Chicago Film Video Production and Post Production Company
Set up the stand for the boom mic. We set it slightly to the right of the talent so it doesn’t make a shadow from the key light. We use a Schoeps mic and a boom pole - aim the mic at the talent’s heart. Get it as close as possible to the talent. Just high enough to be out of frame. We think the Schoeps or a Sennheiser MKH 416 is the best audio solution in this situation, especially with non-professional talent. If you use a Lavaliere mic there is a good chance the talent will touch or make some undesirable noise at exactly the wrong moment. Eliminate this problem by using a boom. Plug it into the camera with an XLR cable. Check with the headphones to see if it is working. Again we fine-tune it later. If necessary, set up a Lavaliere mic for the Interviewer. With another XLR cable plug it into the camera’s Channel 2 audio input. Check out this mic as well.

With the lights roughed in, have a stand-in for the talent (approximately same height) sit in the talent’s chair. Move the chair left or right to center for the background. Raise or lower and / or move left or right to adjust the Key Light. The stand-in should have a slight shadow under his nose with a fall off of light on his camera right side and good spectral highlights in each eye. Now zoom the camera in to full frame on the stand-in’s face and push the exposure button. Check the lens and see if the T stop is T2 or a little less. If it is wide open, like a T1.8 move the Key Light in 12” and re-set and check exposure again. If it’s higher than T2, move the light back and re-set. A T2 or a little less is a good stop to shoot because the background will be out of focus. Adjust the edge light with the tough blue gel on it to help separated the talent from the background. The background light can just be a little glow around the subject or it can be a slash. Or if you in a smaller room the key light may be falling on the background so just turn it off. We prefer to shoot with the background being a darker value than the talent’s exposure – at least a 1/2 to a full stop. We use dark backgrounds to help keep the value lower than that of the talent.

Now would be a good time to white balance to camera. Have the stand-in hold a small white card about 8 x 10 inches - like a piece of white printer paper - in front of his face. Zoom in until the card fills the frame. With the exposure button, set the proper exposure. We use Warm Cards – either a +1 or a + 1/2. Hit the white balance button. On our camera we get much better flesh tones using Warm Cards.

Go here for more info on Warm Cards:

After you have white balanced the camera, tell the stand-in to lower the Warm Cards so you can re-set exposure on his face and then carefully check the focus. Then zoom out and re-set the frame. Carefully check the frame – no light stands or mics – good! Now drop in a new blank videotape and flip on the bars and tone generator on the camera. Check to see if the audio levels are correct and the timecode is set properly. We shoot 2 hour tapes and set timecode to 1:00:00:00 (drop frame) on roll #1. Roll #2 becomes timecode 3:00:00:00 and so on. While you are recording 60 seconds of bars and tone, re-check the monitor. Adjust it if necessary. Stop the tape after one minute and then shoot 20 seconds of the stand-in. Have the stand-in count to 10 or talk in a normal voice. Verify the picture and audio with the monitor. How does it look? How does it sound? If everything is okay, leave everything on. Hit the john, get a bottle of water and put a chair by the camera and wait for the talent to show up.

When the talent arrives, have him sit in the chair and swing the boom mic back into place. Check the lighting and sound. Peter always asks a few “throw away questions” that we record and check with playback. If it sounds good and looks good, you are good to go.

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