Part of Unit: Basic Lighting for Film & Video
Lesson Plan Overview / Details
Students will learn the equipment, techniques and terminology needed to utilize the three-point lighting system for film and video production. Students will then produce a video demonstrating the three-point-lighting system.
- Lesson & Group Assignment: (Lecture and demonstration will take about 1 hour, the group project will take an additional 2-4 hours for production time).
- 3 - 5 Hours
California Career and Technical Education Standards:
California Career and Technical Education Standards
- AME.A.A2.1 Analyze the way in which technical design (e.g., color theory, lighting, graphic...
- AME.A.A2.3 Use technology to create a variety of audio, visual, written, and electronic pro...
- AME.B.B6.4 Understand how stage sets, costumes, lighting, musical instruments, props, and o...
California Academic Content Standards (Reinforced)
- ELA.9-10.R.CAGT.2.6 Demonstrate use of sophisticated learning tools by following technical direction...2
- VA.9-12 (proficient).CE.SPMT.2.3 Develop and refine skill in the manipulation of digital imagery (either still or...
Objectives and Goals
- Students will learn the equipment, techniques and terminology needed to utilize the three-point lighting systems used for video and film production.
- Students will be able to integrate the knowledge learned and apply the use of this technique into future video projects and productions.
Activities in this Lesson
- Introduction - Hooks / Set
How do filmmakers create emotion, texture, depth and shadow in their compositions – AND What movie making tools can be used to alter the ‘feel’ of a movie to change a scene from romantic into a comedy, or turn a dramatic scene and turn it into a horror scene?
Film cannot exist without light. Filmmakers utilize natural and artificial light to produce dramatic effects. Film lighting plays a key role in the storytelling process.
There are three main lighting schemes used in film. One is the Key light; the primary light that is used to stimulate the natural light (like a ceiling light or from the window). This light sets up the main illumination on the subject or person and defines visible lighting and shadows.
Second is called the Fill light. This light softens and extends the illumination established by the key light and makes the subject or person more visible. This creates a secondary light source such as a table lamp or lantern.
The third light is called the Rim light, also known as the Back light. It adds a bright line around the main object of focus and gives it a “heavenly” glow.
All of these lights play a big role in setting the mood of a film. There are many other light placements that can create many different looks. All ways are in aspiration to create the perfect film.
Note to teacher: **IMPORTANT** This lighting system is based on Portrait and Interview style production. This system is NOT to be used for dramatic, or realistic type field production.
The main purpose of this lighting system is to create separation between the subject and the background - which helps to create depth within the composition.
Next, the class views a video called Four-point Lighting.
Students are put into groups and asked to use the Think-pair-share model to discuss what they learned from the video about the three-point lighting system. For information about 'Think-Pair-Share', goto: http://olc.spsd.sk.ca/DE/PD/instr/strats/think/
With teacher prompting and modeling, the teacher types the key vocabulary words of the lesson on the projector screen as students identify them.
- Focus Lecture & Demonstration - Lecture
Students are asked to take out their learning journals to take notes during the class discussion and lecture on lighting terms. (Student Learning Journals are notebooks where students can do metacognitive reflection, doodle, and just journal about their learning). The teacher will hand out the lighting diagram, and project it on a large projector screen, and hand-out the vocabulary terms. The teacher then discusses each light and its role in the lighting system.
Using the Internet and a projector screen, the teacher goes to the following website:
This site has a flash-based image that allows the teacher to turn off and on the lights within the three-point lighting system while describing each light and it's role.
HINT: it is fun for the students if the teacher randomly turns off and on the lights and asks the students to identify which lights are on /off?? (Teacher will need to hide the area showing the lights being selected on the right of the webpage).
After the lecture and discussion, the teacher then demonstrates the actual use of the three-point lighting system in class on the production stage. With a volunteer, the teacher first films a student using only the ambient lighting from the classroom. Second, the teacher films the student with the classroom lights off, and a single Key Light on the subject. The third step is demonstrating the addition of the second light, the Fill light. After the Key and Fill lights are in place, the teacher adds the Back light. Finally the Set light (optional) is added to the system making it a four-point lighting set-up.
The term Four-point Lighting is not as common as the Three-point lighting system. The fourth light, the Set Light, can be added to help separate the subject from the background if necessary.
- Formative Lighting Quiz - Check Understanding
After the class lecture/demonstration, the teacher hands out the same lighting diagram used during the lecture to the students-but with fill-in-the-blank spaces as a Quiz. Students then fill-in-the-blanks on the diagram and hand it in for a formative assessment of their mastery of the terminology and placement and usage of the lights.
- Group Assignment - Independent Practice
In order to assess each student's mastery of the subject, this simple video assignment will allow the students to do exactly what is taught within this lesson: to set-up and use the three-point lighting system in a video production.
Students are put into production groups of three. Each group is to produce a video demonstrating the proper practice of the lighting system. Students are expected to follow these basic principles of proper video lighting in future assignments.
(The video assignment is the exactly the same thing demonstrated by the teacher and student volunteers previously.)
Once into groups, the teacher hands out the assignment sheet, and shows a video example of the video assignment produced by former students, and the 4-point lighting video Rubric to make sure the students are aware of how their assignments will be assessed.
Before the students break-into their groups to begin production, the teacher hands-out the Lighting jobs terminology document and discusses the various roles and jobs for lighting in film.
- Beyond the lesson - Guided Practice
At the end of the production process for the video assignment, students are asked to think about the next lesson – Using the Sun as your Key light. Students are asked to think about tomorrow’s discussion, “How is lighting for video different when shooting outside? How do we apply what we’ve learned about three-point lighting when filming outside?”
Teacher reviews the concept of when to use the three-point lighting system - primarily only when filming an Interview or 'talking head' type shot.
(Teacher will lead a class discussion about integrating the lighting system when shooting outdoors in daylight. The Sun is the Key light, and a reflector screen used as a Fill source)
- Closure - Closure
The class watches the videos produced by the students for the assignment, and discusses the lighting system used by the students. It is important to provide praise and acknowledge the student successes, as well as take the opportunity to provide constructive critiques of the videos created.
Teacher will evaluate the lesson by the quality video assignments, and the students' future use of appropriate professional lighting techniques.
- Assessment Types:
- Rubrics, Projects, Journals, Demonstrations, Teacher-Made Test, Observations,
Formative assessments: Learning journal notes, Teacher observation, Fill-in-the-blank lighting illustration. Guided practice.
Each student takes the quiz before the teacher moves on in that point of the lesson to ensure mastery of the theory of the lighting system for each student.
Summative assessment: Students produce a video Assignment: Four-point lighting.
Student groups are assessed through the video rubric. Each student has a specific role in the production (camera operator, editor, talent, etc) and is assessed accordingly through the rubric, and teacher observation.
Future video projects will provide additional evidence of
student mastery of the concepts and skills required to effectively
use and understand the three-point lighting system.