Lighting Equipment- A good problem
I have been told that I am able to purchase lighting equipment for a new video/broadcast studio in the high school in which I work. I am new to this and I need help. Are there basics that I need? As in what kind of instruments and how many? I haven't been given a "room" to work with yet, so I don't have dimensions. I've been told that I need to "be ready" when I do. Do I need a light board for control, like in theater?
I guess I'll be lighting a green screen, and a set for the "news". I know, not much to go on, but it's the best that I have at the present time.
Should I look at manual switch to go between cameras or use a computer based program for that?
What's the best way to deal with audio? Should I be looking at a small 16 channel board?
I'll need to put together an RFQ, so distributors that work with educational institutions is pretty important. Do you have any suggestions?
Thanks in advance!
There are some really smart and helpful people here on the COW, and you'll probably get a lot of suggestions... but here's mine...
There's tons of knowledge needed about several different areas of expertise here in order to do this right... and no one could reasonable expect you or anyone in your position to become an expert (or even really well informed) about it all overnight. Especially admitting "I am new to this and I need help." Of course no one is faulting you for being new or not knowing all the ins and outs of this.
I'd say you definitely need some professional on-site consulting... someone who is used to working in (and in a perfect world, designing) studio environments who can come in and see your space, assess what you need, and give you some good advice. You have three very disparate areas there (lighting, audio, video/switching), and even that person will probably ask for advice from experts in those three different fields.
If you don't have the budget to bring in a pro to handle that, maybe you could make a call and beg some advice from a local television station in your town (especially if you are in a sizable enough market and have a really good station). You'd need to talk with the "production manager" there, and since it is for a school I'm betting he or she would be glad to at least give you a site visit and help you begin to understand all what you need.
I could start spouting off advice, but the last thing I'd want to do is start recommending things that aren't actually what you really need, because we don't know what all you are dealing with there.
And yes, it's a good problem to have...
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
Notwithstanding the expert opinion of my friend Todd, there are numerous threads in the COW archives about secondary and high school studio issues. They may be an entertaining read. Some of them may be out of date now, because the gear is always advancing.
I'll give my two cents because I'm killing a few minutes waiting for a progress bar that doesn't.:-)
High school video classes typically do a couple of things: they might try to do a daily school news/announcements thing, they may break into groups to produce little commercials or films, and they may record school events like plays, concerts, recitals, graduations, sports, etc.
They may be mostly editing labs, where students bring in their own footage shot with their own private resources like cell phone cameras (ugh). Though my pro heart skips a beat thinking about that, in actuality, that's the future for most of these kids, and even simple tools like cellphone cams can be used to teach effective storytelling and communication/editing/ etc. so we shouldn't be snobs about it.
Those different potential video jobs for the "studio" all have specific needs in terms of equipment, some of which overlap, but not all. School budgets being what they are, I'm sure you will be adapting some cheaper stuff to do the job here and there. Keep an eye out for used gear, especially lighting gear, as you can get great value on used pro lighting stuff if you shop smart. Audio gear, too.
I'm just going to address a rudimentary classroom setup, assuming you will do a daily five-minute video announcement to the school, either live, or pre-recorded and time-shifted, as the major daily work. An "anchor person" will sit at a desk and read from notes or a teleprompter, and you'll add graphics and perhaps actual video, when it's available. You might jazz things up with the use of greenscreen for a weather report. The show will either happen live after second period, or be played on a loop for each lunch period, in the lunch room. A copy of each show will end up on the school's facebook page, ...maybe.
This show requires at least two cameras, and because time is of the essence, you should plan on live-switching the presentation with only a little post-production editing afterwards. The weapon of choice for this would be a Newtek Video Toaster or Newtek Tricaster, new or used, whatever you can afford. The Tricaster is a "tv station in a box", giving you the camera switching, character generator for on-screen titles, special effects for the green screen, compression and streaming for youtube or internet or inTRA net, as well as editing and sometimes, DVD authoring. Just plug the cameras in and add the mic cables and you're ready to go. And it's portable so you could do remote events as well. Simple $200 HD consumer cameras with SDI or HDMI cables will connect to the Newtek unit. You'll need three or more lavaliere mics with cables, one for the anchor, one for the weatherperson, one for any guest. One or two dynamic hand mics like the Shure SM-58 would be smart to own. Rugged and long-lasting.
Save up for an intercom headset system for the director, producer, camera operators and floor director. In the meanwhile, use bluetooth headphones.
For the very most basic TV Production 101 class type setup, where you never leave the classroom/studio, you need a couple of sets, like a news desk, perhaps a pair of interview chairs with a foldable "flat" or roll-up background, and a greenscreen effects wall/floor area.
The green area needs to be lit separately from the other sets. Your green material needs soft, shadow-less, even lighting, and then the subjects that stand a few feet in front of it need to be lit separately from the green.
A word about the room: You don't want a room with windows. If you have windows, they need to be completely blacked-out with curtains.
Pros don't mind using floor stands to position lights, but in a classroom full of sugared-up kids, a floor full of extension cords and light stands can equal some quality time with the school nurse. So, I would suggest that you hang the lights(with safety cables attached) to an overhead pipe grid instead of using floor stands wherever possible. Not only gets the cords and stands out from underfoot: it frees up more clear space for a camera to see and work in. You pre-set the lights from a ladder, or using a special tool on a pole, before classes start.
