Lighting, setting up & recording video interviews

Choosing an interview space

  1. It’s best if you choose a room that does not have a lot of echo.  Echo will muddle the audio and make your subject more difficult to understand.
  2. Either choose a location without much clutter, to try to clear away as much clutter that might be distracting as possible.  Drink cups, disorganized piles of paper, etc. need to be moved out of the frame before you film anything.
  3. Choose a space that reflects the interview subject's personality and gives the audience information about what the subject does and what they are knowledgeable about.

Setting up

  1. Plan for at least 30 minutes of setup time before your interview to get chairs in the right place, to make sure your lighting is good, to set up the tripod, etc. 
  2. Use a tripod for your camera!
  3. Sit just out of view of the camera – you don’t want your subject looking way off the side of the screen, just slightly off-camera.  A good technique is to sit as close to the camera as you can, with your head just to the side of the camera.
  4. As a general rule, you as the interviewer should be between the camera and the light source.
  5. Turn off fans, buzzing fluorescents, and compressors.  Unplug refrigerators and water fountains. Turn off HVAC systems.

Lighting

  1. Video cameras need a lot of light to make good pictures, so turn on every light you can find and, if possible, face your subject toward a window and get them as close to it as possible (while still leaving room for you and the camera in front of them!). 
  2. If you need a little more light, put a table lamp next to you, on the other side as the camera. The lampshade will help diffuse and soften the light, but don't be afraid to take the shade off of the lamp if you need the extra light.
  3. Bringing in and using additional lights makes a big difference in the look of an interview. Your lights don't need to be fancy or expensive; Even an incandescent work light with a piece of baking parchment in front of it will do wonders for your image.
  4. Make sure your camera is set to the proper white balance for the light. Different forms of light, while they all look basically 'white" to our eyes, actually have different colors that can trick your camera. Click here for a more detailed explanation of using your camera's white balance settings to improve the look of your interview.

Framing

  1. A “head and shoulders” or “head and torso” shot is a good way to frame someone during an interview.
  2. Try to get rid of distracting objects behind the person you are filming; this includes legible posters and trees and buildings growing out of heads.
  3. Rule of Thirds: A person’s head should not be in the exact middle of the screen, but about two-thirds of the way up and a third of the way from one of the side edges.
  4. Be sure to give the subject plenty of visual headroom and space in front of them. If the edge of the frame is directly in front of the subject's face, it will look like they're boxed in.
  5. The focus of the image should be on the subject, meaning that they should be the most prominent thing in the frame.
  6. Position the camera at nose-level, not forehead-level or neck-level, for the most flattering angle.

Microphone

When using a wireless clip-on ("lavalier") microphone:

  1. Place the microphone at shoulder- or upper chest-level; If the microphone is too far down shirt, the voice will sound boomy and distant.
  2. Hide the microphone cord
    • Run it inside the shirt and clip microphone to polo lapel or shirt collar.
    • Run from suit jacket pocket up inside lapel of jacket and clip the microphone to the lapel.
    • Run up the back of your subject and under the collar of a collared shirt and clip the microphone inside the outside flap.
  3. If you aren't outside, you don’t need the windscreen (the foam covering on the microphone).  You can take it off, just don’t lose it!

If you don't have a wireless clip-on microphone, be sure you make the room as quiet as possible.  Turn off fans, computers, buzzing fluorescents lights, refrigerators, water fountains, and HVAC systems. Then position your interview subject about 4-6 feet in front of your camera so that the subject is not too far away for the camera’s microphone to pick up good audio. 

Recording

  1. It is a good idea to wait a few seconds after hitting the "record" button before having the subject speak.  The record button shouldn’t be pushed again to end the recording until a few second after the person stops speaking.
  2. Use the write-protect tab on the tape!  It needs to be switched to “REC” for recording and “SAVE” once you’re finished using the tape to prevent accidental erasure or recording over your footage. (This process is reversible, by the way: you can switch the tape back from Save to Rec and record on your tape again at any point in the future).