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Cinematic interviews


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#1 Quinton Weiskittel

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Posted 29 January 2015 - 04:03 PM

Using the search function, I have already researched this topic in previous posts; however, I thought it might be useful to revisit the topic. I've been running some tests with my camera, BMPC 4K, and I'm looking to take the tests a little further. What I would like to know, is what is your advice for composing and lighting of subject and background? Links to examples would be greatly appreciated. Realizing that these decisions are largely driven by subject, mood and content, let's assume we're shooting science based documentary involving engineers and technicians.

I've found that a book light from a Arri 650 bounced off foam core into 8x8 1/4 grid cloth gives me a key that suits my taste, and seems easy enough to replicate in multiple settings. If I need more light, I either add another 650, or I bounce off space blankets. I've been varying fill from a reflector from 1:2 -1:4 depending on individual. Hair light is tungsten bulb on a squeezer that ends up warmer than the key. Based on previous posts, I've tried to move away from shooting against flat walls, and move more into the diagonal space. The temperature difference from the windows was to see the difference of daylight and tungsten shot onto the blinds. I thought the flat white from the blinds was boring; however, I'm afraid these are too unnatural looking. Any ideas on that would be appreciated. Also, I realize the background in this grab is horrible. It was more a test of the key light. The second grab is a better demonstration of background lighting I'll use; but, I tried matching exposure outside with inside. After experimenting with that, I'm afraid it's not realistic for me due to rapid weather changes in the NE, lighting requirements, and time. image.jpg

So what are your tips and tricks that I should try on the next test?

I'm currently planning on testing 1/4 to 1/2 CTB on background for color separation and adding 45 kicker.
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#2 Quinton Weiskittel

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Posted 29 January 2015 - 04:07 PM

BG lighting test. Wasn't able to post both in one post.image.jpg
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#3 Aidan Gray

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Posted 03 February 2015 - 11:42 AM

I would try and shape your key light a little bit more. As it is, your key is spilling onto your background as well as highlighting your subject's neon yellow jacket (this might be the hair light as well) which distracts the eye from the face and idea in the frame. The best way to control your key would be through solids, floppies, and a duvetyne teaser. A good example would be something like what we did here a few weeks ago for a doc shoot in D.C.

 ANPV7FM.png?1


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#4 Albion Hockney

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Posted 03 February 2015 - 04:54 PM

Its hard to define what makes something "cinematic" but one thing that most real "pro" DP's (and this is me generalizing not all work that is good is like this) is that they control contrast very subtly.

I think your image everything is pretty bright and "Sharp". Im suprised you say your key is bounced off an 8x8 how much of the frame are you filling because the key doesn't look as soft as you say. Also I think you are overexposing the image a bit.

 

 

I would suggest backing off the frame and maybe adding a 2nd light to it if need be. Stoping down to match the exposure value that the key is giving you (you look 1-2 stops over) I would also create a contrast between your background which is very bright. your hairlight also appears a bit harsh I would put some diffusion on that light and dim it down as well.

 

 

when lighting interviews "cinematically" or I should say when I light interviews in general when possible I always think about it like I would a scene and motivate the lighting sources. as the above poster says controlling the light off of things is a big thing and for example I would think about what your key light is.....is it a soft ambient light coming from a window? in which case adding a cut on his lower half might look really great. Or is it ambient light from a kitchen or something? I guess I would just say feel out the scene....what is the interview about and what is the feeling supposed to be then take the location into consideration and try to create a mood. in the end maybe "cinematic" is just about creating emotion


Edited by Albion Hockney, 03 February 2015 - 04:57 PM.

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#5 Quinton Weiskittel

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Posted 04 February 2015 - 08:48 PM

Thanks for the response.

Being that it's so difficult to define, perhaps "cinematic" was poor verbiage. I'm really just trying to design interviews that look more pleasing than a flat, front lit talking head. I've never done interviews. Not until now at least... In fact, everything I've done involving video has been aerial, so I'm quite behind the curve with lighting, which is why I lurk around here.

Aidan,

My latest attempt involved flagging my key. The background area outside of the lamp is 4stops under the key.

Albion,

You have a keen eye. I expose 1-1.5 stops over the key because the sensor tends to get noisy. The key light is a book light made from a 650 bounced off 4 4x4 bead boards into an 8x8 1/4 grid cloth, and no, you are correct, it's not filling the frame. Do you think this is too contrasty?

This latest test had CTB on the background. A suggestion from another post here. Any other advice or suggestions are greatly appreciated.

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#6 Albion Hockney

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Posted 04 February 2015 - 10:01 PM

way better on the lighting. I think the production design could use a little work haha but yes much much better.


