Best lens options for shooting interviews
I've been in video production for nearly 20 years, but haven't really had much experience doing sit-down interviews...even with a video camera, but now using DSLRs (Canon 60D), I'm finding it a bit more of a challenge. I have seen plenty of interviews shot with DSLRs, but I am having trouble figuring out how they get the best results, because mine don't look nearly as good.
One issue I know is the lenses I am using...I haven't had the resources to purchase some really expensive lenses, so I have been predominantly using a 50mm 1.8 lens.
It has worked well when the lighting is plentiful, but in low light and in dark indoor situations, I am having a heck of a time getting it to look good...even when ISO is bumped up to 1250, it is hard to get anything in sharp focus, even the things in focus are still not very sharp. Is this part of the problem?
Does anyone have any advice on what a good lens (or method) to use when shooting interviews, that allows for good bokeh?
[Casey Petersen] "It has worked well when the lighting is plentiful, but in low light and in dark indoor situations, I am having a heck of a time getting it to look good...even when ISO is bumped up to 1250, it is hard to get anything in sharp focus, even the things in focus are still not very sharp. Is this part of the problem?
Does anyone have any advice on what a good lens (or method) to use when shooting interviews, that allows for good bokeh?"
The secret to a good looking interview is lighting, not lenses. And good audio. I typically spend an hour setting up lighting and audio before an interview shoot. For this one I had a fluorescent key light, LED fill & back lights and a CDM fresnel on the wall. I had a shotgun mic mounted on a boom pole directly over the doctor. The lens on my GH2 was an old, inexpensive Nikkor, 35 or 50mm, set at f2.
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Keep in mind that there are many other things that factor into the quality of your interview such as what types of lights you use, what your background is, what your subject is saying and where they are looking. A 50mm 1.8 is not a bad lens. I would recommend testing a shot not completely wide open so you can see a bit of the background. Try shooting at F2, or F2.8.
Are you incorporating a 3 point lighting setup for your interviews?
Errol X. Lazare
Yeah, the times when we've had good lighting, it looks much better. We don't always have time to do 3 point lighting for interviews...sometimes they are more run-and-gun style, where the whole thing takes 15 minutes from the time the subject agrees to do the interview, to the time the interview is finished and we're thanking them...those situations are a bit trickier, and I think is more the focus of my question, than the ones where we have an hour to set up.
Another issue we have when we're at roughly 1.8 is that the depth of field / focal length is so narrow that their eyes are in focus, but not their nose, or their ears...and if they sway back and forth (or forward and back), that screws up everything. It's also hard to see the whole focal range on the little built-in screen...even with a magnifier...that even at 1.8 or 2.8, there is little forgiveness.
Does the amount of light make a difference in the amount of depth of field...bright sunny room vs. dark basement room...where 1.8 and same distance between subject and camera will give you 8 inches of focal range vs. 1 inch, depending on lighting (and ISO)?
[Casey Petersen] "Another issue we have when we're at roughly 1.8 is that the depth of field / focal length is so narrow that their eyes are in focus, but not their nose, or their ears...and if they sway back and forth (or forward and back), that screws up everything. It's also hard to see the whole focal range on the little built-in screen...even with a magnifier...that even at 1.8 or 2.8, there is little forgiveness."
Like Errol said, shoot at f2 or f2.8. Also, having an larger external monitor is essential, IMO. I use the SmallHD DP6. With the 1:1 pixel mapping I can ensure I have focus.
[Casey Petersen] "Does the amount of light make a difference in the amount of depth of field...bright sunny room vs. dark basement room...where 1.8 and same distance between subject and camera will give you 8 inches of focal range vs. 1 inch, depending on lighting (and ISO)?"
Your fstop makes the difference, but obviously that is influenced by the amount of light you have to work with. It would be advisable to at least have a small LED light you can use as a key. I recently picked up the Switronix TorchLED Bolt. It has tungsten and daylight LEDs, so you can mix your color temp as needed.
