Sunday, January 25, 2015

Shooting Video Interviews – How To Light Your Subject

Let’s do a recap of what we’ve covered in our series of 13 guidelines to shooting video interviews: 1) you have found out how to shoot better quality video interviews by learning why you want to make your interviewee comfortable and how to do that; 2) we shared why it is important to the quality of the interview to get acquainted with the person first before you start filming and what type of questions should be asked and how to prepare them; 3) you also now know where you want to place your interviewee and what you should have them wear, or not wear, to the interview4) I shared some tips for making shooting a side-by-side interview easier on you; and 5) why the interview also needs to sound good and what you can do to make that happen.

Today we’re going to tackle another technical subject and one that a lot of people struggle with: lighting. You need to think about the type of lighting you will encounter in your interview because the camera, even the top of the line camera, just doesn’t discern the nuances of light like our eyes do. Even if it does, you may want to change the way the your subject is lit to affect the look and mood of your interview.

If you are conducting the interview in your own studio, you’ll be more able to control it especially if you have invested in some basic lighting equipment. You don’t have to spend a lot to get a system that will be adequate for your needs.

However, if you are shooting somewhere else and/or on location, you’ll have more challenges. Here are some things to consider and tips for making your interviewee look his or her best in those situations.

Consider the Light Source

Some meeting rooms already have adequate lighting levels but it is from mixed light sources. If possible, bring your own lighting to either supplement or replace existing light. Again, a simple portable lighting system doesn’t have to break the bank.

Don’t forget to white balance your camera to the key light source.

If you are using window light and the interview is lengthy or the weather outside is changing, i.e., partly cloudy, the angle and intensity of the light will change. It may get too harsh or disappear altogether. If the sun goes behind a cloud, the lighting won’t be consistent within the scene. If you are cutting the interview up and skipping or rearranging segments this will be particularly apparent. Anticipate such problems and be prepared.

Large picture windows with bright backgrounds are tempting to use but can be very difficult to work with. If you don’t add fill light your subject will be a silhouette against the bright background. If you expose for your subject the background will be overexposed or as we say in photography, “burned out.”

The only way to save a shot like this is to add a lot of fill light on your subject, but beware of reflections in the glass.

A better idea would be to reverse the setup, putting the camera operator’s back to the window and let the light fall on the face of the subject like I show you in this image.

Interview-Lighting-Bad-Too Interview-Lighting-Good

Caption: Example of how changing your camera position improves lighting on your subject

Balancing Light Sources

Trying to balance indoor lighting with daylight is challenging. In these situations you have to match the color temperature (white balance) of your artificial light source to daylight. The new daylight balanced fluorescent lights help a lot in these situations.

If you are using tungsten lights then you’ll want to place a blue gel, known as CTB (color temperature blue), in front of the light source to bring its color temperature close to that of the daylight. You can buy these gels in different sizes and grades of blue, depending on the amount of correction you need to do. It’s a good idea to keep some of these gels with your lighting gear if you’re using tungsten lights. You can buy them from many sources online by searching on “CTB color correction gel.”

Shooting Outside

When you are shooting outside, nature gives you one of the largest lighting sources, the sun. It also brings with it different challenges.

 If it’s a bright, sunny day, you’ll be dealing with harsh shadows. Move your subject under a tree, you’ll get a speckled light due to the sunshine coming through the leaves. The best conditions I’ve found is on overcast days. You don’t have to deal with harsh shadows, changing light or cloud movement, and the colors really pop. When the weather doesn’t cooperate, many of the challenges of shooting on a sunny day can be overcome with the use of a reflector.

Next post we’ll be dealing with choosing your background.

Action Steps:

  • Take a good look around your environment and see how the lighting in the room will fall on your subject.
  • If you are shooting on location, bring along some lighting gear so you don’t have to rely on the lighting you find.
  • Shooting outside? Don’t forget to add a reflector to your kit. This simple tool will make a huge difference in the quality of your video.
  • Add gels to your light kit so that you will be ready for uneven lighting sources.

Shooting Video Interviews: How To Record Good Audio

So far in our series of 13 guidelines to shooting video interviews, you have External-Micfound out how to shoot better quality video interviews by learning why you want to make your interviewee comfortable and how to do that. We shared why it is important to the quality of the interview to get acquainted with the person first before you start filming and what type of questions should be asked and how to prepare them. You also now know where you want to place your interviewee and what you should have them wear, or not wear, to the interview. Then last post I shared some tips for making shooting a side-by-side interview easier on you.

