How to Film a Cinematic Interview with Rembrandt Lighting

The Cinematic Interview Setup.

This is probably the only area you have control as a documentary filmmaker. Since the rest of the time you are capturing moments with the available light of your current location. 

If done right it will increase your production value drastically. 

So what makes cinematic lighting?rembrandt lighting color grading

Soft Diffused Light.  Why? When your light source is properly diffused you will  preserve a wide range of colors details, eliminate hot spots, create smooth transition between highlights and shadows and this will result in great quality visuals.

As my main Key-light I use the Aperture 120D + Light Dome II

Where should you place your Key-light?

I work with Rembrandt Lighting Pattern, which in my opinion allows me to keep a good balance between light and shadows. It creates depth and contrast.

You achieve Rembrandt Lighting by positioning your light 45% degrees from your subject.

If you do it right it will cast a triangle shape below the eye.

rembrandt triangle

This is known as the Rembrandt triangle. It was named after the Dutch Painter Rembrandt.

How far your key-light should be from your subject?

Rule of thumb: your subject should be placed as far as the size of your light modifier.

Meaning if you have a 60 inch octo-box your subject will be 60 inches away. 

The farther away from this sweet spot, you will lose light power and it will create hard defined shadows. It will result in bad quality visuals

For Example: Depending on the size of your key-light, you might only be able to light the head area before losing quality of light. Hence consider buying a bigger light modifier

Bonus tip if you own a Light Dome II: Use both diffusion panels to achieve even softer light.

light dome II

In my opinion the softer the light the better, but this is subjective. There will be times where you want to have edgier and punchier light.

As far as how much power you need from your key light that is determined by your background.

You expose the background first then the subject.

If your background is too dark, consider filling it up with additional lights. We use RGB tube lights from the company Nanlite to create color contrast. These are pricey! But they are so versatile. 

Finally, I add a second soft-box at full power as back-lighting to add separation.

This is not required but I love the outline it creates behind the subject.

I shoot with two Sony A7RII cameras setup with Slog 2 to get that extra dynamic range when color grading.

The first camera is setup as Wide angle and the other one for close up.

A wide angle shot with the Sony 24/70 gm and a close up shot with the Sony 85mm at eye level. 

Tip: Capture the shadow area as its the area with the most contrast.

The reason why two cameras is because people make mistakes or make long pauses. When you take the interview back to post production you can switch cameras to cut out the blank spaces and have a seamless narrative.

With this technique you can make anyone sound professional.

As far as audio goes our goal is to get clean audio

You can achieve this by using a lavalier mic or a shotgun mic

We are currently using a Deity s-mic2 (It requires Phantom Power to work) connected to Zoom F4 Recorder.

A rule of thumb with shotgun mics is to position it the same distance as if you were talking to another person not too far not too close.

Tip: Point your mic to the throat as oppose to the mouth since this is going to give you more consistent results.

If you don't have a shotgun mic setup you could use lavalier mics. These are great if you don't have much time to setup the interview.

I use  a Tascam DR-10L Portable Recorder and its by far my favorite piece of equipment. You can carry it in your pocket and one battery could run for around 10 hours. That's 10 hours of clean audio

Make sure you monitor the audio levels before you start shooting as you don't want them to be to high and clip. By the way, you cant fix this in post! 

And there you have it ! the Cinematic Lighting Setup!