Club lighting for video

I've had to record some folks lately in pretty dimly lit situations, and while I have only basic camcorders, they generally have reasonable low-light capability, until they are zoomed and the lights go out, anyway. Then, it's a struggle.

So, I was looking for something that could be maybe put on the floor that would provide a bit of additional, but soft light that would fill in and keep the distant camera(s) from going all dark blue (where the cheap overhead LEDs in one place tend to send it.)

Small, portable, cheap, and mostly white is what I'm dreaming about.

One duo a week ago, when I told them about the lighting difficulty of the place said they'd bring lights, but they brought 3 small cans that rotated through random colors. Not a great improvement, though interesting effects. Still photos are really funny.

The other thing about floor lighting is that you can get weird shadows. (The fiddler's arm shadow was a little frustrating.) But, in these clubs where I record duos and the like, real stage lighting is non-existent, and I probably couldn't set up light trees or whatever, even if I could figure out how to pack them in the old Miata :)...


Here's a video I did this past Friday. The right-side camera was at least 15' (5m) and so stopped down a lot - everything was dark blue, so I boosted exposure and threw a sepia (software) filter on to get rid of some blue, and did a little de-saturation and sepia on the left camera (only 5' away) so they weren't horribly different. It's just the nature of finding places to stick cameras and hope, but I'd like to be able to mitigate this somewhat unobtrusively if I could figure out how.



For one thing, using lights that have matching color temperature makes things easier. Smaller/cheaper cameras won't have the low light abilities as big pro cameras, so the more light the better. Lights that just automatically cycle through colors aren't much help, as you likely know. Perhaps they could have been set to stay on one color, preferably white.

What software are you using? I use Vegas Pro 14 and it has pretty good color correction tools along with scopes (vector scope, histogram, RGB parade) that help guide me. It's pretty amazing what I can fix using the right tools.


There are various lights that will go on a camera shoe or 1/4" 20TPI camera mount. The floor is a terrible place to put lights. I've been using more clamp mount solutions for my cameras and I may do the same for lights if I go that route. One trick I came up with was to bring a strap with a cinch buckle. I wrap it around a pole or post and use it to hang cameras using my flexible arm camera clamps.


[MENTION=103008]bouldersoundguy[/MENTION] I'm using Final Cut Pro X. It has color matching and all the different ways to adjust color, but what I find is that there just isn't much color to work with, save one predominant one, in this particular case at least. Then the color match just fails, and like blood and turnips, you can't get skin tones out of a video that looks essentially like the blue man group...

Yeah, I didn't think floor lights would be a good solution. A lot of the problem is the distances, and sometimes power supply. I can perch/clamp cameras and external battery packs on top of wine racks, but I know I have an AC problem there, and I'm hesitant to string cables through wine racks or across high traffic areas.

Sigh, maybe I just have to do a better job scouting places before signing up for this sort of thing.


Regarding power, I use two Sony CX240 and a CX405 plus three GoPro cameras, all of which can be powered from USB. I've got a bunch of USB booster batteries, the kind you use to keep you phone going when you can't charge it from the wall. That gives me nearly two hours of recording time with one battery per camera, and I could get more batteries and hot-swap them during a show. for the GoPro Hero2 cams I use skeleton housings that give access to the USB so I can keep them powered. For my newer Hero3+ Silver, I got an open frame that does the same. That leaves just one camera that needs wall power to do a long show.

There are lots of lights that take standard Sony camcorder batteries or similar, so it shouldn't be too hard to get it done without cables across the floor.

One thing I've found on camcorders that have simple indoor/outdoor white balance options is to use outdoor for LEDs. It's not perfect but it's a lot closer than the indoor setting, which seems meant for incandescent lights.

I have been using the Talentcell batteries for my F8/F8n recorders, and got the one with the 5v USB outlet so I can power my camcorders with that if necessary. (I actually only use it on the one, Pana HC-V770, because it seems to need the extra amp capacity - the other, Pana HC-V750, works fine on one of those phone charger things.) I can run probably 6 hours at least. They're a bit bulky, but I have lots of gaffer tape :).

I didn't know there were lights that could run off power like that - I will have to do more research.

P.S. I have to make myself use the manual white balance - auto has caused problems, but I'm fairly colorblind so don't trust my eyes with stuff like that. It also seems that even with the same manual setting, the cameras will behave differently because they "see" things differently, as they're always at different angles and distances. I so prefer doing just audio, but everyone wants video...


Yes, definitely don't use auto white balance. It will shift around during the shoot and you'll never be able to fix it. Like I said, if the only other options are indoor and outdoor, use outdoor with LED or indoor with incandescent.

rob aylestone

Well-known member
Welcome to my world. A few misconceptions though to dispel. the colour issue is NOTHING to do with the cost of the lighting fixtures, just the rest of LED colour sources, which cause all kinds of issues that I firmly believe the camera manufacturers do little about. The usual issue is blue and magenta light. Blue really confuses the camera and it's monitoring of light to assess how bright it is, and then set the exposure/aperture gets confused and the blue, which can often in level terms, be quite bright gets over exposed, but because it's very narrow band blue, it's not that obvious. Magenta is also handled very badly by some cameras. Not just DSLRs, or conventional cameras, but cameras in every price bracket and style. Magenta is one of the common colours and is full blue plus full red. It renders int he camera as a kind of pink and seems reluctant to change hue as the light emits magenta, dark pink, light pink, reddy pink, or blue pink - some cameras seem incapable of following any combination of red and blue. In fact, some cameras of the same brand do it differently. I have two Pentax DSLRs, one does the pink hues wonderfully, and the other just has a single pink colour and doesn't follow your eye at all!

