In the video world, interviews are the most common type of shoot. So I thought I’d share some tips for people who find themselves shooting interviews occasionally or frequently.
1. Make Your Interview Person Comfortable
This starts way before shooting. Your interviewee is going to be nervous. Sitting in front of cameras and lights and talking about something is akin to public speaking. Very nerve-racking and intimidating. There are several ways you can get them to relax:
• Joke with them and find something in common to talk about before shooting.
• Make sure they know they look good. Compliment their hair, makeup, shirt, whatever. Also be sincere. If they need to add makeup or fix their hair, have them do it and then compliment it.
• Explain that it’s ok if they mess up. Everyone does. Just start their sentence over if they need to. You’ll fix it in editing.
• Genuinely listen to them as they talk. Don’t be distracted by cameras, audio, etc. Give them your full attention.
• Ask follow-up questions out of curiosity. Sometimes giving a random follow-up question gets them to relax because talking about a specific detail is less intimidating than telling a whole story.
2. Have Your Interview Person Re-State Your Question in Sentence Form
When I ask “What’s your favorite cereal?” don’t just answer “Cocoa Puffs”. Answer “My favorite cereal is Cocoa Puffs.”
3. Use at Least 2 Camera Angles
This makes your editing much easier as you can cut to another angle when skipping a portion of their answer. I use a 50mm lens as my main front lens (either on crop sensor or full-frame), and then shoot a tighter angle (100mm on crop-sensor) on one side of them. Sometimes I glide the side angle, sometimes not. I also sometimes use a 24-105 lens for the side angle and change the focal length from medium to tight in-between questions. If you only shoot with 1 camera, you’re limited to jump-cuts unless you have tons of B-Roll footage to put overtop the interview. And if you have only 1 camera, I would at least change up your focal length in-between questions for visual interest.
4. Use a Boom Mic
I’ve used boom, wireless lapel, and condenser mics for interviews. The boom is the best because it cancels out any noise not directly in front of it. Other mics work fine, but the boom sounds the best.
5. Wear Headphones for Audio
Make sure you or an assistant is monitoring the audio level at all times. I’ve had mics completely cut out in the middle of an interview for random reasons. If I didn’t have headphones on to catch it, I would have been screwed.
6. Choose a Quiet Location to Shoot
If possible, avoid rooms with running air conditioning, fans, people walking by, dogs barking, children crying, etc. Also let everyone in the vicinity know you’re shooting so they remain quiet.
7. Shoot with a Deep Background
If possible, have the background of the interviewer be as deep as possible. This gives a stronger blur or “bokeh” behind your interview person, which is a nice bump in visual quality. Don’t put them with a wall or bookshelf right behind them. Bring them somewhere else if your room is too small.
8. Light Your Interview Person
This doesn’t necessarily mean with lights. Window light does a very nice job of lighting a person. I’ve done interview shoots with no lights at all, just using window light as my main light source and adjusting the subject as necessary. But if you do use lights, I recommend lighting them at a 45-degree angle either straight on or slightly to the side of them. There are many other ways to light, but this is my main way of lighting, and I usually only use one light to do it.
Hope this helps. Let me know if I missed anything you can think of.