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Studio Colour

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Marcus HaywardStudio Colour
by on Nov 26, 2010 at 1:45:26 pm

Sorry if this has been covered before but i have searched the forum and not found the answer im looking for:

We are a Pro Audio Manufacturer, looking to make video tutorials in-house.
We have lots of room but cannot spare it for a permanent studio.
They idea is to curtain off an area within a room using sliding runners and heavy drapes.

Audio is not a concern as we intend to over dub at a later stage.

My question is regarding what colour and material drapes to use?
I have looked at Black velour or Wool Serge but don't really know which to favour.
The video content will mostly be close up shots of the mixing console with the occasional presenter in shot.
Mixing consoles arn't very reflective or though they do have a touch screen but this will be captured directly from the screen's VGA output and edited in later.

Any help or advice greatly appreciated.

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Alan LloydRe: Studio Colour
by on Nov 26, 2010 at 6:31:38 pm

The black drapes will look good with strong color breakup on them from side-lights.

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Tim KolbRe: Studio Colour
by on Nov 28, 2010 at 12:22:33 am

If you choose black curtains, be doubly sure your video camera has all its auto settings turned'll not only need manual iris, but on some cameras you need to stop shutter speed and gain from making automatic adjustments as well.

Director, Consultant
Kolb Productions,

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Richard CrowleyRe: Studio Colour
by on Nov 28, 2010 at 3:30:41 pm

Are you looking for high-contrast, dramatically lit "beauty shots"? Or are you going for more "clinical", flat, instructional style video quality? There is a case to be made for each, but they have somewhat different requirements for lighting in particular, and studio setup in general.

If I were doing instructional style production, I would think that white ambient surfaces would be more helpful in achieving a shadow-free "flat" lighting look. Black surroundings will suck up anything that might be helpful. Of course, it also depends on your lighting equipment collection and budget.

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Marcus HaywardRe: Studio Colour
by on Nov 29, 2010 at 9:45:42 am

Thanks for all the responses so far.

Lighting wise we have 2 x white (Cool Flo) photography lights.
I was planning on buying a third to put behind the presenter to put some distance between them and the drapes.
At this stage there is very little budget available until i can prove that we can achieve a professional finish in-house.

So can i use black drapes, 1 back light with 2 lights on the presenter?

The majority of the footage will be of the console as the presenter demonstrates how to operate it so the drapes will not be in the shot.
I think black drapes will make the desk look a lot nicer than coloured or even white drapes as much of the desk is reflective.

Am i aiming in the right direction?

Thanks again for the help.


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Mark SuszkoRe: Studio Colour
by on Nov 29, 2010 at 2:37:09 pm

When we built our studio, we bought two curtains; a dark blue, and a "CBS Grey" which is kind of an oatmeal-white color. The grey curtain can be any color you want once you gel your lights.

For what you're trying to do, black or dark blue will make nice limbo drops if you keep the lights off of it. You could also buy a roll of photographer's paper, again, dove gray can be lit and gelled to look like anything from black all the way up to white and to any color in between. Black paper can do the same thing but takes more light, obviously. The paper is more reflective than cloth will be.
Consider also what is *above* the items you're shooting, and if reflections from it will have any effect. You might need to fly a large sheet of foam coar overhead, for example, to get the kind of specular highlights you want across the reflective parts of the gear. Or, going the other way, you may need to fly some black foamcore above so that the reflective things like screens or meters don't pick up stray reflection.

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Bill DavisRe: Studio Colour
by on Nov 29, 2010 at 5:33:55 pm


I'm going out on a limb here and say that from reading your original post - it's likely that this project is NOT going to go well.

Sorry, but it's reasonably evident that you don't have enough background to pull off what you say is the end result that you want... PROFESSIONAL video of a product.

