Lighting for the Camera vs. Live to Audience – Part 2

By Jim Moody

The inevitable conflict between the recorded media’s lighting needs and the obligation to the live audience, who pay good money to see a concert, can be a hard fight. The concert lighting look may need to be broadened for these other medias. A compromise must be reached, or the recorded or live product will suffer.

Your job as lighting designer is to enhance the artist’s image. If the recorded or live material is bad because you would not compromise your concert lighting, the artist is the loser. But things have changed because the dynamic range available with the newest video cameras, assuming the producer is willing to pay for them, are called Ultra-High Def or UHD cameras.

The concert lighting director is the director since the lighting shows the audience where to look and where not to look. They produce the visual picture. However, in the cases where film or recorded video are used the LD because subservient to the classic definition of the director who chooses which image of several to show the audience. This requires the concert LD to use a broader brushstroke in the lighting to makes multiple images available.

How can we best handle the live show, so video and film segments can compliment the live experience of the audience? With today’s camera technology there is little need for the concert to be re-lit totally. Rather BALANCE is the key. Film still does have the greater latitude from 64:1 to 128:1 or f1.8 to f64 in contract ration.  Video gives much less at 8 f-stops. But that world of video has and is continuing to change.

Given the increasing flexibility with video. There is less and less need to change the concert lighting, except…balance. And that need for balance comes mostly from changes in the intensity of the followspots. Normally, the followspots, usually more than one on the lead singer, are many f-stops brighter than the rest of the band members or stage elements. The only thing that may match that intensity are the LED video screens that are showing the live and recorded film or video media. This is referred to as I-MAG (Image magnification).

Using a $20.00 contrast filter which use neutral density color media that can be set to match the camera’s f-stop as set by the video controller or film stock. Then view the stage with someone standing in with the amount of followspots directed  toward them with the colors or white light (i.e. 5600o Kelvin reduced to 3200o K with the appropriate color correction). Then look at what areas are lost in the darker areas to see how much the followspots must be reduced in intensity. This does effect the stage look for the audience but is a minimal distraction for the audience.

Changes made to the background lighting and color changes are usually not required. At most the control room director wants to keep the live feel. Many times, with some white light or colored light directed onto the other band members, a great recorded picture is achieved.

If your show is using LED screens, then balance may also be an issue there. Because most such screens were designed for outdoor use at daylight, 5600o K and very high intensity. Thus they can be even too high an output for indoor concerts. However, many can be reduced to run at as little as 30% and color corrected to 3200o K that allows the stage picture to be in balance.

Which for how these images are controlled, LD Jeff Ravitz, who has worked on many such shows gave us these comments; “ We would not switch the standard I-MAG of the performers from the lighting console. We could but more tours have a full, traveling control room with a full switched and a dedicated director calling camera cues to the operators. Then, if there are additional “content” videos; graphic, etc., there is another setup and person to coordinate and control those and usually that imagery is also on video screens integrated into the stage scenic. The graphics are usually controlled with a separate console like a GrandMA and/or a media server. If the graphics are mixed in with the I-MAG that could ultimately be one director handling that mixing to the screens. Depending on the complexity each situation is somewhat individual.

“Having said that, some shows have one director/switcher for everything. And the smallest version of this issue fixed or robotic cameras which could be switched from the console if necessary. That’s the low-tech approach.”

What ever the LD does to accommodate video or film on a live concert will have some adverse effects on the artist and the road crew’s normal set-up operation. So, try and understand the shows problems and pressures. If you go into this with an open mind and a willingness to corporate, much can be accomplished and an exciting show can be recorded or viewed for the audience to everyone’s satisfaction.

Jim Moody is the author of Concert Lighting and The Business of Theatrical Lighting Design