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Interview from Frontline

Ben Rowland, Yonder Blue Films
 

Hello,

I'm a curious as to how the interview lighting was achieved in this grab from a PBS Frontline episode.  It is certainly a medium to long lens with the aperture near wide open.  What I'm more curious about is how the lighting was achieved.  At first glance it seems obvious, and maybe it is, I have my guess, but I'd love to hear some professional opinions. 

I've attached a reference still.  Here's a link as well if the attachment is not working for you: https://www.dropbox.com/s/92ah775k0p1ihby/Screenshot%202018-11-05%2012.55.35.png?dl=0

It shows a decent amount of contrast on the face, yet the light wraps well.  Notice that the eye light appears to be round, on level with his face, soft, yet spill seems well controlled.  He has a highlight in each eye. The shadow side isn't too harsh - there's even exposure on his shadow side ear.  And it doesn't feel too overwhelming.  I know the color grade helped achieve this look, but certainly some thought was put into achieving most of this look in camera.

My guess is a big soft source with maybe some grid to control spill, but that's just a guess.  Looking forward to people's thoughts.  Thanks!

All the best,
Ben Rowland, currently Georgia, usually a director, but I wear a lot of hats.
Screenshot 2018-11-05 12.55.35.png

Matthew Clark
 

Your Frontline screen grab reminds me of Art Adams’ description of his simple interview set-up.  Taking Art’s suggestions, it seems that in the Frontline set-up, they just had more fill.  Or, as you suggest, it was lifted a bit in the grade.  


I’ve done a similar thing but with 2 or 3 4x4 Kino Flos a fair distance (6-10’) from a big 12’ x 12’ T-Boned (about 4-6’ from the subject) with something like full grid, boxed it in with solids and then added fill as necessary.  On this project, we were a small crew but we had ample time to set-up and wrap.  

Just recently I used Barger Baglights 6-lite with all 6 bulbs running, going through a Medium Chimera with full grid in front, a 40º egg crate and a floppy to keep it off the background plus fill as necessary.  I went this route because I didn’t have the room to work in a bigger source or multiple kinos and the 12’x.  It worked really well.  And we were a small crew.  

The other thing that struck me is the camera draw - the more distance between the camera, the subject and the background can help minimize what is back their, like in the Frontline shot vs. in Art’s shot where the background feels more present.  Of course lensing choices make a big difference here.  Art suggests he’s about at a 50mm in the wide and about 75mm on the close-up.  

I love having grids around and they can be helpful.  I often help them out with solids and floppies to cut away even more spill as necessary.  

Matthew J. Clark
Director/DP 
Seattle, WA

Brian Wengrofsky
 

Definitely a nice big source, and not too elevated...may even be centered at eye level as you can see plenty of illumination under the eyebrows and a nose shadow that extends sideways.  Could be a booklite or something punching through a decent size grid, maybe a 6x6. 

I see a second specular highlight in the key side eye.  My guess - that may be an additional key further to the side/back, which can help bring out more highlights in the skin than just a big soft source alone. 

Also seeing a shadow under the top fold of the fill side ear, and a soft illumination that seems to evenly cover the top of his head. That might suggest a hard source bounced off the ceiling, or a card over his head. 

Brian Wengrofsky

Director of Photography

New York City

John Rossetti
 

I find the lighting a bit too directional for me, was there wide shot?  showing the justification for the source

 

John Rossetti - London

Franz
 

It seems quite a standard set up really, good lens choice. Check this (dim down top kino big time though). For the background check the background of the room for the interviewee in this case.
Franz


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On 5 Nov 2018, at 19:40, Ben Rowland, Yonder Blue Films <ben@...> wrote:

Hello,

I'm a curious as to how the interview lighting was achieved in this grab from a PBS Frontline episode.  It is certainly a medium to long lens with the aperture near wide open.  What I'm more curious about is how the lighting was achieved.  At first glance it seems obvious, and maybe it is, I have my guess, but I'd love to hear some professional opinions. 

