Lighting Techniques for Filming ASL

Over the years, CSC has gained knowledge and experience in shooting video of ASL signers. One of the biggest issues we deal with when filming someone are the shadows they cast while signing. It can be distracting and looks unsightly, with shadows falling across the face or the other hand and limiting the viewer’s ability to understand the message clearly.

To solve this problem, we bought three studio light rigs and experimented with different positions, heights, and angles. Initially, we simply pointed the lights directly at the person at torso-level, from either side of the camera. The results were less than desirable – large shadows behind the person, pale skin looked washed out, and anyone who wore glasses would reflect a noticeable glare back at the camera.

Then we tried positioning two of the lights further apart to the sides, a bit higher, and angled them back in at the person. This markedly improved results, with shadows behind the person greatly reduced and signing no longer cast shadows on the person’s face unless they were getting really exuberant with their signing.

Some issues still lingered, such as eyeglasses reflecting lights back at the camera, or the so-called “sinister eyes” where the lights cast a shadow below your brows. To solve this, we sometimes need to use the third light on a low setting, or a disc reflector, to illuminate those areas. The third light is used sparingly, especially if the signer uses eyeglasses that do not have an anti-glare coating.

If you’re interested, you could visit our YouTube channel and watch some videos from the earlier days and compare them to the more recent ones and see how we have improved in the lighting department.

If you’re curious about the CSC Media Room or the accessible media production services that CSC offers, drop us an e-mail at: ryan@csc-hawaii.org.

Mahalo for reading!