MI 441

Advanced Lighting and Production Techniques




Session 1:  Types of Lighting Instruments.


Fresnel vs open face

Fresnels are lights with a glass lens in front of the lamp that produce an extremely smooth and even field of light.  An example is an Arri Studio Fresnel w/barn doors, fresnels come in all sizes such as this Small Fresnel.

Fresnel lenses have been around for a long time, such as this old fashioned Lighthouse Fresnel.


Open face lights do not have anything except a safety screen in front of the bulb and produce an uneven and rough field of light. Some examples are the Lowel Tota and Omni lights.  Open face lights are ideal for punching through heavy diffusion such as 216 frost, bouncing into a piece of foam core, or a lighting modifier such as a Chimera or butterfly.


Ellipsodal and PAR Lights

Ellipsoidal Lights focus their beams on a point allowing for a very sharp or soft edge.  Ellipsoidals are basically a PAR (parabolic reflector), with an additional set of lenses at the end.  These lenses allow for a sharp or soft focus of the beam edge and the instruments also have 4 shutters that allow the light to be shaped, and a slot for a “cookie” or pattern to be inserted into the light.   Ellipsodals can be quartz halogen or LED.


PAR lights, also called PAR Cans, are very basic lighting instruments that utilize a “car headlamp” looking lamp to throw light down the “can”.  Very limited control, used for wash lighting, PAR Cans are generally a tungsten instrument.  Another super-powered version of PAR lamps can be found in Maxi-Brutes.


LED  (light emitting diode)

Until very recently, the term LED as it applies to the production industry, meant primarily a type of instrument nicknamed a

1’ x 1’.  The term is a generic way of saying an LED panel that is 12” x 12”.  Now LED panels come in many sizes and styles such as  PAR, Fresnel, Ellipsoidal, and mini-ellipsoidal.   LED’s also have designations of the type of LED lamps they have.  RGB stands for Red-Green-Blue, WWCW where the WW stands for white-white WWCW , and the CW stands for Cool-White, or RGBW which stands for Red-Green-Blue-White.  LED tape lighting is also a very flexible alternative. 

Depending on the type of LED, a color temp can be dialed in for very accurate color temps.  Today, close inspection is required to determine if an instrument is an LED, Quartz, or HMI.  For example, Aadyntech makes some very power LED’s that from a distance look like a Fresnel, and VisionSmith makes LED relamp kits for certain fresnels.


LED instruments can be controlled by on-board dimming, by remote DMX control and wireless Bluetooth.

Most manufacturers are making LED versions of all their standard instruments.  Arri Skypanel softlights, Arri LED Fresnel, etc…



Production florescent lighting instruments have been around for many years.  KinoFlo is the biggest name in this arena.  At first glance the florescent lamps look similar to a standard lamp, however production fluorescents have a very stable color temperature, either tungsten or daylight, and can be dimmed without changing color temperature.


HMI Lighting

HMI stands for Hydrargyrum medium-arc iodide.  It is an arc lamp that produces a daylight temperature output.  HMI’s need a ballast to ignite the lamp.  Certain units can be dimmed slightly without changing color temperature.  These instruments come in Fresnel, and PAR’s which can also be turned into a BUG light.  Some HMI’s can be very large HMI Fresnel, in the 18K or 24K variety.  HMI’s of the PAR variety usually come with a pack of lenses to shape the beam, as well as barn doors. 



Session 1:  Characteristics of Lighting


Hard light

Hard light is easily controllable, very harsh on faces, has a long throw distance, creates hard shadows, difficult on the talent’s eyes.

Hard light can be controlled by barn doors, flags, cutters, chops or any opaque object to “cut” the light. 

Only in very rare instances, or for special effect would you aim a hard light directly at a person without some type of modifier.


Soft Light

Soft light is hard to control, pleasing on faces, creates softer shadows since the light falls off very quickly, and is easier on the talents eyes.

Soft boxes are a generic term for instruments that provide a very soft, pleasing light.  Chimera is a brand of soft box that has turned into slang.  Chimera soft box, Chimera Pancake, Chimera Eggcrate, Chimera Mogul Base Adaptor, Chinese Lantern, Chimera Speed Ring. 


