Website Videos Improved in Less Than Three Minutes

Dec 6 10:39 2008 Richard Day Print This Article

We all have watched videos that need some help. Learn about color temperature, diffused light, tripods, and common mistakes people make that are easy to fix.

YouTube,Guest Posting Metacafe, Digg, or, Putfile show videos that suffer from poor color balance, insufficient light, out-of-focus, shaky (done without a tripod), and fuzzy. I don't want to sound harsh, but I am dissatisfied with the poor lighting of many of the videos I watch on almost any video sharing site.

With the exception of it just doesn't matter which video sharing site I look at, they all show some videos lacking in lighting quality.

As an unscientific study, I looked at one-hundred videos on YouTube. This is a very unscientific estimate, but, I find that 5% of the videos on YouTube are lighted poorly. It doesn't matter which category of video I looked at, "Featured", "Most discussed", "Rising", "Most Viewed", and some random videos...even some of the most successful videos are successful even though the light quality is bad.

Insufficient light

The most glaring problem is insufficient light. People turn on their camcorders and if they can take the picture, that's all they appear to worry about. The worst offenses are indoor available-light type videos. These are typically videos of the pet, a baby, a family or whatever taken inside by tungsten available light.

The solution: All they had to do is either balance the camera to the light source color temperature. Or, just move the subject closer to the light...or move the light source closer to the subjects. It isn't hard to do, but you just need to be aware of the importance of the light color, and adjust for it.

By the way, a camera can be adjusted for tungsten light or florescent light, or daylight, but it cannot be adjusted to any two or more light temperatures at the same time. For example, if you have window light lighting part of the subject and tungsten light also hitting the subject, you will have a problem. If you adjust for the yellow tungsten light, the daylight will look very bluish. On the other hand, if you adjust for the daylight, the tungsten light will look very yellow.

Low-light, indoor situations cause additional problems:

Wide open apertures - The camera's iris opens wide to allow as much light as possible into the camera. Most camera's lenses are less sharp at wide open apertures...additionally, there is very shallow "depth-of-field" at large apertures. (Depth-of-field is how much of the field, or area, is in focus in front of the subject and behind the subject.)

To illustrate depth of field, here is an example: If you are close up and fill up the viewfinder to take a head shot, you might find the the eyes are in focus, but the ears are out of focus. However, sometimes, the ears are in focus and the eyes are out of focus...not so good. Or, in a group of people, the front-most person will be sharp, but all the others in the background will be out of focus. This can be disconcerting to the viewer.

The solution: Add more light and balance to that light.

Slow shutter speeds - As the camera adjusts to allow more light in, it slows down the shutter speed to very slow levels. Small, but quick, movements of the subject will consequently be blurry...this can be used to your advantage, creatively, but that is another topic all together.

The solution: Add more light on the subject.

No tripod - If the camera has chosen a slow shutter speed and the photographer is hand-holding the video camera, you have the recipe for a difficult to watch video. By the way, the tripod will help eliminate the tendency that some people have of "Watering the Garden" with their video camera. They want to get it all in, so they just move the camera around and "water" everything.

It is much better to stop, think, look at the subject. Decide what you want to show. If you need to pan, determine the starting point of the pan, and then determine the ending point of the pan. Start by spending a little time at the beginning and then, VERY SLOWLY pan. When you get to the end of the pan, you might spend a little time at that position, and then end the scene.

The solution: A tripod is the solution...even an inexpensive one will improve the quality of the video tremendously. The tripod will help eliminate camera shake, and excessive panning.

Deep shadows, high contrast

We have talked about the color of the light, the intensity and quantity of the light, but what about character of the light? Diffused light is very important in all photography, but it is especially true in video photography. The digital rendition of reality has a rather narrow range.

We can see and experience 1,000,000 to 1 ratios between light and dark, but film cameras and digital cameras can only render about 250 to 1, at best. Consequently, we must do our viewers and audience a favor. Reduce the contrast of the picture by adding diffused light. Diffused light eliminates the harsh shadows usually caused by existing light, window light on an angle, and other close sources of light.

The solution:

* If appropriate, take the subject outside on an overcast day. You will be amazed at the improvement in your result.

* Make your photographs or videos with the son light behind the camera in early morning or late afternoon light. Avoid noon lighting.

* Use open shade which is shade in the shadow of a building or other structure. This light can be very flattering to your subject, but it is a bluer light. You will need to correct for the blueness of the light.

* In an indoor, available light situation, put your back to the window and work from a large broad window if you can.

* In the studio, purchase two or more florescent light boxes and light stands. They are not very expensive. The "light box" diffuses the light incredibly well and improves your photos or videos tremendously.

How about a cheap solution?

"OK, you say. I hear you. We need more light. Lots of it. And it should be of the same color temperature and it has to be diffused. Isn't there a simple, inexpensive way to accomplish this?

Yes. Quartz work lights are available from your local home improvement store. Get one. These lights have a quartz tube that give off lots of light and cost about $10 each. Aim the light into the corner of a neutral colored room. Don't aim the light directly at the subject. Remember, you want balanced diffused light, not direct harsh light.

The light will be yellowish, but you can correct for that. Don't let any daylight come in the windows  do your videos at night, perhaps. The light will be diffused by bouncing around the room, and the light level will be very high. These are just the characteristics you want.

In summary: To make good videos, we need great quantities of diffused light of a single color temperature. This will help eliminate out of focus pictures, and blurry videos because of slow shutter speeds and wide open apertures. Always use a tripod.

Be aware of the light. . ."Go towards the light. . . ." (Which movie was that, anyway?)

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Richard Day
Richard Day

Make sure you visit Learn how to use down-to-earth techniques to improve the quality and effectiveness of your videos. Watch a quick video showing how.

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