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#7 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 07 February 2015 - 02:11 AM

I shoot a lot of interviews.. TBH I always feel you guys in the US really over light and over complicate your interview lighting.. in the UK/Europe the style these days is much more a "natural" look.. all this hair lights,rim lights,eye lights,kickers .. are seen as a bit cheesy and old fashioned..  There are basic things.. yes away from your background.. shoot into a corner rather a flat wall.. back ground darker than your subject.. and out of focus..  (general rules that of course can be broken depending on style ,Im just talking 101 here)with the advent of s35 sensor video camera,s its all become a lot easier and I seldom light the background at all .. or just a dedo here or there.. you certainly don't need to light a white wall as in grab one.. the harsh shadow of the plane on the stool is distracting .. I would also avoid plants too.. very news.. I would never use more than 3 lights in a location interview.. a nice soft 45 degree key..flagged if needed.. very subtle opposite angle back light.. touch on the hair and cheek.. have some window out of focus background or point a dedo in there.. you don't need big lights either with high ISO camera,s.. Kino through a silk is totally enough.. LED or Flo,s much easier to work with.. no heat,less foot print.. its not rocket science,stills guys have been doing this for a long time.. and Rembrandt before them.. often I,ll just use one soft key light..  if thats what looks best.. 

 

Less is more .. 


Edited by Robin R Probyn, 07 February 2015 - 02:14 AM.

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#8 Stuart Allman

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Posted 08 February 2015 - 01:06 PM

Quinton,

 

These are just my opinions, nothing more...

 

First, the moiré on his shirt is terrible.  Very 5D mark II era.  Hopefully that's not a bad AA filter on the camera, since the BMCC had nasty issues with moiré.

 

I think you can go with a bit more contrast.  A 4x4 frame of half soft frost or light grid might be better to give more definition to a Rembrandt style of lighting his face.  Considering using a front overhead fill 3-4 stops down just to make sure nothing goes completely solid black, but flag it off from the background.  Contrast on his face is OK, as long as the background is darker.  If you go with more contrast on his face and don't darken the background it won't look right.

 

Since you put a light over the subject's left shoulder, that would be a natural direction for any backlighting.  Right now it appears you have the kicker coming from the opposite direction.  It's perfectly OK to have a key and back kicker come from the same side.

 

I might scrim down his shirt with a double because his shoulder is really popping out at me.

 

Currently you have the subject with the lines of the window frame going through his head.  I would personally consider moving the subject such that his face isn't cluttered with stuff behind him.  Maybe placing his head where there is a dark corner so he pops out with contrast, or use leading lines within the room, or even a framing of his head in the picture using the background elements, or place his head directly in front of a light so that this head "blooms".  It really depends on what the interview is about.

 

The background elements could use a little work to be less busy and distracting, but that's really a subject for a production designer - i.e. not me.

 

Hope this was helpful.

 

Stuart

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#9 Vidal Havanero

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Posted 19 February 2015 - 01:47 AM

Quinton, I've shoot over 100 interviews for documentaries on all types of subjects. Your approach is very professional and the right one, but I think you will see as you start to shoot more interviews, that a good location is always your best friend.

You have the basics down pack, I wouldn't stress it much, like I said just make sure you have a good location to shoot and place your subject against a descent background. After a while it becomes natural to the point where I feel conform table showing up to interviews without any lights what so ever and using natural lighting. This is only the case though when I know I'm shooting a great location with a lot of space.
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#10 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 19 February 2015 - 04:14 AM

The location can be key to an interview. Ideally It should reflect something about the interviewee, but not be distracting, it can be as simple as black or say that is this a powerful person. What you can do in lighting terms often depends on how much time you've got available and how big a crew you have. The interviewee is the most important object in the frame, so you want to centre attention on them. Your contrast ratio can depend on the subject of the interview, a light fluffy interview subject won't work so well if you've got film noir lighting, while an interview about a murder etc will.    


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#11 Gregory Bennett

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Posted 20 March 2015 - 10:12 PM

Like Robyn, I usually find that simpler is better. I generally like to use as large a soft key light as possible (owing to setup time available, space needed, size of location) - a 6 x 6 diffusion panel as close to subject as possible can look great and easy on the subject's eyes. It wraps beautifully, if placed correctly, with no need to add a fill light. From there it's looking to see how well the subject separates from the background. Sometimes a table lamp or two or a small window in the background will do the trick. I generally don't like to use more than two lights, if possible. Colour separation is also something to consider - warm/neutral face against cool or cool/neutral face against warm. The most important thing is that the subject feel relaxed.

Here's some frame grabs from interviews I've shot. Most of them use only 1 or 2 lights.

http://gregorybennet.../interviews.php


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