Ever wondered how interview-style videos are shot? There is definitely more than what meets the eye, and there are a lot of parts that come together to create what the audience sees. In this blog, these parts will be quickly broken down so that you are equipped for when you are tasked to create an interview video for your content marketing team.
DSLR/Mirrorless Camera - Well, technically you don’t need a super fancy camera such as a DSLR or mirrorless, but let’s be real; you can’t get that same level of quality with a smartphone camera, no matter how advanced its camera is. The brand I use and prefer is Sony’s Alpha mirrorless line. They are pricier than their Canon, Panasonic, and Nikon counterparts, but I personally feel that Sony cameras outperform them in nearly every way.
Camera Lens - I can write a whole essay on this topic, but you have a variety of options when choosing a lens for interviews. Common focal lengths include 50mm and 85mm; the higher the number, the closer your subject will be, thus the further you have to set your camera away from the interviewee. In terms of the aperture, the smaller number the better. That will give you the buttery smooth bokeh and background blur that everyone adores. For me, I use a Sony 85mm f1.8 (aperture) medium telephoto prime lens for interviews (prime, or fixed focal length, lenses produce sharper images than zoom lenses).
Tripod - A tripod is an essential part of shooting an interview. No one wants a shaky handheld video, so you need this piece of equipment to have a consistent and stable frame throughout the entire interview.
External Mic - Also very essential, external mics assist in recording high quality audio of what the interviewee talks about; the camera’s internal mic simply does not cut it. You have a couple different options when choosing an external mic; shotgun or lapel. Shotgun mics are typically placed out of frame and hover above the interviewee’s head or on top of the camera itself, while a lapel mic sits on or in the interviewee’s clothes, close to the mouth.
Lighting - If the space that you’re shooting in has a supple amount of light, skip this; if not, continue reading. There are many options when choosing what type of lighting apparatus you should use, that I can write an entire article on it. But for me, I use an LED panel with a diffusing cover as a fill light. This is typically all I need since I use natural light as the main source of light, but your mileage may vary.
Framing the Shot
It is recommended that the interviewee be seated while shooting, which limits their movement that could potentially bring them out of focus or out of frame. Make sure the camera is set at eye-level with the interviewee. After positioning the subject, you now must frame them on screen; the rule of thirds is a good format to follow, and it is widely used in interview-style videos. This creates space in front of the subject, and provides an overall aesthetic look to your shot. Most cameras have an option to enable the rule of thirds grid, and you should definitely use that to help frame your shot.
If there is natural light coming in nearby, such as close to a window, place the subject perpendicular with the light source so that one side of the face is lit up while the other is a little more shadowed, and that will create depth on the person’s face. When placing the camera, I prefer to position it on the subject’s darker side so that the depth is able to be maintained, as shown on the picture above, but there is no right or wrong side. If you choose to use a light panel to introduce more light in addition to the natural light, be sure to have the color temperature the same as the other light source (daylight is typically at 5600K).
For my interviews, I use a lapel mic, which sits on the interviewee’s clothing and close to their mouth. It is then plugged directly into my camera through the microphone port, which allows for high quality and synced with the footage shot. If the video and audio are not synced because they were recorded with two different pieces of equipment, it is recommended that you or the interviewee clap once before beginning so that you are able to sync the clap and its audio easily in post-production. Depending on the sensitivity of the mic, I highly recommend that the interview be conducted in a quiet and distraction-free room. Not only do external sounds and noises distract the interviewee, they also draw focus away from the interviewee.
Conducting the Interview
Now that you have properly framed your interviewee, set the correct lighting, and ensured the audio is working, you are now ready to conduct the interview. Seat yourself beside the camera on the opposite side of where the interviewee is sitting, so that the interviewee faces the empty space within the frame.
When conversing with the interviewee, be sure that they are looking directly at you, and not the camera. This way, the interview will seem more natural, as it is meant to be a conversation and not a staring contest with the camera. The interviewee will also feel more comfortable and less awkward talking to another human as opposed to talking directly to the camera.
Also, give your full attention to the interviewee. Checking whether or not the camera is still recording or if the sound levels are alright is very distracting to the person you are interviewing, and it will degrade the quality of the interview, affecting the overall video. Remember the questions you plan to ask, and LISTEN to what they say, so that you won’t constantly have to look down at your notes to lead the conversation.
If you follow most or even all of these basic tips and instructions, you will most likely conduct a very aesthetic and successful interview, which will set you up beautifully for when you piece it all in post-production.
Aaron Kwong is a senior marketing student at San Jose State University and a Marketing Committee Member/Videographer at SJSU Marketing Association.