How To Make Interviews Look Cinematic

I’m going to show you that without spending any money you can add a cinematic upgrade to your shots

So after part one and part two of this Cinematic Lighting Tips series we should know a simple single light setup and the industry secret for far side filming. This third tip will transform this set-up a step further and create an even more cinematic shot from this frame. I’m going to try and do this for you without spending any additional budget on expensive lighting or gear, by using what you already have available for free. Of course you can up the production value even further by following the final step and I’ll put links below to the budget friendly gear we use there. 

In essence what we are setting out to achieve is to SEPARATE OUR SUBJECT FROM THE BACKGROUND. The most common mistakes I see in interview shots are the subject being placed up against a wall or placed against a totally blacked out background. Both of these seem cheap or artificial in some way and are tell-tale signs of a lower quality production. 

So first of all let’s try to create separation from the subject and its background. The easiest way to do this is to film at a wider aperture. The wider you set this, the smaller the depth of field of the shot, which ideally means less background in focus. This is particularly useful when filming outdoors as it quickly removes anything distracting from focus. Be warned though about setting your aperture too wide, as your subject could move in and out of focus themselves if that depth of field is too shallow. 

Next up you want to have as much depth behind your subject as possible, move them away from that wall! If you can, place your camera set-up at the back of the room, giving your shot the maximum depth possible. This simple step adds so much production value and also helps make your interviewee way more comfortable. 

Doing the first 2 on their own will be enough to add a real cinematic upgrade to your shots, however you can go a step further by adding colour and light to the background to add even more separation. Pay attention to your white balance, the colour of the key light and the colour of your subject’s clothes and try to use the opposite colours in your background. A warm face with a more blue background is a perfect example. This Orange and Teal combo is used throughout the filmmaking world, and with some cheap RGB LED lights is a really effective cinematic upgrade.

I know I promised a no budget hack, but in truth the first two tips on their own will take you a long way in upgrading your shots. If you want more tips like this, then make sure you subscribe and maybe consider leaving a comment below, telling me what your favourite part of the Cinematic Organisation of Camera Know-How is.

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