How to shoot great looking interviews

Aug
06

How to shoot great looking interviews

After many years of shooting interview videos we’ve tested and refined our approach to creating great looking interviews. Here we break down those different elements and take an in-depth look at creating interviews that represent your subject and tell a story.

Using The Environment To Tell The Story

The background that you use for your interview is an important element. It tells the viewer a bit about the subject in a subtle way. Keeping this in mind, you want to find a background that represents the subject. Take the image below for example, before you’ve even seen the video you can start to make a few assumptions about the subject. Incidentally when we arrived for this shoot we were offered a sparse, white room to film the interview in. Luckily we found this library, a much better way to represent the subject.

Library

Likewise, during one of our recent cameraman interviews filmed in Melbourne for the BBC, we chose to film our subject in her own home, so that you could learn a lot about her, her style, and her personality, by the room she was interviewed in.

Use The Best Lighting Available

Many camera operators are overly fixated on the choice of cameras. But it’s not just about the camera! Lighting is the single most important thing when it comes to shooting an interview. After many years of shooting interviews and testing out many different lights we’ve found the best lights to use are KINO Diva lights. They put out a beautiful diffused light that’s really flattering on people. Unlike many video lights they also run cool so there’s no discomfort to your interviewees. The other lights we love are Dedolights but these serve a different purpose. Because they offer so much control they’re perfect for highlighting elements in the background to add depth to the image. You can see where we’ve done this in the image above, the chair and table in the background are highlighted just enough to make out what they are and give depth.

We also use an attachment for the Dedolight called a Gobo and this creates interesting patterns to add texture. You can see below an example of a Gobo in use on a shoot we did for the Melbourne Synchrotron. The room was fairy dull to begin with but by using textured shadows we managed to give it a futuristic look.

 

GOBO Synchrotron Lines

An Extensive Selection of Lenses

Just like the lighting, the lens you decide to use will affect the feel of your interview. The current trend in many videos is to use an extremely shallow depth of field (the area in focus) to separate the subject from the background. To achieve this look we use an ultra-prime lens with an aperture of 0.95. This gives us a razor thin area that’s actually in focus. Sometimes this isn’t the best way to go, if your background is going to add a lot to the story then you want to be able to make out more of it. As you can see in the example below, the background is completely out of focus and blurred out. Because we were shooting an interview with an IT professional in a gallery space, the location didn’t add any additional information or serve any real purpose for the interview, so we blurred it out into a splash of color.

MailGuard Interview

We used the same approach when we shot a series of interviews for the City of Port Phillip’s Smart Travel Campaign. We filmed interviews with their employees inside a theatre space in St Kilda, and because the location wasn’t an important part of the interviews, our cameraman blurred out the backgrounds into abstract shapes and colors.

Professionalism and Building Rapport

The first thing to remember here is that when you film an interview on behalf of somebody, then you are representing them. In most cases you’ll be invited into somebody else’s environment so being respectful should be a priority.

We make an effort to be respectful by always being on time, dressed for the situation and polite to anybody we interact with. It’s also helpful to build a rapport with the people around you so that if you need them for anything (finding power outlets, letting you film them at work) they will be more likely to accommodate you. Building rapport with the subject is also important so that they are relaxed and more natural for their performance on camera. Finally, its also good manners to return everything to the way it was when you a leave a location.

Background Light Single Element

Create the Right Look and Visual Style

There is no rock solid formula to light, frame and shoot every single interview. There is a host of things to take into consideration like the location, purpose and tone of the video. All of these things  have an impact on the final output. As well as this we always consult the director, editor and colourist before a shoot to have a discussion around what they want to achieve. This might mean spending more time setting up lights to achieve a look in camera or alternatively shooting flat to allow more flexibility in post production. Its all about what suits the story. A corporate shoot might need to look professional and clean with low contrast but an interview with a musician or artist might give you license to add dramatic shadows with bold colours.

Do you need an experienced, Melbourne-based cameraman to shoot beautiful interviews for you? Contact us today.

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