Producing the Interview

As we all know, interviews with talent, professional or non-professional, in many cases are the heart of any video piece.  Using interviewee statements as either on-camera authority figures or a sound track to tell the story you are highlighting can mean the difference between a piece that is successful or one that is vanilla and boring.  So it is really important that you take a little extra time as a producer/director to find the ‘right’ setting for your interview and to light the interview so it is really as gorgeous as you can make it. 

Look for a place where you have control of several of the most critical variables: background noise, visual aesthetic, and comfortable surroundings.  As an example, it might be preferable to interview a highway expert adjacent to a busy road—just remember you will have to deal with the traffic noise, airplanes passing over and unwanted ‘extras’ getting in your shot.  It also may be really hot or cold outside, or raining!  Those factors are going to distract the interviewee and the viewer.  I always prefer an indoor location where I can control the background and lighting, or if I am shooting outside, a place that is relatively quiet and comfortable.  If background action is really important to the mood you are creating, you could always consider a ‘green screen’ setup where you can insert a background in post production.

You have to make the subject look good….he or she is an authority or leader.  If you are outside, choose an angle or location where the sun is behind the camera as much as possible.  That will be the best lighting situation for your talent.  You might have to supplement with a bounce card or reflector to even out the lighting if the sun is too far to the right, left or overhead.  Overcast weather is a lot easier challenge, but not as nice looking.  The sun always will make your interview seem more colorful and alive.

If you are shooting indoors, look for a setup where you have control of the lighting in the background, which can be as simple as aiming a light at the backdrop to bring up the level.  Make sure your background is non-descript, because it will be slightly out of focus.  Be sure your talent doesn’t have a plant or a vase arising from the back of his head!  Take some time to ‘art direct’ what your frame is going to look like.  Move the pieces of the background around to make the most complimentary arrangement so your talent looks like he belongs in the picture.

When you light the talent, I always try to get a small (150Watt Fresnel) backlight behind the subject but out of camera range, aimed at his head and shoulders.  This will give me an ‘edge’ on the talent and most importantly separate the talent from the background.  Once I have my ‘edge’ I use a well diffused front key light (We always travel with a 500watt softlight on a rheostat) and place it as close to 180 degrees from the backlight as possible, aimed at the talent from the front.  Then you can raise or lower the intensity to just the right level so the image is beautiful.

Don’t worry too much about color temperature.  Today’s cameras are very forgiving, and you have lots of control in post-production color correction to make it just right.  Judy Evans-Music Scores

Then when you have it looking just right, make sure your questions are focused. Get the talent to begin their answer by restating the question as part of the answer, or mentioning the organization they are talking about by name. 

BTW, save yourself some time by starting the interview by asking the subject to spell his name and give his title ‘on camera’.  Then you’re not fishing for that information when you are editing and need to key the talent!

Larry Lancit
President, Lancit Digital Media
(239) 676-5722