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PBS Frontline Interviews (the talking heads)


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#1 gustavius smith

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Posted 26 October 2005 - 09:40 AM

Hello,
I am in pre-production for a documentary and I would like my 'talking heads' to look like that of Frontline on PBS. Do they shoot the interviewees on digital or film? If film I assume they are using a 35mm camera?

Thanks
Gustavius Smith
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#2 Matt Irwin

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Posted 26 October 2005 - 01:47 PM

I highly doubt they shoot film. It's probably some high end video format like DigiBeta, Pro50, or HD coupled with good lighting. It wouldn't make any financial sense to shoot a broadcast interview on film.
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#3 Charles Tomaras

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Posted 26 October 2005 - 04:05 PM

I highly doubt they shoot film. It's probably some high end video format like DigiBeta, Pro50, or HD coupled with good lighting. It wouldn't make any financial sense to shoot a broadcast interview on film.


The've shot Beta SP for many many years like all of the other newsmagazine shows in the US. I've been called about doing sound for a Frontline shoot in coming weeks and was told they were shooting this show on Panasonic SDX 900.

In answer to your "film" comment. In general filmed interviews have been shot for years and the method of making financial sense includes having the sound roll on everything and having the camera start rolling when there is a good bite in progress. Timecode capable film cameras make this much more efficient as well.

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#4 Michael Collier

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Posted 26 October 2005 - 08:29 PM

You dont need film to get that look. Most people dont really need film for interview/nat sound peices. Plus its always best to have a million soundbites and lots of video if you shoot before there is a script.

To get that look you generally need 3 lights and a couple of bounce boards. I like to use at least 500w tungsten indoors. make sure all the lights are off in the room (this is the key to getting good contrast.)
Put the key light high and soft so little or none of the light falls on the background. I like to use the an unbrella (large diffusion frames are not practicle for interviews, dont want to intimidate them. ) if unbrellas are not availible, you can also bounce it off a ceiling or wall (***watch out for sprinkler heads on the roof. Someone in my market made the mistake not to check and the light, and the whole sprinkler system kicked on in the middle of the interveiw. flooding the building, ruining the camera not to mention probably being the most embarresing moment of that photogs life.)

for a little fill put a light behind the subject, just out of frame and on the other side of the screen (IE, if your key light is screen left, then your fill should be comming from screen right. also make sure their eyeline is correct so as to provide a large surface for the fill to fall on. have the reporter or producer asking questions sitting on the same side of the camera as the key light.) the fill light is your chance to use some color, but too much looks really cheasy. go with soft modifications to natural tungsten. 1/4CTO, 1/4CTS or similar to warm it up, or go a different direction and have a cooler color for fill. its also nice to bounce the fill off a large bounce board to make it even softer than the key.

now for the background. This is where color really comes into play. look at the background and determine the dominant colors. a woodgrain lends itself to a warm frame, so some CTO, straw or a million other warm colors would work. also make sure the general color of the shot works with the theme of the peice. if you have a guy telling the story of loosing his daughter, dont shoot it warm. play with colors but keep the background low key so the subject pops out and the background kind of falls off. Also if you have some cookies now would be the time to use it. that like should look organic and broken up. if you dont have cookies you can get away with bouncing off of cardboard with silver mylar printed onto it. it breaks the light and gives pleasing non-shaped shadows and highlights.


I have used variations of this technique to make my old (10 years old) BetaSP camera look like national news work. and it really only takes 10 minutes to set up if you are working quick.
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#5 gustavius smith

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Posted 28 October 2005 - 07:21 AM

You dont need film to get that look. Most people dont really need film for interview/nat sound peices. Plus its always best to have a million soundbites and lots of video if you shoot before there is a script.

To get that look you generally need 3 lights and a couple of bounce boards. I like to use at least 500w tungsten indoors. make sure all the lights are off in the room (this is the key to getting good contrast.)
Put the key light high and soft so little or none of the light falls on the background. I like to use the an unbrella (large diffusion frames are not practicle for interviews, dont want to intimidate them. ) if unbrellas are not availible, you can also bounce it off a ceiling or wall (***watch out for sprinkler heads on the roof. Someone in my market made the mistake not to check and the light, and the whole sprinkler system kicked on in the middle of the interveiw. flooding the building, ruining the camera not to mention probably being the most embarresing moment of that photogs life.)

for a little fill put a light behind the subject, just out of frame and on the other side of the screen (IE, if your key light is screen left, then your fill should be comming from screen right. also make sure their eyeline is correct so as to provide a large surface for the fill to fall on. have the reporter or producer asking questions sitting on the same side of the camera as the key light.) the fill light is your chance to use some color, but too much looks really cheasy. go with soft modifications to natural tungsten. 1/4CTO, 1/4CTS or similar to warm it up, or go a different direction and have a cooler color for fill. its also nice to bounce the fill off a large bounce board to make it even softer than the key.

now for the background. This is where color really comes into play. look at the background and determine the dominant colors. a woodgrain lends itself to a warm frame, so some CTO, straw or a million other warm colors would work. also make sure the general color of the shot works with the theme of the peice. if you have a guy telling the story of loosing his daughter, dont shoot it warm. play with colors but keep the background low key so the subject pops out and the background kind of falls off. Also if you have some cookies now would be the time to use it. that like should look organic and broken up. if you dont have cookies you can get away with bouncing off of cardboard with silver mylar printed onto it. it breaks the light and gives pleasing non-shaped shadows and highlights.
I have used variations of this technique to make my old (10 years old) BetaSP camera look like national news work. and it really only takes 10 minutes to set up if you are working quick.

