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Old May 17th, 2006, 05:16 AM   #1
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Lighting seated interviews (UK)

I have just searched this part of the forum and have picked up a lot of useful tips. I have seen a large amount of recommendations for lights in the US. I was just wondering if someone could point me in the direction of a good UK supplier and maybe recommend some specific lights that are available to buy here in the UK?

I have about five seated (indoor) interviews to conduct for a test project with an XM2 - I am a newcomer to shooting video. From what I have read, I'd need a decent key light (maybe something to soften it?) a reflector would do I think for the fill as I'm on a tiny budget, and a half decent backlight. Also something to light the background.

The reflector I can pick up on ebay. If anyone could recommend some specific lights for the above, or alternatively the name of a helpful supplier that will advise a novice I'd be extremely grateful. It seems very confusing for a beginner as there appear to be a wide array of possibilities .. hard to 'narrow the focus' a little.

I'd also like to know how much combined light power will trip out a UK household fuse? If a lighting setup exceeds the amount .. is the solution to simply run extensions leads to different rings on the system? (e.g. run two lights on a downstairs circuit, and two from upstairs)

Lastly - would it be correct procedure to completely eliminate any existing light (both indoor overhead lights and any light coming in through the windows with black sheets or something) and use only the lights I take with me? I'm asking as I've read here on the forum that it's harder to 'colour correct' when mixing both sets of light. (I'm getting WAY ahead of myself there as I do not currently have any editing software at all .. but I'm trying to plan ahead).
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Old May 17th, 2006, 08:08 AM   #2
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Hi Anthony,

I recently got an excellent video interview light kit from Prokit in Chiswick...they are not hugely expensive. They do a Lowel three light kit in a bag for around 700 including a Rifa 300w, a Tota 500w and a 250w rear light.. all in a Lowel bag... excellent service, a real pro shop...

These are not hugely powerful lights, but great for one or two person interviews..

www.prokit.biz

cheers
Gareth
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Old May 17th, 2006, 09:03 AM   #3
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If you are looking for budget, get some clamp on brooder lamps ($8) (big scoop things) and outfit them with flourescent soft whites ($5) (I'm using GE, the Phillips didn't last as long). The flourescents will allow you to throw 3x as many lumens at your subject as incandescents would on a given circuit. Look for the lamps that have the collar bolted onto the socket and post hinges, the pressure fitted knuckles fall apart too easily.

Get 4 or 5 8-10 foot lighting stands ($10-$50 on ebay), at least one with a weighted boom arm for placing the backlight above the subject.

If you are concerned about looking more prefessional on set, get some black spray paint for the inside of barbecue grills and paint the outside of your scoops flat black, I was recently looking at a lower end pro light kit...this setup is all it was.

For bouncing/flagging light, $10 (about the same in euros...right?) will get you a piece of FOAM CORE from the art store, white to bounce, black to flag (you can spray paint them silver/gold as well for stronger bounce). Foam core is basically 2 pieces of tagboard sandwiching a piece of styrofoam. With these, you can either build mounts for them using pressure clamps and stands, or buy C-stands to clamp them up.

You'll have to get my setup a little closer as the wattages are lower than the kit above, but it generates almost no heat!
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Old May 18th, 2006, 04:26 PM   #4
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Not all interviews need artifical lights. Some of the most beautiful light comes through windows. You can seat your subject near a window that has soft daylight. Seat the interviewer against the wall next to the window, to direct the subject's eyeline somewhat toward the window, and place your camera next to the interviewer.

You may want to add a bit of bounce light to the subjects, or to the background with the use of a reflector or foamcore, as Cole suggested.

When you are using the sun for source, you don't want your interview to go on too long, as the sun's movement could bone you. But you can usually get thirty minutes without worrying about losing the light.

Can be a very artful look, with a minimum of work on your part. Just requires a good eye.

Wayne Orr, SOC
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Old May 18th, 2006, 10:39 PM   #5
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Forget about lighting the background. SPend your budget on lighting and mic'ing the subject. I think a hairlight is the most important touch to make your interview look profossional.

John Jackman wrote a book on lighting and explains the various lights as well as how to use them in different situations. Buy the book and start practicing.

The Lowel Pro is a superbly built light that is extremely versatile. Two of those plus a reflector may be a starting point. Get the diochrotic filter so you can match the light to daylight from a window when needed. If you want more power for a key, then get a Lowel Omni.

After you learn to light the subject, then tackle the background with a Lowel Tota and some gels.
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Old May 19th, 2006, 05:24 PM   #6
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Thanks very much to all who posted. So many great tips and the prokit link, bearing in mind Ernests recommendations also, will be the route I will take if I can manage to pull that kind of cash together. Chiswick is near enough that I can go in and talk to them too, which is a huge bonus. I will grab the Jackman book for sure also.

Wayne / Cole - These are the kind of tips / advice that will be really helpful when I'm shooting the test footage. As this will be first project, I may allocate a little towards the lights mentioned and will definitely be trying the interview near the window (something I didn't think of at all which sounds crazy).

