Updated: Dec 21, 2021
Filming an interview is one of the most important skills a DOP (director of photography) needs to master. Our Bangkok, Thailand based video production company has filmed successful projects in several countries and varied circumstances. As always, being prepared in advance makes filming on the day a lot easier going for everyone.
There are some basic rules to getting the fundamentals right, (interview techniques we'll cover in another blog, this is about the technical aspects).
Your background should either be relevant or plain and not distracting. This is a really important rule, a client may want to push you to choose a location and background they think works, it's important to consider their options but show confidence in your ability to choose the best backdrop.
Scout your location first before setting up.
The background below is quite busy, but relevant to the topic in the interview. If I'd had the room, I would have moved the interview subject further away from the wall, so the background could be a little more our of focus.
The three light rule is a good rule to follow, shown below. Lights set up at around 45 degrees above the subject helps to decrease the shadows on the face under the eyes and cheeks, making it more flattering.
Light one - Key light, the strongest light to the front right or left of subject.
Light two - Fill light, to balance out the light to the opposite side of the key light. This light can be a little softer to give some depth or produce a dramatic shadow effect, depending on the tone of your shoot.
Light three - Hair light/back light, to light up the rear of the subject, which helps to provide a separation from the subject and the background.
Light one and two should usually be diffused, giving a softer, more flattering light without hard shadows.
As you can see below, I bounced light three off the ceiling, as I didn't have much room.
When using a boom and shotgun mic, make sure the mic is pointed directly at the mouth or just in front of it, seems obvious but worth mentioning. Pointing down from above is usually better, as there tends to be less background noise.
If using a lav mic, hide the wire under the subject's clothing, and make sure the mic is as close to the mouth as possible without it being distracting in your shot.
Always test the audio levels by asking the subject to say a sentence (I usually ask them to say who they are and what they do).
Keep the cameras at or slightly above eye level, as this is a more flattering angle.
The subject should always be looking into the frame, not out.
It's really important that your subject feels at ease. Providing the questions beforehand can make a lot of people feel well prepared and more confident. Some people are great in front of the camera, some people hate it, your job as the DOP/interviewer is to make them feel comfortable.
Be conversational in your interview, relate to them, be encouraging and tell them to relax and not take it too seriously! That usually works for me. Sometimes I ask a subject to roll their shoulders back or sit up straight, as this helps project confidence, and even to take a deep breath if they're feeling really nervous (like me when I'm being interviewed).
I hope you've found this useful, get in touch with any questions!
For examples of interview set ups in our video and film production here in Bangkok, Thailand, have a look at our documentary section.