Lighting for an Interview

    Recently we shot an interview for an episode in our web series about the making of our feature film, The Out of the Woods Project. Our goal was to shoot it like a conventional interview but with a second shot of a wide of the whole set up, decorated and arranged like a film set.

    I was asked to be the Director of Photography/Camera operator for the interview and immediately started coming up with ideas for how we could set it up. We had to light it so it would both look good on A Camera and make for an interesting wide shot of the “set” on B Camera. The lights had to become part of the set deck for the shoot.

    In this blog I will walk you through how we lit our interview so you can do a similar set up yourself.

    3 Point Lighting

    Although our setup was a little different than most interviews, we build on the basic principles of three point lighting.

    A 3 point lighting setup is where you have light coming from 3 different angles (or sources). You have a key light (1) facing the subject with roughly 45 degrees between the light source and the camera. This is the source that provides the most light and is the primary source.

    You have a filler (2) that “fills” in the shadows that are created on the subject from the key light. This source is usually not as strong as the key light.

    Finally you have the backlight (3) that helps the subject stand out from the background.

    Changing the formula

    Since we were doing a two camera shoot, had a limited amount of lights to work with and were wanting some of the lights to be in shot for the wide on B Camera, we had to modify the standard formula to achieve the right look.

    In most interviews you would choose to have no lights and equipment in your shot. Our challenge was to light it so it both looked great in a wide where everything was seen and in the close up where all we saw was the subject and the backdrop.

    For our key light (1) we used a light box / softbox. This box is merely a modified plastic container with 6 standard sized light bulbs.

    The matte/translucent plastic softened the light immensely and worked well for our key light because it was strong but didn’t create strong shadows on the subjects face. If needed it is fairly easy to adjust the intensity of the light on this kind of box as you can take out individual light bulbs.

    Here is where it gets interesting. For our filler (2) we used a 750 Watt Arri light with a soft box. We placed it behind two large sheets of plastic diffusion mounted on two C-stands.

    This light was placed in between the space one would traditionally place a filler and a backlight (so almost exactly opposite the key light) This way it served as a filler and gave a bit of backlight too.

    This light was actually stronger than our key light which is something you would not commonly do for an interview but see in movies quite frequently.

    By diffusing it heavily using a softbox and two sheets of plastic diffusion it created a very pleasant soft look for A Cam while giving an interesting and contrasty look for B Cam as the whole lighting setup and other equipment was in shot.

    We placed a big 2K light in between the filler light and the camera as well to create an interesting silhouette.

    Finally we placed a 650 Watt Arri light pointed to the backdrop we had placed in the background (3). We adjusted this light so it cast as much light as possible on the whole backdrop. On camera it looked great to have the background lit up instead of looking grey and dull.

    Lighting 1.jpg

    One of the keys to lighting our interview was to experiment with the diffusion on the filler light. If we used too little diffusion, the light would have looked overpowering in B Camera’s shot. Had we used too much or used a weaker light source it wouldn’t have looked as good in B Camera’s shot.

    This is just one of many ways to light for an interview and I think the unconventional placement of our filler light ending up creating some really interesting dimensionality on the subjects face as well as making for an interesting look for the wide shot.

    I encourage you to experiment with the placement of lights, diffusion, distance to the subject etc. in unconventional ways. Build an understanding of the basics of 3 point lighting and then allow yourself to riff and have fun with it!

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    • My name is Josias, I like writing songs, walking barefoot in the rain, making bow-ties, cooking food with lentils while listening to Jazz and picking things up and putting them back down (repeatedly). I wear many hats, here are some of them; Video Producer/Director, Production Designer and Actor.

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