I haven't managed to find any brooder lamps with clamps, they seem to mainly come with chain only.
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Old May 19th, 2006, 10:36 PM   #7
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These are a little more expensive, but they have better clamps on them than the cheaper ones...you'll thank me. If anyone knows where you can just get the clamps like these, I'd love to know. Then I can convert all my other ones that are falling apart.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...nce&n=15684181

Cheaper but shorter cord:

http://www.best-car-care.com/store/B...150_Watts.html
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Old May 20th, 2006, 05:35 AM   #8
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Hi Anthony

John Jackman has a couple of Lighting Seminars on the net..

http://www.pqhp.com/cmp/dvxe05/

Hopefully the link will work for you... they are long, but really instructive...

Regards

Gareth
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Old May 20th, 2006, 06:34 AM   #9
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Anthony, I got all my light kit from Prokit in Chiswick - very helpful people indeed.

My tips? Do at least consider an in-line dimmer as part of your kit. I Also do interviews as part of my work - WITH an XM2!

I also employ a pair of reflectors to introduce an angled light source. I rarely use direct lighting onto a subject and often "bounce" my lights OFF ceilings or now my reflectors.

Kit can be cheap, but as you are finding out not only is what we pay for does have the advantage of being designed from "experience" it can also look and feel proper. If I had time and the patience I too would have been building light kit. Most likely I will .. I feel I could do with a larger Florrie softbox. And I ain't gonna spend that type of money on such a devise! - However, and presently, the kit I assembled from Prokit is seeing me through.

Grazie
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Old May 22nd, 2006, 05:36 PM   #10
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Gareth - thanks very much for the link! I watched the first part today and found it incredibly helpful. What Ernest was saying about the backlight is illustrated very clearly as part of the practical demonstration.

I couldn't find the Jackman book at the weekend, but I found another book, 'Lighting for Television & Film' by Gerald Millerson. I spent a good ten minutes thumbing through it at the book shop and it's written in a way that I'll be able to shoot straight through.

Cole, thanks again - I've done a quick search on UK google to try and find those lights here, but nothing as yet. I tried UK amazon thinking I might get lucky - but nothing there either.

Graham - would you bounce the light to soften it a little? Also, do you think with a reflector I can get away with using just a good key light?
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Old May 22nd, 2006, 10:54 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony Mazzola
Graham - would you bounce the light to soften it a little? Also, do you think with a reflector I can get away with using just a good key light?
Anthony a lighting design really does depend on just what you WANT to achieve and how much of the ambient and "other" lighting IS available. But I guess you know this.

Personally, having learnt a bit of this craft, I wouldn't drop below 2 lights. I use a medium-sized Rifa softie and a Lowell Dedolight with a bull nose focus. I have had success with a single light and using this to "counter" some excessive sunlight. However, sunlight is unpredictable in the UK and I needed to do some "creative" post work to bring in some stability - it worked. I'll add that the Dedo has an in-line dimmer - marvellous!

The reflectors allow me to bounce light about BUT can also be a means to keep a lighting budget down. This second point is really secondary to what were my needs. Although the "need" for lighting comes first, buying kit that you will not require for sometime could make you feel silly - "Why did I buy this? I'll never use it again!!" Well maybe .. But HAVING the depth of kit makes me feel confident too. I have it to experiment with, as well as taking to jobs. Look, you could also hire kit and experiment with it prior to a shoot? If you wanna buy it then you have that option. Depending on the business, frequency and urgency many videographers will hire or borrow kit.

One light work? Tricky. Doable? Most definitely yes. But again, it will all depend on the final look you want. And that is your call.

Try and get hold of Vic Milt's "Light it Right" DVD. It gave - and still gives me - a whole new perspective on what I was finding a daunting and often misleading aspect to out craft.

Often I wish a third camera would zoom out on a set so I can "see" exactly what the lighting design that IS being used! As you are in London, you might wanna check out the Broadcast Show coming to Earls Court 2 in the last week of June. I betcha you'll find a free lighting seminar there to attend? <<WINK>>

Finally: During my first off-site lighting experience I was terrified. But after an hour I quickly got over it. I also befriended a pro stills photographer neighbour how gave me the "once-over" and with the knowledge I had acquired I was able to create those all important layers and separation of the subject from the background and the nicely balanced and interesting look. Still learning. Still amazed at what I see lighting pros DO do - with very little. Want some further advice? Check out some of the real old masters - Rembrandt - and get a feel for just how he created a lighting design.

Best regards,

Grazie

PS: The other thing is don't struggle - you need to concentrate on the focus and framing - you will have plenty of other stuff to deal with.
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Old May 26th, 2006, 02:12 AM   #12
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Thanks a lot Graham once again for some fantastic (and at this stage of the game, much needed!) advice.

I was out roving with the camera yesterday shooting footage while changing the various settings and commentating - the idea being to shoot one hours footage and then just watch it back to see how what I was doing changed the picture.

Can I just check a general lighting procedure to check I am 'on the right track'?

I am finding it very difficult indeed to guage exposure by looking at the tiny LCD screen. Yesterday I was really relying on the zebras to set the overall exposure .. basically dialling down the f-stop settings until only the sky (completely zebrad), and the reflection of some car bodies / windows had a little zebra on them.

I am just wondering if this is too crude a way to be going about things, or will this practice be okay across the board .. I mean even for indoor footage, the interviews and so on? An external monitor of any kind is out of the question as I am saving the entire remainder of the budget for lighting.

I spent days reading the 'Son of' forum to learn about the XM2 and I have decided to keep shutter speed locked at 1/60 where possible and use the f-stop setting and ND filter (outside) as the primary means of exposing in general. I am just wondering if it's all about: 1) The eye 2) The zebra .. or if there are any other ways to make crude checks for if the shot is overexposed?
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Old May 26th, 2006, 11:03 AM   #13
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To get an optimal image outside, you want to try to bring light into the dark areas to balance the sky with the subjects...You can do this by either making sure the sun is over your shoulder and using a bounce card to bring light to the other side of the subject (this will keep the backgrounds lit better too) or by keeping a higher sun over the subjects shoulder off to one side to act as a back light, then bounce light in to act as key and fill. The goal is to try to get both the top of the frame and the bottom of the frame to expose well.

If you are shooting run and gun, you won't have as many options available to you...so angle in relation to the sun and subject is crucial...test shoot this alot before you go out and do it so you will have experience with it when it counts.

If you are setting tripods and able to control lighting more, you can get better pictures by using bounce cards and reflectors to match the exposure level of the forground to the sky. Then you will be able to dial out all the zebras and still have everything well exposed. This will get you quite dynamic skies as well. A Circular polarizer is your friend in digital photography. This allows you to control the reflections and the character of the light in the sky darkening it in relation to the foreground a bit.

If you can get enough polarizer and ND filters on the front, dial the iris open for a shallower depth of field to slightly blur the background a bit...this hides the weaknesses of DV resolution a bit and makes a better image. Also dial down your image sharpness if you can, super contrasty edges are a dead giveaway that you are shooting digitally as well.

Test alot! So when you're there on the day, you have already done the setup you need.
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Old May 26th, 2006, 12:24 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony Mazzola
I am finding it very difficult indeed to guage exposure by looking at the tiny LCD screen. Yesterday I was really relying on the zebras to set the overall exposure .. basically dialling down the f-stop settings until only the sky (completely zebrad), and the reflection of some car bodies / windows had a little zebra on them.

I am just wondering if this is too crude a way to be going about things, or will this practice be okay across the board ..
Well, yes. The LCD screen on a camera is pretty useless for determining exposure.

A few days ago I had a class of video students do some lighting setups and select their preferred exposures on Canon GL2 using the LCD.

We also worked with zebras, (the GL2 allows you to choose zebras at 80, 85, 90, 95 or 100 ire) and put the output through the waveform monitor in DVRack.

Students who were just going by the look in the LCD exposed caucasian faces as low as 45 and as high as 100 ire (as viewed in DVRack). (the convention is 80-85 ire.) The whole exercise was a huge eye-opener, as even students who considered themselves well familiar with the GL2 really didn't know how to use zebras.

Zebras are usually the ONLY reliable indication of exposure in the field. You need to know what zebra displays your camera is capable of showing - what level are they at, and are they changeable.

1) If you have broad highlights on caucasian faces around 85 the faces will be correctly exposed for documentary and interview work. For interviews this is what we mostly care about. The exposure of the sky is not neccessarily related to the exposure on the faces, so, zebras across the sky and reflected highlights only tells you something about the sky's exposure. But what? If the zebras were set to 100, that means the sky was white and possibly blown out.

2) Many cameras have multiple settings for zebras. Learn them. In many cameras, you can look at the picture while you run through the different zebra levels. This tells you the most info you can get from the camera about exposure of different elements in a scene.

3) In shooting interviews outdoors one of the constant challenges is to limit the range of light the camera sees. People squint in direct bright sunlight, and shadows in the eyes and under the nose are usually too dark. One of the first things we do is turn them around, so that the sun is now a backlight and expose for the face. Sun-lit backgrounds are now super bright, so perhaps we'll put them in front of a darker or shaded background. How is the face looking now? Maybe a not-too-bright reflector is needed...

I'm looking out the window at a typical grey morning in Portland, Oregon, the rhododendrons are in full bloom, and the cloud cover provides nice diffusion for an outdoor interview - if you can keep dry.

How do you tell an Oregonian? The moss on their back, the webs between their toes, the rust stains on their clothes, and they'll be saying: "Rain? ...but that's what keeps it so GREEN!"

4) If you can zoom in on a couple faces and there isn't a super bright background, hit the auto exposure and see what the camera thinks is the right exposure (then expose in manual, of course).

5) Somewhere along the line you need a waveform monitor to really familiarize yourself with good exposure. For most people, this will be in their editor - open up the scope and look at the video. Shoot tests, lots of tests, and slate them by saying "this is with zebras set to 85, and they're displaying across his right forhead and right side of his nose" and such. Some practice with this will give you a very good idea of how to use zebras on your camera. And by all means burn a DVD and see what your tests look like on your TV.
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