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trying to convince management importance of lighting

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David Conrad
trying to convince management importance of lighting
on Mar 18, 2011 at 3:19:35 pm

I work for a state agency and I'm working hard to upgrade our equipment. I got approval for a new camera (JVC GY-HM700U) and I'm working on trying to upgrade lights/audio.

I requested a lowel DV Creator 55 kit. Currently, I have 1 light. I've put in the necessary paperwork but now I am being asked for justification of additional equipment. In other words, the benefits of proper lighting.

So can anyone recommend a nice article over the importance of lighting that I can attach with my comments? I am going to try to turn in all paperwork later today.

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Ken Zukin
Re: trying to convince management importance of lighting
on Mar 18, 2011 at 9:54:21 pm

Why don't you show instead of tell??

Take 3 photos:
First: place subject underneath some overhead office flourescents -- raccoon eye syndrome.

2nd: open faced fixture pointed at subject's face -- harsh lighting syndrome.

3rd: nice flattering soft light illuminating subjects face.
since you only have one light -- you'll have to get creative here -- use a white card to bounce some light back into the "dark" side of your subjects face -- and figure out a way to highlight your subject's hair from behind.

You'll be demonstrating the effects of: #1, no lighting, #2, bad lighting, and #3, proper lighting.

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Mark Suszko
Re: trying to convince management importance of lighting
on Mar 18, 2011 at 10:20:21 pm

You might well ask them back: What's the justification for wearing a suit to a business meeting?

Proper lighting makes a more flattering appearance to both men and women, particularly older ones, and makes the video look more professional, because colors are accurate, edges are crisp and dimensional, scenes have more apparent depth, and the spokespeople on camera seem to pop out at the audience. Without quality supplemental lighting, footage will make people look hollow-eyed, jaundiced, unhealthy, tired... if you are selling products or ideas, what's the point of NOT trying to do it in as professional a manner as possible? Start from strength and expertise and ASSERT that this is THE INDUSTRY STANDARD for how to do things.

I know what you're up against; the paperwork droids need something to put down as a reason to get even the most (to us) obvious things, this is CYA on their part against auditors later writing a finding that they did something frivolous with the money... and usually, the boilerplate language refers to the item or service as improving some aspect of the organization goals. Procurement type people seem to look for reasons to say "no", and if you can't make a case to them for why what you already have is not "good enogh", often you will be told to "hang on a little longer" and "make do". So someone else can get new stuff. They don know from lighting. If you leave the decision up to them, uninformed, they can make unilateral decisions that sandbag your operations for years. So it is up to you to educate them, these people who read the forms and who you may never meet.

Examples of "justification language" would be to cite a time savings in production with the new lights, with things like power savingss, transportation or maintenance costs averted, etc and with pro lighting this is invariably true, versus trying to use stuff cobbled together from Home Depot. Another example would be if it helps one man do the work of many, in this case the compact nature of the pro kit makes it easier to travel. Another example would be to benchmark what others are doing, and compare if your production quality is at least as good as the competition. If your stuff looks dingy and unlit, or harsh and unflattering, the competition's well-lit footage will make them stand out to your customers. The lighting CAN make the difference, and arguably, quality sound and lighting makes MORE difference these days than the specific cameras you buy.

When we first bought our Lowel Rifas, I had to come up with the justification language. Our job included shooting the governor and legislators in fast location news interviews under "breaking news" conditions. You would grab them in a hallway or rotunda and shoot fifteen minutes on very short notice, sometimes live to satellite, and they had no time to wait for you to set up, you had to be ready at some random spot to roll tape and sound within 60 seconds of the shooting opportunity presenting itself, or you could lose the gig.

I was able to point out that the one Rifa made a single cameraman able to light our "customers" with a much more flattering and less hot-looking light than the harsh and hot old "sun guns" we were using, and that the 60-second deployment and breakdown time of the Rifa, and it's compactness made doing our jobs much easier than hauling around and setting up more conventional ENG lighting PLUS carrying camera gear. Since the governor at the time was elderly, I made a point to say that the soft wrapping light quality of the Rifa would make everybody we shoot look much younger and healthier, especially women and the elderly. Coincidentally, this also happened to be true. I also made the argument that our footage was being sent to TV stations and that for it to match up in quality with studio lighting and "make the grade" as "professional broadcast quality", we needed the upgrade, or stations wouldn't use the footage any more.

That was stretching it, because news stations will air a dog's breakfast if it's an exclusive and a hot enough story, but when they can take or leave your political news, you HAVE to make it as attractive as possible, just to get a chance of being seen.

