The Gear Files part 3: How to Light Up Your Stream Like Hollywood!

One of the biggest barriers to new people getting into content production is not knowing where to start with gear. So, in this new series, we’re going to discuss the basics you need to start, and where to go with upgrades, specifically with regards to audio, video, lighting, and game capture. Today, we’re gonna take a look at lighting.

Last time we talked about cameras. But what good is being on camera if people can’t see you clearly? So, if we’re going to be on camera, we need to address the lighting in the room. You need to be lit clearly, but not so brightly that it overwhelms the camera. In some situations, the ambient lighting in your room will be serviceable enough for this task. Just make sure that it is lighting your face evenly, and you aren’t getting any weird shadows. If necessary, grab a small lamp or pick up a small mobile ring light for like 20 bucks at Walmart to help even out the shadows.

So, let’s say we’ve got a little cash to throw at this project, and we want better lighting. A large ring light will do wonders here. You can usually find them in stores for somewhere in the neighborhood of $50, and they often have different settings for color: not just warm/cool light, but RGB lighting as well, which can be fun for different content. Most importantly, make sure it is at least 12” wide, or you’ll need two to even out the lighting.

But what’s worth doing is worth overdoing, so let’s take a look at a professional setup. Professional video lighting can set you back a few hundred dollars on Amazon, but you can get a lot for your money. We’d recommend using a light kit with at least two key lights, and possibly three to four if you are getting a backdrop kit to go with it. Speaking of kits, they often come with backdrop kits as well, so it’s great for setting up a green screen, and lighting it correctly. We’re going to stop shy of recommending any particular name brands here, because there are a lot of great budget brands out there making fantastic products. Just be sure to read the reviews before buying.

Now, of course, we can’t take a look at modern content creation lighting without discussing the crazy RGB backdrop lighting we’re seeing all over the internet, especially on Twitch and TikTok. When dealing with RGB lighting in the background, we want to make sure it is bright enough to create the effect we want, without overpowering what is happening in the foreground. There are a couple great techniques we’ve seen with LED strips that can help create fun looks while mitigating lighting interference. One of the cleanest looks we’ve seen is running the strips along the corners of your walls and ceilings, to create a vector effect. They even make semi translucent channeling to make this look a bit smoother. Another one of our favorites is the cloud look, where people will run the LED’s all over their ceiling, and then cover them up with pillow stuffing or quilt batting to create a puffy cloud look. There are tutorials all over the internet on how to do those techniques, so we won’t get into it here, but those and other techniques can create interesting, dynamic backgrounds to your content. With that said, a word of caution with regards to RGB lighting. If you are using a green screen for your background, avoid RGB lighting at all costs. It will interfere with the chromakey system, and distort the background and/or your face. Green screening requires clear, cool white lighting. Of course, if you aren’t using green screen, have fun with some RGB!

Dealing with equipment can be intimidating, but it’s not insurmountable. In this article, we discussed lighting setups, from basic to advanced. Have questions about lighting? Need help troubleshooting your setup? Ask for help in the #streaming-tips channel in our Discord! Not already a member? Grab the links to our communities at NerdsBelongHere.com! And as always, stay tuned to this blog for more great tips and tricks!

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