Best Setup For Interviews

Whether it is for your own education, promotional content or client work, interviews can get boring without the right setup. There is a base line for the tools you need but that's not all I am going to talk about. For filmmakers, it remains a challenge to learn how to work around certain problems, like not having the basic equipment.

It's important to note that on a budget with a time limit, you need to have a stream-line work flow. You don't want to wast time redoing your work. A good example would be placing your camera and subject first, then build the rest of the scene, such as light your subject, mic them and dress the set. A filmmaker doesn't want to set everything up and then realize that the talent is in the wrong place for the camera. Another mistake is having shot your scene and then realize the lighting was too harsh.

Here are some ways to avoid these problems.

The key thing is to remember that you cannot let your equipment get in the way. Just because you might only have a low priced DSLR and one light doesn't mean you can't get the wonderful result shown above. Sure, money plays a part in it, but don't let it limit you. The above and below shot was captured on a Canon EOS 5DMKIII, one light and a rode NTG 2 shotgun microphone. The lens I used was very nice, a Canon 50mm F1.4.

Let me show you how I achieved this.

First, set up your camera and talent. Adjust the camera settings accordingly and have the interviewees where they will be. The shoulder with the most frame space should be a little further back than their other one as this will create a more dynamic look and will be more appropriate for an interview (like in the above picture). If you had the character talking straight to the camera, having their shoulders at an even distance will be better.

Most of the time, having an organized set, encouraging tone, and calm attitude will be helpful to the interviewee and will calm nerves. You want the best, and their calm performance will be icing on the cake. Be focused on their words and interact with them like you would in a normal conversation. A lot of the time, I would nod my head (the only thing I can do without making noise for the microphone to catch) and would keep eye contact most of the time. I try not to interrupt because cutting them off on a good take could cost you. Often, once they finish their thought, I would wait five seconds encase they wanted to add anything. I asked Caleb (picture below) a question about whether I made him comfortable or uncomfortable in his interview.

"Murray made the interview process very comfortable. I never felt like I was being interrogated or felt awkward talking to a camera. I was just having a conversation with him." - Caleb

At the very least, have one light for the key light; that way you can actually see something. Having three lights is the ideal situation wile still being relatively cheap. You can get three cheap lights for less than $200! But here is how I did it. I had two lights, but only used one, why? Just because you have the equipment, doesn't mean you should use it. Instead, I used the sunlight coming through the window to be the key light on the interviewees. I used one light as the hair light to separate them from the background. I didn't need a fill light because I used a very good lens and things were lit up very well. It was also helpful that there were clouds in the sky, defusing the harsh sunlight coming in, casting a soft light onto the subject. Defused or bounced light must be used to your advantage. The large window also provided a very good light for the background and the addition of the lamp in the background was perfect to add some decoration and in-frame light. Too many people forget about the background. Be careful of this! Having a good background is going to make it easier to watch the speaker and won't distract them from what is important.

If I would pick the piece of equipment that I would spend my money on, it would be sound. Sound plays a huge role in a film, and most of the time, if the sound is bad, you will lose people. Audiences seem to be more forgiving when it comes to camera quality compared to sound, so be sure to get the best you can.

Other than that, plan ahead and remember to set up with a great base, placing the subject and camera first, followed by lighting and then find the place to set up for the sound.

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