Size of the soft light source

The size of the lighting source helps determine the quality of light, especially when using soft light. 

The softening device whether a light bank, foam core reflector, or frost gel on the barn doors actually becomes the light source.  That said the larger the light source, the harder it is to control. 




Session 1:  Color Temperature of Light


Understanding color temperature can have a very dramatic effect on the way an image looks.  It can set the mood of a scene and help determine time of day in a scene. Light temperature is measure in degrees Kelvin or K, such as 3000 degrees K, or 3000K


Examples of Color Temperature

10,000 degrees Kelvin                        Bright blue sky

8-10,000 degrees Kelvin                    Post sunset and pre sunrise

5-6,000 degrees Kelvin                      Normal sunny day

4,000 degrees Kelvin                         Florescent tube lights

2,800-3,200 degrees Kelvin                Typical light bulb and studio lights

2,000 – 2,500 degrees Kelvin             Sunrise

2,000 degrees and lower                     Sodium vapor

A TV or Projector                              ~7500K to 10,000K


Tungsten Lamp                                 2,800 – 3,000 degrees K

Quartz Halogen Lamp                        3,200 degrees K

HMI Lamp                                        5,600 degrees K                                

LED                                                  Variable

Production Florescent                        3,200 or 5,600 degrees K         



Quality of Light

The Color Rendering Index  (CRI) is a rating given to lighting instruments that rate the quality of the light.

CRI example 1  &   2





Session 1:  Grip Equipment


Grip equipment includes all the stands, connectors, hangers, etc… that is used to mount, hang, block, diffuse, hold, cut, etc… lighting and production equipment.  Most of the items we have here is made by Matthews Studio Equipment Company.  MSE Grip     www.msegrip.com

There are other brands as well.  Avenger Grip ,   Impact  and Mole-Richardson



Baby Double Roller

Junior Double Roller

Junior Triple Roller

C+Stand w/grip head and grip arm

Rocky Mountain or Sliding leg C-Stand

Junior Triple Hollywood stand

Turtle Stand



Misc. Grip

Mayfer Clamp

Super Grip Arm

Scissor Clamp

Telescoping Hanger w/pipe Clamp

Magic Finger

Broken Arm

Baby Pipe Clamp

Junior Pipe Clamp

Junior Sidearm Clamp

Junior to Baby Pin Adaptor

HD Telescoping Hanger

Gaffer Grip

Furniture Clamp

Baby Plate

Baby Headers

Matthellini Clamp



Lighting Modifiers

Scrims – Green and Red


Open End Silk

Open End red scrim

Open End Screen Cookie

Solid Pattern Cookie

Butterfly Frame







Session 1:   Basic Lighting Instrument Positions



Key light is the primary source of light and usually sets the mood.  It can be positioned anywhere.  High/low/off axis of the camera left or right or directly behind the subject.



Fill light usually fills in the scene opposite the key light.  Often can be just a very small fill or bounce, it does not have to be a physical instrument.



Also known as hair light, rim light, separation light.

Backlight helps to separate the subject from the background creating a more 3D look.

Typically directly, or nearly directly behind the subject.  Can be an actual instrument, or in the right circumstance could be light from a window or a strong bounce.



A type of backlight but more to the side and usually lower, typically sneaks around the side of the subjects face.  Helps to create more of a 3D look.


Background Light

Highlights the background objects (bookcase, flowers, wall, etc…)





Session 1:   Misc Info



Arri Lighting Guide

What is a grip?


Good books on grip and productions are:

“Strike the Baby and Kill the Blonde”

“The camera assistants manual”

“The Grip Book”                                                                                                                                  

Cinematography:  Theory and Practice

Jefford’s Rules



Trade Magazines, some free, some not.

            TV Technology

            Student Filmaker

            AV Technology

            Live Sound

            Front of House

            Sound and Picture Magazine   ****Excellent***

            Film and Digital Times

            HD Pro Video

            American Cinematographer


            Directors Guild of America

            Producers Guild of America



Manufacturer’s Website Info

Great educational information and white papers at these sites.




                        Vision Research


                        Abel Cine