101: How to Shoot an Interview

On this interesting behind the scenes/tutorial, Parker Walbeck from fulltimefilmmaker takes a look at some of the different aspects of shooting an interview, how he prepares, choose angles, setup, lighting and much more.

Here are the different steps that Walbeck discusses in this very informative video:

  1. Location – finding the best location is key, it needs to help you tell a story, not be distracting (or noisy), visually aesthetic (or “relevant”) and allow you to set us in a convenient way (have enough room for your gear).
  2. Composition – after you choose a location you need to pick your composition – if you are shooting with two or more cameras you need to find the right composition for both (if you are using a slider or some other moving rig you need to keep the composition in mind for the entire sequence (although you might not necessarily use all the material in post). Preferably position the camera around the eye height of your talent. You also need to consider the angles you shoot (front, side, open or close up – this is easier when you have more than one camera of course).
  3. Light – Walbeck uses an Aputure LS 120D which he places as close as he can to the talent without being in the frame (with a dome this produces a very soft light across the face). Above and slightly to the side will help create shadows which will provide more depth in the talent’s face (of course different style interviews might call for different type lighting – but we are dealing with the more basic stuff in this tutorial). Adding a backlight/hair light is also important
  4. Sound – Sound is at least 50% of an interview (probably more), if you get the sound wrong it doesn’t matter how good the video is. You need to work with a decent mic (boom is preferable although a lav is an option (and can be a good backup as well). Use a boom from around 6-14 inches from the talent’s mouth should be good (typically above and out of the frame!). The max levels that you should aim for (and pre-check before you shoot) should be around -6db and the min around -16db – -18db. Always monitor the sound during production otherwise you might end up with some nasty surprises!
  5. Camera settings – Typically you want to shoot at a shutter speed which is twice that of a frame rate that you are shooting at (typically 24p although sometimes you might want to go higher). Walbeck admits that he doesn’t like to mass with ND/VND filters and since he loves shooting interviews with a shallow depth of field he often goes to higher shutter speeds as long as the talent doesn’t move very quickly during the shoot (we would still suggest using ND/VND – especially outdoors). Interestingly he shoots interviews with AF turned on – this won’t work with every camera and this can be a bit risky even with some of the best AF cameras around (Walbeck uses Canon DSLRs in this demo). If you don’t trust your AF to be 100% accurate all the time – useless depth of field and shoot in MF and ask your talent not to move too much forward and backward and be mindful of any camera angle that can be affected by sideways movement of your talent as well.

There are many many more interesting tips on this video which we think is highly recommended if you are just starting in interview shooting (and even if you already shot a few you might learn something).

Bonus video: The film look – a quick look at shooting an interview

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We have looked at many aspects of shooting an interview in the past including the best light gear for filming interviews, how to set up lighting and audio for interviews and how to shoot a documentary style interview.

You can watch more HDSLR and video techniques on our dedicated HDSLR channel here on LensVid. You can check out more of Walbeck videos – here on LensVid as well.

Iddo Genuth
Iddo Genuth is the founder and chief editor of LensVid.com. He has been a technology reporter working for international publications since the late 1990's and covering photography since 2009. Iddo is also a co-founder of a production company specializing in commercial food and product visual content.

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