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Two Interview Lighting Tutorials That'll Kick Your Footage Up a Notch

So you’re getting ready to interview that expert for your short documentary, and you want to review your interview lighting technique.  Or maybe you’re just looking for an introduction to lighting in general — where do you look?  Check out these two interview lighting tutorials — not only are they a great review of the basics, but they each do a great job of illustrating just how every light can help shape the subject and tone of  your footage:


The first tutorial comes courtesy of stillmotion, the folks behind SMAPP (which looks like a pretty useful filmmaking app for folks learning the ropes).  Not only does this tutorial do a great job of illustrating a general lighting set-up, it does so while jam-packing key terms and concepts.  It’s a solid introduction to lighting in general — from key lights to fill lights, to lighting ratios, you get a lot of great information:

The second tutorial is from Eve Hazelton and the folks at Realm Pictures (who are developing what looks like a really cool underwater fantasy project).  What I like about this tutorial in particular is how it shows the many ways you can spice up the image with well placed lights in the background, and that 3-point lighting isn’t some hard and fast rule — you light to your tastes:

Interview lighting is a great place to start learning lighting — you don’t have to worry about the subject moving around, and you can really sculpt the image to your liking with a few well placed lights and accessories.  Hopefully these tutorials give you some fresh ideas and inspiration, I know they have for me!

Do you have any tips or techniques of your own?  Share below!

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COMMENT POLICY

We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

Description image 24 COMMENTS

  • I try my best to NOT use that kind of lighting for my interviews. namely because I don’t want it to look like just another interview doc. So far I’ve been lucky because all my subjects have had good lighting in their places.

  • It would be a lot easier to pay attention to the second set of tutorials if she weren’t so damn cute. But yeah I agree, it’s a good primer when you’re learning what to do, if for no other reason than to know what to start to mix up a bit for unique looks (as Jeffrey said).

  • A good intro, wish the majority of tv shooters followed some of this, I do nothing but moan at the quality of some stuff you see these days. To me lighting and micing are more important that anything else. Folk get all wound up about SNR, ISO’s dynamic range etc…. Light it right and all of that stuff becomes so much less important. Whilst it’s great to be able to record a crow in a coal cellar at midnight too many folk forget that it is recording light, I get the feeling that a lot of people are scared to start playing with light. This tutorial is a friendly start.

    And it needn’t be expensive… Even a reflector will improve ambient room lighting 1000%, softbox interfit coolites are cheap and half decent…. Move into the light.

    • The problem with a lot of tv interviews is time. When you got 15-20 minutes to light and shoot an interview in some execs office and you’re on your own with the camera and sound, then you have to rely on ambient light, your on-camera light and maybe one LED light on a superclamp. If you know how to use these quickly and efficiently, you can make them work in under 5 minutes – however the result will almost never be as pleasing as a real setup. And I agree not too many cameramen know how to use their lighting tools efficiently.

      And to those who hate this look… this is a basic idea of how to light a person with small fixtures. In most interview situations you can’t roll in the lighting truck and blast a 10kW HMI from a mile away to imitate the sun, can you?
      I’d already be happy if anyone who thinks he or she is a cameraman/woman would be able to light like in these tutorials…

  • Jordan Carr on 05.11.12 @ 8:40PM

    yuck.

    Agree with everyone else. HATE this type of lighting.

    Cheezy.

    The “spotlight” effect with a dark background (though they tried to light it) is very unnatural. The sun doesn’t light subjects like this and in the movie industry (and yes you can do interviews that simulate a movie look) the “multiple suns” effect is a tell tale sign to the viewer that the location is poor and the lighting is cheezy.

    • Jordan Carr on 05.11.12 @ 8:44PM

      sorry if that sounded harsh. These are good starting guides.

      • LOL.

        When I moved to the southeast US a few years ago I became aware of the word “crawfish” used as a verb. You sir, just crawfished. ;-D

        ** For those not in the southeast, crawfish (or “crayfish”) propel themselves backwards when threatened using their proportionately large tails, making a speedy exit.

    • Yeah as artists we’re only allowed to mimic the sun, anything else is wrong.

  • Ive seen worse lighting schemes. This is a good tutorial and it doesn’t hurt that Eve is just plain HOT!

  • Hey guys!

    Thanks for your kind comments. This tutorial was made as a basic starting point for lighting interviews, as I always say, every set up is different and an opportunity to be creative :D

    • Hi Eve I was wondering is there any way to get that 1 hour long lighting tutorial from you guys?

      • There is indeed. If you go to our Vimeo channel you will find the master class introduction. If you like what you see, you can then follow the link to purchase the entire hour via PayPal :D

        • thanks… can I get a student discount :-P I can send you an email using my university ac.uk address…

  • These are good basic tutorials. Good lighting will only come from lots of experiences showing up at locations that are less than ideal with many obstacles and not enough lighting fixtures. These challenging scenarios are what most frugal filmmakers will encounter. Not many of us roll with a light kit that has 6 fixtures and multiple stands. As long as you recognize what good lighting looks like, it’s up to your creativity to achieve the look you want.

  • But isn’t it fantastic that tutorials like this are made ?
    The basic information here is right and the fact that it can be accessed for free by anyone wanting to learn makes the world a brighter place.Thank you !

  • I recently found this virtual lighting app (thanks strobist.com for the link):

    http://www.zvork.fr/vls/

    It’s fun to play with, and it might be really useful for beginners.

  • I’ve watched quite a few tutorials on lighting and both of these are excellent. The location and intensity of lighting for film so strongly impacts the look you are attempting to achieve. Its much quicker to use well tested methods, than to do lots of trial and error, but playing variations are out there is quite fun too.

  • She’s so gorgeous and lovely, I want to work for her.

  • Bert Tougas csc on 10.17.13 @ 2:23PM

    Hey Eve, great job. I think you make it very clear that this is only one way of setting up an interview. If one moves the key light around from “front ” 3/4′s all the way back to “back” 3/4′s and plays with the height, many moods can be created. Separating your subject from the background is also hugely important and you demonstrate the different methods beautifully. I think lighting has a lot to do with knowing the basics and then experimenting by breaking the rules until you come up with something that helps tell the story in a better way. Your before and after examples say it all. Cheers and keep up the good work!