Cultural Consumption: Task 5

Learn a new skill:

Lighting and audio – to help me when filming.

I did a lighting and an audio induction, as part of my learning for Visual Literacy. The skills learnt will definitely come in useful when working with film projects, so the process has definitely benefitted me.

Below are my notes from the inductions:


On Wednesday I did an audio induction in the AV suite to give me a better understanding of how to record sound, this seemed like a good idea since I had completely mucked up the sound in my first interview attempt (see here). I had forgotten to check the audio gain levels before filming; I was in a rush and also was just being a bit clueless having not used a DSLR in a few months. When I tried to play the footage back on the camera it was very quiet, but I just assumed it was the camera being quiet… In editing this meant I had to increase the audio gain which resulted in very loud, hissy background noise which was hard to get rid of. This highlighted the importance of isolating the sound you want to record by putting the audio gain down low enough for the background noise to disappear.

The first thing we learned was this way to put the audio gain down to a level that isolates the sound you want, and the background noise is cancelled out. This is easiest to do with a directional microphone, rather than one which records peripheral noise. Another good way of doing this is by wiring a microphone to the person’s clothing. Alternatively a microphone on a boom pole, held as close as possible whilst still being out of shot. Ideally this should be pointed away from noise which you don’t want to record, so you should position your filming so that the person holding the boom pole’s back is away from the excessive background noise – this is important to bear in mind if filming near a road / crowd of people etc. It is best to point the boom pole downwards as this helps reduce the background noise record (although this will vary depending on your setting).

The mark 3 DSLRs are good to use as they allow you to plug both a microphone and headphones in, which is important as headphones mean you can listen solely to the noise that is being recorded, without them you wont be able to know whether the audio is good or not, until you play the footage back. Using a rode microphone is good because it is isolated from the camera which means it doesn’t pick up noise of pushing buttons/moving the camera around, as much. This microphone can also be put on a boom pole to get a more direct audio, as it can have a long extension cable.

A different approach is using a wireless radio microphone, which allows you to film visuals from very far away, yet still have clear isolated audio, as if the person was close the camera; this can have a very nice effect. The equipment comes in the form of a transmitter and a receiver.

Shot gun microphones record directionally, and can be used from a fair distance but still pick up crisp sound, as they are good at noise cancelling the sounds that the microphone is not being pointed at.

By putting the camera on a tripod I can operate the sound myself as well, however generally speaking, the more people involved, the better the audio quality will be. This is something to bear in mind when filming; perhaps I should find someone to collaborate with,  so that through working as a team we can create a better quality piece, in a more realistic way (rather than trying to do everything myself).


The most common studio set up for lighting is a 3 point set up.

A key light is the main light in use. It is positioned at roughly a 45 degree angle facing the subject, illuminating them from the side. It is good at casting shadows, creating a three-dimensional model effect.

A problem arises, if the subject is beside a dark background, then the key light will cast shadows which make the subject blend into the background.

A solution to this is using an edge light. This brings the subject out of the dark background, and is positioned opposite the key light, still at 45 degrees to the subject. Even if the subject moves or turns, the light will still give them a clear highlighted edge. This combination of key light and edge light is sometimes referred to as a 3/4 backlight set up. When two edge lights are combined, the effect can be dramatic, especially when the key light is dimmed.

A fill light, is a second ‘key light’ that is next to the key light and opposite to the edge light (which is dimmed). I am interested with experimenting with edge lights, to try to create different effects.

A backlight recreates light from above (mimicking midday sunlight), the backlight usually points down.

Something to bear in mind, is that objects bounce light, particularly light objects. This can have an effect on your lighting arrangement, and could be used cleverly as a way of introducing light in unusual ways.

An interesting thing to experiment with is visible, volumetric lighting; where the source of light is visible on camera, this is often used where the air contains light reflecting particles such as dust, snow, rain etc.

These different techniques do not just apply to studio lighting, they can be adopted when filming in settings or even outdoors. I should experiment by getting people to position themselves to conform to these rules of edge lighting etc.

I intend to use these skills in the second part of visual literacy, but also throughout future projects involving film. Overall I have found this task very helpful – I learnt a lot about lighting which will improve the visual quality of my work, as well as audio recording techniques which I had been interested in trying because I have been basing my work around interviews – where clear sound is very important. My work at the moment, is let down poor lighting and audio quality, so hopefully after this I will see an improvement. 


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