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Author Information

Currently, I am the digital production manager at CyArk working with a team of curators, technology experts, and developers to digitally document and archive world heritage sites with an emphasis on at risk heritage. I am also a PhD candidate in “Digital Heritage” in the History of Art and Visual Culture department at UCSC and lecturer at MIT’s Global Architectural History Teaching Collaborative. Finally, I am a proud member of Women Who Code, UC Robotics Club, and Drinking about Museums. This blog is a collection of videos, images, and text relating to new technologies in a museum setting. I plan to experiment and practice what I am writing about and researching in hopes of gaining a better understanding of this emerging field.

How to Properly Light a Curator

These past few weeks I have been busy video recording curators involved with Zero1 “Seeking Silicon Valley.” The biennial, open from September 12 through December 8th, focuses on the intersection of art and technology. Through curated exhibitions, public art installations, performances, and speaker events, artists from all over the world engage with the ideas of new technologies, networks (virtual and physical), entrepreneurship, and innovation. This week, I had the opportunity to interview two wonderful curators involved with the project, Jamie Austin, curator and director of programs at the Zero1 biennial, and Jodi Throckmorton, associate curator at the San Jose Museum of Art. Through this process I learned a lot about properly lighting, audio recording, interviewing, and videoing in a gallery setting, and wanted to share my experiences.

Lesson #1: Envision, plan, and then create

There is nothing–at all-wrong with looking at great photography/video to get creative inspiration.  Spend a lot of time thinking of what type of photo you want to create and how you can do it. Then, get to work.  I recommend subscribing to MOCAtv  The Creators Project and New Zealand National Museum Te Papa to start. However, make each shoot “your own,” whether it be a little bit different lighting or the entire composition, make it feel personal.

Lesson #2: The histogram is NOT optional

Spending just 5 or 10 minutes to learn how to use the histogram can make a huge difference in your photography/video.

Lesson #3: With tripods, it’s “Buy right, buy once”

The cheapies might seem like good deals (and trust me I have been suckered multiple times), but in the end you will finally break down and buy a good one that will last your lifetime.

Lesson #4: Layout

The three point lighting technique is a standard method used in visual media such as video, film, still photography. The three lights – key light, fill light, and back light (or hair light), should be around the same temperature for a balanced scene, but the key light should be the most intense light to create contour on your subject’s face. The best angle to place the key and fill lights are at 45degrees on either side of the subject. The back light should be placed approximately 6 feet or so from the subject and as far back without getting in your shot. Many thanks to Garret and Coco for being my models in demonstrating the process. In the diagrams below, the black icon is the camera.

Key Light

This is the main light. It is usually the strongest and has the most influence on the look of the scene. It is placed at approximately 45degrees to the subject on one side of the camera. This side is well lit and the other side has some shadow.

Fill Light

This is the secondary light and is placed on the opposite side of the key light. It is used to fill the shadows created by the key. The fill will usually be softer and less bright than the key. To achieve this, you could move the light further away or dial down the intensity.

Back Light

The back light is placed as far behind the subject as you can get without getting in your shot. Rather than providing direct lighting (like the key and fill), its purpose is to provide definition and subtle highlights around the subject’s outlines. This helps separate the subject from the background and provide a three-dimensional look.

Lesson #5: Finally, it doesn’t hurt to have fun, comfortable, and all-around-AWESOME subjects like this!

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