Spent this morning at WESH-TV here in Orlando which in my opinion is one of the best looking broadcasts in the market. This was mainly a lighting checkup as well as an opportunity to work with the camera settings and lighting levels in a controlled environment.
This broadcast is the perfect example for championing the need for experienced operators at all levels of production. As production budgets decrease and automation increases there are certainly many drawbacks. In the search for more profit, stations have cut production budgets, and with that, the first thing to go seems to be qualified technicians with a mind for lighting. Thankfully WESH is not one of these stations.
Most importantly it seems is that the people here not only know how to change a lamp, but know what the purpose of that fixture is, and have the knowledge to accurately maintain the design long after the designer has left the room. This is part of the reason we like to schedule a multi-trip visit for a lighting designer at the studio: to increase studio personnel’s exposure to the design intent and execution. The more the studio personnel know about their lighting, the
Another key to this station’s beautiful look is the fact that they have someone to iris and shade cameras live during the broadcast. We spend a lot of time to get the lighting level consistent at the shooting positions to minimize the amount of shading necessary, but studio lighting is not a “one switch fits all” solution. Even slight changes in skin color, camera position, makeup, and clothing can change how the camera reacts to a particular shot and ultimately, the look of the broadcast. To have someone there to adjust for all of these variables, as they happen, is part of what makes a good broadcast a great broadcast.
Automation is all well and good, but it just hasn’t been able to make the judgement calls a talented eye can yet. How much is too much iris? At what point is the black just too black. What looks good to broadcast? Even the relatively consistent world of broadcast news requires an artists eye and a judgement call.
You want to know what separates the look of the big time national shows from the rest? You want to look like Oprah (in the lighting sense)? The answer is quite simply and equally as complex: a talented and knowledgeable production staff.