I've attached a reference still.  Here's a link as well if the attachment is not working for you: https://www.dropbox.com/s/92ah775k0p1ihby/Screenshot%202018-11-05%2012.55.35.png?dl=0

It shows a decent amount of contrast on the face, yet the light wraps well.  Notice that the eye light appears to be round, on level with his face, soft, yet spill seems well controlled.  He has a highlight in each eye. The shadow side isn't too harsh - there's even exposure on his shadow side ear.  And it doesn't feel too overwhelming.  I know the color grade helped achieve this look, but certainly some thought was put into achieving most of this look in camera.

My guess is a big soft source with maybe some grid to control spill, but that's just a guess.  Looking forward to people's thoughts.  Thanks!

All the best,
Ben Rowland, currently Georgia, usually a director, but I wear a lot of hats.
<Screenshot 2018-11-05 12.55.35.png>

Ben Rowland, Yonder Blue Films
 

Excellent feedback.  The article that Art wrote is very helpful too.  That's the kind of speedy setup you need many times.

Thanks for the continued info!

All the best,
Ben Rowland, ATL, GA, director that wears many other hats because sometimes I have to


On Tue, Nov 6, 2018 at 7:37 AM Brian Wengrofsky via Cml.News <rooster=bway.net@...> wrote:
Definitely a nice big source, and not too elevated...may even be centered at eye level as you can see plenty of illumination under the eyebrows and a nose shadow that extends sideways.  Could be a booklite or something punching through a decent size grid, maybe a 6x6. 

I see a second specular highlight in the key side eye.  My guess - that may be an additional key further to the side/back, which can help bring out more highlights in the skin than just a big soft source alone. 

Also seeing a shadow under the top fold of the fill side ear, and a soft illumination that seems to evenly cover the top of his head. That might suggest a hard source bounced off the ceiling, or a card over his head. 

Brian Wengrofsky

Director of Photography

New York City

Ben Rowland, Yonder Blue Films
 

Interestingly, most of the interviews use two closeups. Jump to 7:30 in to see what I mean: https://www.pbs.org/video/the-facebook-dilemma-part-two-i7efro/
Ben Rowland, near Atlanta


Ben Rowland, Yonder Blue Films
 

For clarification, they use two closeups on the subject of the interview.  One at eye level, and one above eye level. Hard to imagine it cutting well, but it works pretty well.  I think the cameras are slightly different though.  They also cut away to the interviewer.  Given the subject matter, Facebook, context of where the interview took place didn't seem to be important, so they went with only closeups with shallow depth of field.  Sometimes the out of focus backgrounds lead the eye to the subject.
Ben Rowland, near Atlanta


John F. Babl
 

Here’s a link to the Frontline Fakebook 2 part show, I watched it as it aired.  
Interesting look, though I don’t like the raised camera angle on cutaways-
The color and texture of backgrounds also make it interesting-

Mako Koiwai
 

A friend who shoots Dateline … uses one of these, or something similar … for a fully automated long lens single, as a third camera. It never stops moving, pivoting around the subject.

https://nofilmschool.com/2013/04/redrock-micros-curving-slider-aims-one


makofoto, s. pasadena, ca

Phillip Todd
 

There’s a newer version of it from 2015, which is supposed to be quieter than the 2013 version. 

It's a great idea for interviews.


Phillip

Phillip Todd
Cinematographer
Philadelphia, PA




On Nov 6, 2018, at 3:13 PM, Mako Koiwai <mako1foto@...> wrote:

A friend who shoots Dateline … uses one of these, or something similar … for a fully automated long lens single, as a third camera. It never stops moving, pivoting around the subject.

https://nofilmschool.com/2013/04/redrock-micros-curving-slider-aims-one


makofoto, s. pasadena, ca

Daniel Drasin
 

Ben Rowland writes: they use two closeups on the subject of the interview.  One at eye level, and one above eye level. Hard to imagine it cutting well, but it works pretty well. 

------------

I was surprised at how well it did work.  A change of POV can smooth out or mask difficult dialogue cuts, but this seems like a definite improvement over the ugly trend of simply cutting to an eye-level side shot of the subject. 

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA