Interview lighting techniques are important skills to sharpen as a commercial or documentary filmmaker.
I know this is supposed to be a page for lighting breakdowns, but the most common mistake I see people make with interview setups is an incorrect eye line. So let me put on my DP hat and address the blocking and camera placement real quick. 🦝
If you’re ever unsure where to set your key light in relation to the subject, just remember to put it on the same side of the camera as the director. Talent should be looking in the direction of the source to achieve the far side key. The subject is generally placed to the side third of frame; eye line crossing the camera to the director, and negative space on the same side as the key light. Your b-cam should be on the opposite side of the key light, shooting into the shadow of the subject.
Of course, there are exceptions and creative liberties you can take, like center framing your subject, but this is the loose rule of thumb for a traditional interview setup.
Here’s another little nifty trick to find the placement of your key light:
Let’s say you know the light will be placed camera left. Stand in where talent will be looking at the camera, close your right eye (or the eye closest to the key light), then hold out your right hand 90 degrees to your side and slowly bring it to the front until you see it peek in the peripheral of your left eye. If you set the lamp right there you are likely to get a Rembrandt pattern on the first try 🤯. I know it sounds a little confusing written out but it’s actually really simple!
An 8x8 book light is my go-to for interviews. 1200 bounced through bleached mus with a control grid (extra important when the light is big and the space is small.) LiteMat plus 2L with Snapgrid on a baby boom for hair light, LiteMat Spectrum 4 for a little scratch and room lift, B7C in da lamp, and a floppy for neg. I really liked the b-cam image, so here ya go. 🦝🗑🦝
EP Shannon Strange
Director Karl Koelling
Tyler Kaschke is a freelance gaffer with a grip truck based in Lafayette, Colorado serving Boulder, Denver, Golden, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs and the Rocky Mountain region at large.