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Video Shooter Second Edition Storytelling With HD Cameras

Video Shooter Second Edition Storytelling With HD Cameras

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Published by Luis Bond

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Published by: Luis Bond on Jul 20, 2012
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08/15/2013

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Fluorescent lighting for film and video used to be a perilous proposition. The
fixtures ran cool, used little power and threw off tons of light, but who cared?
The color balance was horrible, exhibiting a sickly green hue. Facial shadows
and dark skin were particularly susceptible to the insidious green spike, requir-
ing shooters to apply a wash of healthy light, often from a pricey HMI.

In 1993, I recall shooting at a popular health club in New York City. Of course,
there were the usual banks of fluorescents in the ceiling, emitting the horrid
green pall. Employing the wisdom of the time, I dutifully balanced ever y one of
the 220 tubes in the club, fitting each lamp with a full minus green gel. This com-
pensated for the green all right, by bathing the entire club in a deep magenta,
not unlike a bordello.

Naturally, this drew more than a few scathing looks from the ad agency rep;
and the spot’s young director, who regretting hiring me, demanded that I rectify
the “mess” pronto. He simply couldn’t believe that his smiling workout babes
would appear normal on film. I tried to reassure him, pointing to my Minolta
Colormeter, but his eyes kept telling him otherwise.

The fluorescent green plague is often exacerbated by the tubes’ unfavorable
overhead placement. To satisfactorily capture such scenes, the shooter usually
employs an eye-level fill by borrowing a few diseased lamps from the ceiling to
provide a frontal or side illumination. This strategy has the advantage of main-
taining consistency in the fill light, albeit with the miserable green curse intact.

In theory, Cool White fluorescent lamps are supposed to mimic daylight, but
this is only to the unsophisticated eye, which is a lot more forgiving of spectral
deficiencies than the CCD or CMOS sensor in your camera. The reviled green
spike is integral to all fluorescent tubes that employ mercury vapor. In many
ways, it’s a pact with the devil, as the lamp’s high efficiency comes at a steep
aesthetic price.

In the last several years, fluorescent tube manufacturers have made significant
progress developing new phosphors to compensate for the green curse. But as
manufacturers drive the lamps harder to achieve greater output, the off-color
spike has increased proportionately, necessitating the formulation of yet another
generation of compensating phosphors.

Kino-Flo and other manufacturers have developed their own line of fluorescent
tubes, mixing a potpourri of phosphors to produce a color-correct lamp that

Video Shooter: Storytelling with HD Cameras

220

FIGURE 9.17

The green plague is evident in this fluorescent-lit market. At right is the scene
after white- balancing the camera, a process that adds the required magenta. If
shooting talent close-ups, the overhead fluorescents should be supplemented with
a side or frontal fill to avoid dark eye sockets.

FIGURE 9.18

Found ubiquitously in commercial
establishments throughout the
world, the Cool White fluorescent
produces a lot of light at low cost.
Problem is, all that light comes with
a potent green curse.

FIGURE 9.19

Color-correct fluorescents make powerful and efficient soft
lights. Balanced lamps without an apparent green spike
are available in tungsten and daylight types.

FIGURE 9.20

Some fluorescents feature a highly directional beam more
characteristic of a Fresnel than a broad array.

Making Light of Your Story CHAPTER 9

221

appears balanced to the eye. This should give sol-
ace to shooters prone to angry outbursts at the
sight of the slightest green emanating from a flu-
orescent instrument.

Beyond the noxious green hue, there is also the
potential for flicker, a hazard associated with dis-
charge-type lighting in general, including LEDs.
The ugly pulsating effect is seen most commonly
in out-of-sync streetlights and neon signs when
shooting at nonstandard shutter speeds, or when
shooting NTSC (for example, in 50 Hz countries).

Today, high-frequency ballasts have largely elimi-
nated the flicker risk in professional lighting
instruments; but proper caution should still be
exercised when shooting under ordinary fluores-
cent, neon, or mercury-vapor in areas known to
experience power irregularities.

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