Video Editing

What is a lumen?

Posted May 24, 2021
Written by Clipchamp

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Lighting is an integral part of making videos. You can use it to create a mood, symbolize an emotion, or showcase your artistic style.

While you can always adjust the lighting on the video editing table, it's good practice to create the best lighting setup while recording your video content. 

Let's explore a video lighting basic you should know—lumens. Have you ever watched a movie or TV show and wondered how the film crew captured the characters as they stood in a dark room? It's likely they used lumens to determine how to best light the scene. 

What is a lumen?

A lumen is a measure of the amount of light that is visible to the human eye from a light source. No matter the time of day or location, the lumens of a light source will remain the same. That's why you may have seen this term while buying a light bulb. Lumens are part of the metric system and measured by square feet or a "lux". A lux is equivalent to one lumen per square meter. 

Lumens are commonly used on the sets of television, film, and other video productions but they are not used for photography. 

Filming light

Lumens vs Footcandles

Another video lighting basic you should know is a footcandle.

While they also relate to light, they are different from lumens as they measure the amount of light intensity in your scene. A footcandle is the amount of light projected on a surface area one foot away from the source. They are more commonly used in Europe because the unit of measurement is in meters, while the United States uses lumens. 

Lumens as a video lighting technique

Every set has different lighting, so before you decide what setup to use, consider what time of day you'll be filming and if it will be in or outdoors. There are charts out there to help you determine how many lumens and lux your bulbs you'll need based on these factors. 

On the back of most lightbulb packages, similar to a nutrition label on food packages, is a label that tells you how many lumens and lux they emit. 

Of course, different bulbs have different temperatures, which you'll also want to consider for each shot. Manufacturers use degrees Kelvin as the unit of measurement. The higher the degree, the cooler the temperature which means the light will look blue rather than orange and yellow.

Standard household lights, tungsten lights, and candles all emit warmer tones. Daylight bulbs and fluorescent lights are cool-toned, as they give off blue hues.

When you decide your lighting, make sure to choose bulbs that emit the same or close to the same temperature. It will help you achieve a proper white balance, preventing those yellow or blue tones from accidentally appearing on the screen. 

Master lighting your videos well

Knowing what lumens are and how to take them into account when making a video will help you create better quality videos. Getting the lighting right, especially the three-point lighting setup used for film and TV, needs practice.

When you're ready to edit, pay special attention to the lighting. Remember that you can always experiment with light filters, make lighting corrections, or balance colors, using Clipchamp's video editor and its filters.

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