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Review - How to Setup, Light, & Shoot Great Looking Interviews

May, 2006


How to Setup, Light, & Shoot Great Looking Interviews
(using a light kit that costs under $1500)

Produced by Vortex Media $39.95



Review by Steve Douglas

There are many ways to learn about lighting. Unfortunately, many hobbyists and amateur shooters get their new camcorders, briefly, if at all, glance at the manual, and run out and shoot. "Lighting? What's that? Hey, the sun is out, I'm cool." Or to paraphrase the line in the film Sierra Madre, "Lighting? Lighting? I don't need no stinkin' lighting." Those in the know, know better.

Now, there are several ways to learn about lighting. One, you can take an expensive seminar class where, it is more than likely, you will see a plethora of great lighting equipment (frequently out of your wallet's possibilities) demonstrated and used while you watch and take notes. Usually, there is not too much, if any, hands on practice in these classes. Two, you can buy books on lighting whose lighting effects you hope you will be able to duplicate with the equipment that you may have, but often don't. Three, you can read the articles on lighting found in many of the current video magazines with the same caveat found in #2. Four, you can gain the experience on the job. This is a great way to learn as long as you don't blow a shoot while moving up the learning curve. If you are apprenticing to a lighting expert, you're in luck. This is, surely, the absolute best way to master the craft.

Vortex Media has come out with a fifth way to learn the art of lighting interviews with an excellent and inexpensive 60 minute DVD which covers just about all you need to be aware of and learn for lighting interviews. Within this DVD literally everything is covered, from the specific equipment you will need within a tight $1500.00 budget to how to set up a room and the considerations you will have to be aware of to utilizing the most advantageous Focal length. What surprised me was that in the first disc chapter covering the light kit itself, Doug Jensen, the amicable narrator and a man with over 25 years of lighting and shooting experience, suggests specific brand names for various individual pieces. Think about it... usually, if a company like Lowel Lighting sponsors a production, than we could expect to see nothing but Lowel Lights used. While they are an excellent company with excellent products, who is to say that, every piece is the piece for us. However, in this Vortex Media DVD, Doug Jensen suggests a variety of brand names for specific pieces while creating a relatively inexpensive lighting kit for those who haven't yet bought their own. This is tantamount to finding an honest politician, one who hasn't been bought out, and a very rare thing.

Doug Jensen leads you expertly through what you need to know and use.


A great lighting kit for under $1500 from a variety of manufacturers

None of these chapters move so quickly that you have to repeat the listening. They are very well paced and easy to follow. All lessons come from Mr. Jensen's practical and pragmatic experience so you know you can trust what you hear. The chapters on choosing the best location and angle, as well as where to set up the cams, were both interesting and informative. There is not a whole lot of unnecessary jargon to bog you down here. Not everyone is a technical wizard and for those who simply want to learn how to best light their subjects and what to use and when, I think this is just what the doctor ordered.

This DVD really does get you started with all the info
you will need to make you more competent when lighting.

I hate makeup but you just can't get away from the need for it in many lighting situations. You will find that the chapter on makeup really does give you the bottom line without making it an all engrossing lecture on eyeliner and blush which, girlfriends assure me, you can get at any makeup counter at Saks 5th Ave. Excellent are the suggestions provided for shooting those who wear eyeglasses thus producing unsightly reflections for the cam to catch during a shoot. Extremely important is the chapter on Focal Length; make sure you pay attention to this one. Often the biggest obstacles when shooting interviews are created by the dimensions and natural lighting of the room itself. Within this disc you will see both graphic and live representations of how to overcome the problems that may occur. Gladly, none of the solutions were so esoteric that you'd have to be Houdini with a fat wallet to solve them.

There is nothing better than to have concrete solutions to set up and lighting problems.
These suggestions work.


Want proof of the importance of manually white balancing? Listen closely and you'll never auto balance again. When using the previously reviewed Warm Cards you can make a massive difference in the color and feel of your interviewee.

When using the previously reviewed Warm Cards you can make a massive difference
in the color and feel of your interviewee.

Bottom line, there is no better teacher than practical field experience. Unless you have a knowledgeable person on the set to teach you, it is too risky to sacrifice what could have been a productive shoot to bumbling experimentation. "How to Setup, Light & Shoot Great Looking Interviews" using a light kit that costs under $1500 is the perfect way to go. Great graphics, properly sequenced chapters and well paced narration will leave you more confident in yourself when it is time for you to assume the mantle of responsibility for lighting the shoot. I learned from this disc and I am sure you will too.

Steve Douglas is an underwater videographer and contributor to numerous film festivals around the world. A winner of the 1999 Pacific Coast Underwater Film Competition, 2003 IVIE competition, 2004 Los Angeles Underwater Photographic competition, and the prestigious 2005 International Beneath the Sea Film Competition, Steve has also worked on the feature film "The Deep Blue Sea", contributed footage to the Seaworld parks for their Atlantis production, and is one of the principal organizers of the San Diego UnderSea Film Exhibition. Steve leads both underwater filming expeditions and African safaris with upcoming filming excursions to Kenya, Bali & Komodo, the Philippines, and the Red Sea. Feel free to contact him if you are interested in joining Steve on any of these trips.

copyright © Steve Douglas 2006

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