Production Lighting: How To Light Interviews

A video production is an intensive undertaking composed of many elements. Let's say for instance that your producing a historic documentary. This will be composed of narration over historic photos/pictures, actor reenactments, and interviews with historians. Interviews are their own niche in the film industry that require their own set of special skills. A lot of these skills are developed over time as a person builds their career. But to help give you a head start if you're shooting your first one, here are some tips on how to light an interview.

Find a Background

A few years ago most interviews were shot against a solid color background. This is all changing as people and productions fight to be better than the others. Now productions have to find a great location with an appropriate background for our interview subject so that we have a visually interesting frame. You can't start lighting until you have a location to work in so the the first step is to get the location.

Set the Key Light

Once you have found a great background it's time to start lighting. Because your interview subject's time is valuable you're will probably have to find a stand-in. Have the stand-in sit down in the subject's place and set your key light. The key light is the brightest light and it's placement determines the placement of all the other lights.

Set the Fill and Backlight

Once the key light has been placed you will set the fill light to compensate for any excess shadows caused. Be careful when placing this light. You don't want it to be too close to camera because that's where your interviewer is going to need to sit.

Once the key and fill lights are set and you're positive that the subject's position won't move, you can set the back light. This light will come from the background but it will be put of frame. You want to use this light to make a nice halo on the back of the subject's head and shoulders to help them pop out of the background.

Light the Background

Now that your subject is nicely lit it is time to get creative and light up your background. What you can do is limited by the space you're in and the lights you have available. You can rake a wall with a light or you can pinch the barn doors on a light nearly closed to create a nice slash effect. You can even make random tape designs on a 2 x 3 net and place that in front of the light to create an interesting shadow pattern on the wall. 

Be Creative

If you have some down time before the subject arrives then keep on lighting the set. The more creative you are with your lighting design the better.