What do I need to know to light for the camera?

Recently, I conversed with a coworker who had just returned from a church conference where he provided the video. He mentioned that he wished we had provided the lights also.  Apparently it made his job tough since the lighting was not really up to snuf.  But as I know, good lighting isn't as much about buying the right gear as it is setting it up properly. I know that I can create a good wash of light with a bunch of fixtures as long as they are the same type of fixture.  I know that I can teach you how to use the equipment you already have to make a great stage for video.  So how do you light for video cameras?

The first thing that I want you to know is that good lighting is based off of a good wash.  I was given that one simple piece of wisdom by a mentor 4-5 years ago. He told me "Take a step back and go watch some shows you work at. See if there's a good wash first, before all of the eye candy." So I did. And I saw. Even when not shooting video, having a great wash in place makes your lighting rock.  The wash allows people to see the performers, the most important thing on stage.  It is especially pertinent for video, because things on stage will completely disappear if you don't light them well. The camera's iris can't quickly adjust between different light levels and it doesn't look good when it does.  A good even wash has all fixtures with the same lensing, and from the approximate same distance, at a proper angle.

You also need to cover everything you want to see.  The camera won't see anything that isn't fully lit.  This includes set pieces, walls and perhaps the audience.. If you're going to point a camera at it, make sure that you light it. Now, with that said, if it's not a person singing, you don't have to light it in white.  A color looks great for set pieces, walls, and parts of stage where nobody is standing. Also make sure not to point lights directly into the cameras at the main positions.  It is okay if lights are pointed into roaming cameras.

The other thing you need to consider is color temperature. This is something you run into when you are dimming lights. It is important that you use the proper lamps for the brightness you need based on the distance you are throwing light. If you have to dim a light down below 70%, you want to look into a lower-wattage lamp, and you don't want to unevenly dim lights in the same wash.

This is because of color temperature, or the color of white that your lights are putting out. As you dim lighting, the color temperature goes down and gets more orange. Your eyes will adjust to this, but the camera will not pleasingly display that light on someone's flesh, especially if they light-skinned.

Thankfully, unlike my coworker who had to deal with poor lighting for his video show, you don't have to. With some basic tweaks to the lighting you already own, you can really get a lot better lighting out of your lighting system.  This improves the look for both the eyes of your congregation and the eyes of your camera.

Orange Stage Lighting
Credit: From DanBrady on Flickr