WORK: Setting Up Live Shots
The biggest advantage television news has over other forms of media is the ability to bring live updates across a large audience.
Newsrooms have more options at their disposal to do this today than they did just ten years ago. We can go bring live updates through the traditional form of a television newscast, but we also have social media accounts, websites and streaming platforms at our disposal as well. This means that the news deadline is no longer the next newscast. It is always right now.
News crews can be scooped on a story through something as simple as a tweet or a story being posted on the competition’s website. Through whatever method, the message can reach thousands of people in a matter of minutes.
WHERE I COME IN
One of my main responsibilities in television news is setting up live shots for our morning show. With that newscast spanning from 4:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., we can easily do up to 10 live hits for the morning show and without considering the option of being live in the noon newscast.
These live shots will range from night-time, blue hour, sunrise and daylight. That means lights need adjusting, color temperatures changed, placements moved and even lights being swapped out for more powerful daytime lights. A variation of all this happens between every hit.
I do all of this with the following equipment:
Note: You may need a little background understand of color temperature, characteristics of light and three point lighting for this piece. Secondly, there are many factors each day when covering a news story we are unable to control. It can be anything from being restricted to standing across the street from a scene where the sun is coming up behind what we are shooting not being able to show certain parts of a scene because of gore, minors faces, etc. As mentors taught me, we do the best we can with what we are given and what we know to get around those obstacles.
Putting It All Together
Night-time Set Up
My first hit usually happens between 5:15 and 5:35 each morning. It’s dark out - unless we are in a well-lit area - and we are about two hours away from sunrise. At this time of day for live hits, I normally have my camera’s white balance set to 3200K to give me a close match to the general color of night-time lights - although each light’s color temperature can vary from 2800K to 3600K depending on the bulbs used. I don’t mind if the background isn’t perfectly white balanced at this moment because the talent will be when I set up his or her lights. Honestly, the background being slightly blue or orange helps give the scene a little color and interest for the live shots.
At this point, I’m ready to start grabbing gear from the car for my first hit. The first thing I’ll always set up is the camera and tripod then turn the Live-U 200 on. In case I run out of time, we’ll at least have the camera set up and I can just use my bi-color top light to make it through that hit until I have more time to finish my set up. I try to set up the camera about 15-20 feet away from the reporter then zoom in. I’ll set the shot so that the top of the frame has enough headroom for the size of an apple to sit on the talent’s head and place the bottom of the frame at the belly button. I’ll keep my aperture somewhere between f/2 and f/3.4. Backing away from the subject and keeping the aperture almost wide open allows me to keep the subject in focus while the background is about as soft as the ENG camera will allow.
For lighting during the first few hits at nighttime I’ll grab the two Dracast lights, the Yongnuo light wand and three light stands. I set up the two Dracast lights as a key and fill light on light stands about 45 degrees out in front of the talent. They are just farther than arms-reach away to make sure the light stands are not seen in the frame. The key light is barely brighter than the fill light because my objective is just to give subtle shape to the reporter’s face instead of creating any dramatic lighting. The light wand is placed just behind and above the reporter’s head by use of a boom arm to get it over the reporter. I just want the light from it to barely touches the back of the hair. This makes the talent seem independent of the background they are standing in front of instead of their backside falling into the background. All of the lights are set for a color temperature of 3200K.
This lighting set up is good until blue hour which happens around 6:45 a.m. I’ll keep the lights and camera set to 3200K if the sky is still a deep blue at the time of our hit, but the moment the sun’s light starts illuminating the sky to a lighter shade of blue and it out-powers street lights, I’ll shift the color temperature of everything to the daylight temperature of 5500K.
Daytime Set Up
At night I can easily overpower building and street lights with the lights I have at my disposal, but I have to work with the sun during the daytime. One thing never changes though, I keep the camera backed away from the talent to compress the shot and give it a shallow depth of field.
Instead of talking about the endless amount of situations for setting up shots in daylight, I believe it would be more beneficial to show pictures of what is happening behind-the-scenes and briefly explain what is happening.
This is probably the most basic set-up. The trees overhead sheltered us from the harsh shadows of the sun. I simply swapped my two Dracast lights for the Frezzi and Stella and let the light pour in from behind to give her a bit of backlighting.
This live shot was around 9:30 a.m. The sun was rising to her left. I put up a diffuser to wrap the sunlight around her and hid the Frezzi being used as a fill behind the sign on the crosswalk so it was out of the way of pedestrians.
The sun was rising for Natalie about 45 degrees out from where I had the camera positioned. I diffused the light here as well to get rid of harsh shadows. I still had my backlight set up but dropped it as low as I could without it entering the frame. The Frezzi is also set up 45 degrees out the opposite direction of the sun to fill in shadows from the sun on Natalie’s face.