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Many interviews, one location...what to do?


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#1 Plugues Figueroa

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Posted 09 August 2010 - 09:13 PM

Hi

I'm shooting a documentary on ecology that's chiefly based on interviews. I have about 20-30 people to interview, mostly specialists and academics dealing with environmentalism, but budget won't allow me to travel. So I decided to go to a congress that will have everyone in the same place, and we arraged the interviews to be all held on a small auditorium there.

Although the subject is definitely interesting, problem is I'm afraid I'll only capture uninteresting images, due to the location being the same on all interviews. That means same backdrop, pretty much the same lighting on almost every shot of the movie... I know that the theme of the film alone should suffice to capture viewer attention, but in reality we know people will get bored if we don't make a little effort on providing at least a lil bit of eyecandy.

So, what kind of things can I do to make this interesting? First thing I thought was a chroma-key backdrop, but then I'd have to worry later about what to use to fill up the background.

Lighting tips? Simple art direction tricks?

I'd appreciate any kind of tip on this, even if you by any chance know of a documentary fillm that has a simple approach on interviews on a budget, that tip is very welcome!

Cheers

P.F.
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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 09 August 2010 - 10:06 PM

Try to rig up a few lights on dimmers so that you can alter lighting on the fly; switching side of key etc. Try to vary camera angle as much as you can, move around the room (perhaps with a few different color backgrounds?) use the audio from the talking heads and then use b roll to spice it up. Green screen could be cool but only if you have interesting things to show (nice motion graphics etc).
How many lights "sets" can you build up in the location? I don't know how you're going to get 20-30 people in 1 day for an interview... that's about 30 minutes per interview which is quite a compromise. It was hard enough when I had to do 9 people on a chroma key in 1 day!
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#3 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 10 August 2010 - 03:31 AM

Also split the way the interviewees are facing (perhaps in batches). I suppose you could use a few Lastolite folding backdrops you could quickly change without moving the camera or lights. You've got such a production line going, that you'll want to keep the adjustments between interviewees to a minimum, plus a regular supply of coffee.
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#4 JD Hartman

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Posted 10 August 2010 - 09:31 AM

Change out the chairs and other set dressing between interviews. Projecting a different background with a Gobo, cucoloris or anything to giving a pleasing breakup for the backdrop lighting.
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#5 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 10 August 2010 - 08:46 PM

If you have that many interviews to do and only one location, your "best" alternatives are A)greenscreen (only if you can conjure up enough plates to make it worth it) OR B ) shooting each interview against white or black "limbo."

The way most documentaries are cut, you'll likely be happier having every interview against black or white instead of trying to shoot plates. This approach will give your entire project a greater sense of continuity as every "talking head" will have the same basic look. Naturally, your interviews will be broken up with B-roll so it's not like the audience will get bored.

For what it's worth, in my opinion, if you can't get ALL of your interviews in natural "real" locations, then you shouldn't get any of them (unless you can get greenscreen plates to cover those that aren't shot in real locations).

Also, work hard to have half of your interviewees looking left and half looking right. Take the extra effort to think ahead to editing so that if you have two people who will likely be cut "together," that they aren't looking in the same direction.

Merely changing lighting (on the backdrops) looks like you're just changing lighting and the audience will pick up on the "cheapness" of the production. By going with stark white or black (or some other consistent background), it will at least appear that your production is cohesive even if it isn't. :)

In other words, pick ONE style for your interviews and stick with it for every interview. Then, of course, cover with as much B-roll as you can to keep the audience interested.
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#6 Igor Trajkovski

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Posted 15 August 2010 - 07:23 PM

Check Walter Graff's Lighting five locations in a single room tutorial.

Cheers

Igor
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