7 Lighting Tips for Shooting Video with Digital SLRs

Photo District News by Dan Havlik

Cinematographer Alex Buono is one of the early pioneers of using HD-DSLRs to capture video for television. A longtime user of the Canon 5D Mark II and 7D digital SLRs and, more recently, the Canon C300 digital cinema camera, Buono serves as director of photography for Saturday Night Live and has shot dozens of spots for the show using those three cameras. One of Buono’s best-known clips is SNL’s iconic opening title sequence, virtually all of which was recorded on the streets of New York City at night with a Canon 5D Mark II. In an interview with PDN, Buono shares some of his lighting tips on how to get the most out the HD video you shoot with a DSLR.

1. Think Small (but Not Too Small)
Photographers who shoot with digital SLRs for their still photo work actually have an advantage over traditional cinematographers because they’re already accustomed to doing more with less, particularly when it comes to lighting. The main reason is the unique ability of the latest DSLRs to shoot in low light at high ISOs with very little noise.

“In the past, ISO 400 was about the max you could get out of any camera [for video] and the idea of lighting a scene at ISO 1600 sounded like science fiction,” Buono says. “It’s just remarkably different now. The ability to go outside and shoot in ambient conditions at night at high ISOs really changes how you light a scene.”

In the past, a typical night exterior set-up for Buono might have required large lighting instruments—12K HMIs or 20K Fresnels—powered by massive generators to provide the enormous amount of energy those lights require. Nowadays, with the ability to shoot at high ISOs, Buono is able to approach the same night exterior with much smaller lights, such as a 1.8K ArriMax HMI, which requires a fraction of the energy and can be run on house power. read more...

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