Don't forget that overcomplicating things is a common habit for us humans
Look at the great work Emmanuel "El Chivo" Lubezki has being doing with Terrence Malick since "The New World" and you'll see what I'm talking about
If it is a long interview, you won’t be able to do it with natural light. The problem with working with natural light is that it is not always what you want or need for a scene and if by chance it is, it will invariably change in the course of your production leaving you with a continuity nightmare. Few of us have the luxury or budget to come back when the light is right. It is better control the natural daylight, and use HMIs to create a consistent daylight look, than limit yourself to a brief window of opportunity and take your chances.
The first step to artificially creating a natural daylight is to take the direction out of the natural daylight by flying a silk out the window, and then bring in your own consistent lighting. But remember, light quality is as important as color temperature when it comes to simulating natural daylight in an interior. There are two components to daylight: hard direct sun and soft diffuse sky-shine. Because direct sunlight is a very hard source that creates crisp shadows, the traditional approach is to use a large HMI Fresnel like an 18K to simulate direct sunlight. Unfortunately, this is also a very expensive approach because it requires a movie blimped generator.
One of the biggest hurdles to obtaining good production values on the low budgets of documentary productions is the high cost of blimped studio generators. Not only are blimped generators expensive to rent, but they also come with hidden costs. Since rental trucks like those from Ryder or Penske are not equipped to tow, you quite often have to hire the rental house's grip truck to tow them. And, since most rental houses require that one of their employees drive their trucks (for insurance reasons), the production has to hire a driver at roughly $575/10hrs - which is probably more than anyone else on a typical documentary crew is getting paid. All of this makes the creation of natural looking daylight expensive.
(The light generated by the CAD designed Max Reflector of the new M90/60 is incredibly bright and sharp.)
If you are shooting on a low budget, a less expensive alternative is to use the new ARRI M90 with MAX reflector. The ARRI M90 introduces a new power class for daylight fixtures. Utilizing a 9 kW lamp, developed by Osram according to ARRI's specification, the M90/60 can be operated on portable gas generators, like Honda's new 10kw EB10000, to achieve remarkable results.
The unique MAX reflector of the M90 creates diverging parallel rays to produce a crisp light with even distribution through a wide spot/flood range. The result is a lens-less open face fixture with a quality of light close to that of a Fresnel. The elimination of spread lenses like those used on HMI Pars, makes the ARRI MAX reflector lamp heads comparable to par configurations of even a higher wattage. In fact, the M90 is brighter than some 18K Fresnels on the market.
(The Active Line Filtration (ALF) of the new ARRI EB 6000/9000 ballast makes it an incredibly efficient and clean load.)
Since hard direct sunlight can be unflattering as a key light for talent, and to replicate the softer more diffuse sky-shine that should also come through a window, I would suggest you use for the talent’s key source a smaller HMI, like a 2500W HMI Par, through a diffusion frame from the same general direction as the window. Diffusing the 2500 will take the “source-i-ness” out of it and placing it close to the window will enable it to spread inside the room the way natural sky-shine does. Since you can operate a 2500W HMI on common 240V wall outlets with a Transformer/Distro, and an M90 can operate on our modified Honda EB10000 generator, well lit day interiors just became a lot more affordable for low budget productions. A final touch would be to fly a branch-o-loris just outside the window to create a little leaf break-up on the interior set. This would have the effect of creating some contrast (light & shadow.)
I have used this same combination of 240V wall outlets and portable Honda generators to eliminate the need for tie-ins or a tow genny on many of the historical documentaries I have gaffed. For example, I have used a similar package repeatedly at a historical mansion in Easton MA called the Ames Estate.
(Scene from "Unsolved History" powered from 50A/240V range outlet through step-down transformer/distro at the Ames Estate)
A popular state fee free location, the Ames Estate, like many historical house/museums, does not permit tie-ins and the electrical wiring in the house is so antiquated that it is unusable. Fortunately, they have a 50A/240 volt circuit in the carriage house for a welder they use to repair the mowers they use at the park. Our standard mode of operation when shooting there is to run 250V extension cable from the welding receptacle to a 60A Full Power Transformer/Distro placed in the entry hall of the house. Using a 60A Siamese at the Transformer/Distro, we then run 60A 6/3 Bates extensions, down to the library, to the second floor, and back to the maid’s pantry. At the end of each run we put another 60A Siamese. A 60A snackbox on one side of the Siamese gives us 20A branch circuits. The other side we leave open for a large HMI or Tungsten Light. Now we can safely plug 1200 - 4000W HMIs (or even a 5k Quartz) into our own distribution anywhere in the house to balance the interior levels to the exterior. A good example of this approach is an American Experience program titled “The Most Dangerous Women in America” about Typhoid Mary that I lit for PBS. For part of her life Typhoid Mary was quarantined on an island in New York's East River.
(Typhoid Mary in quarantine on an island in New York's East River. Note the view out the window of the East River shoreline at the turn of the century.)
Because New York’s East River today looks nothing like it did when she was in quarantine, we used a 30' blowup of a picture of the East River at the turn of the century rigged outside the windows of a house in Arlington MA. As you can see in the production still of the exterior of the actual location used for the quarantine island, we rigged a solid over the porch windows and the blow-up to keep the sun off both. That way we could light the blow-up and interior so that it remained consistent even though the sun moved on and off the porch in the course of the day.
We had to strike a delicate balance between the interior and exterior levels. We wanted to overexpose the exterior by one stop so that it would look realistic and hide the fact that the exterior was a blow-up. To take the edge off the blow-up, we used a single scrim outside the window to help throw it out of focus.
(The actual exterior of Mary’s cottage was the backyard of a house in Arlington Ma with a 30’ blow up of a picture of New York’s East River shoreline at the turn of the century.)
To maintain continuity between shots, in this case we brought a 4kw HMI Par in a window on one side of the room as a sun source and a 1200 par through a window on the other side as a northern light source. We powered both heads off a dryer plug in the laundry room of the house using one of our Transformer/Distros. The two 2.5kw Par lights used outside to light the blow-up were powered by a Honda EU6500is through a second 60A Full Power Transformer/Distro. Since the Honda EU6500is could be placed right on the lawn, we were saved from running hundreds of feet of feeder back to a tow generator.
(A child dying of Typhoid Mary filmed in a bedroom of the Ames Estate)
We have been able to use this same basic package at numerous museums and historical houses throughout New England including Sturbridge Village. Fortunately for us, to make ends meet, many historical houses rent themselves out for events and weddings. For that reason, they usually have at least one updated service with 30 or 50 Amp 240 volt circuit for the warming ovens of caterers.
(The New York City Health Inspector filmed in the library of the Ames Estate)
Use this link for more production stills of PBS and History Channel historical documentaries shot this way.
Guy Holt, Gaffer, Lighting and Grip Equipment Rental & Sales in Boston