Product shots are HARD to do well. Particularly on products that are composed of arrangements of many, many small and dense parts (zillions of knobs and buttons!) like mixers. The lighting approach to the product itself - in the hands of a pro - might require anywhere from 3 to 15 lights plus a variety of stands and arms and reflectors and flags in order to get you the kind of image that you're used to seeing on slick brochure covers. And that's for a STILL IMAGE. One that can look good frozen in time. NOT an action shot where you want a HAND to come in and turn a nob without that hand casting a huge ugly shadow over everything.

In a shot like this, the talent lighting might require another 3-5 instruments. The background might require a few as well unless you want to just let it drop into black - which is one approach - but a difficult one since you've got one tall thing (the talent) and one VERY short thing (the mixer) and to put them both in a single frame simultaneously means you'll have some substantial negative space on one side of your frame or the other. And letting that just "go black" is a pretty boring visual arrangement.

Yes, you CAN do this yourself. Just don't expect more than mediocre results without paying for BOTH equipment AND the knowledge of how to arrange and use it.

Sorry to be so blunt. But product videography is NOT trivial to do well. Much harder than people think. And neither the talking person NOR the mixer can be done "professionally" by someone who's going to go out and buy new lights and come to a newsgroup for instructions on lighting.

I'm truly not trying to be harsh. And if your real purpose is to start your learning on lighting for video - than by all means - dive in. Just understand that from what you posted you're going to be WELL in over you head on this gig.

Better idea is to start small. Shoot some stills of the mixer using the lights you have and see if you can learn to control highlights and shadows on THAT first. LOOK at a lot of equipment brochures and ads and try to deconstruct the lighting they did. And work to replicate it.

Step by step you'll learn how to do this. NOT by spending some bucks and then thinking you can just turn on lights and move them around in order to get great product lighting.


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Mark SuszkoRe: Studio Colour
by on Nov 29, 2010 at 8:53:58 pm

What I pictured them doing in my head was basically a trptych layout: spokesperson to one side, the other 2/3 of the space has a close-up of the panel in the lower half, and in the negative space above it, a PIP insert of what the device's output was, either as a single large image or a Perview/Program pair of screens, as needed. That would alternate with CG type text for bullet points about featuers, etc. as appropriate. Fairly conventional, and a limbo-like backdrop behind that would work fine, as most of it would be covered over with talent or PIP material.

But Bill, your points about the complexity of lighting the product are VERY well-made. Hard to know more without seeing the product and the kind of shots they want. If the panel is all brushed aluminum, the lighting will different than if it is all slick plastic. And if you light it too bright, the self-lighting buttons and readouts might not read on camera well. And how you light it for training may be different than how you light it for sales. it may even be that you don't light it at all physically, but render it in CGI. We erally don;t know enoguhn yet to say much more.

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Marcus HaywardRe: Studio Colour
by on Nov 30, 2010 at 9:48:52 am

You are very close to the mark with your idea.

Talent to the left of the mixer with an insert top right when needed. At this point i dont need the mixer to look sexy.
This is a tutorial style video for people who already own the mixer or who are comparing its features with another prior to purchase.

Bill, I think the word 'Professional' may have been an oversight on my part. Im just trying to get the best results i can with the resources i have.

After the initial 'Intro' video, the remainder of the shots will be of the unit. Hands will be sliding faders and turning rotary controls while an insert of the LCD screen is shown top right.
A voice over will be made for the audio side of the video.

The mixer is a combination of painted metal and plastic with small LCD screens across the unit and one large LCD screen top right of the mixer.

My main concerns are reflections and shadows during the 'Close up' shots. Predominately, reflections in the LCD screens.

Again, thank you for all the responses.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Studio Colour
by on Dec 1, 2010 at 9:48:45 pm

Tne reflection problem on the screens might be countered by using black foamcore sheets as "negative fill". Your panel will still be reflecting, but what it is reflecting will be black nothingness, get it? Placement will be tricky, as it requires an exact relationship between the camera, screens, and non-reflective element.

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Marcus HaywardRe: Studio Colour
by on Nov 30, 2010 at 9:28:53 am

Thank you for your response. I appreciate all of the advice.

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