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Old March 14th, 2007, 06:00 PM   #1
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How much time and manpower do you need for really good interview lighting?

Hi there, I'm new here but I'm not a total newbie to lighting. I've been learning and working at regional television (in Germany) for about four years now, including a three year job training and professional, external (not regional-tv) teaching, and I kind of ended up being the "lighting specialist" (because seemingly noone else there has the eye for proper lighting and also because I am the only one really interested in it, I think...)
I always envy the looks of highly professionally lit interviews, but when I look at sites like efplighting I always get reminded that I never get the time to light my interviews like that. I always cherish the times when I even get to use my light kit at all...
Usually when I have "a lot" of time I'm using a three-piece tungsten kit with a 800W open face and a styrofoam reflector as a key (< 45°), a 200W open face as a hair/edge light and another 800W open face for the background (using different gels for color and/or punctuated black wrap as a cookie).

When I see tutorials that say I need to use collapsible backgrounds, three lights for only background lighting, three or four lights for the talent, softboxes, flags, cookies, whatsoever, then I really ask myself: how much time do these guys have for lighting? Or how many highly professional assistants do they have?

I've been working a few times with national television (that equals I'm having a lot more time compared to regional tv plus an assistant) and even then it is impossible to use more than two or three lights in a very improvised situation (like: you can't cover the windows because there are no blinds and I don't have 3 assistants with multiple huge flags to cover the windows quickly enough - because we're at the interview partner's bureau/house and we can't use more than mostly 15-20 minutes for lighting).

So, how much time and/or people do you need for a really nice interview setting, something like on efplighting.com. Or even something that seems pretty simple like this http://www.bluesky-web.com/broadcast...s-30bucks.html - it's more elaborate than just setting up the lights (which can eat up all the time I ever get) you need to fix something here and there with the reflector and some black wrap... am I just infinitely slow, or is it just that my jobs aren't yet good enough so I'd get a little more time?

*edit* just to give you a little input of what I've already done - these are screenshots of what I think is my best lighting job yet (done all alone, lighting, camera, etc. I had an intern who helped me carry the equipment and getting the stands mounted - we moved in and out in just about over an hour , including about 25 minutes of actual taping - but this job included a lot of lucky presets, like the very nice deko and the practical to the left top which acted as a nice second hair light...)

http://www.heiko-saele.de/halfclose.jpg
http://www.heiko-saele.de/close.jpg
http://www.heiko-saele.de/opentilted.jpg

Last edited by Heiko Saele; March 14th, 2007 at 07:01 PM. Reason: adding pictures
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Old March 15th, 2007, 11:18 AM   #2
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Heiko, I’ve been getting a lot of e-mails on EFPlighting regarding this very topic, how much time and how many people do I have do create these set-ups.

I think that somewhere on the web site I mention that but not specifically. In the future I will have a chapter dedicated about getting organized and time efficient on every assignment but for now I’ll address your questions.

Our average call time is two hours before the scheduled interview, call time is what I ask for, if you need more time ask for, trust me on this one, if the producers will see better results by allowing more time they will not hesitate to make it available every time you ask; when the work looks good the producer looks good. The crew of 2 consists of me (photographer) and a soundman. The producer normally tries to stay clear, he/she will tell us what they need and usually they get ready for the interview.

Step one is to survey the place and decide what equipment we’ll need based on the client’s needs. The 3 most common options are a fully darkened room, in which case we might have to completely black-out every window, a combination daylight-artificial light meaning fluorescent lights with daylight tubes or gelled lights or a full daylight room meaning HMI lights only.

Once the decision is made, and it shouldn’t take longer than five minutes, we unload the needed equipment and start setting up.

It helps to be organized both in your mind, meaning that you know exactly what to do, and with your equipment by knowing precisely what to take out of your van, indecisions will cost you time. Of course if you don’t have that much equipment then that phase should be much more simplified. You have to know what each piece of equipment will do for you, if you start experimenting while setting up you’ll lose the time battle. Subject’s lighting is pretty much of a pre-set situation that can be done in about 20 minutes or less. Most of the remaining time is taken by creating and manipulating the background. If we are lucky and the room is almost ready to go then there’s more time to sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee but usually we fine tune the set until the interviewee arrives. Once the subject is in place the producer does some get acquainted talk while I fine tune the lights and my soundman does the same with audio.

Team work is very important. The soundmen that I use frequently know my equipment and my routine, once we get into a room we both know what needs to be done and get right to it.

