How to Shoot Cinematic Interviews with Two or Three Lights

Sometimes, on shoots, you can not only be short of time, but also of lights. Here are several quick two and three-light setups that will help you achieve a cinematic look in interviews.

As I pointed out in a previous article on shooting cinematic videos, the footage has to obey a variety of rules. One of them is how you illuminate the subject. In this short video tutorial, filmmaker Tom Antos shows an example of how using simple lighting techniques with limited sources can help you achieve a pleasing light that resembles scenes from movies. As you can see, the camera is placed on the shadow side of the subject. Antos stresses the fact that you need to preserve the shadows as much as you can, because they define the shape of the face.

In cases where he has lights that are weaker in power than the ambient light, he uses the formerly main softbox now as a fill. In other cases, the fill light role was not preferred, so he used a hard key light. In both cases, shadows are preserved. Lighting is to define the shape and the mood of the scene, not to reveal all the details.

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9 Comments

I wonder what “cinematic” interview is! Perhaps one to be screened in the cinemas? Or perhaps one that looks like it was filmed in Hollywood or Bollywood? Or maybe one that should NOT look like it was shot for Youtubematic release?. I know: one that was shot by a cinema camera in the attic = cinem attic

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

The answer can be found in the first link in the article.

link: “A cinematic video is a video that resembles a film”. Film is just a chemical media that has different color rendition characteristics, contrasts, resolution, aspect ratio, frame rate, etc ....

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

"Film" means many things, including a layer of wood finish coating, a "movie" (which is a short for moving pictures), a film which is the medium for movies, a film which is the movie itself, and so forth.

You can find the right meaning of "film" in the article based on the context which is not the chemical media, nor a wood finish coating.

Yes, my wife likes to say that some of our furniture looks “cinematic” too ...

Pete Whittaker's picture

Thanks for sharing. I like Tom Antos, he always presents things clearly. However the term "cinematic" feels like it's become a real buzz word over the last year or two, to the point of almost being cliché. I don't know the details of who these people were or what the interviews were for but particularly when he was using the colored lights, the lighting really seemed to be calling attention to itself. I'm not sure that being that "cinematic" made sense for the subject and the scene.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

I agree for the colored lights. If they weren't colored or less saturated they would have looked better. As for the "cinematic," imagine a scene from a film where someone's talking to someone else. If the interview is shot with a similar type of lighting, similar camera angles, similar depth, it would be deemed "cinematic."

Of course, not all films are the same. There are ones that are badly lit and badly shot. The same with interviews.

Mr Hogwallop's picture

Actually to me these look more "60 Minutes" or other high end network interview footage than "cinematic". They look better than most and a lot better than the before shots
Is the the holy grail of cinematic lighting just good light?
Last year the cinematic look was orange and green grading, now it's tossing up an edge light with a colored gel?

Gels are a tricky thing, it's like garlic. Some added flavor is nice. But it's easy to go to far.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Lighting is indeed an essential part of the cinematic look (not the only requirement though) and as you mentioned it's changing like the fashion industry. When we shoot stills that resemble fashion magazines we call it "fashion" and yet there are many types of fashion. I guess it's the same with the "cinematic" trends.

I liked the comparison with garlic.