Solution wise - if you want faces to be natural, then you need a dedicated source. I've linked to a video where there is stacks of LED light for effect, but a single tungsten (in this case a 650W Fresnel) coming down to light the guys face and arms. All the other light just colours things, and you can see the blue is handled quite well - it's not a problem. single performer
Same thing here on a bigger stage with LED and tungsten sources - but again 4 face lights to keep the musicians lit.[
large stage

Then the video with NO face light, with lighting from all the wrong angles and two cameras that react to it very differently. They camera on the left is a JVC which handles the colours better than the Panasonic on the right, which exhibits the nasty blue issue I think people are thinking about. Some lights, handled very differently. This clip was an example for the singer because I knew the lighting at this place was terrible for video, and I needed to show him what the results would be without getting extra lighting in.
less than good lighting
The funny thing is the lighting is all pointing at the drummer - not the performers? Weird?
The other weird thing is that some cameras also appear to be out of focus on blue light. The other colours behave, maybe apart from primary red, and look sharp but saturated red and blue get mangled by the processing somehow. On manual lens cameras this doesn't seem to be an issue, but auto everything cameras just cannot manage LED light - and a Robe or Martin ten grand LED is just as bad as a sub 100 Chinese LED.

If you can find space for something in white, from a tungsten source, it will perk up the picture no end. A lightweight stand with a small 650W Fresnel is a lifesaver. The trouble being that it's like a security light and needs to be high or it blinds them!

Best settings for all LED stages is a preset for daylight - 5600/5700 or so, if the face lights are tungsten go for 3200, and the LEDs will fall in line. If you have dreadful bland lighting then use a preset white balance that works best on skin tones, and again, ignore the colour of the LED. Worst case is LEDs that are on the primary and secondary colours - so red, green, blue, magenta, cyan and yellow. These all conspire against you in some way.

Thanks for the replies. It's actually given me a couple things to - go practice with manual light balance, and try to fashion some kind of (white!) battery-powered lighting I can mount above my closest/er camera. There's usually some place I can clamp *something*.

Here's another song from that night where I went more black & white with the far camera (more zoomed/stopped down and a lot darker/bluer). A little better I think. The singer/songwriter was happy with this, at least.

Been staring at small, battery powered lighting, but nothing is popping out as having enough spare power for a club where I'd have to put it out of the way, admittedly, I have not quite been able to calculate how much light I'd really need. Have to do more reading, though I'm starting to suspect it's more than supplied by those LED panels that are using 2 camcorder batteries... (Of course, if I got real video cameras, it would help, but that's not gonna happen.)

(P.S. Not a "home" recording but it is a home mixing project!)

That brings up the question, what cameras are you using?
Here it's a pair of Panasonic camcorders, HC-v750 and HC-v770. Under normal lighting they at least "see" colors about the same. Both acquired used but seem to be in perfect working order. I've tried using a couple Sony mirrorless cameras but they have a limited time they'll do video (30min!) which is problematic where I have to stick these things, and one of them (a6000) was prone to overheating during a full night and became useless for video (sold it). I still use the older one sometimes on a center table when I can - this night I was set up too close for it to work. I have some video from my iPhone, but none for these two songs. Adding a 3rd angle can help, but it also means a bit more color matching work, and the Panasonics do have decent low(ish) light capability, at least for the price.

If the lights go out, how would they take to your putting in enough light back to fix the video problem?

Could you talk them into not killing the lights, or at least not ALL of them ? Or adding their own lights for just the stage?

I think I have seen LED lights that are small portable and cheap designed for photo use.
How cheap is cheap? How small ? How portable ? How much light eg LUMENS do you need?
Ideally, I could put the lights wherever I have to stick a camera, and that's often off to the side, and sometimes up on a temporary mount or shelf (it was a wine rack in these), so it's pretty inaccessible for the night. "Excuse me while I step in your bruschetta and kick over your expensive wine so I can re-aim my camcorder..."

Honestly, this was as good as it gets at that place right now. A week earlier they had the overhead LEDs on blue all night and aimed in front of the performers. They were knowing guinea pigs, though so happy I got anything, a few songs before the sun went down. At least this gig we picked something yellow-greenish instead of blue (or magenta), but they keep it very intimate inside.

So, I wish I knew how many lumens I needed. I just figured out I have to calculate that somehow, so I can then work back to distance, angles, watt-equivalency, whatever, and then see what's available. In general I'd have to assume my lighting will be at least 10-15 feet (3-5m) in many cases. AC power is usually available at one side or another, but not guaranteed, so I'd like battery powered if that's even a sane option, but having light that mitigates the problem would probably be the best, and if I see the light's a problem I can't address, I'll just decline in the future.

Budget is probably less than $200 and size is a concern. I'm packing everything in my Miata :)

P.S. I should probably have prefaced this whole thing by saying I do this for the audio experience, and I tell everyone that, but I say I'll set up cameras "and hope," though they are welcome to hire a videographer. They never do, of course. Doing videos singlehandedly and expecting a good outcome is borderline foolhardy, probably, but it's an interesting challenge, if nothing else.


Here it's a pair of Panasonic camcorders, HC-v750 and HC-v770. Under normal lighting they at least "see" colors about the same.

It's really helpful to have cameras that have similar color profiles. It saves the hassle of matching them later. That's why I have four Sony camcorders.