Apr 4, 2018

Light It Up

Pixl has shot a lot of interviews. More than we can count, actually. And if there’s one thing all those interviews have proved, it’s that lighting is king. Now, our sound engineers, our videographers and our writers might disagree, but we’ll let them fight it out later. The fact of the matter is that you can get everything else right, but if the lighting is wrong, you end up with useless footage.

Some production companies that churn out corporate videos may consider lighting a stagnant variable. They repeat the basic lighting setup over and over again, without any deliberation. But here at Pixl, we consider lighting an art form. For us, it’s stylistic. It’s storytelling. It’s important. That’s why we always light with intent.

Even in the controlled environment of a studio, our production team is always changing things up. They may start with the standard three-light configuration, but sometimes they’ll put an extra filler light on the floor to add a little sparkle in the subject’s eye. They may add extra diffusers to give the shot a pearly, soft glow. Unless, of course, they need a more dramatic flare, in which case they’ll opt for hard light. Then again, they may back off the lighting all together for a nervous, sweating subject who’s having trouble making eye contact.

They ask questions like: Should this feel journalistic? Should it look like an indie documentary piece? How do we make the lighting match the message? Then they adjust color temperatures to set the mood. They change the backlight. They mix and match the exposure angles.

Now, once a production moves out of a studio setting, things get really interesting. We know because we’ve shot in everything from broom closets to stadiums. Once you’ve lost control on ambient light, it comes down to experience, talent, and style—and our team has all three.

The best advice they have when stepping out for a video shoot? Be aware of every light source. That includes the usual suspects, like the sun. But there are also sneakier sources—like mirrors, windows, white walls, and bodies of water. The next call to action: know how these light sources behave in their environment. Lots of things can devour a light source, like cloudy days, tall ceilings, or dark furniture.

It’s also important when shooting outside a controlled environment to combine your lighting options (which can sometimes be less than ideal) with the camera aperture. This is especially true when filming outside, or within an office with those sickly yellow florescent overheads. We would know.

No matter what, our team’s number one goal is to make the talent look good. Overexposure to light can wash out people’s best features. Too much direct light, and it’s like they’ve sat for a mug shot. Too little, and shadows take over. Noses look bigger. Under-eye bags look heavier. The camera has no mercy.

But our lighting team know this, and that’s why you should get to know them. They’re pros, they’re artists, and if you ask us: they’re the most important people on set—besides you. Just don’t tell anyone else we said so.