Filming a basic talking head interview looks like easy work. But don’t be fooled; there are a surprising amount of little things that you can do wrong which will affect the overall quality and feel of your video interview. Here are 7 bits of handy advice to help you avoid making the same mistakes as the rest of the amateurs out there when filming interviews.
1) Create depth of field by having your camera at a distance from your subjects
Don’t seat your interviewee with their back too close to a wall. It will look flat. Instead, create some distance between the interviewee and the wall. Also, as much as is possible in the space you have, keep the camera at a distance from the interviewee and use zoom to frame your shot. This will enable you to create a better depth of field:
- Use a tripod
- When in position, zoom in as far as you can to your subject and bring them into focus
- Zoom back out to the distance you want to film from
- In good lighting, where you can keep your aperture low (no lower than 60) this should enable you to create a quality depth of field.
At all costs, avoid zooming in and out of your subject. It looks amateurish and unprofessional. It is also extremely annoying for your viewer.
2) Use a wireless radio mic
A wireless radio mic will free up some hands. Using a wireless radio mic for an interview can make shooting an interview a one person job – as long as the interviewer/camera person wears headphones so that they can hear if there are any issues with the sound. A lack of wires also means that your interviewee can be as far away from the camera as you need.
3) Use consistent distances for close ups, medium and long shots
If you are planning to use different shot distances for effect e.g. a close up for more emotional responses, plan for these in advance so that you use the same distance each time. This will make editing a lot easier. You can use masking tape on the zoom ring of your camera to indicate to you which distances you need to switch to.
4) Have your camera at eye level with your subject
Have your camera at eye level with your subject. It looks professional and avoids any unintentional hint at power dynamics. If the camera is looking down on a person it can make them seem inferior. If it is looking up at them it can make them seem powerful or intimidating. Obviously, these are techniques which can be used to make a point but it is important that it is intentional and you know why you are doing it.
5) Seat your interviewer slightly to the left or right of the camera
It is unlikely you want your interviewee to talk straight into the camera. However, you probably want your audience to be able to connect with your interviewee’s eyes to some extent. If you seat your interviewer slightly to the left or right of the camera your interviewee will be making eye contact with them through the conversation. This should produce a level of intimacy with the audience.
6) Location & background visuals
There are a number of things to consider when choosing a location for shooting interviews.
Sound: firstly, you need to make sure that the location of your choice is appropriate in terms of sound quality. You should avoid places where there will be background noise that is out of your control. You should also give some thought to how ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ the space is. Be aware that harder spaces will produce a colder sound with a slight amount of echo. Softer spaces e.g. with carpets and wall paper will reflect less sound and the sound quality will be a lot warmer.
Visuals: Depending on who you are interviewing and why, you should think about what context you want them to be seen in. It may be that an anonymous space is preferable. It may be that you want the visuals to reinforce a message e.g. maybe they are a teacher and you want to film them in a class room.
7) Lighting your interview correctly
Good lighting is essential for a quality video interview. Even if it is natural lighting that you use. The video below explains how to use three-point lighting for an interview set up:
Some final words of wisdom
Finally, these tips have been for the purpose of giving you a guide to how things are generally done. However, it is up to you to push boundaries and be creative where you feel appropriate. Think about using more than one camera to capture different perspectives from different angles. Your goal is to keep your viewer engaged and treating talking heard interviews creatively is another way to guarantee that you will hold the attention of your audience.