Contributions Completed

I’m really glad I decided to get involved with this project, almost picking up my experience with studio lighting where Varsity fell short. Like Varsity it saw my interest in set building continue to flourish as I got involved where needed, partially due to James Helps contributions.

This being my final broadcast of the year I feel it has rounded off and refined my approach to lighting for television and broadcast alike. I’m now at a point where it is so methodical and second nature to me. Even during the course of the project I instantly knew my approach, demonstrating a clear confidence in my role. I was able to pass on this knowledge to Nathan White which was nice.

My execution of my role was efficient and effective; by finishing early I was able to assist in other departments, giving one final opportunity to play around in the state of the art broadcast facilities in the studio. I have nothing negative to say on this project, purely a nice end to my contributions in the lighting department for this year.

Broadcast Day

When I arrived at the studio James was making the last few fastenings to the existing set build. My first job was to get the LED strips rigged around the set, in order to do this I had to first fasten the E Bristol signs to the walls. Backing the foam board onto a wooden block I drilled the fixture through from behind the set, mirroring this exactly on the opposite wall. With Nathan’s help I then drilled a larger hole and threaded the LED strips through, fastening to the logo from behind with duct tape so that the strip could be clearly visible around the entire edge.

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Cycling through the available colours I opted for the green and blue combination as it matches the colour scheme of the logo perfectly.

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Nathan and I then played around with the idea of wrapping LED strips around the large E and B lettering as requested by Claudia. My concern of visible cabling was easily resolved once Claudia had revealed the wide shot that would frame out the trailing parts. Once the lighting rig was switched on the effect of LED strips on these letters was minimal, I’m glad we tested it just incase but the end result was removing the LED strips from them.

Before the presenters arrived Nathan and I touched up the brick paintwork as some parts of the blue back board were showing. I also had to trim some of the overhang with a Stanley knife.

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Once the presenters arrived we went straight into various styles of rehearsal lead by Claudia (e.g. auto-cue read). One of the presenters appeared slightly dimmer on the sofa, Nathan and I played around with light positions with no success. In the end I added a fresnel dimly lit and directed it towards the second presenter in order for even illumination over the entire couch, thankfully this problem wasn’t apparent on the guest sofa.

With lighting tweaked and set in stone for the broadcast I then moved into the vision gallery where I fulfilled my role as VT Loader alongside Chris as Vision Mixer. As rehearsals continued I was able to make mental notes as to the cues and operation of the loader, such as cutting into the green screen for scrolling credits and what line to fade in the graphic. I also loaded a still of the E Bristol logo from one of the VTs onto the second player so Chris would always have a logo as an available cutaway in case of any issues (e.g. cutting during rolling credits incase fake talking becomes awkward).

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In the last couple of rehearsals in the lead up to the broadcast Claudia had to run off to find Steve Heggarty regarding the live stream, I found myself stepping in as a director during this period, continuing as a co-director during the broadcast to support Claudia. I really enjoyed the role, as it was monitoring all departments and ensuring everything ran smoothly it resembled being a producer or 1st AD on a film shoot.

The full run through prior to broadcast went perfectly, pretty much hitting the half hour time scale precisely. I established a cue between Josh (Floor Manager) and the presenters so we could ensure timing was perfect, I wanted to avoid speaking in their ears as it could be distracted. When it came to broadcast Claudia opted for direct contact with the presenters, merely a case of personal preference.

The actual broadcast at 4pm went pretty much flawless, falling short of our intended time by 30 seconds due to a presenter jumping dramatically forward in an interview with The Cube. All VTs loaded correctly and the lighting was great so I’m happy with both of my departments. I struggle to see any improvements as I delivered everything expected of me without any issues. After the broadcast Joe, Nathan, James and I took down the set and organised the studio ready for the next project using the facility.

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Rigging

Arriving at the studio today I was greeted by the main structure for the set, assembled by James Helps and Claudia (Producer) yesterday. The main outline of the set was fantastic, having an enclosed room really added to the feel of the piece. Claudia and I started rearranging the furniture on the set until she was happy with its position, notably the emphasis on symmetry. Unfortunately we managed to catch the sofa leg on the vinyl floor and rip it, but I easily covered it up with plenty of duct tape. After this Ryan (Editor) and I assembled some additional pieces of furniture to complete the set.