Nice. I will use this post as my guide. I checked out that Panasonic SDX 900 Tomaras was talking about, $450 per day! Why do they insist on framign the heads so close when the end result will be cut off foreheads on most televisions.
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#6 ReadyTeddy

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Posted 03 November 2005 - 01:51 AM

You may notice that most of the recent Frontline broadcasts are in SD widescreen 16:9. They are shot in DVCAM.

I know a freelance TV cameraman who has worked on some Frontline pieces. He uses an Ikegami HL-DV7W, which is an amazing camera for the price.

You can read about the DV7W here:

http://www.macievide...ps/hl-dv7w.html

I think rental rates on the DV7W would be a lot less than $450 a day!
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#7 Michael Collier

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Posted 03 November 2005 - 05:10 PM

Why do they insist on framign the heads so close when the end result will be cut off foreheads on most televisions.


ahh the ultra close interview. what I do for the more emotional based stories is organize the questions. You cant drop a big question about their terminal cancer and then ask them if they have any pets. Get them in order so the questions get more personal and more emotional. This will keep you from having a sound byte with tears running down their face while talking about how they go to the supermarket. also if the questioning becomes to intense, you have a good baseline for what is too personal to ask of them.

as I am going through the interview I try and guess what their response will be (I dont ask the questions so I get a lot of time to think just about the camera) if the response will likely be very emotional I will push in just a little bit as the question is asked. be careful to be set up with the new shot at least 1 second before they start to answer.

If you dont like interviews that go too far in, dont do it. its not manditory. I like to cut off a little bit of their forhead when shooting really close. my reasoning for this is that headroom is there to makeyour subject look relaxed. When you shoot so close they definately arent relaxed. It gives a sense of being very close and intamate as they reveal their personal struggles. also when you get close i almost see the face as ending at the eyebrows. so ifso-facto you can imagine the forhead as headroom. I try to leave a bit of the shoulders in so you get a sense of their body positioning, and to give room for the CG to come in, if I am unlucky enough to have a really close shot to be my first sound byte.

One thing to keep in mind if you do shoot this close is that you must stay on top of things. you have to be very smooth with your movements. They probably will move out of frame and if you dont move with them then dont move at all. If they start moving and 2seconds later the camera moves it looks really bad, like you were asleep at the wheel. so if you miss them moving, let them move out of frame and hope they move back in. also if you miss their move wait for them to F-up the soundbyte. (IE if they are talking about their husband and a cell rings, or something happens so you know that soundbyte is over.) you dont wnat them to move out of frame with the camera locked down, only to have them move back into frame and then on their next move have the camera follow them. each soundbyte should have continuity, if the whole peice cant have complete continuity in shooting style.
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#8 gustavius smith

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Posted 10 November 2005 - 04:17 PM

ahh the ultra close interview. what I do for the more emotional based stories is organize the questions. You cant drop a big question about their terminal cancer and then ask them if they have any pets. Get them in order so the questions get more personal and more emotional. This will keep you from having a sound byte with tears running down their face while talking about how they go to the supermarket. also if the questioning becomes to intense, you have a good baseline for what is too personal to ask of them.

as I am going through the interview I try and guess what their response will be (I dont ask the questions so I get a lot of time to think just about the camera) if the response will likely be very emotional I will push in just a little bit as the question is asked. be careful to be set up with the new shot at least 1 second before they start to answer.

If you dont like interviews that go too far in, dont do it. its not manditory. I like to cut off a little bit of their forhead when shooting really close. my reasoning for this is that headroom is there to makeyour subject look relaxed. When you shoot so close they definately arent relaxed. It gives a sense of being very close and intamate as they reveal their personal struggles. also when you get close i almost see the face as ending at the eyebrows. so ifso-facto you can imagine the forhead as headroom. I try to leave a bit of the shoulders in so you get a sense of their body positioning, and to give room for the CG to come in, if I am unlucky enough to have a really close shot to be my first sound byte.

One thing to keep in mind if you do shoot this close is that you must stay on top of things. you have to be very smooth with your movements. They probably will move out of frame and if you dont move with them then dont move at all. If they start moving and 2seconds later the camera moves it looks really bad, like you were asleep at the wheel. so if you miss them moving, let them move out of frame and hope they move back in. also if you miss their move wait for them to F-up the soundbyte. (IE if they are talking about their husband and a cell rings, or something happens so you know that soundbyte is over.) you dont wnat them to move out of frame with the camera locked down, only to have them move back into frame and then on their next move have the camera follow them. each soundbyte should have continuity, if the whole peice cant have complete continuity in shooting style.


No I like the close-ups. I think it is cleaner than having headroom actually because all the focus is on the talker's face. What do you think of the Ikegami HL-DV7W as compared to something like your BETASP camera. It is a great price.

You may notice that most of the recent Frontline broadcasts are in SD widescreen 16:9. They are shot in DVCAM.

I know a freelance TV cameraman who has worked on some Frontline pieces. He uses an Ikegami HL-DV7W, which is an amazing camera for the price.

You can read about the DV7W here:

http://www.macievide...ps/hl-dv7w.html

I think rental rates on the DV7W would be a lot less than $450 a day!


Thanks I checked this out and it is a great price.
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Aerial Filmworks

rebotnix Technologies

Visual Products

FJS International, LLC

Willys Widgets

CineLab

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Technodolly

Metropolis Post

Glidecam

The Slider

Tai Audio

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Rig Wheels Passport

Ritter Battery

Abel Cine