July 22, 2013

Lighting Tutorial: Enhance Your Interview's Aesthetic by Creating the Parallax Effect

Enhancing Interview LightingIf you're looking to give your interviews a little bit more aesthetic energy, there are a bunch of things you could try. Backgrounds, lighting, props, and varying perspectives help with setting your Q&As apart from the common "guy in a chair next to a fern" canon, but if you're looking to really enhance aesthetics, check out this lighting tutorial from NextWaveDV. Learn to employ the parallax effect to add depth to your shots, and take your interviews to the next level.

From the outside, interview setups seem pretty simple to achieve based on what we typically see in documentaries, journalism pieces, and even late night TV shows: put someone against a background, keep the camera still, and hit record.

Obviously it's not that simple -- lighting can be tricky, especially when conducting interviews outside. And because the mise-en-scène for interviews has been repeated again and again, the greatest challenge (at least in my eyes) is making the shot look interesting without taking the focus off of your subject.

I think creating the parallax effect in your shot does this nicely. Check out the tutorial below to find out how to do it.

Of course, there are so many ways to make an interview look interesting. We shouldn't have to settle for boring shots just because the focus is on our subjects' words and reactions. In fact, considering the laws of visual aesthetics -- that aesthetic energy is built using motion, color, and composition -- interviews have great potential for becoming visually unstimulating. They tend to be static shots with the subject framed on either the right or left 3rd of the screen.

There are things you can do to liven things up, though. Use color in new, interesting ways. In Paper Chasers, the filmmakers used DayGlo paint to create an interesting background. Use unique compositions -- your subject doesn't have to look slightly off-screen. Maybe film  their profile.

Interviews don't have to be run-of-the-mill. It doesn't matter if you're a narrative filmmaker and documentarian -- we're all telling stories, and finding a visually appealing way to do that is a problem worth having.

What do you think? Have you ever used the parallax effect in your interviews? What are some ways you've enhanced your interview's aesthetic? Let us know in the comments.

Link: Film Scene: Enhancing Interview Lighting with Household Light Bulbs -- NextWaveDV

Your Comment

22 Comments

Pretty cool stuff.

Don't like the two lamps in the background much though.

Personally I would like to see how christmas lights over the background would look like, maybe a good alternative to the two lamps.

July 22, 2013 at 5:39PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Dahlius

True I could go without the lamps as well. I think the textured background is enough to generate the paralaxing. If using a slider, I like to do a two camera interview, so the slider can continuously go back and forth. A lot of the times the slider isn't always perfect so you can always rely on the other camera. Doesn't always have to be distinct either, subtle movements are nice.

July 23, 2013 at 8:32AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Joe

too much i think

July 22, 2013 at 6:12PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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W

I thought they'd be something at least mentioned on how to grow a soul patch. bummer...man

July 22, 2013 at 6:21PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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thatguyyouhate

Sorry if I missed something, but what's the parallax effect?

July 22, 2013 at 6:54PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Tom

Stuff towards the camera moves faster than stuff further away from the camera. It creates depth in the scene.

Kinda like when you're in a car, trees beside the road (a few metres away) whizz past while the sun (millions of meters away) stays still. Parallax.

July 22, 2013 at 7:46PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Tyler

Thanks!

July 23, 2013 at 7:10AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Tom

July 22, 2013 at 11:02PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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James

It's more describing the effect of the camera movement and staging on the z-axis than lighting. Not sure why it was titled as a lighting trick...

July 23, 2013 at 8:56AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Pat

Looks cool, but quite often clients want to keep it simple in order to avoid diluting the corporate/brand message with a highly distracting side way dolly.

July 22, 2013 at 6:57PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Fredo

True, not all techniques work for all purposes; but not all interviews are corporate shoots either. ;)

July 23, 2013 at 6:36AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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The first thing to do to keep a video interview "new, interesting and relevant" is to NOT use a speckled background.

July 23, 2013 at 11:25AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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dixter

I could agree with the other detractors of this video if I thought these guys used ONLY this one trick. But I'm betting this is only one of a thousand they could use. Posted on a site with "school" in the name, I think it's entirely appropriate to show a technique that may be useful. Let's not forget, we have no idea what the subject is talking about. If the interview is about the haunted mansions of Louisiana and you had to shoot it in studio, pretty good solution, I'd say. Interview on the use of sun hats? Not so much.

Yeah, it's titled "parallax" but they covered…
* one light interview light
• diffused main light
• use of barn doors
• use of colored gel
• controlling studio ambient light
• use of a dimmer (or two)
• adding additional elements into an otherwise bland space
• use of a moving camera during interview
• background options (cloth vs. the black they had already hanging)
• use of a flag to kill background spill

So maybe this combo didn't float your boat… but I thought it completely appropriate for No Film School.

July 23, 2013 at 5:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Erik Stenbakken

Interesting video, but strange and somewhat misleading article title.

July 23, 2013 at 5:37PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Brian

I couldn't be more tired of this effect. On every interview I have worked on for the past 6 months, there has always been a camera on a slider or dolly. I feel like it's so overused that it instantly reads as "edgy corporate interview". Am I just crazy?

July 23, 2013 at 8:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Craig

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regularly, if so afterward you will definitely obtain good experience.

July 26, 2013 at 10:24PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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It's an remarkable paragraph in support of all the web users; they will take advantage from it I am sure.

July 27, 2013 at 7:58AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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i never knew this had an official name and was an "effect", I just thought it was just called a dolly move..

July 27, 2013 at 2:44PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Cool stuff although my feeling is that a moving camera on talking-head shots can be subliminally distracting and needs to be used with care. For invisible camera-work (where the camera delivers to the audience what they would see were they there) sliding sidewise is not something they would do. That means the 'onvisible' part goes out the window! Not to say don't do it to achieve a deliberate effect - simply be aware on the effect on the audience. There is a trade-off.

August 2, 2013 at 12:09AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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August 2, 2013 at 8:51AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Isn't this just the Ken Burns effect with added bling?

November 16, 2013 at 1:25PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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GE

The Ken Burns effect is adding movement to still images, this wouldn't be the same thing.

December 2, 2014 at 5:12PM

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Chad Dickenson
Director
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