I love the idea of making a soft box out of it with screws and fender washers.

Good luck.

Ted Hayash
CLT
Los Angeles, CA



Here's a link to the information on Foamular :

http://www.owenscorning.com/around/insulation/products/foamular.asp

You might need to cut and paste it in your web browser to get the information from Owens Corning. Please note that it is combustible and should not be exposed to possible ignition sources.

Bruce Aleksander


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