Videography for LIVE meetings - Lighting tips
Updated: Jun 18, 2020
Trying to get a good video image out of your smartphone, webcam or laptop's live streaming camera can be a bewildering experience. Our resident videographer dissects a few common problems with your video lighting.
Grain. Snow. Noise.
These are the common names given to the random swarms of color specks that you see in the darker parts of an underexposed video feed. Grain (or snow) is the result of sensor noise.
Noisy signals are generated when the video processing engine tries (incorrectly) to guess and amplify color information that is missing in dark areas.
How to fix Grainy Footage
The solution to grainy footage is to stop the "guessing" by the video processor.
Restore the correct information by making your scene evenly lit.
Use a table lamp, LED mat or LED tubes to illuminate yourself. Switch on the lights in your background if that's where the problem areas lie. When there is sufficient light, every pixels on the camera sensor will send a clear color signal instead of generating random noise.
inexpensive LED mat from Travor or Fositan
BACKLIGHTING (Face is too dark)
Most video conferencing apps do not allow users to set the exposure parameters manually. When there is a very bright light in the shot (such as from a window) , the camera will stop down to keep the offending light correctly exposed –but alas– underexposing the rest of the image. This can result in a silhouetted face in the foreground - and more noise.
How to fix backlighting
The easiest way to overcome backlighting is to simply to draw the curtains, or select a different background.
If that is not possible, then a very powerful light will be needed to make the foreground as bright as the background.
MIXED LIGHTING (unnatural skin color)
The cameras on smartphones, laptops and webcams usually default to automatic white-balance. This means it will try to adjust colors automatically to match different lighting temperatures. We can think of color temperature as a scale from orangy light, to white light to bluish light. The lower the temperature, the more reddish the light and the higher the temperature the more bluish.
Automatic white balance usually works well for scenes with one color temperature lighting.
However, if a scene is lit by 2 lights on opposite ends of the temperature scale, the camera may default to a setting that either makes skin tones look too reddish or too bluish.
How to fix unnatural skin tone
Study the selfie view of your video conferencing set-up with the lights turned on.
Is your background lit primarily by :
white light (window light)? ,
blu-ish light (daylight rated LED bulbs/ diffused sunlight) or
orangy light (warm lighting)?
Replace the lamp that is lighting you with one that matches the color temperature of the background lighting. If the lamp or bulb is not replaceable, consider pasting or clipping a color-correction gel (blue or orange) over the lamp.