How to capture great interviews for your video

Interviews form the body of many corporate videos, from explaining and demonstrating a product to discussing services and solutions. They could be shot in a studio or on location; wherever you are and whatever the subject matter, you’ll probably be including an interview set-up soon.

You might feel that if it is so common it can’t be that hard to do, but if you want to make it engaging, have the interviewee speaking comfortably and looking great, you need to get your initial decisions right. With the right set-up, and spending time on your lighting the subject, you can take it from average to amazing.

Exploring the location

Where do you start? It might seem obvious, but once you have your location for the shoot, go and check it out, even if you are working in a studio.
If you are just starting out and want to feel more confident take a second person with you and they can act as your interviewee.
Doing this you can see how any natural or ambient light falls, any obstructions, plus you can see how it would work if they are standing up or sitting down. Try to take into consideration what time of the day you are going to be shooting, as this may have a big impact on the lighting you choose to use and how you will need to position them in the environment.
Use your smartphone to collect as many images of how you would set up the shot, or you can use an app such as Cadrage. These digital versions of directors viewfinders can really help you to plan your shots, choose your lenses and give you an idea on the most effective way to get the footage you need.

As well as planning your shots, by visiting the location or studio you can get an idea of ambient noise that could be around while you are trying to get your key shots. Most interviews are best shot using a lapel mic, it’s always useful to get an idea of the way the shooting environment will work for you.

chair set up in room for interview with lights and camera

Starting calmly with the right equipment

Probably the best recommendation for shooting in any environment is to feel comfortable and confident. You’ve completed your visit, you know what you need, so take only what you need, not the kitchen sink!

Allow as much time as possible between the time you can access the shooting area and the time your interviewees will arrive, this way you should feel comfortable in the space and have everything ready to go, with any allowances made for changes that the environment may have thrown up.

The equipment you use will normally be a standard kit that you are happy with, with the location determining how much stuff you should take with you. You might end up with a larger and smaller kit depending on location and environment, this will take into consideration travelling arrangements, location or studio, and the time you have available to set- up and complete the shoot.

The equipment that you work with will be what suits you and crucially fits your style. You might be shooting ‘just’ an interview, but unless you’ve been told you need to copy a previous interview or fit within brand guidelines, you should use your own style. Doing this you would hopefully be able to develop your style further and encourage potential clients to choose you based on your own unique style.

One way of creating a style is the way you choose to light your interviewee – your subject.

One of the first things you’ll start to learn when shooting on any camera is how to light your subject and scene. Interviews are no different, traditionally they tend to follow the two or three-point lighting set-up.

It’s very simple and effective, you have your key light, which is the main light for your subject. Next, you have your fill/kick light, this fills in the shadows created by the key light without being quite as strong. You can then add a third light which you can add behind or slightly to one side to add light to the hair and shoulder of the subject, but of course, this is very dependent on the style you are going for. Mixed into this you can add diffusers to your lights or reflectors to bounce light to get the effect you want.

lighting your subject with key and fill lighting

By setting up the key and the fill lights successfully you should achieve the ‘catch light’ in the subjects’ eyes, which help to bring the face to life on screen. You can find out more on ‘catch lights’ here.

Ready to interview

The lighting is in place, you’ve got your levels for sound correct with a subtly placed lapel mic and you’re are ready to go. With all your planning in place, you should feel confident and your interviewee should feel relaxed.

Many talking heads videos use interviewees responses only, this means that the questions are often asked by the camera operator, this saves time, space and of course money.
If you are asked to ask the questions ensure that you understand what is expected as a reply. Having sat in on interviews where the interviewee has used an interview as a chance to air his opinions rather than answers the questions, it is best to know what your client expects as the replies. Also, if they are being asked a question, try to ensure the reply includes some context of the question being asked; this makes it easier for editing.

preparing the questions for your interview

It can also help the interviewee to have an idea of the questions they will be asked. They might have had them shared with them prior to the shoot and this will often relax them and make them more confident in front of the camera because their expectation level has been set and they have an idea of what their reply will be.

This can also lead how they respond to the camera and is important to keep this as continuity throughout the interview, or series of if you are doing multiple interviews in the same day.
If your interviewee speaks directly to the camera it can feel more formal and a little severe, if you have them looking slightly off-camera, as if to the interviewer, it always seems more natural and relaxed.

The key to any successful interview is everyone being relaxed – people will seem more natural, it won’t feel forced and you will get a better interview to use afterwards. More ideas, hints and tips coming soon, but if you’d like to talk to us about how we can help you with your video production, get in touch today, we’d love to have a chat with you.

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