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Once all of the furniture was set in place I marked the precise positions and removed it all with help from Ryan to leave me with an empty floor space for lighting. I brought in the steps and started adjusting the fixtures in the rig accordingly. I split the set down the middle so that I could match the symmetry of the set with symmetry in the lighting rig. I started with the back lights (personal preference) placing two larger fresnels shining from each side of each sofa, focusing on hitting the backs of the presenters whilst balancing shadows by directing against one another. A soft box behind either sofa for an overall softening effect completed the back lighting.

Next was directional light, starting with a fresnel pointing at each corner of the set as manakins were to be brought in later so I wanted to subtly highlight them. This was also the case with either side table next to each sofa. I finished the rig by spacing four softboxes evenly across the front of the set facing in for an overall diffused quality of light free from shadows. By this point Nathan (Lighting Assistant) joined me to assist with labelling and adjustments to the rig.

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We marked up a lighting diagram with channel numbers, when checking the marked numbers I discovered one of the fixtures not working so I swapped 21 to 22, I have reported this issue to the media centre. Assessing the rig the fresnels at the back facing outwards on the sofas were casting too much shadow, after testing scrim Nathan and I ended up substituting them for softboxes. The symmetrical nature of the rig meant Nathan and I could go through and make some minor adjustments ensuring both were casting identical illumination patterns.

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The final addition was spinning around a row of fluosofts for a final soft pump into the set removing any shadows with a strong wash. It still meant the emphasis of fresnels and softboxes could be seen, adding contrast and shape to the set, whilst the fluosofts acted purely as an illumination and shadow removal tool.

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Having completed the rig Nathan headed home whilst I assisted James with the final stages of set building. I started by cutting up fake brickwork and stapling them to the existing backboards. Claudia provided some foam backing card to mount the ‘E Bristol’ logo she had printed. I mounted each of these along with cutting out a large E and B letter in the spare sheets of foam board to sit alongside each sofa.

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Everything is looking ready for tomorrow, I had to leave slightly early due to work so I’m anticipating the brickwork to be completed ready for the morning. I’m really happy with the lighting, when the cast are in tomorrow I am anticipating some minor tweaks to accommodate for their positions on each sofa. I’m impressed by Claudia’s attention to detail, she has created a really strong brand and possibly one of the best sets UWE has seen. Claudia mentioned to me about helping out by loading VTs tomorrow during the broadcast, seeing as the lighting is a set state I am happy to undertake the additional role, either way I’ll have to be around incase anything goes wrong with lighting.

Title Sequence Grade

Claudia (Producer) asked if I would be able to grade a short title sequence for the programme as I have experience in colour grading. This isn’t my primary role in the project, but I am more than happy to get involved as it continues to give me experience in one of my specialist crafts. The sequence consisted of around 20 shots with the brief simply “making it look pretty”.

Ryan (Editor) delivered a HD ProRes file as I requested, there were still some transitions left but this didn’t affect the grade as nothing was a cross fade. I know it’s bad practice to grade with transitions already in place due to grades bleeding, however the quick turnover and nature of the piece removed that worry. As the footage was shot on a DSLR it came delivered at 29.97fps (likely to be camera default) so I have exported back at the same frame rate, if there is an issue with conflicting frame rates I’ll leave it up to the editor.

To make the footage visually appealing I started with a first pass node to balance all shots on the RGB and luminance scopes. I then started with saturation and contrast, this was generally great for majority of shots. With some shots I played up to the colour cast (i.e. coffee shop keeping a warm palette with orange/red), nothing too stylistic, just making the shot look as bright and colourful as possible.

This was a relatively quick grade job, nevertheless I am happy with the final output. The fact I’ve used DaVinci so much over the year has made this a really quick task, carrying this out really shows to myself how much I have progressed in the craft of colour grading. Approaching the live broadcast I will be focusing back on my role of lighting design.

EBristol Grading Log

Chris Hossent, Mark Uwins, Nicky Allen

During my research into ‘This Morning’ and studio lighting I stumbled across this interesting interview. It is a really insightful piece into the inner workings of live television, and what makes it even more relevant is the fact its ‘This Morning’, the program heavily influencing E-Bristol.

At the time of broadcast Chris Hossent was Vision Engineer, Mark Uwins Lighting Engineer, and Nicky Allen Sound Engineer.

