Filming an Interview Part 3: Lighting the Interview

Modern cameras are so sensitive these days that it’s now possible to film in a variety of difficult conditions without having to use artificial sources. However, you’ll still want to have the option at times to add to, and improve, the situation you’re in. There will also be occasions where you need to take more control and effectively set up the lighting from scratch. The good news is that LED continuous lighting has now come of age, delivering products that are more affordable, more powerful and easier to carry around than ever thanks to their light weight and robust nature, so you have no excuse not to be fully prepared.


Working with a single light

Interviews come in all shapes and sizes, and if you happen to be conducting one that’s fairly impromptu, maybe as a standalone camera operator in Run n’ Gun style, then a single light source on-camera can add a touch of fill and brighten up the whole scene considerably. The new Kenro Smart Lite Bi-Colour Compact LED Video Light does exactly what it says on the tin: supplied with a compatible mini ball head with cold shoe mount for easy mounting on a tripod or top of a camera, so it’s entirely portable. Crucially, it also features an incremental colour range of 5600-3200K and producing 810 LM of brightness, the KSLP101 panel provides up to 1150 Lux of illumination. So wherever and whatever your filming, this powerful light panel will be up to the job.


Give me a ring

Another option for single light use, and one that delivers a really pleasing shadowless result together with a distinctive circular highlight in the eye, is a ringlight. This features a circular tube that fits around the lens of the camera, and the light is entirely frontal, creating a flattering and soft effect that’s ideal for one-to-one interview situations, with no other light being needed. A great option would be Kenro’s new Smart Lite 19” Ring Light Kit, which features 1-100% control for brightness and saturation, colour temperature 7500-3200K plus built-in Bluetooth functionality that allows it to be controlled by smartphone app for Android or iPhone. One further neat touch is the inclusion of a smartphone clamp, so that deliveries to camera or live streaming can be undertaken if you’re working as a mobile filmmaker.


Multi Light Set Ups

In a more formal situation, perhaps in the studio or in the office of your client, it might be that you need to create an entire lighting set up, balancing everything out so that the final result looks entirely natural and believable. Just as in still photography, however, the more lights you bring into play the more complicated everything becomes, and the greater the chance of faux pas, such as cross shadows. Start with a single key light from a 45-degree angle from the front at about the same height as your subject’s face and work from there. A perfect light for the job would be the Kenro Smart Lite RGB Video Panel Light which is designed to give photographers and filmmakers bright, even illumination whether in the studio or on location.

It’s worth nothing that the closer you bring your main light to your subject – or you could simply adjust the output since the Smart Lite Video Panel Light features stepless dimming - the darker the background will become, unless the lighting intensity is increased there as well, of course. This is a good thing, since you want to create an element of separation between your subject and their surroundings, and one simple way of doing this is to allow the background to become slightly darker. You don’t want to completely lose your subject, however, so an overhead light can be used to pick out the hair and to make sure the subject stands out still further.

Complete the set up with a three-quarter backlight, perhaps provided by another Smart Lite Video Panel Light, which can bring out a degree of modelling in the face and prevent the look from being too flat. It’s good to have a selection of lights to hand to enable you to experiment a little while you’re setting things up.


Location Lighting

Many interviews, as we’ve mentioned in the piece on setting up, are best carried out in a location that has a particular relevance to your subject, and in cases such as this the key to retaining atmosphere is to light sensitively, if at all. With LED fixtures you have the freedom to work where you want, since the complete Kenro Smart Lite range can be used with either mains or battery power and, being continuous sources, you’ll also be able to see the full effect you’re getting as you go along.

The trick is to let your location talk to you and to be sympathetic to what’s going on there. If you’re working in a rustic barn, for example, make sure that you retain those atmospheric streaks of light that might be coming through gaps in the wall, and you could even highlight these if you want by blowing some smoke into the light just before you roll the camera. Your aim will be to soften shadows and to balance things out in a natural way, so that anyone watching the film won’t be aware that any light has been added to the scene.

And don’t be afraid to use your imagination and to come up with off-beat ways of lighting your scene. Sometimes it’s possible to use table or desk lamps to pick out corners, you could pop your on-camera light into a murky corner, out of sight of the camera, to pick out a detail that you want to highlight, you could use coloured gels to create some interest in the background or simply rely on the effects of differing colour temperatures to create some contrast. Tungsten light, for example, will create a warm, yellow feel if you’re balancing for daylight, and you can achieve this look by adjusting your light’s output towards its 3200K setting.  


No Rules

The key thing to remember is that there are no unbreakable rules when it comes lighting an interview. Work out for yourself what your safety set up will be, be considerate of the light that might already be at your location and be prepared to think out of the box on occasion. It’s a great chance to be creative, so enjoy the freedom!


Part One: How to set up the interview

Part Two: Managing the Audio