Lighting the Subject for the Interview
By Edward Boe, Production Coordinator
SolidLine Media

For the majority of the shoots that we go on, I’d have to say that around 90 percent of them require at least one interview.  Whether we are interviewing the CEO of a company making a promotional video, or if we are doing a customer testimonial for a Direct Marketing spot for television, we’ve done it.  Even though the impact and the dialogue of these interviews can be dramatically different, the preparation that goes into setting it up is the same from one to the next.  True there are some considerations that are unique to each interview (space, indoors/outdoors, sound, backdrop/no-backdrop, etc…), but the end goal is the same, a clean, smooth, informational, and professional piece of the greater whole of the video.
One major piece to the consistancy of each of our interviews in general, and each interview within a video specifically, is the lighting.  Similar framing and lighting techniques work like a glue to seamlessly join the testimonials to the graphics, and vice versa.  Without this consistency, each interview would seem different enough from the others to disrupt the viewing experience, and draw the audience out of the program.  And it’s safe to say that once you lose your audience, it is very difficult to get them back.

We begin with the most basic of lighting set-ups, the “3 point lighing” set up.  This, and variations of this are used all throughout movies, television, professional photography, and anything else that requires photographing something or someone.
Here is the basic 3 point lighting set up.
As you can see, this particular configuration is well named.  There are three lights, the Key Light, used to provide the most light to the front of the subject (if the subject is in a 3/4s pose looking slightly to one side of the camera or the other, the key will be lighting the side that we can see the most of).  Next we have the Fill Light, just like it’s name implies, this fills some light onto the other side of the subject’s face.  This light is traditionally not as bright or as direct as it is not meant to match or overpower the Key Light.
These two lights work alongside each other to create natural looking shadows as well as variations of light intensity and brightness in order to approximate what the human eye sees everyday.  There are all sorts of things to take into consideration with lighting, such as light temperature (or the color of the light), and lighting ratio (the contrast of the bright and the dark areas) to name just a few.  For sure the whole lighting process requires a lot of adjustment and fine-tuning to get right.

The third element of the 3 point lighting set up is the Back Light (also called the Kicker Light, Hair Light, Shoulder Light and Rim Light).  This is used from behind the subject to create a slight lining of light around their shoulder and head.  This mainly serves to separate them from the background of the composition, but can also create a bit more variation in color, tone and shadow which looks more life-like to the camera.
Here’s an example of our 3 Point Lighting Set-up in action.
As you can see, the Key and Fill lights are to either side of our interview subject, and the back light is suspended behind him shooting downward.

A slight variation of this that we use pretty frequently, is the 4 Point Lighting Set-up.
The first three elements are the same, Key, Fill, and Back Lights, but this one also adds in a Background Light.  This is used to further separate the subject from something like a backdrop, or it could also be used to highlight something specific in the background, such as a company logo, a well placed houseplant, or (in the case of direct marketing commercials) the product that the testimonial is about.

Since we here at SolidLine have conducted so many interviews throughout the years, we’ve developed an interview package, most of which consists of lighting equipment, and support for lighting equipment.  Here’s our standard interview package.
If the situation calls for it, we need to condense this down so that we can fly from place to place with this equipment also, in that case it is also referred to as our flight kit.
Included in both are our Mole Richardson 5 Lamp Professional Light Kit, 2 KinoFlo Diva Lights (4 bulbs), and a whole host of C-Stands, Apple Boxes, Gobo-Arms, Backdrops, Colored Gels, and Diffusion.

And as you can see…
…the final result fully justifies the care and trouble that goes into each set up.

You can contact Ed Boe at

For more information about SolidLine Media, visit us online at  Or call 312-939-8600.

Copyright 2009 SolidLine Media, a division of KV Media Group, Inc.

Tell Us About Your Project

Regardless of the type of video your organization needs from our team, there’s a
perfect mix of live video and motion graphics that will meet your needs