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  • Writer's pictureMike Kozlenko

Branded Doc Interviews: Part III

Updated: Mar 23, 2022

Breaking down the choices I made on a shot that I generally do NOT like how I did

Continuing in the series of branded doc interviews I shot in Florida, I have another frame I wanted to discuss how I lit. To me, this looks fine and it does the trick. But it's one my least favorite one's I shot. The space was kind of odd but I had some key lamps in my arsenal that I just didn't think to use on the day. And there were massive floor-to-ceiling windows to deal with. The biggest problem to me is the right side of frame. The lady in this frame is talking about her daughter that passed, and that picture that's in the back is of her daughter so we wanted to include it blurred out in the background. But the contrast between the windows and the dark brick texture is too stark. Both in brightness and in color. They seem to compete with each other too much. It didn't help that during the interview a massive thunderstorm came through and made the interior progressively darker. But I didn't really think I had many other good shooting angles in the house.

There was a black bookshelf and a TV that was frame right that also went too dark in my opinion. I'll get into it and maybe as I write I'll be able to figure out what worked and what didn't.

* 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, 5400k WB, 1/4 Black Pro-Mist, 50mm lense at T2.0 (maybe 2.8?), 800 ISO

*I had 1 grip helping with lighting & our sound guy helped swing. Set up time was ~45 min.

Lighting this stuff

So I mentioned that it was important to get that background photo into the frame. And this was the best angle to make that happen. For my key light, I used my trusty 300D w/ Lightdome MK II thru a 4x of silk. The goal is always to get some distance between the light source and the diffusion to get it as soft as possible. The softer the source, the more natural and "non-lit" it appears. So my diffusion frame was close to edge of frame. For a bit more context on the shot, here's the wide version of it:

Ugh I really dislike that right side of frame... Bottom right is just too bland and boring-looking

Look at how soft that key light appears. Although just looking at this, I don't like going straight up with the diffusion like that... I prefer to match the angle of the light. Doing it this way thickens the diffusion a bit, which is fine in certain cases. It's a super subtle thing. Also, no egg crate because I didn't need to really narrow down there the light was hitting. The subject was sitting in an area where the spill wasn't washing out a wall

That was my key light. Pretty simple. Pretty soft and pleasant. I didn't do a backlight because there was plenty of light moving in from the windows and that gave me separation. There were candles sitting over the fire place so I had someone light them to give me some bokeh. But the painting on wall was too dark and not noticeable at all. I wanted to bring up the levels on it with a warmer wash of light, motivated by the candle light. So we set a 500w lowel omni on the floor and dimmed it down. We didn't have a beaver board so we had to make it work like you see in the photo below. NOT IDEAL. If the light was at full blast it would've burned the sandbag. But we dimmed it down enough to where it wasn't a big deal.

Don't try this at home kids

So after that light was set, I've started seeing real problems with how I lit this. We had a small battery-powered aputure m9 in the fireplace to bring up the levels. I also have an aputure MX but I didn't have the USB-C cable to run it into a USB battery pack, and the battery life wouldn't have lasted for the interview. So that was a mess-up that messed things up a bit. The bookshelf on frame right started getting wayyyy too dark, so I decided to put the m9 there INSTEAD of in the fireplace, to pop it up. Without it, it was almost all black.

M9 with CTO behind this clock to add a little point of light on the bookshelf

The MX would've worked way better. And now I didn't have a light in the fireplace and it was too dark. So I added a 250w lowel pro light with a snoot to try to pop it a little bit. But the light barely did shit on-camera.

I should've put the pro light on the ground to light up the painting, and the Lowel Omni on the stand to bring up the background. I also desperately could've use more light in that fireplace. OR I could've put the 1x1 westcott flex light in there to bring up the shadows. I also had a Quasar Kino I could've use to extend the daylight coming in and bring more of it into the living room to the right side of frame. Maybe I tried it on the day and it was washing the background out or causing weird reflections in the frame-right TV. No idea. Ughhh. Oh well. What's done is done.

Last couple things we added: Paper-taped up some black table cloth to the wall on the fill-side to eliminate some of the return we were getting on the interviewee's face. There was no room to get a c-stand with a 4x4 floppy in there so the table cloth did the trick. It made it a bit moodier than the producer preferred so we taped up some computer paper to the table cloth to bring up parts of the fill-side. I added a low fill card just to lift up the eyes & cheek just a tad bit more. and then we were done.

black table cloth fell down a bit only after the interview concluded and we were fake-shooting just for the bts photos lol

So yeah, that's what I did for this interview shot. It's not the worst thing I've ever shot, but I definitely wish I would've seen things a bit differently on the day. Hindsight is always 20/20 but writing all this out is definitely helping me see what I can improve on. Let me know if you have any other ideas on what I could've done.


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