Producing Live Events: Master Tip 8: Good Lighting is Critical

Total Webcasting is a webcasting service provider out of New York that produces dozens of events a month, and thousands since its inception in 2007. Total Webcasting is unique in that it produces virtually all events for its customers, while owning the streaming server and content management system used for live and on-demand delivery, providing the complete “glass-to-glass” experience. Through their experience, the company has mastered the art of the problem-free webcast. I’ve been after company president Robert Feldman to share his tips with my readers for years; he’s agreed to share his top ten in Letterman order. This is number eight.

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Great lighting at a Ted Talk (Brene Brown)

When we first started doing live webcasts in the early 2000s, we paid no attention to lighting. Then a few years ago I attended one of Jan’s classes on lighting for video. This changed my opinion on the importance of proper lighting and demonstrated why sometimes our video looked as good as TV and sometimes it looked like you were underwater.

To explain, when we started out, we used the industry’s workhorse PTZ camera, the SONY EVID70, which made poor lighting look OK, and good lighting would look great. But later, when we upgraded to HD cameras, we started experiencing all sorts of lighting-related issues. But after Jan’s class, our mistakes were obvious and we began focusing on how to use lighting to improve and enhance the quality of our video. 

We quickly found that ‘theatrical lighting,’ in most cases, has the opposite effect that we expected, and what is good for the people in the room is not necessarily good for the video. In many of the venues we work from, the lighting is operated by technicians that belong to the host facility. Often, these lighting technicians don’t care about your needs as a webcaster, so you must establish right from the start that the video is a priority and they must adjust for it.

As an example, we recently produced a very high profile webcast from an iconic venue in New York City. The lighting tech was less than friendly and did not listen to anything we said. After all, it was a theater and in most cases, cameras weren’t used there. But when the guest of honor stepped up to the podium, his white hair lit up like fireworks when the spotlight hit him, and we sure heard about that the following day.

In mixed events that involve in-person attendees and webcast video, it’s almost always a struggle between what looks good in the venue and the lighting necessary to produce high quality streaming video. Ultimately, the client has to decide which way he or she wants to go; to optimize lighting for the attendees or for those watching the webcast. As the webcaster, it’s your job to clearly inform your client upfront about this likely tradeoff, and perhaps even show some examples of what can happen if lighting for video isn’t prioritized. That way, they can make an informed decision, and you’re covered if webcast quality is subpar. 

Editor’s Note: Lighthing is without question the most important requirement for producing high quality video. I just released a summary of lighting resources on the Streaming Learning Center, that you can access here

 

About Jan Ozer

I help companies train new technical hires in streaming media-related positions; I also help companies optimize their codec selections and encoding stacks, and evaluate new encoders and codecs.

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