Parker Walbeck from fulltimefilmmaker is back with another extensive behind-the-scenes/tutorial on shooting a professional interview and this type he takes us through his 8 steps process of recording a pro interview shoot.
Back in 2018, Walbeck posted a shorter introduction to an interview shooting video which we also covered here. The current video touches upon some of the same points but includes some more information and tips.
A location should try and reflect (at least in some ways) what the interview is all about. If you are interviewing a musician an interview in a studio makes sense, but even if there is no clear way of relating the interview topic to a location you can try and reflect the mood of the interview with the location or background choice – a personal interview can be set in a living room while a more dramatic interview can be set in a sterile setting.
Besides the actual location and look you will always want to find a place where you can get a good separation of your subject from the background, enough room to place your lights but also a good way to control the light. Also, a place which is not too noisy or too public.
Also, a good idea is to plan ahead if you have several people being interviewed for a single video how you want to place them in the frame and how similar or different these frames are going to look in the final edit (do you want to place them on the same sides of the frame or different sides).
It is usually a good idea to frame the person talking to the camera in such a way that he or she will have more room in the direction in which they are looking so you basically employ the rules of thirds and place your subject in the top left or top right sides of the frame.
Preferably position the camera around the eye height of your talent. It is also possible to film with your subject facing the camera directly but that is a very strong look that doesn’t always fit the tone of the video.
One more important point about camera angles. If you are shooting with two cameras (which is highly suggested as you will always have a way to cut to the second angle in post which can really help and also make the video more interesting), you might want to place the second camera t a 30-degree angle to the first
This brings us to the topic of lens choice. If you are using two cameras, having one normal and one telephoto lens makes a lot of sense. We also sometimes use a third camera with a wider angle to get more perspective of the room and even a sneak peek at the behind-the-scenes that can go into the actual interview (depending on the style of the interview).
Walbeck uses a 50mm (equivalent in 35mm) and 70mm for the second camera. However, you can certainly use wider or longer combinations – for example, a 35mm and a 90 or even 200mm if placed far enough to give more compression of the background. In some cases, you will have to use wider angle lenses, especially if you need a shot where both the person you interview and an interviewer need to be on the same frame.
Just remember that wider angle lenses are typically less flattering than somewhat longer lenses.
You can be very creative when it comes to lighting depending on the specific mood of the interview that you are trying to convey.
A more positive interview will usually have bright lighting with less contrast while a more serious moody interview will show more contrast although this is not a rule and you can choose one or the other either way.
In general, you will want a sidelight with a large softbox (45 degrees from the front of the subject angled down). If you want a more contrasty look move the light to the side or use a smaller softbox.
Your second light back/hair/rim should give you some separation from the background and usually will be smaller and weaker from the back or back and to the side.
Having good audio is essential to any interview. Getting a mic as close as you can to your talent is imperative. Using a boom mic just out of frame pointed just below the mouth is a good practice and it is also a good idea to have a redundant audio recording (either another boom mic or lav that you can hide on your talent).
Check your levels before you record (around -12db with peaks at around -6db and lows at around -18db is a good place to be) and make sure you are not too low but also that you are not clipping. During recording monitor with headphones and make sure that the audio sounds good and you have no noise problems (cars passing by, air conditioning, etc.).
Most regular rooms will have some level of echo. The more absorbing materials are in the room the less echo you will get so a room with a rug, big sofa and cushions are better than a bare room. But you can do more to improve the way a room sounds by bringing in audio blankets (like these that we use).
You can of course bring in sound panels but these typically take up a lot of space and the good ones are not cheap.
To get good separation from the background shooting wide open is very common in interviews. You have to remember that this means that you have to trust your AF or manually focus during the entire interview since people tend to move back and forth and get in and out of focus (another reason why having camera angles is a good idea).
It is common to shoot an interview at 24p/25p at a shutter speed of 1/50 and set the ISO based on the lighting in the room.
Depending on the type of interview that you are shooting it might be a good idea to send the person that you interview the questions in advance (this will not be appropriate for any type of interview but in many cases, it is very common).
This way the person filmed will have a chance to practice the answers before he or she will be on camera. Always listen to the answers
We have conducted dozens of interviews over the years and we always prepare mentally for the questions we ask but also the possible answers that we might get. We also try and listen and ask follow up questions
Having a stand-in that will sit in the position where your talent will finally be is extremely helpful. Depending on the interview we usually start setting up 20 min to an hour before (with more important interviews it can be several hours and for high-end documentaries sometimes even days before can occur).
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 and more recently 10 Angles You Need to Consider for Shooting Interviews.