Whilst I can appreciate the input from Chris Hossen and Nicky Allen it is the role provided by Mark Uwins I’m most interested in. Unfortunately this video isn’t a hugely informative piece regarding my craft, I do still find it an inciting piece into the professional world of live television broadcasting.

The LD role is purely described as setting up lights to get the look of the director. Whilst he goes into lamp fixtures there is nothing specified in his approach to rigging. The cutaways suggest plenty of scrim to diffuse the light across the set, the vast amount of lamps in the rig demonstrate how the bright and vibrant look is achieved.

Some additional notes to take away from the video is ensuring I am prepared for everything. Make sure procedures are in place to fix any problems, in my department this could be having spare lamps across the set that can be switched to if a lamp blows during broadcast.

TV Newsroom Lighting

Television News operates with similar lighting compared to daytime television programs. Morning shows such as ‘BBC Breakfast’ are starting to blur the lines between news broadcasts and daytime chat shows, often presenting the news in a casual sofa format.

The research continues to put emphasis on soft sources of light. Bigger lamps with wider beams will achieve this look, and where this isn’t possible the introduction of softboxes, toughspun and diffusion can achieve the diffusion patterns. The softer nature of the light will reduce its throw so it will need to be placed closer to accommodate, or increased the number of lamps. In larger studios more key and fills will be introduced in order to fill the entire floor.

Soft light will bathe entire news desks, also wrapping around subjects faces for an flattering appearance. Evidence for lighting newsrooms suggests keeping the background darker so that the talent can become the dominant point of focus. I agree with this to a certain extent as the audience need to be drawn to them, however regarding daytime television I feel you still need to include that sense of space.

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Newsrooms nowadays have replaced hotter and high amperage incandescents with fluorescents or LED technology. This introduces softer lamps rather than having to convert existing rigs with variations of diffusion styles.

A final note regarding back lighting. The recommendation from industry discussions online is to have a separate lamp for each talent. This way you can separate them out individually and control their prominence, whilst providing ‘halos’ around each ones head and shoulders. This is a useful device in pulling them out from the background and avoid a flat image due to the vast amount of soft light.

Studio Lighting

With the shoot approaching I felt it would be useful to look at some more examples of studio lighting in order to better prepare myself. The genre of E-Bristol as ‘daytime TV’ continues with my previous research into studio lighting, soft and even illumination across the entire floor. Soft light is great for making everything appear ‘beautiful’, hence its implication in modelling, it can hide lines and incite a warming effect in relation to the colour temperature. As always with soft light some definition is still required from additional lamps so it doesn’t appear flat.

Once the action begins in live television there are little options to change the state of lighting. You need to light to account for all possible angles from where cameras could shoot participants. This sways away from my personal interests in stylised lighting, however the back light definition can give me options to express my personal experience and great a distinct look for the program.

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CBN’s ‘The 700’ was one of the first major US programs to adopt new technologies into their lighting rig to better the overall illumination. As you can see in the above image the rig bounces lights off reflectors to achieve their diffused and soft tones throughout the set. It was their investment in LED technology that interest me.

Randy Reed, CBN Supervisor of Lighting, was given the support and opportunity to advance upon their rig. At the time LED technology was starting to become prominent so they invested in this, mixing it with conventional fixtures. LEDs naturally give a softer and diffused throw making it ideal for this style of broadcasting. With 1K fixtures and matching calibrated temperatures it made it easy for an even throw of lighting throughout the set. The best thing about the upgraded rig was a fully automated system that enabled real time changes.

Whilst I may not be operating with the same level of technology I can definitely appreciate the techniques used. From the features still alone it opens options to bounce lights where softboxes are insufficient. There are only so many softboxes in our studio rig so this could be a viable option in order to get even more light onto set.

This Morning

This is the main influence behind Claudia’s choice in set design and lighting. The ITV daytime show ‘This Morning’ recently underwent a revamp for Autumn 2014. Their blog on ITV discusses the changes in depth, marketing it towards their audiences as they advertise featured products and where you can buy them. However it is a useful device for getting a feel for the set Claudia will be constructing and where lighting has been introduced.

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The main overhead practical lighting fixtures don’t appear to be lit in any of the photographs. This is likely due to the use of studio lighting, the suggestible strong soft lamps will flood the entire scene with a general wash almost free from shadows. What I found most interesting was the inclusion of practical lighting, something I hadn’t really picked up on before.

