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Lighting for interviews


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#1 sureshotpro

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Posted 01 December 2005 - 10:09 AM

I don't know anything about lighting. I just know that I do interviews indoors for documentaries & deposistions and need better lighting on the subject. I don't need anything elaborate...I'm looking to spend under $200.
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#2 Ken Zukin

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Posted 01 December 2005 - 10:52 AM

Well...you need to "times" that amount by about a factor of ten.

Here's what $2K will buy you:

*Kino Flo Diva 400 - close to $1,000 - soft, flattering key light that can easily be rigged for daylight or
tungsten.
*Arri plus 300w fresnel - nice all around backlight/hairlight - not too heavy, durable, multi-use fixture.
*Arri plus 150w fresnel - nice little accent light - buy 2 if possible. Lamp with 200w bulbs.
*ETC Source 4 Junior Zoom elipsoidal - $350 - for throwing patterns on backround.
*You'll need stands for your new lights. A couple of C-stands - Matthews makes nice stands.
*Stingers, flags, nets, gells, dimmers, grip heads, extension arms, etc. etc.

You're judged by the images you create. Unfortunately, there's no real cheap way to acquire these tools.
Learning how to use them is a whole different matter. It's a craft, and takes time. I wish I could tell you that you can create a nice interview by buying a $200 lighting fixture, but IMO, you just can't.
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#3 Peter J DeCrescenzo

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Posted 01 December 2005 - 02:29 PM

I don't know anything about lighting. I just know that I do interviews indoors for documentaries & deposistions and need better lighting on the subject. I don't need anything elaborate...I'm looking to spend under $200.

If you have very little money, it'll go much, much farther renting gear instead of buying it.

In addition, having a pro demonstrate the use of the equipment, hands-on, will be an extremely worthwhile investment. It'll save you $ a thousand times over in the long run.

For around $200 you can rent some pro lighting gear for a day in most major urban areas.

For a bit more beyond that you can buy a nice dinner for a local pro gaffer in exchange for their showing you how to use the lights. If you ask really politely. ;-)

If not, scrounge up enough to cover his day rate. You can probably negoitate an amicable arrangement.

A rental house can probably recommend gaffers and related resources available in your area.

Once you've learned something about lighting you can decide if it's worth investing in owning your our equipment. Or, you may decide to rent, or both own & rent, depending on your projects.

Just my $0.02 US.

All the best,

- Peter DeCrescenzo

Edited by Peter DeCrescenzo, 01 December 2005 - 02:54 PM.

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#4 Bob Hayes

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Posted 01 December 2005 - 07:33 PM

I would look into buying used equipment. A Lowell Tota or Omni light and umbrella make a pretty good key light. Then you just really need one small light brighten up the BG. There is nothing that fancy about it.

Pick and attractive background that reflects the mood you are looking for. White walls are deadly. Situate the subject a good distance from the back ground and put your key light above the camera and slightly to the side.

It is really basic portrait photography and there are lots of books available at the library, if people still go there, on this subject.

Edited by bob1dp, 01 December 2005 - 07:34 PM.

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#5 Michael Collier

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Posted 01 December 2005 - 07:54 PM

Well...you need to "times" that amount by about a factor of ten.


I think he is asking for help with 'ghetto lighting' a subject I became well versed in my high school filmmaking days. keep in mind guys he started by saying he doesnt know anything about light.

Light is Light is Light.

The best instruments money can buy only give you more light, or better controls on that light. But you are looking for interview lighting, something that can be set up quickly, purchased inexpensivley and give you the look you are trying to achieve.

Most interviews work with only 2-3 lights.

Key (main light on the interveiwees face)
Backlight (or hairlight, puts a soft reflection in their hair and really defines the side of the face)
Background light. (a light to break up the background so it doesnt look like a bookshelf normaly would)

For the key you should have at least 250w, 500 is better. For ease of use and cost I would recomend an aluminumn reflector type light. You can buy these at home depot for about 20 bucks. They come with a clip to attach to whatever is handy. Take a milk crate box and attach a 1" dowel to it. Put weight in the milk crate and clip your light to the dowel. Instant C-stand. Make sure you have a chain or a rope attached to the top of the dowel, and tie it to the clip. Those clips sometimes slip and if your light gets busted its the end of the interview.

For the backlight use a 100 or 200 w light (depending on how far it needs to be. This goes behind the person and on the opposite side of the face as the key light. (It usually works best to put that one on the side the interviewee is on, ie if he is screen left, put it to the left of him and behind) if you reverse this you get a sharp edge light on their face, not the light to define cheek bones and such)

For the background light use a 100 or 200w source and shine it through something to break it up. You can buy cookies from a photography web site, cut patterns into aluminum foil to project the patterns, or my personal favorite for ghetto lighting, shine it through a house plants fooliage. The idea is to make the background soft and organic looking, so its pleasing, but not distracting from the talking head.

I think you can get all of that for under 100. If you want you can add some real C-stands to make yourself feel a bit better, but in the end you are still using a spring clamp to attach it if you dont have proper lights.

Keep in mind the difference between soft and hard light. you can make a hardlight source soft by increasing the area that is projecting that light. If you put a big (4'x 4') square of thin fabric in front of the key, it will become soft, and will make the shadows softer. That way your picture isnt too sharp.
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#6 Sam Wells

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Posted 01 December 2005 - 08:23 PM

I've used the Lowel Rifa as a key for some interviews lately.

Very portable, relatively inexpensive, fast to work with. A bargain Chimera !

-Sam
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#7 Bob Hayes

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Posted 02 December 2005 - 01:12 AM

I really think a small used lowell kit will be your answer. One Tota with an umbrella and one Omni. I bet you can get the two for $200 if you look. Then you will have a small portable case with the tools you need to do a professional job. With the right tools you will get better quality work and you will also look more professional doing it.
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