Interviews are a staple in any good filmmaker’s skillset, and a secret weapon for brands looking to add a human touch to video marketing. So, how do you shoot interviews? At a glance, it seems simple – a person, a camera and some questions. Take a closer look, and you’ll realise this element of cinematography requires a few more steps to perfect.
Video interviews done well have the potential to produce convincing customer testimonials for brands and viral internet sensations for creators like this Buzzfeed puppy interview with actor Keanu Reeves. No matter your outlet, interviews have the power to greatly influence the opinions of viewers and how they feel about your product or content. To help you produce your own excellent videos, we’ve put together a handy guide. Here’s what we’ll discuss.
- Video interview essentials.
- How to edit your interview footage.
- Interview inspiration.
Video interview essentials
While it’s rarely the main focus, selecting the right setting is an essential element of video interviews. A location could look perfect, but it’s never going to work if the traffic outside is louder than your subject and the natural light changes minute by minute.
Be aware of ambient noise
Always ensure you’re aware of potential noise disruptions when selecting a filming location. The most common ambient noises that can affect shoots are traffic, construction, flight paths and crowd noise. Even in a controlled environment like your workplace, ensure you’ve notified co-workers and requested their (quiet) cooperation.
Most video makers will tell you that the timeline you shoot on shoot rarely matches up with the final edit. To create seamless videos, it’s important to think of continuity. Background objects can easily cause issues, so try to refrain from moving props once the shoot begins. Also avoid including objects that change in the background like clocks. Additionally, natural light should be avoided for interview shoots. While its soft, warm effect looks great, its ever-changing nature is a nightmare for continuity.
Tell a story
A well-chosen setting and background objects have the potential to greatly enrich your interview. For example, if you’re interviewing a subject about their business, why not set the interview up in their office? Any props you add should compliment your subject, not distract from them. Alternatively, if you’d prefer the background to have less impact, you can use a bare wall or plain backdrop or arrange your shoot far enough away from the background that you can film it out of focus.
Compose your frame correctly
Interviews are fairly simple videos to shoot because they focus solely on the interview subject. Because of this you’ll notice your footage will mostly be mid and close-up shots. Mid shots are good for general interview footage and should make up most of the footage you record. Meanwhile, close-up shots should be reserved for important moments that call for an intimate feel. Lastly, B-roll footage can be used to add variety to your interview, it can focus on less important aspects like a subject’s hand gestures or an alternative angle.
Keep an eye on the eye line
Where a subject looks has a big influence on the feel of your interview. There are two main eye lines to choose from: on-camera and off-camera.
An on-camera eye line, where the subject is answering questions directly to the camera, creates the impression that the subject is speaking directly to the viewer. It adds a sense of familiarity and intimacy and can be really effective at connecting with an audience.
An off-camera eye line, where the subject is looking to the right or left of the camera, creates a slightly more distant feel which can be good if a direct eye line feels too intense. An easy way to make this feel natural is to have your interviewer ask questions from the side of your camera so the subject has someone to look to.
Choose your number of cameras
While an interview is easy to complete with a single camera (or even an iPhone), the addition of a second camera can give you more options. Footage from a second camera, placed in a different position on set, can be used to capture B-roll footage. B-roll footage of alternative angles, hand gestures etc. can be used to add visual variety to your video.
Lighting and sound
Consider a three point lighting set up
This is the norm for most industry interviews and is a great option if you have the equipment. As the name suggests, this setup uses three lights. B&H Photo Video provides a great tutorial in the video above.
A Key light is the main light you will use to light your subject and usually the brightest.
A Fill light is set up to the side of the subject and is used to fill any shadows generated by the key light for a nice, even look.
A Back light is set up at the back side of the subject and is used to visually separate them from the background.
Choose the right mic
In interviews, your most precious resource is your subject’s dialogue which means it’s essential to get your sound right. To improve the quality of your sound recording, consider using a professional-quality microphone.
Silence is golden
It’s natural for an interviewer to respond to a subject’s answers with a casual “yes” or “mmm” but this doesn’t translate well in the final video. To avoid odd sounds that may distract viewers, make sure your interviewer is quiet while the subject answers to get a clear recording. Also leave some silent “dead time” at the end of each of the subject’s answers to make editing easier later on.
Do your research
It’s important to turn up to your shoot prepared with well-researched questions. In an interview, the questions and answers make up your entire video so they need to have the substance and meaning to capture viewers’ attention. Well-researched questions will also prove your professionalism to your subject and this will make them more likely to provide good answers. Conducting the interview itself is an integral part of learning how to shoot interviews.
Ask open ended questions
No one enjoys an interview with one word answers. To avoid receiving a simple yes or no response from your subject, ask open ended questions. For example, instead of asking “Did you like the book?” you could ask “What did you like about the book?”. Phrasing your questions in this open way greatly increases your likelihood of getting answers with depth. Check out Forbes’ great interview tips.
Make your subject comfortable
To get the most out of your interview, make sure your subject feels comfortable. Most people are not used to being interviewed, let alone filmed. To avoid stress from the start, make sure your set is ready to go before your subject arrives. Once they get there, take the time to introduce yourself and explain how the interview will work. Lastly, start off your Q and A with some casual questions like “how is your day going?”. Once your subject feels comfortable, your shoot should proceed smoothly.
How to edit your interview footage
With your shoot all wrapped up, it’s savvy editing that can take your interview to the next level. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your editing process.
Add text screens and overlay text
Adding text to your interview video is a great idea. Text screens, where text displays over a static background, can work really well as intros and as transitions between questions. They’re also an easy way to add visual interest if you have limited variety in your footage.
Overlay text is another, subtler way to add structure to your interview video and save time. Short, snappy videos are more likely to capture viewer attention. You can save seconds by overlaying interview questions as text rather than including footage of the interviewer asking questions.
Make good use of B-roll footage
If you’ve collected B-roll footage, editing it into your interview video is a great way to add visual interest. You can edit the footage in simply to add variety or select it carefully to enhance parts of your interview. If you’re looking for a place to start editing, Clipchamp Create makes combining multiple clips into one video really simple.
When you’re learning how to shoot interviews, a little inspiration can go a long way. Take a look at our top picks below.
WIRED’s autocomplete interviews
Wired’s viral interview series utilises a lot of the essentials we’ve discussed in this blog. In this interview with actor Daniel Radcliffe you can catch a glimpse of a classic interview. Daniel is shot in front of a plain backdrop and lit by a three point lighting setup. A mix of mid and close-up shots is used to emphasise certain answers and add variety to the video. Text screens have been added by the video editor to clearly display questions. Interestingly, the director has chosen to keep Daniel’s eye line on-camera. This creates a sense of intimacy with the viewer which is logical, given the interview questions come straight from users on the internet.
Applied Fitness Solutions’ customer testimonial
This testimonial-style interview from Applied Fitness Solutions showcases a small business using interview effectively. The subject, client Susan, is being interviewed on-location at the Applied Fitness Solutions gym as she talks about her experience. The set of the gym informs the interview and adds a lot of authenticity to Susan’s words. Due to the busy visual nature of a gym, the editor has chosen to shoot the background out of focus. This video also utilises layover text to add information like Susan’s name over the interview so the viewer doesn’t miss anything vital.