For the news and the interview set, classic three-point lighting requires between 3 and 6 lights, if we're talking one person at a desk or two people facing each other in chairs. The "economy" version would cheat and use spillage from one person's keylight as the other person's fill light; that method needs two, relatively large softlights, and one back-light. There are some AMAZING deals on Amazon and ebay now for imported Chinese knock-off imitations of the Chimera and Lowel Rifa light, that use cool-running, power-thrifty LED's. Some of these could work for your needs on a budget, but run them by the experts here first before buying.
You won't be using any kind of dimmer boards at this point. If you use LED-based color spotlights, they come with built-in controllers for brightness and colors anyhow. If you use Fluorescent light banks, they don't as a rule use dimmers at all. Rather, you control and shape the light by general placement of the instrument and use of modifiers like "barn doors" and the application of gel filter materials or diffusion materials.
Your green screen area can be lit with florescent shop light troughs bought from a home depot, Lowes, or similar store. Pick a size that uses the same size of tubes as the rest of the school building uses, to save money and never worry about replacements. Spring for the extra two dollars and get the clear plastic safety sleeves to cover the tubes. Now, with a little handy-man work, add a mounting system to these to make them stand vertically on edge, and wash soft, even light across the top, left and right sides of the green screen. Todd has a link to how to DIY these lights.
If you wanted, you could light ALL your sets with similar banks. It would not be very "artistic", but it would be "functional" for the job you're doing.
You WILL need an audio mixer; pawn shops offer these in plenitude; a modest six-channel unit should suit you fine for simple lab work, as long as you have connectors or adapters for the lavaliere mics and hand mics.
So, the "production flow" would be, first period TV class comes in, the talent and crew are pre-assigned from the day prior, so each kid knows their job.
The anchor and any writing team members have a four-page, double-spaced script of stories or blurbs written the night before, and the designated Artist has found or made graphics to go with each item.
Those graphics get loaded into the memory of the Tricaster, and a pre-set effect will pop them on screen when the director calls for each item.
The two camera operators will line up a wide shot and a tighter shot of the Anchor Desk, which occasionally will pan over to make room to fly in a graphic. A pre-recorded intro titles piece with music will be automatically played in the Tricaster to open the show.
The Audio Engineer will put the mics on the Anchor and on the Weather Reporter, test and set levels and run the mixer, feeding audio to the Tricaster.
The Producer and director takes his or her positions at the 15-minute mark and the floor director and camera ops all tune in their bluetooth earpieces to hear the Director's calls. Director hits "record" and counts down the show... Intro segment plays, Director takes cameras, anchor reads, headlines, announcements, sports scores, graphics fly in on cue. Last page is a weather forecast for the following day, shot on the greenscreen with a third, dedicated, locked-off camera. The tricaster provides the background and does the effect, as the weather presenter does their thing. Then the anchor wraps it and the five minute show is done recording.
If there are mistakes or problems, there is an immediate re-shoot or the designated Editor cleans it up and makes the final file for playback on the school's TV cable system or via Ethernet or whatever the local method is. Or, the recording is burned to a DVD and played on a monitor in the lunch room, set to auto-repeat. A copy of the file is encoded for the web and handed off to whoever runs the school Facebook page for posting.
That's about all you can ask of 45-minute class period. The fun is in the daily rotation of all the jobs.
Todd and Mark,
Thank you for the advice. I will be heading to a local TV studio and a church, that broadcasts their services, in the near future.
Much of what you have written confirms what I was thinking. As I need to put together a RFQ for anything over $500 and the company I'm purchasing through needs to take POs, the idea of going to Ebay or a pawnshop is not an option. However, I can purchase through Amazon so maybe that's an answer.
As far as lighting instruments, I'm looking at LED fixtures. The electricity useage is the largest factor as I think I'll have limited options for adding circuits. Would daylight 5600k be better than a warmer 3200k? And is adding a gel to LED lights similar to adding a gel to a tungsten lamp? Is one manufacturer better than another? (Bescore, ikan, etc.)
Thanks again for your help,
Lancaster HS, NY
Very good, maybe you will get a better idea of what you are facing when you get to a practical setting and see all of the goings-on. The church might be helpful, but I'd expect the TV station trip to be much more useful.
And yep, LEDs will definitely help your power consumption... but just as (or even more) importantly, it will help with heat issues (which in turn help with air conditioning issues).
Unless things have radically changed in the last year or so, virtually all TV environments are tungsten balanced. I think some that has to do with the fact that that's simply how it has been done since the beginning of television. While the three types of instruments that can be 5600K (LEDs, flos, HMIs) are used in studio environments, that's rarely all you'll see used... there are almost always some tungsten instruments peppered throughout a lighting plot. Most TV stations simply still have a boatload of them around, and they will do some things that other kinds of instruments simply will not do (such as, if you needed a tiny focusable instrument with a long throw for a little splash on a set piece somewhere). And since it is a great deal easier to turn "daylight" into "tungsten" than it is the other way around, on most stages you'll predominately see a 3200K plot.
And yes, you can gel and LED just as you would a tungsten instrument. You just don't have to worry about the gel melting.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
Did you make your purchase yet? If not do you know how large tour room is and what your budget is? I've been teaching Video Production a long time and could help.
Mac Pro, macbook pro, Imacs (i7); Canon 5D Mark III/70D, Panasonic AG-HPX170/AG-HPX250P, Canon HV40, Sony Z7U/VX2000/PD170; FCP 6 certified; FCP X write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.