Video Lighting -Too Much Contrast

– Posted in: Cinematography & Lighting

Let’s take a look at a common video lighting location challenge – too much contrast. 

The kitchen has too much contrast to expose for shadow and highlight detail simultaneously. The dynamic range is beyond what the camera can handle.  The top raincoat image is exposed correctly if the objective is to see detail in the shadow areas. As you can see from the small image at the left. This exposure setting renders the floor-cabinets in front of the rain coat light gray to almost white.

Exposed for detail in shadows

The rain coat image below is exposed to show detail in the highlight areas and out the window. We can see detail in the curtains, blue sky outside, but much of the interior is black. While this exposure setting is good for the curtains, you can see by looking at the small image to the left, that it renders the same floor-cabinets in front of the rain coat, dark gray to black. If this was a video shoot, we could either bring the interior lighting level up, or we could gel the windows, which would bring them down. The problem with the second choice is we would also lose some of the light coming into the kitchen, making our shadows even darker. So ultimately, if we wanted less contrast we would need to bring in lights and likely gel the windows.

Exposed for detail in highlights

As of recently, there is a third choice and it’s called HDR “high dynamic range.” This has been around a while in still photography, but it’s very new in video. HDR can give you the best of both worlds by combining images. You’ll notice in the HDR raincoat image below, both the shadows and the highlights are exposed for detail. I haven’t created HDR video, but I have heard of mixed results. It works great in photography.

Combined for high dynamic range

If you’re working with a trained cinematographer, you don’t need to know how to fix this. It’s enough to understand the basic concept. You can rely on your cinematographer to handle the details.

This means you’ll need to learn the vocabulary of the craft, as well as collect and share photos or screen grabs that inspire the feeling associated with the image in your mind. But, if you’re shooting and want your images to enhance the tone of your story, then it’s important to train your eye and learn the limitations of your gear. Producing yourself into an impossible lighting scenario; wastes time, hurts your film, costs you money and is incredibly frustrating for you and the entire cast and crew. If you’re looking for more lighting tutorials, click on the “Free Tutorials” on the bottom left of the screen or click here. Sign up for my newsletter and head over to the lighting section, where you’ll find more on lighting for film and video. Did you find this post helpful or confusing? Let me know if you’d like more. I’ll answer questions in the comment sections and will be doing additional posts and eventually some video tutorials on this and similar topics. If you liked this post checkout – 4 Lighting Tips for Directors If you’re motivated to get more info now here’s a couple of videos that might help. Additional Videos – Understanding Lighting and Contrast Ratios

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