I have the greatest job! I get to incorporate so many of my personal interests in the pursuit of my daily job, it’s just ridiculous. This week I’ve been shooting interviews and stock footage for a promotional video of my workplace. I work in a medical simulation center, a laboratory of sorts where healthcare practitioners come to practice on simulators rather than real patients. My day job is running the simulations and helping professionals discover how to improve their clinical practice. My personal interest is figuring out how to use technology in educational settings, including the use of video to replace traditional stand-up lectures.
I’ve been tasked with updating this promotional video with interviews and action footage in the center. I’ve been lucky enough to have access to some top quality lighting gear this week, the Arri kit pictured above, and it has caused me to reflect on my journey as someone learning about filmmaking. The first thing I realized is that I did not take lighting seriously. It is a huge component of getting the job done correctly. People say that sound is 50% of the production. Lighting is 100% of the image. It’s not enough to just open up the iris or crank up the gain. Moreover, proper lighting gives color and texture to the scene.
The next thing I realized is there is a world of difference between a $3,000 Arri kit and some of the lights made by other companies such as Lowell. I bought two Lowell lights in December, a Rifa and a Pro, and although they put out light as advertised, the construction quality is nowhere near that of the Arris. The Lowell stands, for example, are craptastic. Not to mention that the Arri kit includes scrims, and all the bits and pieces you need to actually operate with a lighting kit. You get what you pay for. If you’re shopping for a lighting kit, I’d suggest getting the best you can from the beginning rather than buying something inexpensive now with a plan to upgrade in the future.
Finally, if you work with a 35mm adapter, you cannot possibly have enough light. Most of my filming with the adapter has been outdoors. When I set up to film something indoors, I was shocked to find I needed at least 700 watts of light to get the scene passably lit. It’s no secret that there is light loss with an adapter but I was really surprised by what that translated to in terms of lighting fixtures needed to shoot a scene.
So the take home message: Learn to light your scene. What I’ve learned this week is there is no “perfect” arrangement. You have to take the lights out, strike them and move them around to see what looks best to your eye.