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If it is brighter you will be able to stop down the lens a bit which will give you a bit more room for your plane of focus. For run and gun I woul recommend using a zoom lens. A 16-35 2.8 may be good for you on the cropped sensor camera or you can also consider another zoom lens.
Errol X. Lazare
I'm going to be shooting tons of interviews this year.
I don't think lens choice is too critical, though I will note that the 50mm on a crop sensor is more like an 85mm on a full frame camera. Lens choice may be dictated by location. Tight interiors, you may need a shorter lens. Also style, whether you are going for a talking head or what. It would be best if there were at least 2 cameras. That's my plan.
Here is a really neat video about a terrific, though technically involved interview technique:
Den Lennie's F-Stop Academy just published a paid course on shooting interviews. He claims this information is derived from his work with the BBC, which should be a very high standard:
I haven't done the interview course, but I am considering it.
I'm going to be using iPad based teleprompters on some occasions. Here's the one I bought:
How's that for topic drift? Now back to the immediate discussion, lighting. I've always worked with hot lights, but I recently decided to break with the Lowels, mainly because I needed some daylight sources as an option. But the daylight sources are cool and turn out to be terrific for interviews.
My first foray into daylight lighting was a Photoflex Constellation with daylight Flourescent bulbs.
See it at the Photoflex website.
This is a fair fixture, but it quickly gets very involved rigging light boxes, stands, and shot bags. Fine on major productions when you have high ceilings and need a large coverage area. Although Photoflex provides excellent shipping cases for the flourescent bulbs, they bulbs themselves are fragile and expensive.
My new go-to interview light is a cheap LED fixture by ePhoto purchased off Amazon for $350. Specifically, I got the 600 LED fixture with Sony V Mount. This is because I have an old Sony broadcast camera and lots of V-mount batteries already, and they are still in good shape.
This LED fixture turns out to be a great source, inexpensive, relatively rugged, very lightweight, and quick to rig. In particular, it is nearly instant to rig for an ad hoc interview if you battery power. I did a test with my Sony Lithium Ion batteries, which are not the larger models, and the panel will go 2 or 3 hours on battery power. This opens up a lot of possibilities for interviews in places where reflectors were previously the only option.
ePhoto 600 LED V-mount Light
I went ahead and got the case and the stand. None of this stuff is top tier pro quality equal to my Lowels, but it is professionally servicable, and I have a lot more confidence in it than some stuff I have seen. In other words, it is not junk. BTW - Amazon is currently sold out of this fixture, and anybody who orders after reading this is in line after me because I have already placed an order for a second light.
I also bought an LED ring light from Amazon, which is fairly simple to battery power also. Not so certain this will be a regular part of my interview kit. If nothing else, I can rig it as a kicker.
Just yesterday, I received 8 daylight florescent bulbs from Alzo, purchased from Amazon. I haven't tried them yet. The intention is to relamp practical fixtures, since a lot of my interviews are done in architectural interiors where the location is a very important component of the interview. I just grabbed the link for the Alzo website. Didn't realize until just now that this company has a photographic focus. I am not familiar with any of their products - my purchase at Amazon was simply based on daylight balanced bulbs with an Edison base.
Back to lenses: There are a lot of good options for interviews. I've got a lot of lenses. Wish I could buy a set of Zeiss CP.2s, but that is not going to happen. In fact, the Zeiss ZE/ZF still versions are not going to happen. Even though they duplicate focal lengths I already own in Canon glass, I have recently been purchasing Samyang / Rokinon lenses because I simply did not have any super speeds, and because they are really nice lenses for video work. Currently I have the 85mm f/1.4 ($300) and the 35mm f/1.4 ($500). The 24mm f/1.4 is just now becoming available, and I will probably purchase it as well, though the price is definitely creeping up ($800) to the point this is not an impulse purchase.
What lens/ camera body will give me the quality of this video.. I will have the same white back ground a same fram as the talking heads.
This is what i ordered.
Will it work??? Or am i better off with a different body and lens package??