In the media world of television and film, a once prominent field is slowly losing its importance. Lighting is a staple and an essential key to any production; it however, does not receive the focus or attention it once did.
When television and film were getting started, productions had entire teams of light operators. Currently, it is very rare to find more than one lighting engineer on a set. “We have lighting engineers, but it is very rare that I see them, I show up and the set is lit, and if it is not lit properly it drives me crazy,” said David Brill, COC MEA professor and weekend sports producer at KABC-TV.
Lighting like all areas of technology is advancing drastically, an effect that has both positive and negative aspects. In reference to the practical aspect, it is greatly helping those who use it in their fields. “With technology today, you can literally just throw a light on a camera and go,” said Brill.
The studio aspect is where one can see the decline in emphasis on lighting and the rise of difficulty with it. Ron Entrekin, COC Adjunct Instructor and Technical Engineer has an immense amount of experience in lighting having been a production designer and lighting manager. “As technology increases in cameras, they are becoming more sensitive, which causes lighting to be more difficult,” said Entrekin. The fact the cameras are more advanced causes them to need less light, which means lighting is a more precise art. “In a studio situation, lighting is 100 percent crucial,” said Entrekin.
In a profession where lighting is crucial, it does not make sense that the subject is neglected the way it is.
The flagship of the MEA department at COC is the Cougar News production class. It is a 100 percent student produced newscast that produces a new program anywhere from seven to 10 times a semester. If one were to question the students of Cougar News, all would say they have been trained how to use editing software, know the basic principles and positions of a standard newsroom, and know the basics of journalistic writing. However, there are only a few of them who know even the basics of lighting, and only those who have a personal interest in the subject. “It is briefly covered and it is a shame that it is not a larger part of the curriculum,” said Brill.
Another explanation of why lighting takes a back seat in today’s productions, is that it does not have the appeal that other fields do. “The best compliment a lighting man can receive is no comment at all,” said Entrekin. It is very common to hear an aspiring student say they want to be an anchor, a producer, or an editor because of the praise that goes along with those professions. It is very rare for one to hear a student say that their life goal is to be a professional lighting engineer. Ironically, there are more jobs in the lighting field than the others. “The appeal for lighting is there only for the ‘art people’ but there are more job opportunities for content people in lighting and other tech fields,” said Entrekin.
Lighting is an art form that has slowly been forgotten in the training of the next generation of media professionals. However it can be argued that the importance, vitality, and job opportunities for it have never been higher. Why then are there only two courses offered at COC that even have lighting as designated portion of the curriculum? When it comes down to it, the world’s greatest newscast or production cannot be appreciated if it cannot be seen, and in order to be seen, it must be lit.