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Diffusers or something else to make lighting better for videoing


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They're looking at buying diffusers or something similar since although the lighting on stage is excellent for viewing from the audience seating its pants for the camera to record, especially the spotlights on individual actors or cans on a group against a darkish background.


I'm looking at possibly getting a set of diffusers but do these actually make that much of a difference and if so what type / rating would be the most versatile?


Also would the diffusers allow you to set a spot up for example then focus it so its nice and bright but has really sharp edges round it and then put the diffuser on the soften the edge without loosing too much of the brightness?

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Your problem is NOT the lighting, it's contrast. All video cameras have problems with contrast, but professional ones allow you to adjust a little to add a bit of detail in the shadows and manage the highlights a little better - but I'd bet your perceived problem is actually automatic iris - so the camera is simply over exposing. Diffusing the light will make little difference because it is centre beam brightness, versus darkness - and the camera cannot do both. Some cameras have automatic exposure compensation - a switch that opens the iris a bit to compensate for backlight (like windows) making the subject dark, or spot - which closes the lens a bit which copes a little with burnout - very common when followsposts are in use. If you don't have decent cameras, the only solution is to wash the stage with boring, even light and lose any of the lights that brighten up small areas. If you try diffusers, then you lose lots of light and the lighting looks flat, dull and boring - to the audience, but nicer to the camera. Somebody has to decide which is more important.
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As Paul says the key here is light, more light and even more light. Then make all that light as soft as you can. In TV we use KinoFlo or big soft boxes or we bounce light of white poly or we diffuse to hell using spun or frost. As Paul says the key here is a flat and even field - large differences in intensity across the frame will result in issues unless you can fully engineer the cameras.


So, Id order a roll of spun and some bulldog clips and start diffusing - and Id try and get a few more lamps too if I could and bounce them off walls, ceilings, or anything else thats white.


My link


This links to the BBC College of Production site, lots of stuff on there about learning the trade.


A light meter would be a bonus and they arent that expensive.


But the best solution is to have a decent monitor on set hooked up to the camera and constantly refer to how the camera "sees" the scene - its entirely different to the way your eye sees it.


Then turn off auto iris on the camera - set an exposure and light to that - look at dark areas and try to minimise them. Avoid primaries like deep blues, reds and greens as they rarely resolve on camera well unless engineered.


Backlight also helps with making things look nice!

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As above, the problem is probably at least partly the camera.

Cameras tend to exagerate contrast, with less lit areas seeming black, and brightly lit areas seeming white or washed out.


The best answer is a better/more suitable camera.

If this is not feasible, then SOME improvement may be obtained by rendering the lighting more "bland" or relatively even. Add more wash light to the darker areas of the stage, and reduce levels on the brighter lit areas.

This will probably spoil the effect for the audience.


When filming a full dress rehearsal I achieved suprisingly good results by leaving the houselights and working lights on full, in addition to the stage lighting. So doing would present a very poor view to an aduience however.


Another work around is to use 2 or more cameras, even of the same sort, but with different settings. after the event edit and take the best bits from each camera.

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I'm pretty two minded on this subject. When I get asked to video shows, we do quite a few, as we're often providing sound and light too - we always ask the person paying which they consider the most important, because you really cannot do both. If you light with a monitor present, what looks good on the screen often looks pretty average to the people in the audience. Conversely, spend a while (like recently) tweaking the lighting to get what the director wanted to look like dancers in a pit of fire - looked, I thought, rather good to the eye - but the camera couldn't manage it at all. At my summer venue we often have people who hire the venue arrange their own video people, so I know quite a few of the local firms and some of them want what I can't give them - bright, white light. It's worth mentioning that LEDs can also be the kiss of death to video. We can with LED now have really dark blue stages - looks brilliant - better than congo, and for some things can be very good to look at - but video cameras, especially auto only handicam types just cannot cope with what is really monochromatic light, and they over or under expose wildly! So my attitude to video is that it's the person who pays call - if they want the thing lit for video, that's fine - or if they want the people to see the best show, fine too, but they cannot have both, because that just means bland compromise.
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