Lighting Terms

Below are some common and not-so-common lighting terms that you’ll find in the film and video production lingo. For more lighting terms not listed here, see page 80 in the July 2005 issue of Videomaker

accent light
Any single light that high-lights one single subject. The light can be a back-light, key-light or fill-light.

available light
Amount of illumination present in an environment: natural light, artificial light or a combination of the two.

Accessories for video lights; adjustable folding flaps that control light distribution.

best boy
Usually known as the assistant to the key grip or the assistant chief lighting technician.

A black mesh substance, similar to garden shading, to use for darkening windows or as grip scrims.

An all-purpose height-adjustable stand similar to a tripod with an arm for attaching flags, scrims and cookies.

Plastic-coated wire mesh cookie.

cookie (cucalorus)
Lighting accessory consisting of random cutout shapes that cast patterned shadows when light passes through. Used to imitate shadows of natural lighting.

Gauzy or translucent material (or a device, such as a scrim) that alters the quality of light passing through it to produce less intense, flatter lighting with softer, less noticeable shadows.

A device that supplies a shadowed pattern, usually a tree branch, to suggest a tree-shadowed area on a backdrop, floor or wall.

Bright flashes evident in video. Caused by excessive light beaming into a camera’s lens and reflecting off its internal glass elements.

Radiates a diffused, scattered blanket of light with soft, indistinct shadows. Best used to spread illumination on broad areas, whereas spotlights are aimed to focus on individual subjects.

A unit of illumination equal to the light emitted by a candle at the distance of one foot. One foot-candle equals 10.764 lux. (See lux.)

The lighting technician in charge of the electrical department of a production.

Colored material placed in front of a light source to alter its hue. Useful for special effects and correcting mismatches in lighting, as in scenes lit by both daylight and artificial light.

Used for splicing gels (called jels outside the U.S.). Usually transparent.

A gentle brushing of light on a subject or subjects.

The quantity of surface light spill compared to all of the light in use.

light That which bounces off the illuminated subject. Light redirected by a reflector. (See incident light.)

Lighting accessory helpful for bouncing light onto a subject. Often made of lightweight reflective material.

A flag used to cut light. Is also referred to as a cutter.

An open-ended cylindrical funnel mounted on a light source to project a narrow, very concentrated beam of illumination.

three-point lighting
Basic lighting approach employing key, fill and back lights to illuminate subject with sense of depth and texture. Strategic placement imitates natural outdoor lighting environment, avoids flat lighting. (See back light, fill light, key light.)

Lighting accessory available in various sizes, usually made of textured gold or silver fabric. Facilitates soft, shadowless illumination by reflecting light onto a scene.

Names of Different Sizes and Types of Lamps

Usually a reference to a 1K light unit. It is also used to describe any light unit which is smaller than a standard size unit of comparable intensity (i.e., baby 1K, baby 2K, baby 5K, etc.). For grips, it refers to anything with a 5/8 inch stud (i.e., baby plate).

An open face 2K lighting unit, also known as a “mighty.”

A brute arc light, usually 225 amps DC powered.

A 2K Fresnel lighting unit.

Open faced 1K lighting unit. Also known
as a “Redhead.”

A 5K Fresnel lighting unit.

A standard studio 10K lighting unit, as opposed to
a baby 10 or a Big Eye, which are also 10K lighting units.

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