Not an expert at interviewing on camera? Don’t stress – here are the basic skills you need to pull off a video interview.
Interviewer conducting an interview | CMTO
Video is an extremely powerful medium which complements radio so much when it comes to interviewing. Having that visual aspect there enables the audience to see and be part of the interactions between the host and their guest. Silences and facial expressions are clarified and the audience is given the whole picture.
When you become comfortable with the preparation process and the technical side of conducting an interview for video, you’ll find that you will look more professional in front of your guest, things will flow easier and you’ll get a much better result at the end of the day.
Where you choose to execute your interview is important for a number of reasons. If you are interviewing someone outdoors there should be a clear reason for it e.g. at a protest/vox pops. Filming your interview in outdoor locations comprimises the sound quality of your guests due to hundreds other distracting sounds around (e.g traffic, aeroplanes, dogs barking). You also can’t control the weather and lighting so shooting indoors should always be preferred.
If you are interviewing someone indoors there are more elements you can control and manipulate to suit your subject. If you are given access to an office building to shoot your interview the first thing you should look for is the best spot. Remember, the more control you have over the area you are shooting in the easier it will be.
Choosing your talent
Be aware you are shooting for the screen when you choose people to interview. Even though you may not have the biggest selection of people to choose from, you should always have someone in mind who will be good on camera. This doesn’t mean they need to be good looking but it does mean that they should be someone who speaks well and looks confident.
What does your audience want to see?
The style of interview you shoot will entirely depend on the nature of your guest and the topic of your project. If you are shooting a story on a local MC announcing they are going on their first international tour you will shoot the interview very differently than if you were filming a story on Sydney’s traffic problem.
Compare this music centred interview with The Internet on location with the following interview with Russel Crowe in a studio and note the different styles of filming for each type of interview.
Preparing for the interview
Make sure you prepare as much as you can before the interviewee comes in – set up camera, lights and all that you need. It can be distracting/offputing to the subject if you are stressing over setting up your camera. Know what kind of camera you are shooting on and its basic functions. Practice at home before it is time to interview – that way you will already encounter some questions and problems and get solutions to them before it’s time for the interview. Making your subject feel as comfortable as they can is important because it always shows on camera.
Interviewer among crowd of people | Public domain image
When shooting an interview, choosing your background is just as important as your foreground. If you are interviewing someone on location, the background should have relevance to what you’re talking about. E.g if you are interviewing a musician in their house, it would be more relevant to interview them in their studio than in their backyard.
It is also important to eliminate as many distractions in the background as possible. You should avoid filming somewhere with a distracting background. In some cases however, you might want to highlight that you’re in a busy place by interviewing someone in the middle of a crowd. Just make sure it’s relevant to what you’re trying to convey.
Eyelines are an important consideration when interviewing | Biswarup Ganguly via Wikipedia Commons
The further away the interviewer is, the further the interviewee needs to look which can make the audience lose interest.
Think about where you are interviewing someone in relation to the camera – don’t stand up mid interview / squat down. try position your face just to the side of the camera. What about the height of the camera? Putting the camera above the interviewee will make them look like a child and more vulnerable whilst putting the camera below them will make them look intimidating. Put the camera at a natural height “a neutral eyeline”.
Watch this video explaining the eyeline match
Crossing the line
Crossing the line is a filmmaking no-no that comes from the 180 degree rule. It’s a small consideration but makes all the difference when shooting your interview. Take a look at the video to the left which explains crossing the line.
If you look engaged in your interview then your audience will be engaged. Have you ever seen an interview where the host nods after a response? This is called a noddy and it was probably not even filmed while the talent was in the room! If you have time after the interview, film yourself nodding and reacting to things the talent may have said during the interview. Record a variety of ‘nods’ so you have more to work with in post-production.
Use shots which complement your project – what are you trying to say with the shots you are using?
If you watch footage of any interview you will notice the camera operator uses a variety of shots to convey different meanings and of course to break up what would otherwise be a static shot of someone talking.
Extreme Wide Shots
These are used to establish the location and the surroundings of the subject. They are also called an establishing shot.
Wide shots are where the subject takes up the whole frame but you can also see their surroundings
These are typically waste up. You can highlight hand gestures easily with a medium shot.
Medium Close Ups
Medium close ups are used to show your subjects face and expression in greater detail. These shots are typically framed from right below their shoulders to the top of their head. Make sure you don’t chop off the top of their head though!
Close ups zoom in on the face of your subject. You might choose to run with a shot like this when there is a change in emotion or when they are talking about something extra important
Extreme Close Ups
These are rarely used in interviews. You would use them to show a specific body part e.g the hands or the eyes.