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Old January 16th, 2011, 09:57 AM   #1
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Using natural light to film interviews outdoors

I'm planning to do some social history stuff in our town, asking people about their memories of the town's growth, the demise and resurrection of our canal system, working life etc.

Where possible, I'm hoping to do it outdoors to take advantage of natural light which I hope will make people feel more relaxed than they maybe would indoors with artificail lighting.

Any tips for getting the lighting right would be appreciated.
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Old January 16th, 2011, 10:27 AM   #2
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Ray:

If you are trying to do it without any added light, or reflectors, then the easiest bet is to find a shaded location with a fairly dark background.

Color balance cool, and it's a nice diffuse light. Finding an area that doesn't have big, hot spots of sunlight dappling the background is the hardest part.
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Old January 16th, 2011, 10:52 AM   #3
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One thing to watch out for is shooting in the shade with a sunny background. If you white balance on your subject in the shade,the color temperature will be wrong for the sunny background. One result of this that I particularly don't like is when green grass and trees are in the background. The white balance problem makes the greenery yellowish-green.
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Old January 16th, 2011, 12:22 PM   #4
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I like to add my HMI paglight as a small fill when doing interviews outside, with the diffuser on it just lifts things a little and is not too bright if you are 4-6 feet away.
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Old January 17th, 2011, 10:28 AM   #5
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Of course, shooting in the shade with a sunny background means you have a huge exposure problem that dwarfs the white balance issue!
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Old January 17th, 2011, 10:50 AM   #6
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Just as well I'm in England then :)

Thanks for all the good advice everyone
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Old January 19th, 2011, 02:31 AM   #7
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Ray -- are you going to have someone to assist with lighting? Hold a reflector?
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Old January 19th, 2011, 04:10 AM   #8
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Please post examples with pictures or links to videos...
Very interesting thread
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Old January 19th, 2011, 04:16 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Keith Dobie View Post
Ray -- are you going to have someone to assist with lighting? Hold a reflector?
I am hoping to be able to mount a reflector on a stand if possible. I think having people standing around holding things could inhibit the talent.
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Old January 20th, 2011, 01:20 AM   #10
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A few thoughts, some of them having absolutely nothing to do with your lighting question :-)
• Sandbags help, but a big reflector sure does act like a sail.
• When scouting locations, make sure you listen as well as look. When you start shooting outdoors and you put your headphones on it's amazing how you suddenly start hearing every distracting background noise. Planes, trains, and automobiles. They really can spoil things. So can wind noise if you aren't using something furry on your mics. I'd put audio right up there with good lighting as something to consider.
• It sounds like you'll be doing longer interviews. Unless it's solid overcast, or a clear blue sky day, you might find the ever changing light drives you crazy. Looks kind of funny when you start cutting things up in edit and you have one clip where the subject is in full sunlight, and you want to cut to one where he is in flat light.
• Depending on the season, the temperature and humidity can make a mess out of your interview subject. That glossy rumpled look is interesting.
• People seem to find a way of getting into your shot in the background and sometimes you can't really tell them to go away.

But hey don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to throw water on the idea. I like shooting outdoors! Most problems disappear if you're just doing 2 or 3 minute clips. Longer interviews seem to mess me up.
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Old January 20th, 2011, 02:01 AM   #11
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Thanks for the advice Keith. I agree 100% about the audio. I filmed the length of our local canal system and even in what appeared to be deep country there was still the hum of tyres on ashphalt. And as for light aircraft!!!
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Old January 20th, 2011, 02:30 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ray Barber View Post
...I'm hoping to do it outdoors to take advantage of natural light which I hope will make people feel more relaxed than they maybe would indoors with artificial lighting.

Any tips for getting the lighting right would be appreciated.
No one seems to have suggested creating your own shade. I'm talking about shooting under a diffuser. PITA to setup/takedown but for a long interview it might be worth it. Diffuser overhead, big bounce cards putting lights on the talent sufficient to keep the background from blowing out to white.

All of this is painful in a windy environment, but in a windy environment you've got sound troubles too, so you might want to consider how to schedule a nice calm day ;-).
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Old January 21st, 2011, 06:43 PM   #13
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Well, he did say without "artificial" lighting...so we had to go there first.

But yes, for outdoors, a near ideal setup includes:

1. An overhead ScrimJim or other fabric diffuser to soften the sunlight.
2. A black net scrim behind the subject to bring the background down a stop or two.
3. Some sort of soft fill as a front key to bring up the face...like a reflector or bounce board.

This does require some gear and wranglers to make sure everything stays put in a gust of wind, though.
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Old January 22nd, 2011, 04:57 AM   #14
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The successful outdoor interviews I've done were when I had a wrangler to "operate" a reflector. A human can adapt to the dynamics of shifting sunlight and talent. Stands are good for holding mics just barely out of frame, tents and diffusers but optimizing reflected natural light benefits by a skilled wrangler.

I would urge you to reconsider the decision to not add your own light. If nothing else, it will give the talent part a consistent look. It doesn't take much to make your talent pop instead of being flat. Personally, I think that little extra light reflects a professional approach and look (pun intended). :-)

REMEMBER: Reflectors and diffusers stop working when the sun goes away. The frames below happened within one sentence and pretty much ruined the sound bite. But that was nothing compared to the clouds that were causing the fluctuating lighting dumped rain 15 minutes later which is another issue all together with outdoor shooting.
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Using natural light to film interviews outdoors-no-sun-reflector.png   Using natural light to film interviews outdoors-sun-reflector_.png  

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Old January 22nd, 2011, 05:29 AM   #15
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Here's an example. In case it is of interest.

My suggestion would be not to have an extreme range of exposure. As you can see by the sunbeam on the bamboo in the clip below it is a bright sunny day (summer in Shanghai).

This was shot in shade. Even so the left side of his face is overexposed. Although I think it is acceptable. There is enough light bouncing around to give some shape to his face.

If you are filming in sunshine in the UK the chances are that the sun won't be shining for long. So you may run into problems when you are editing if you are cutting shots together and the exposure is jumping around all over the place. Best to try to minimise exposure variations, whilst at the same time still trying to create an interesting shot.

By the way the background sound is cicadas. They were very noisy. And they came and went in waves. Creating the same editing problem that a sun/shade cycle produces, but with sound!

If you have the choice you may want to wait until the forecast is for bright but overcast day. If you have to shoot in sun you could use a reflector on a stand to provide some fill. But not if there is any wind ;-)

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