Lighting interviews – keep it simple (sometimes!)

Sometimes the really simple approach, devoid of gimmicks and the latest gadgets, can produce the best result in the shortest possible time.

Lighting interviews is a good example. On a recent trip to Marseilles to interview a Professor of Oncology I took five lights with me: 2 x 150W Dedos; an 800W Lowel Tota; a 300W Sachtler reporter light; and a Microlite Pro LED camera light. I also took a Chimera softbox; an umbrella; reflectors; gells; 5 x lighting stands and a gobo projector for the Dedos. This is a pretty standard kit for me to take on fly-away jobs and it’s reasonably compact, fitting into a medium Dedo soft case.

So how much of this kit did I use to light the interview? As it turned out I only used one light – the 300W Sachtler, which is a compact 300W tungsten light.

The key with location situations, where you have limited options to change the environment, is to make whatever available natural or ambient light work for you, instead of trying to change it too much.

The room was long and narrow with high windows on two sides fitted with venetian blinds that cut the light by about 50%.

With the subject placed to get the best-looking background, he was facing a white wall about five feet away. All I had to do was bounce the Sachtler off the wall as a soft key light and it looked pretty good. The windows on the other two sides (with the blinds mostly closed) provided the fill and a little backlight. The only other thing I did was to fit a dichroic to the reporter light and white balance with a Warm Card to warm up the daylight coming into the room.

I could have spent more time (that we really didn’t have) trying various other lighting set-ups, but I knew that this was the best approach, as well as being the simplest.

The client was happy with the way it looked and the Professor was happy because there was minimum disruption to his day.

Here’s an ungraded still from the video:


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  1. Andy, just found your blog via LinkedIn -it’s tops!
    I totally agree with your lighting philosophy expressed here. Before I was a ‘one (wo)man band’, I spent many years as a field producer / director, and worked with plenty of freelance cameramen… it used to drive me nuts that a good proportion of them would assess an interview scenario and respond by wanting to shut out all available light and completely light the scene themselves. Apart from the aesthetic issues, this often worked against my considerations, which were about imposition on the interviewee. Later in life when teaching 101 video to digital media students, manipulating available light was a focus of mine.

    I look forward to back reading the blog.

      • on April 22, 2011 at 9:53 am
      • Reply

      Hi Joady

      You have the honour of being the first person to comment on my blog, so thanks for that – you don’t win any prizes though 🙂

      I totally agree with you about considering the interviewee. Generally, these are busy important people (otherwise why are we filming them?) and they’ll soon get pissed off if they see us faffing about endlessly tweaking – I’m sure I’ve been guilty of it myself in the past. There is a balance to be struck in getting the best film and not upsetting the contributors. Actually just being a little humble and not taking over, with all guns blazing, is a good subject for another post…


  2. I agree, keeping it simple works for me. Its great to have the option to use more lights, but no need to over light if you don’t have to. These days you have to be quick as well as produce great images.

    I too also start with the background then everything else is worked out from there.

    Your still for the shoot looks great!

      • on February 21, 2013 at 9:28 am
      • Reply

      Thanks Tim

      Yes, speed seems to be the no1 requirement these days. I know a couple of producers/directors who get very irritated by people that spend too long ‘faffing’ around whilst they have to make small talk with the interviewee.

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