The popular notion that video requires more light is only half the story. Yes, there needs to be adequate light for good exposure, but more often, the problem is too much light. Most live shows are designed, understandably, without regard for enormous light build-up on areas or people being highlighted for one reason or another. Certain set pieces or performers are given more light for whatever reason. Sometimes, it is just a matter of lighter and darker colors in the lights or the reflectivity of the scenery that can throw the balance off. Also, it is not unusual to suddenly add many lights onto one subject for a special moment, whether it's a monologue, a solo, or a special effect. That's what makes the video picture go wildly out of balance. If the video controller (or “shader”) can even react quickly enough to adjust the cameras for these moments, the result is that the camera will only see one part of the frame properly while everything else will either be greatly over- or under-exposed.
Jeff Ravitz, lighting designer
Van Nuys, CA
Personally, I've found that I really need to put a monitor with some form of the broadcast feed directly in my sightline when I'm setting levels — somewhere I can have both the screen and the stage (or field or whatever) in my field of vision at the same time. Otherwise, I find that I end up paying way more attention to one or the other as I work through cues. I usually prefer a wide shot, since it lets me balance the stage better, but I'll take pretty much whatever I can get.
If I'm working in advance of the video (like that ever happens!), I've even been able to get away with using a decent pro-sumer grade camera locked down on a tripod behind me and a small monitor.
Oh, yeah, and I learned real early on to always double (or even triple) hang any critical keylights. I only had to watch the podium at an awards show go dark once for that one to sink in (and thank God I was just advancing the hall for another gig that night!)
Michael Finney, director, technical design
Thinkwell Design & Production
Many years ago, I was hired to consult on an 11-camera filmed concert to take place at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The act was well known, rather famous for innovative concerts. I was the liaison between the touring lighting designer/director and the director of photography working with the film production company.
For some reason, I was not able to get my point across that the contrast range of film stock was much smaller than what this LD was seeing with his eyes. We spent a ton of time looking at and tweaking cues, and it was beginning to become a painful process between us. I finally sent a runner out to the local sunglass store and had him get a pair of the darkest gray sunglasses he could find. They happened to be about a two-stop reduction in the light transmission — not exactly the difference in contrast ranges, but very close. I had the touring LD put them on, and viola! He immediately got the response of the film stock to the contrast range of his lighting.
Now we blazed through the cues in the show, and we got the essence of his show compressed within the contrast range of the film stock. The filming of the concert went perfectly, and the pictures were excellent. Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best.
Lee Rose, lighting designer
Design Partners, Inc.
Los Angeles, CA
Leave nothing to chance; use experienced professionals if you expect professional results. Our venue has been on Monday Night Football, local news broadcasts, and used for many remote recordings. I've also done Press Club and political debates where a press pool multi-box feeds local news camera crews. Good lighting, clean clear sound, clean power sources, cooperation and communication between talent, event coordinators, and production professionals will prevent problems that can't be fixed in editing. And editing isn't an option in a live broadcast event. Do your damage control by advancing the venue and eliminating mistakes or communication breakdowns. Ignorance is not bliss; making excuses or passing the buck will not cut it. The whole chain is only as good as the weakest link, and everyone involved has a stake in the outcome, either financially or in reputation, and maybe both. The listener, viewer, and sponsors will notice any shortcuts taken.
Len “Liquid Lennie” Schilling
Live Sound, FOH, Monitors, LD, system tech