The hysterical part of all this bureaucratic language stuff to me is, after the elaborate work of going thru the exercise of explaining and describing the justification in detail as I've just done, invariably the droids' response is that they only have two lines on the form to fill with this stuff, so they take my prose and condense it themselves to something like "Old lights are bad: New light makes people look gooder".

But it must be working, because we got the lights, and more the next year, after they saw how well the first ones worked out. So do the due diligence, make the best case you can.

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Bill Davis
Re: trying to convince management importance of lighting
on Mar 19, 2011 at 11:28:06 pm

I'd opt for a simple written response:

The ONLY thing that any camera ever created does is to record reflected light.
Control the light - and one controls the picture. If one can't - one can't.

Thank you.

"Before speaking out ask yourself whether your words are true, whether they are respectful and whether they are needed in our civil discussions."-Justice O'Conner

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Mark Suszko
Re: trying to convince management importance of lighting
on Mar 20, 2011 at 12:16:28 am

Too poetic, Bill: this is for accountants and bureaucrats to read. It needs specific key phrases in "their" language.

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Bill Davis
Re: trying to convince management importance of lighting
on Mar 20, 2011 at 12:52:30 am

Damn, Mark. You're right.

Ammended as follows...

Dear Accountants.

Your query regarding the financial efficaciousness of my approach to company video production and the lighting tools which I feel to be a necessary part of same has come to my attention.

Here are some additional facts for you to consider. T

his company is currently paying MONEY for me to make company videos. (Salary, benefits, etc, etc.) Said Videos have, as their underlying purpose DOING something for the company that is suppose to either generate additional revenue (SALES) or limit unnecessary expense (COST CONTROLS).

However, if the people watching said videos can't adequately SEE what's happening in them, then I'm concerned that the EXPENDATURE required to make them stands a greater chance of FAILURE to generate offsetting INCREASE IN REVENUE to cover not just their direct costs, but the on-going and accumulating DEPRECIATION of everything associated with this department.

However, if you let me buy the lighting equipment I need, I believe I could do a more effective job in LEVERAGING your INVESTMENT in my employment.

If you wish further emperical data on this matter, please feel free to SURVEY any and all OTHERS doing professional video work and ask them this simple question: "Do you use LIGHTS in your video practice?"

If such a survey indicates that others with the same precise task you've assigned to me report that they, in fact, DO NOT use "lights." then I'm more than willing to re-consider this request.

If, however, you discover that a large percentage of them DO use "lights" then I respectfully suggest that you may want to equip OUR operations so that we might drive results that are similar or even SUPERIOR to the operations of our COMPETITORS.

Yours for the BOTTOM LINE.


"Before speaking out ask yourself whether your words are true, whether they are respectful and whether they are needed in our civil discussions."-Justice O'Conner

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Dennis Size
Re: trying to convince management importance of lighting
on Mar 20, 2011 at 1:06:42 am

MARK.... that was an extremely well written and "dead-on" post.... BUT
those accountants and bureaucrats that you speak of can't read (or WON'T read) -- nor do they care.
The state of the industry is in an economic shambles and since the control has gone to the bean counters, whether something looks good or not is immaterial -- ESPECIALLY at the higher (supposedly) Network level.
All I hear anymore is "we don't care what it looks like"! Sadly, they don't, and it shows.
I've been asked directly many times lately, "Will bad lighting stop us from getting on air?" As we all know, it won't. Unfortunately these bureaucrats have the artistic sensibility of a rock, and wouldn't know the difference between good lighting and bad! This is the crux of the problem.

We're currently prepping the lighting for the ROYAL WEDDING coverage for a few Networks, and it's downright embarrassing how minimally we're having to light Network "superstars". It used to be that if a quality image wasn't presented to people they didn't watch the product. Broadcasters would never send out the type of visual garbage that is currently considered acceptable.
Now,in the age of youtube, phones, laptops, ipads, skype, and other hand-held device viewing, the acceptability of what people will watch has been erroded to pure crap.
Artists such as us, who work with and craft the visble spectrum known as light are being put out to pasture. There's no convincing bean counters of the need for good lighting ...THEY DON'T CARE!

I'd love to hear what John Sharaf thinks about this sad state of affairs!

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john sharaf
Re: trying to convince management importance of lighting
on Mar 20, 2011 at 1:47:25 am


Why don't you tell us how you really feel?

Unfortunately I have to agree with you in everything you say, but I do hold out hope that, as I like to say "the pendulum swings in both directions."

