Live to Camera vs Live to Audience

By Jim Moody

We must to start the discussion with the question; are we lighting from only one angle or multiple angles with several cameras? First understand that the cameras are probably not fixed and can have some latitude in their viewing of the event. So, it is most logical that the subject be illuminated from more than one angle. The classic camera lighting plan is called Three Point Lighting, consisting of a Key Light (the brightest), a Fill Light, and a Back Light (used to make the subject stand out from the background). This way the camera can move around and the subject is still illuminated all be it at different intensities.

When the camera has a wider area to cover, simply take the three light plan and duplicate it in all other areas based on the coverage of the lighting fixtures. Sound familiar? Theatre has used this plan since it was first published in 1932 by Yale professor, Stanley McCandless in a book called “A Method for Lighting the Stage.” Recorded media adopted this plan, with modifications, that created high contract for drama (3 or 4:1) and low, or flat lighting, contract for comedy (2:1).

The issue therefore for both mediums is contrast ratio. The human eye generally sees one million to one in contrast. Far greater than any recorded media even with todays high pixel count devises. Film was for many years the best contract medium at 400:1 and television at 30:1. In both mediums they still are successful because the human eye adjusts to its surroundings and the narrower rations are taken by our brain s and adjusted accordingly.

The “film Look” is highly regarded as being the equivalent of our concept of fantasy. Video is often relegated to being a slick and more “Real Life” look. You must decide which is right for your artistic goals.

When it comes to recording concert footage and I-MAG for the live portion of the event, there have been some highly successful projects; The Bank’s The Last Waltz, and Tina Turner’s Private Dancer. Robert Altman’s recording both on film and video of the Rolling Stones’ Let’s Spend the Night Together. So, all in all it is a highly subjective process. However, the tails have turned since the aforementioned projects were made.

With the digital age came a huge jump in video quality. Images have ramped up from 4,000 pixels to 6,000 to 8,000 pixels giving video a dynamic range of 14:1 and higher. This is approaching film standards. Many movie theaters now show their “film” digitally. Video now has the ability to be adjusted to look like film and anything in between.

PART II will discuss touring concert lighting for video and large screen magnification (I-MAG) without changing the audiences enjoyment of the concert lighting.
Jim Moody is the author of Concert Lighting and The Business of Theatrical Lighting Design