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A Shot in the Dark: A Creative DIY Guide to Digital Video Lighting on (Almost) No Budget by Jay Holben

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The Key Light

No, I’m not contradicting my ranting diatribe on three-point lighting; its components are all relevant as separate pieces. The principal one is the “key” light. Now, this actually has two meanings, and they’re often, but not always, describing the same light.

Chapter 3, “Understanding Exposure,” discussed the idea of the “key” light being the brightness value within a composition that is at the proper exposure (Zone V) value for the particular f-stop. If you are shooting at an f/2.8, whatever lights on the set that give you the footcandles necessary to achieve an f/2.8 in Zone V can be said to be at key.

The second definition of a “key” light is the primary source of illumination on the talent. In many cases, these are one and ...

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