How to setup and light for interviews
Interviews are one of the most common video subjects that most people will shoot. Even if it’s not a regular thing for you, an interview is pretty much a certainty at some point. They’re pretty easy to shoot, but there are pitfalls that can catch you out if you’ve not done it before.
In this video from Wolfcrow, filmmaker Sareesh Sudhakaran walks us through the process of how he sets up for interviews. He talks about the things to watch out for, as well as how to eliminate problems that may arise.
Many of the interviews I’ve shot lately have been spur of the moment things during events, rather than staged sit-down types, but you can still use many of the same principles there. You may want an assistant or two, though.
- Stay away from noise pollution (busy traffic, air conditioners, humming computers, etc).
- AC power isn’t always available, so make sure you have a fully charged battery in the camera before you start. Have a couple of spares in the bag, too.
- Use a boomed shotgun microphone for best quality, but think about backups like lavs and maybe a VideoMic for syncing.
- Find an uncluttered background that still has some depth and interest to provide context or simply please the eye.
- Set your depth of field to cover the potential range of movement from your subject. You don’t want to continuously have to change focus throughout the interview.
- An LED panel with something like a D Fuse works to light both seated or more mobile event interviews. Just watch your angles.
Positioning yourself so that the camera is to one side of you and the light on the other gives a nice short-lit look to your interviews when your subject is facing you. You can do this for seated interviews, or standing at events.
Short lighting usually gives a slimmer and more flattering effect than simply bolting a light on top of your camera. You’ll want to watch how close your subject is to their background to prevent light spilling where you don’t want it.
If you’re shooting with multiple cameras, you’ll want to white balance them both at the very least. Ideally, you’ll want to use something like the ColorChecker Video to ensure colour consistency between cameras (I prefer the pocket sized Passport version).
One tip mentioned in the video that’s especially useful is shooting wide at 4K, rather than tight at 1080p. If you shoot wide, your subject has a little room to move without going out of the frame. You can always crop, then pan & scan to keep them in place in the final video.
What other interview setup tips do you have? Let us know in the comments.
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.