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  • Writer's pictureMike Kozlenko

Branded Doc Interviews: Part II

Updated: Mar 23, 2022

Hi hello howdy. Doing another writeup here for another set of interviews I shot for Moore agency in Tallahassee a few weeks back. Let me get to it:

The Motivation

We shot 4 interviews here back-to-back with the same exact setup (one came in after the other). This is for the same piece as the interview I went over in Part I. That was a very warm image to convey parental warmth/comfort. With THIS, we wanted to maintain a sense of that warmth in the skintones because these are researchers that are still pushing for positive change & reform, but we infused cooler tones in the frame since they were saying more concrete, objective, factual content, so I felt it was appropriate.

* I'd say 95% of the look was done in-camera, I moved a couple wheels around briefly in Lumetri

*Camera Settings: 5K HD on Red Scarlet-W, 5000k WB, 1/4 Black Pro-Mist, 50mm lense at T1.8, 800 ISO

*I had 2 grips helping with lighting. Set up time was ~45 min

Starting to lose some shadow detail in the hair here. Might need to bring that up

Picking the frame

This space was pretty tight quarters. There was a big-ass glass table in the room that ate up most of my space to get in lights & modifiers. But I thought that I could sneak that glass table into frame to get a neat cooler-toned texture. There were windows to the right of the table but they had blinds on them we could close. The light outside was changing but I liked what that window light was doing to the book shelves with all the different book colors on it. So I wanted to close the blinds and fake my own window light in the space. I also liked that gap of white wall in the corner between the book shelves to add some separation in tonality, which I'd use to punch in some color contrast.

Tossin' Up Some Lights

So I had a frame picked out. The lighting came about pretty easily. First stroke was my go-to key light for this trip: Aputure 300D w/ a lightdome MK II w/ an egg crate. Say what you want about this setup; sure it's prosumer equipment. Sure the build quality isn't great. And it's not a skypanel. But it saved me rental prices so we could devote a tad more to crew, and its a super freaking bright light so it gave me some versatility. Put a softbox on it and add extra diffusion in front, and its a beautiful soft source. Put a fresnel attachment on it and its a super punchy hard source (in between a joker 400 & 800 probably).

The lightdome MK II is awesome because it's fast to set up and IT HAS A GEL HOLDER. Gelling softboxes is always a massive pain in the balls. But with this, it's made easy. It's just a gel holder frame that clips inside the softbox. It's genius. The cable mess that comes with the 300D sucks, but I'm used to it, so it's not that bothersome.

So I squeezed in the 300D between the table and the wall. There's a couple VERY important things to note with how I positioned the light. I did not point it directly at talent. If I did, it would've blasted the background bookshelves behind talent that are to the left of talent's head. I panned the light off to where it was not pointed at talent, but it was emitting enough light from an angle to provide talent a nice key. Since there was no room to add a stand, we just clipped extra diffusion to the ceiling and let it drape down over the light. The diffusion of choice? a freaking shower curtain! No one knew. But I love the way it makes the skin glow. It's very similar to half-soft frost diffusion, practically the same thing in my opinion. Spreads the light out while not taking away too much level. I love how the key light turned out here. Final note about the keylight: To give the skin a bit more pop and separation from the background, I added 1/8 CTS gel. Pretty pleased with what that did for me. Lately I've been trying to embrace the idea of light FALLING on your subject instead of SHINING on your subject. I've been liking the results so far

On to the background

To emulate what the window was giving me when I had first walked into the space, we threw up a quasar Kino at 5600k and diffused it thru an 8x8 silk. To get a good ratio between key and background, I think we ended up only have 1 bulb on, could've been 2. Not 100% sure. This gave us a nice cool tone to the background. But that light was flying all over the place. It was hitting talent a bit too. I wanted to isolate my background light from my key light, creating "zones" of light. So we put up a lamp-left sider to keep it from spilling onto talent. But it was also spraying light onto the white board I was getting in frame, taking it to a point where it was almost distracting. So we also added a lamp right sider to take that down.

lamp left & lamp right siders on my "window light". Letting some light spill onto the glass desk. The hot spot you see on the white board wasn't in frame. We were out of floppies and space so couldn't really add a topper. I don't think it made a huge difference but I would've considered having one if we did have the space.

So we got our key light and we got our background. We were looking good so we just needed to add a few more strokes. That gap of white wall in the back corner between the book shelves was looking a bit dead. So we threw in a battery-powered dracast panel, dialed to 3200k with an additional full CTS gel over it. My motivation for that was some sort of LED light some people might have plugged in directly to an outlet. Like a night-light type thing. It could also look like the wall is potentially just that color and there's some kind of practical there that is up-lighting it. I may have overcooked it on the warmth of it but generally speaking I like what it gave me.

So the background was just about finished. But it was just lacking a LITTLE pizzazz (This autocorrected to "pizza" the first time lol). I wanted some bokeh because the background just needed a pop. I looked for anything metallic like a trophy that could bokeh out, but couldn't find anything. We needed to be ready very very soon. I could've added a lowel pro light up high with a snoot to give a hard beam of light to pop up the background, but I couldn't find any logical motivation for why that hard of a light would be there. and there wasn't much space to fit it in. And we may have been out of stands. So I was like "screw it, lets just put a light IN the stupid bookshelf."So we taped up a small battery-powered aputure M9 w/ CTO on it. But we were gonna be using all our diffusion scraps for something else. So I asked my gaffer, Vy, to go lowest intensity on the light and diffuse with whatever he could find. I think he used our leftover napkins from lunch lol.

I know it's really stretching it, but my motivation was some sort of bookshelf light you might see sometimes (while the other shelves conveniently don't have one...). It may have been too bright, but I could live with it. I always wanna be as naturalistic as possible for these kinds of things, but I feel like with interviews you can take some creative liberties. At the end of the day I just needed it to look good. Oh also, if you look at the interview, while I think it looks nice and works really well for the story and the vibe of the piece, the balance between my key light and background is a tiny bit OFF. The key seems a hair too bright. I think...It needed to be for this. But if I wanted it a bit more natural, I might've brought my key down or brought background up and stopped down a tad.

Final Stroke

Next I wanted to add super subtle backlight because talent was blending into background too much. I don't like noticeable backlights that you see in alot of corporate stuff. I wanted it to look like it came from a practical. But we didn't have any more proper lamps to really get me what I wanted. And we were running out of time. We used a matthellini clamp on the bookshelf directly behind talent to toss up a a 1x1 westcott flex light at 5600k at the LOWEST intensity. Like 1%. And then we diffused it with a crap-ton of scraps of 250 and some other things. On the female interview frame it was a near perfect backlight. On the male in the suit, it scratched the cheek a bit harder than I would've liked (because on him it's starting to look like I placed a light right there). But the light still appears soft enough because of how close it is to talent. . The bigger the source, the softer the light. It's kind of hard to explain here, but because this flex light was so close, the perceived size of the source in relation to talent made it soft. If it was 8 feet away and the intensity went up, it would've appeared much harder.

However, it was set up in a way that cut the size of the light source in half because it was folded over so much. Which made it appear slightly harder as a source than what it could have been if we used the entire surface area of the light. But we needed to get going and I could live with what it was giving me. Final thing was an 18"x24" frame of negative just out of frame for some negative fill on talent, and we were lit. Again, if this was a narrative film then we look at some things a bit differently, mainly the key-to-background ratio. Let me know if you think it looks like shit or not!


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