There are two sets on EFPlighting.com that takes 10 to 20 minutes to set-up with a minimum of equipment and can be used for 70% of all interviews.

http://efplighting.com/?Lighting_int...ick_Interviews
http://efplighting.com/?Lighting_int...hts_interviews

Nino

www.EFPlighting.com
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Old March 15th, 2007, 01:28 PM   #3
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I'm really just going to agree with Nino. In general, for most interviews, I'm looking for about 2 hours from the call time until we're ready for the first shot. That gives us time to unload, prep camera/monitor, prep sound, light, and tweak. My crew is usually 4 folks - camera op/DP, sound mixer, grip/electric, and a hair/makeup person for simple stuff. For complex things like large night exteriors with a crane shot, it might be a crew of 12 or more and a lot more equipment.

A lot depends, though. So I really, really push for a chance to scout locations before we show up to shoot. Nino's comments about indecision are right on, so you want to have your plan of attack outlined ahead of time. Scouting, especially if you can do it at the same time of day as the shoot, will make sure that you have a little time to look at the location, talk with your producer/director about what they want, and give your brain a chance to process it all. I have certainly had to walk in cold and "do something", but I find the results are much better if you have a chance to scout the location.
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Old March 16th, 2007, 04:09 PM   #4
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Thank you for the detailed answers - and I'm glad you both said roughly 2 hours are necessary for a really good interview setup, including at least one soundman/assistant who knows what they are doing.
So far I never had any preparation time - that means when I first see the location then the interview partner is already there, and most of the time they think it won't need more than five minutes until the interview is done.
Then most of the time I am alone or with an intern who might or might not know how to unfold a light stand.
The equipment I said I was using is basically all we got (well, we do have some more tungsten lights, a dedolight kit and even some c-stands, but it's all worthless when you don't have the time to use it...)

I really need to get away from where I work, I'm wasting my time on this crummy station where almost nobody can tell a good shot from a horribly bad shot...
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Old March 16th, 2007, 05:25 PM   #5
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Heiko,

If I may, it sounds like you may have a mismatch between the type of work you want to do and the type of work your employer is expecting. While it takes me awhile to set up for an interview, I watch crews from our local TV station (usually just one guy) show up, flip on the on-camera light and shoot an interview. They really are ready to go in under five minutes. They are driven almost entirely by time, and all they want is a usable image and sound. This is a perfectly valid use of video, and audiences are very accepting of it on news or other "on-the-spot" type shows. However, if your "customer" doesn't value the same thing in images that you do, then I fear that you will just find it very frustrating.

On the other hand, there is always going to be news, so the local TV camera guy knows there will be a paycheck at the end of the week. I'm always convinced that I'll never find another paying gig :-)

Best of luck to you!

Last edited by Ralph Keyser; March 16th, 2007 at 06:17 PM.
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Old March 18th, 2007, 01:38 AM   #6
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1 person 30 minutes. 2 Lights, a reflector, lav mic. Once you get it "right" there isn't a whole lot of variation. Sure, get there 2 hours early, it's not like you're charging by the hour. Hang out, drink coffee, impress the receptionist with the size of your lens, tell an amusing anecdote aboout your last gig, be cool cameraman or cameramam. You have a cool job.
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Old March 18th, 2007, 06:32 PM   #7
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Getting in to the darn place

Hi all:

I agree with Nino, two hours is usually perfect. However, one thing that is often overlooked when going on location is getting your gear unloaded and into the place! I did a shoot last week, several interviews in one day at an office about 35 miles from our facility. For those of you familiar with the area, we are in Burbank and the interviews were to take place on the Westside in Santa Monica. Normally, it takes about an hour to make it from Burbank to Santa Monica, however, even taking our secret shortcut over Mulholland Drive, it took us two and a half hours to even get to the location. There was a huge lane shutdown on the 405 south so regardless of the route, it took about 2-3 times as long to get to the neighborhood.

Once we pulled in, the location had a small circular driveway with "no parking" signs all over it. The parking structure had a maximum height of 6' high, my truck is 7' 3". So no dice on parking. For those of you used to the Westside, you know that there is no such thing as street parking. Every parking space within three miles (street and businesses) was taken. We circled for almost 45 minutes looking for just a single space. It was street cleaning on Thursdays (so half of the street parking space was not available). I ended up parking three miles from the location with the hope of unloading my Rock and Roller cart and carting all of the gear the three miles down sidewalks and surface streets. We loaded the cart (it's rated for 500lbs) with about 200lbs of gear and set out on our way. About two blocks from the truck, the rear tire for the Rock and Roller cart blew! Curses!

I had to hike back, get the truck, load the Rock and Roller cart and everything it had on it back into the truck, drive back to location and blocked/double parked in their circular driveway. The security guards at the location were giving us a hard time but we told them we had to unload just like the FedEx truck that was also double parked in the driveway. They let us park just long enough to unload. We had to carry all of the gear upstairs by hand (at least they had an elevator) but it took us four trips to get what all fit onto the Rock and Roller cart in one trip. I left the producer to begin uncrating the gear and setting up what he could. I drove my truck back to the side street three miles away, parked it and then began to jog back to the location. Upon arriving, it took me another 45 minutes to do just a minimal barely adequate BG. This particular location was an ugly, cramped and small writer's office so we brought a gray dappled muslin BG. Normally I hate muslins but anything was better than the scuffed and thrashed walls in the office. I had to hang duvetine over the blinds that covered the windows because the blinds were ill fitting and thrashed and still let in too much daylight.

All in all, we were ready to go three and a half hours over when we were supposed to have begun. The writers were very cool and still gave us the interviews we came to shoot even though our schedule kind of screwed up their day.

I would revise that two hours is perfect IF you can park and unload and actually get your equipment into the location. Sometimes it's like an Indiana Jones adventure to just make it to the location.

Best,

Dan
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Old March 18th, 2007, 07:10 PM   #8
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Quote:
If I may, it sounds like you may have a mismatch between the type of work you want to do and the type of work your employer is expecting. While it takes me awhile to set up for an interview, I watch crews from our local TV station (usually just one guy) show up, flip on the on-camera light and shoot an interview.
You are absolutely right - most of the time I'm one of these one-man-show guys who does an interview in 5-10 minutes. It mostly looks okay. Well, some just point a 50w light straight at the interviewee which then doesn't look good and some (take me for an instance) quickly decide to use a 216, quarter/half ctb/cto or cosmetic rouge on the sun-gun and maybe use that practical over there as a hairlight :)

And yes, there is a major mismatch between my employer's views and mine - that's why I need to get away soon. It was good for learning, but now it's time to find something better :)

Quote:
1 person 30 minutes. 2 Lights, a reflector, lav mic.
That's my usual workflow as well when I have "a lot" of time. But then my initial question comes into place again: what do you do with a place that's flooded with 6000K daylight, no blinds, a huge table filling the whole room (=hardly any place to move) and only white walls except one red cupoard that just doesn't look good no matter how you put the interview partner...

The case scenario was from a job for a national station where I actually had the time to set up two lights which made the whole thing look okay. At my station you're usually required to shoot a whole piece (3 to 3 and a half minutes) in two hours maximum, including the drive, you can't waste time on lights except for the on camera light.

Now I don't want to sound like I hate my job or anything. I love it. I also love the "news moments" without any lighting where you wait in front of a courtroom with a bunch of other teams for the accused to be brought in. You get these 30 seconds outside and then maybe 5 more minutes inside the courtroom to shoot enough for a 2 minute piece. It's exciting, I don't want to miss it. But getting a little time to light something really good would be nice once in a while... (well, at least I get the 1 hour sometimes to do the presentation shoots, the one where the grabs above are taken from)

Last edited by Heiko Saele; March 18th, 2007 at 09:51 PM.
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Old March 18th, 2007, 10:19 PM   #9
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One Rifa Light, one reflector/fill, one Pro Light with scoop for hair light.

One Lowel open face with black wrap cuculoris for background light:

http://www.dvxuser6.com/uploaded/6185/1167410555.jpg

Set up time about 20 minutes with audio.

I fly often with this setup and it works well for interviews.

http://www.dvxuser6.com/uploaded/6185/1167410613.jpg
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Old March 20th, 2007, 04:00 AM   #10
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Old March 20th, 2007, 05:09 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Heiko Saele View Post
But then my initial question comes into place again: what do you do with a place that's flooded with 6000K daylight, no blinds, a huge table filling the whole room (=hardly any place to move) and only white walls except one red cupoard that just doesn't look good no matter how you put the interview partner...

Well, I did have a better background and a couch to work with but the rest was similar.
We intervened from 11:30am to 9:30pm we hung cloth, we gelled and we pulled our hair out. :-) You can see the result here…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jt78fRQBUOE

I did all the interviews except the one of the man in the room with the maps, that was existing footage.

BTW, the vote was last week and by a landslide the town voted to buy back the farm from the developer and turn it into community gardens, an education center and nature trails.

Bill
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Old March 24th, 2007, 09:10 AM   #12
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Bill - watched the video - well done. This is the kind of topics and settings I am working towards

Thanks for sharing.
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