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In the main sofas you can see the hanging fixtures and shelving units are illuminated for a sense of depth, with the other lamps don’t appear to be. This remains a common factor throughout the set as elements towards the back are illuminated for depth. Above suggests a lamp behind frosted glass with the rear vertical box lamp dimly lit for a warm and ‘homely’ feel. Below is a more urban design with bare lamps on the studio floor illuminated, the nearby dresser shows hotspots from the overhead practical fixtures. This inclusion of practical light also helps to add texture to these surfaces in order to heighten the idea of depth and sense of space.

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Whilst it will dependent on Claudia’s final design if I am considering practical lights I need to consider the purpose it can serve. They need to open up the space and reveal textures adding to the intimate mise-en-scene and invite the audience into the room. These lamps cannot be distracting from the program itself, this is probably why the lamps next to the main sofas aren’t lit.

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Production Role/Lighting Plan

A little delayed, but today was my first opportunity to properly sit down with Claudia (Producer) and go through the E-Bristol project I have signed up to do lighting design for. I came into the project last minute to continue to build my skills of studio lighting since Varsity was cut back majorly, my initial impression was basic generic studio lighting for a constructed set, like Varsity.

To quote Claudia, the format and method of talk shows are tried and tests, its the content that needs focus. For me this means the physical set construction will be very generic, and my role will be providing even light coverage throughout, with potential for some practicals. The set design is heavily influenced by ITV’s ‘This Morning’.

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Claudia and I discussed various options for practical lighting. I think her initial ideas were thinking too far outside the box and breaking away from the style, there is so many cool things you can achieve through combining set design and lighting, however this project is very simplistic in its styling so it seems unnecessary to overcomplicate it.

A potential concept we both liked was wall mounting large wall lights on either side board with the ‘E’ from the ‘E-Bristol’ logo silhouetted through the lamp. The easiest method for this would be to buy wall lamps and secure card on the inside (safely from bulb), also it would mean we could potentially return the items.

Claudia really liked the LED frames Lewys and I constructed for Varsity. This was simply a wooden frame offset from the backboard then LED strips wrapped around the frame concealed behind its edges. This is a concept that is easily achievable as I still have 20 meters of LED strips at my disposal.

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The final concept Claudia was interested in was placing floor lights in the set. I have suggested some lamps for practical lights. At this stage she is securing all of her set build so I have told her to buy whatever she would like in her set then we can experiment upon construction.

April 22nd & 23rd will be dedicated to set build and rehearsals, I will try to come in and help with constructed if possible. The live show will be April 24th at 4pm, with rehearsals all day.

For lighting it will be the case of using plenty of softboxes to evenly distribute lighting throughout the set without cast many shadows. From the ‘This Morning’ screen grab you can see some subtle shadows from some of the furniture on the floor, but nothing visible in the majority of camera shots. For me this is almost building upon the lighting rig for Varsity, only this time I can focus purely on lighting without getting distracted with set design.

VTs Green Screen

My first role since joining the project was lighting some green screen for a MTV style news report that will be released each week in the run up to the live broadcast. I have had plenty of experience in lighting green screen in the past, in this instance I only had the back wall as the subject was framed from the waist up.

I used the overhead tube racks for an overall green screen light. There was some subtle gradient in the background, the further down the darker the screen got making keying difficult. I introduced two 1K fresnels from either side directed at the base for even coverage.

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I had marked the subject a little distance away from the screen so that they were in darkness, separating them from the green screen light source. Over this year I have adopted a priority with backlighting before introducing any key or fill, removing the conventional 3 point lighting system from my methods. In this instance I had two 650W fresnels either side of the subject hitting their head and shoulders to pull them out from the background. I then introduced two more either side of their face for an even layer that distinguished features without casting ugly shadows.

After the first few takes I noticed an issues with harsh shadows cast on the subjects torso from their hand gestures. I was able to reduce this slightly with another fresnel directed at the torso, but kept it weak so that it didn’t wash them out. After the first subject had completed their pieces to camera I merely had to adjust the position of the rig for the height of the second subject.

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I found today a quick and simple shoot for lighting. Green screen can be a complicated concept, I feel I have a strong amount of experience with lighting for it now which help make today an extremely quick turnover. I am still a little uncertain as to the extent of lighting on this project but over the coming week Claudia and I will meet up to discuss it further and my role.