Shooting an interview should not only look good, it also needs to sound good too! This is where investing in and picking the best microphone will pay off for you.

There are other audio challenges you’ll want to control in order to get the best interview you can. Here are some things you can do before you start shooting:

Make signs that say “QUIET PLEASE, SOUND RECORDING.” Put these signs on doors you don’t want opened, toilets you don’t want flushed, etc. Have signs made for the interview room door that says “Recording in progress, Please do not enter.” Bring tape and sign posts if necessary.

Be still and listen to the room for several minutes. What do you hear? If you hear it, your microphone will most likely hear it to.
Clap your hands to check for echoes. If the location is good for everything but echoes, putting the mic close helps, but consider adding things that helps reduce the echo. In studios they hang up sound blankets. Moving blankets work almost as well. I buy them from my local moving company for $15. You can also get moving blankets for a good price on Amazon.

Is there an air conditioner vent nearby? Can you turn it off?

Sometimes air conditioning controls are not convenient or can be locked up. Tungsten video lights make a room much hotter and can trigger the air conditioner to come on too. A wet napkin over a locked and covered air conditioning control will fool it. (Make sure you take it off when you leave!)

If it will be too uncomfortable without the air conditioner on, then try to find a location in the room away from the vents.

Is there traffic noise coming through a window? Other noises like airplanes overhead, leaf blowers, children playing, etc?

Some of these sounds in the background may work for your shot. For example, if you are interviewing a teacher right outside the school’s playground, it makes sense if it isn’t too loud. But many times you don’t want to hear a lot of distracting noises. You may need to switch locations or if you can’t, definitely shut the window if it’s open and move your subject away from the window. If what you are hearing will end soon and you can wait, do that. We’ve also been known to ask gardeners to stop leaf blowing and keep people from walking by while we were shooting.

If you are shooting in a home and can hear the refrigerator, unplug it (put a large sign on it to turn it back on and don’t open often while it is off).

Are you using a shotgun mic on a boom? Look at what is behind the interviewee. It’s usually better to aim it down at the subject rather than up at them. Aiming at the ceiling can create a hollow sound. If the interview room has bare wooden or concrete floors, putting rugs or blankets on the floor around the interviewee can improve the sound. It also reduces noise your interviewee may make if they shuffle their feet.

Also when people are nervous they can get a dry mouth. This will show up in audio, so have bottled water for both the interviewer and interviewee.

Next we’ll cover some lighting challenges you may face in shooting your interview.

Action Steps:

  • Check the room for unwanted sounds and do your best to control them.
  • If necessary, make and post signs stating “recording in progress.”
  • Pay attention to your mic placement.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask people who are doing noisy activities to stop while you are interviewing.

Shooting Video Interviews: Tips For Doing a Side-by-Side Interview

Joe-&-RickIn this series of 13 guidelines to shooting video interviews, you have found out how to shoot better quality video interviews by discovering the following; why you want to make your interviewee comfortable and how to do that, why it is important to the quality of the interview to get acquainted with the person first before you start filming, what type of questions should be asked and how to prepare them, where you want to place your interviewee and what you should have them wear and more importantly, what they shouldn’t wear to the interview.

Today, I’m going to talk about another interviewing scenario – the side-by-side interview.

For some interviews, you may want to have one or more people on-camera at the same time. This makes the set up a bit more complex. Here are a few tips to make it easier for you:

Microphone Considerations

On each person, attach the mics as far apart from each other as possible, but close to the mouth. This reduces echo if the two mics are mixed together. Later the audio tracks can be mixed separately. In an emergency, if you have only one lavalier, attach the mic high on the shoulder of the person with the softest voice, on the side toward the other person.

If you are using a shotgun mic, put it on a mic stand and aim it between them if you don’t have a boom operator.

Lighting Considerations

Put the lighter complexion person farther from the light source. (Do this as they sit down.) If shooting a dark skinned person you may need to add light or adjust exposure for good skin tone and detail. If one is taller and might block light on a shorter one, place the taller one farther from the light.

Next post, I’ll be sharing how to make your interview sound better.

Action Steps:

  • When using lavalier microphones, make sure you place them as far apart as possible while still being close to the mouth.
  • If you only have one lavaliere mic, place it high on the shoulder of the person with the softest voice towards the other person.
  • When using shotgun microphones, put it on a boom pole (if you have a boom operator) or mic stand.
  • Shine more light on the person with the darker complexion.
  • Make sure the taller person is not blocking the light source of the shorter person by placing him farther from the light.

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