Right now, obviously the state of the economy requires that there be no major capitol expenditures or additional expense for things like "improved" or "quality" lighting, even though there are new technologies like LED' lights which essentially will pay for themselves by savings in heat, efficiency and bulb life (although florescents do as well at a lesser cost).

The challenge is to do a good job with what you've got (as I'm sure you are doing vis-a-vis the Royal Wedding coverage). It's what I do everyday; fortunately I have a proper kit with which to do it and am willing to take a reduced rate for it (it's already been paid for many times over!)

As we all know, and have learned through the numerous repeated levels of slashing costs, that "there are more than one way to skin a cat", meaning some days I make the money with the light rental, sometimes the camera rental and others the labor; pick one, not two as the old expression goes!

The pendulum will eventually swing in the other direction (in my lifetime I'm not so sure?) where quality is noticed and appreciated, or where quality and artfulness distinguish one show or network from another. At that time there might be some accommodation towards increased investment or cost.

I am finding with my own business model that there is quite a bit of momentum towards larger imager cameras and PL mount lenses, and this is an area I have invested in heavily with Arri Alexas and now the Sony F3's. Just as I "trained" my customers in the early days of portable HMI lights by teasing them with the benefits for free and then charging them once they began to ask for it, I'm doing the same with these new cameras, with great success. So much so that I rarely have an Alexa in house for my own use.

Now I know we're straying a bit from lighting, but I suggest that a consolidation of camera and lighting is a natural thing, one need not operate the camera (although I often do) to be the 1st Cameraman, Lighting Director, DP, DoP or whatever you choose to call the job.

In the case at hand, perhaps the solution is buy a light or two on your own that will make a noticeable difference in your work, because an artist must really please oneself and find the satisfaction there. If you ever move on from your current job (and that's inevitable) you'll have the makings of your own light kit with which to continue the pursuit of creative lighting, which is the reward unto itself.


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Dennis Size
Re: trying to convince management importance of lighting
on Mar 21, 2011 at 3:06:59 am

Sorry John ....I tried to hold back as long as I could. :-)
Thank you for responding and providing the "voice of reason".


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David Speace
Re: trying to convince management importance of lighting
on Apr 2, 2011 at 5:08:57 pm

Hopefully... when the pendulum starts swinging back... we won't be standing in its way... in other words, it'll be us saying, no we don't need all that extra stuff! A few years ago we shot local spots in Philly for CBS3 w 3 or 4-man crews. I was the 3rd man doing lighting, now most times, it's just the camera guy w a small lighting kit and occasionally it's a 2-man crew!

Dave Speace
DZP Video

Windows 7, 64 Bit, i7 8 Core, 16Gb Ram, GeForce 4800

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Dennis Size
Re: trying to convince management importance of lighting
on Apr 2, 2011 at 5:49:00 pm

Are we the ones who are guilty of requiring "extra stuff" -- or is it the Producers, Directors, and clients who demand the all the bells and whistles ..... and want to show the world that they can do the next BEN HUR?

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Scott Davis
Re: trying to convince management importance of lighting
on Apr 4, 2011 at 3:19:30 pm

Amen, Dennis. My favorite is, "Just go and take the Flip camera. It will be fine. It shoots HD." I just smile, walk away, and shake my head.

We are doomed by what I call the "Microwave Mentality". We can't wait 20 minutes for a meal to cook, we need to nuke it in a microwave and have it steaming hot to the point that our tongues melt from the 3 seconds it cooks. We have to have cell phones constantly stuck to our heads or tuned into Twitter so we can find out Charlie Sheen's latest implosion. We've become too self important and our time is too invaluable.

In the end, we'll all find out that microwave cooking is what's spiked cancer and the other maladies that plague us; that airing Skype footage on the national news endangers the lives of hundreds of soldiers and reporters. It's the same as "grabbing the Flip and you don't need lights." It's not as grave as cancer or those other things, and I don't mean to sound, excuse the pun, flipant about it, but "grabbing the Flip" to people who don't understand what we do just makes people accept poorly lit, poorly composed footage because it's faster. And cheaper.

I was tasked to do a shoot with a celebrity in his office (who shall remain nameless, except he names buildings after himself and may or may not be interested in a Presidential position) 2 years ago and was asked by our VP why I needed to ship lights up to NY. I was stunned. I had a blank stare on my face. "This just needs to be a quick in-and-out. We don't need anything like that." Quick in-and-out... with a teleprompter. And a 7 minute script. And we need to shoot it in front of windows overlooking Central Park. On a sunny morning. Idiot.

Aaaaannnnnnd.... I'm off my soap box.

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