The Power of Lighting for Film and Video
Bill Holshevnikoff (Four volumes, VHS) $34.95 ea.+s&h (15% discount applied to those who attend the workshop) www.poweroflighting.com
Reviewed by Kim Fatica
I first witnessed the talent and teaching ability of Bill Holshevnikoff here in Cleveland back in 1994. I paid $75 for his sit-down-and-watch Power of Lighting seminar, which has now evolved into a very interactive, hands-on presentation that continues to make its rounds throughout America as the six-hour "Lighting and Shooting for the Digital Image" workshop. It was like watching David Copperfield unlock the secrets to his magic. Holshevnikoff helped push my lighting abilities beyond the basic key and backlight.
This four volume set shares some of the inspirational talent cultivated by two decades of experience working for some of America's top corporations and broadcast networks. Holshevnikoff is not only a lighting guru, but also an accomplished camera operator, so he has a complete understanding of the image-making process.
It has always irritated me that the NPPA and other organizations seem to focus too much on pure lighting instead of use of light and shadow. Volume One, "Lighting Faces", covers many of the basics of lighting objects, including how shadows affect depth and contour. He begins the 45 minute session by dissecting the different parts of light and shadow, setting the groundwork for understanding why tools such as silks and light banks are used to control things such as spectral highlights.
Holshevnikoff does some talking head introductions to each segment on the tape, after which another narrator takes over and the demonstrations begin, with before and after examples to show the effects of changes in lighting schemes. There are plenty of diagrams and real lighting set-ups to examine so you will fully understand the effects of each situation.
The second volume, "Lighting Interviews", goes into great detail on how to light interview subjects in a number of different situations, including ENG field work in harsh sunlight. While you're looking at this tape, as well as others in the series, you'll probably be wondering why anyone doing run-and-gun general assignment would have a four-by-four foot silk in their trunk, or a 12 hundred watt HMI at their ready. This is the kind of thing you'll see on these tapes, but take heed; there are many ways to adapt his techniques with everyday tools such as reflectors and diffusion paper. While you may be thinking it's overkill, these tapes will definitely get you thinking about taking your abilities to the proverbial "next level".
Volume Three, "Color Correction and Filtration" is, perhaps, the singlemost valuable tape in the series. So few video "professionals" seem to fully comprehend the qualities of light itself, they often are unable to make good choices in the field. This is particularly true of many TV news photographers who only know how to use a sheet of blue gel with their Tota to color correct in outdoor conditions. Many people have not been properly schooled in the use of CTO or ND gels to help do the reverse, balance daylight to tungsten. Holshevnikoff teaches the viewer how to pick color correcting gels and how to read the information found on most gel swatches so you can properly make those decisions.
What is also quite valuable in this volume is color correction under gaseous discharge lights (fluorescent, mercury vapor and sodium vapor) where white balancing is tricky and skin tones can be tinged with hints of green, blue or orange. The terrain can get mighty technical on this tape, but it's most helpful in understanding the white balance readings you receive in your viewfinder (if you pay attention to such things). I would bet few would know the difference between a Cool White and Warm White fluorescent tube and how that would affect color temperature readings.
Volume Three runs eight minutes longer than the 45 minutes claimed on the tape jacket, and those last eight minutes or so cover the use of lens filtering. For years I've kept a box of Cokin drop-in filters in the back of my trunk, using them to do everything from enhancing the upper third of my sky to dialing out reflections in glass. They were some of the best investments I had made to enhance my videography. Holshevnikoff shows the effects of diffusion and color filters with mastery.
So often people take their backgrounds for granted, seating dark-skinned people against light, blank walls, using cluttered backdrops for interviews, and many other video no-nos. "Lighting Backgrounds" is the fourth tape in the series and goes in to one of my favorite topics, controlled lighting. Another 45 minutes of "must-see TV"!
While I totally endorse these tapes for every shop, let me lay out a couple minor caveats. First, I hate VHS tapes. As most of us know, they aren't a robust medium. They will break down in a short amount of time. In fact, my Sony VHS deck had a tough time with the auto tracking on Volume 2 on its first pass, causing some audio buzzing. These tapes would be wonderful on DVD with appropriate chapters for easier navigation. Second, I was disappointed in some of the camera work (obviously not Holshevnikoff's). I'm a bit of a stickler for solid shots and many of them are handheld when a lock-down shot would have been better, especially on some close-ups. A huge effort was put forth to produce these tapes and it shows. For the greater part they are polished, thorough and extremely helpful, but those little details...
I'm a lighting geek. I can talk about it all day long and not tire of it. It's the same with Holshevnikoff's tapes. Once you start watching you can't stop. Anyone who wants to build a solid lighting technique needs to have these tapes-all four, not just one. To have one without the others is cheating you of a well-rounded understanding of what makes good lighting in a variety of situations. This is one investment in your talent you won't regret and another tool in your arsenal to avoid poor quality video.
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