Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Frasier and Friends and Caroline in the City and Murphy Brown and I Love Lucy all have one thing in common. No, it's not all the audience laughter. They all kind of look…the same. And the shots and lighting all are kinda the same. These are three camera sitcoms, with very familiar camera angles and lighting. And the guy who perfected the style of light that would one day shine upon Urkel's face? “Did I do that?” It's Karl Freund. The same guy who made...this. He was the German cinematographer behind the look of “Metropolis,” the 1927 classic. And there was actually a good reason that a genius decided that going from this to this was a challenge worth betting his career on. This right here is cinematic history. It's from 1924's “The Last Laugh.” For this movie, Karl Freund invented what was probably the first dolly shot in history - that's when a camera moves on a cart or a track. When Freund moved from Germany to Hollywood, he continued to make visual masterpieces from directing the original “The Mummy,” to being the cinematographer on “Dracula.” This scene from Dracula is emblematic of his work, with shadows and light serving as powerful tools in the scene. With 1937's “The Good Earth,” he won an Academy Award for Cinematography. Freund's art came from powerful imagery and stark contrasts, like in this scene from Metropolis. I Love Lucy looked good - but pretty flat. That's why it's so surprising that he thought it could be a breakthrough. We know Freund was nervous about making a transition from movies like this to television filmed in front of a live audience. Traditional movie lighting wouldn't work in that environment and on a tight TV schedule. Here's why. Dramatic lighting is cool. But if I move, the way people move in sitcoms, I lose the light and the shot. You also can't reset and move that light in front of a live audience. The shot also has to be lit so that it can be shown by three different cameras at the same time. That challenge appealed to Freund, and, laugh track jokes aside, he wrote that a live studio audience had “an astonishing effect in stimulating performers.” There were earlier experiments with live taping, but Freund perfected it. You can see how he did it in I Love Lucy's very first episodes and in this on set picture. First, he put three cameras on his trademark dollies - which is why these are called three camera sitcoms. Usually it has one camera in the middle, for wide shots, and two on the sides for closeups. You can see it here, as well as in the tape he used to mark the cameras' positions. This is how it worked — letting cameras move on the fly, without relighting. Cameramen coordinated at all times using headsets and they were connected to the control room. To light this set up, Freund used an overhead grid of lights like these and even put floor lights on the bottom of each camera to flatter actors' faces. This? This is not like I Love Lucy. He also placed microphones around the set so they wouldn't get in the way. Lucy and Ethel could bounce around the living room without needing to stop taping — or stop the laughter. All of this let them keep a strict shooting schedule with minimum reshoots after the show. For Freund, all this visual work was in service of making one sound possible. This is still kind of how it's done today. Freund's tricks established a template for the three camera sitcom that's still in use today. As you can see it in “Vox” - the first workplace sitcom where people actually work. Anyway, as you can see, there's no need to relight Dean as he crosses the room in this scene, only to be ignored by Ashley, because she's too busy working. Freund's techniques did have drawbacks, some of those drawbacks are visible in today's sitcoms, and some are specific to the time in which he worked. He had to put darker makeup on his actors so they wouldn't be blown out by the lights - and you can see it on Lucy and Ethel here. In this scene, they were probably wearing pastel clothing as well, because nothing could be too bright — film processing gave everything higher contrast than normal. Even today the three camera sitcom has a less adventurous look — as you can see as AJ and Ashley go through all their unread emails. It affects focus, too - look at the Big Bang Theory next to its prequel, Young Sheldon. Big Bang Theory, the 3 camera sitcom, looks pretty much like I Love Lucy. There are very few, or faint shadows, everything's in focus, and the camera angles are familiar. Young Sheldon is single camera, like a movie, and that allows it to have light and shadow and a gorgeous blurred background. But Freund's innovation did help a live audience — and us — see Friends, and Seinfeld, and Frasier. As he wrote in 1953: “To have had the opportunity to play a part in the success of the I Love Lucy show, which is now the No. 1 rated Television show in the nation assures me the efforts to overcome the handicaps have not been in vain.” Karl Freund was a genius. And sometimes even genius has a sense of humor.