How are interviews shot and what are my options?
Interviews are one of the main aspects to the majority of videos we produce. This is because they generally involve the business owner or an employee in order to give the company a human face in the digital realm and it also gives the video and message a lot more impact. Humans are social animals, we like to see who we are talking to and the same goes for video, if you can see the person talking, more emotion can be seen by the viewer and the message is more likely to stick.
So, how are interviews shot? I’ll answer this by explaining the most popular interview shot set-ups and then explain how they are edited in order to produce a professional video that is enjoyable and easy to watch, which in turn makes your message easier to understand and take in.
You’ll have noticed that I mentioned ‘editing’ in the previous paragraph, it is very important that a production team has an idea of how the video will come together in the edit as this will dictate what shots are required for each section. This should be covered during the pre-production stage where story boards can be drawn up or if the video is fairly straight forward just a simple conversation can suffice but only if the production team are skilled and have plenty of experience.
I must stress that all the following setups are the most common so your options don’t stop here as you can get as creative as you like and even use interview setups to bolster the narrative.
In the following examples I have used frame-grabs from our own projects and none of them have been harmed in the making of this.
Firstly here are some of the most popular interview set-ups
Wide – This can be helpful if the interviewee wants to gesticulate a lot or hold something to explain.
Mid – This is the most popular interview shot as the frame is nicely balanced and the interviewee is clear without being overly in your face.
Close-up – This is best used if the backdrop to the interview isn’t very appealing to the eye or you want to portray a very personal or intimate message.
Two Shot – This can be helpful when filming at events and if you have a lot of people to film. We try to avoid these set-ups because the person not speaking generally isn’t sure where to look etc and it’s harder to balance the frame.
Over the shoulder – This set-up is great when filming a conversation as you can use two cameras to film the interviewer and the interviewee. Alternatively you can use this to hide the identity of the interviewee.
To camera – this is used to address the audience directly. Great for training videos or announcements about changes within an organisation.
Shooting for the Edit
Next I’m going to take you through some of the most common questions we are asked and explain the different ways of shooting an interview.
What does a bad interview look like?
If we were to film an interview with only one shot the biggest problem will come when we try and edit it. Say we filmed 10 minutes of interview and the final video needed to be 2 minutes, that’s 8 minutes of footage we need to cut out. If we were to just cut out what we don’t need and butt all the clips together we would be left with a very ugly video that is hard and uncomfortable to watch, resulting in the viewer not watching it through to the end and you therefore not being able to get your message across. This is how it would look –
As you can see, if we were to use these clips back to back the interviewee’s head would jump from one position to the next and make the video look very jerky. Even if the positioning is slightly different it will be enough to be noticed and appear amateurish. A final point on this one is the background, the lady on the right will magically disappear and then reappear if edited this way.
How to make a one shot interview work?
We like to use this one shot method (previous) in most of our videos as it means the final video will be a lot more visually appealing and contain a stronger narrative as we will have to shoot general video or GVs as they are known in the trade. These GVs are shots of whatever the interviewee is talking about and we use them to cover up the cuts between the interview shots. Below I’ve demonstrated this with a different project –
As you can see in this sequence, a lot of narrative value has been added to it by adding the GV shots. We now know the guy is in Brighton at a music event, but if it was the same as the previous example he would just be a guy standing outside Coalition.
What if we don’t have time or there aren’t any GVs to shoot?
Sometimes our clients are on a very tight schedule and we aren’t able to film any GVs, or the office block or studio isn’t very interesting. In these circumstances we will use two cameras so we can get two different interview shots. The most common way to do this is below –
As you can see by using two cameras we can combine a wide shot and mid shot together to give us something to edit with. This is very time efficient and although not as visually interesting as the last example it still looks like a professional video that is easy to watch.
An important note to make here would be to think about the background of the interview shot. Even though in this example we don’t have any GVs showing that it’s a dental practice, it’s pretty obvious because you can see a dental surgery in the background.
Here’s another example of the an interview with no GVs and using a more exaggerated angle between the two cameras –
Can I have the interviewer’s questions in the video?
All the examples so far have relied on the interviewee giving fully rounded answers so that the interviewer’s questions don’t need to be heard on the final video. However, if you do want to hear the original questions this is an option for you. We would use two cameras for this and need a larger space and more lighting in order to make both shots look good.
The opening ‘two shot’ shows the interviewer clearly asking his question and the second shot is a ‘mid shot’ of the interviewee answering the question. This is great when you want to portray a conversation or debate. There are many positions we can place the cameras, all of which will give the video a different feel.
Another alternative available to you with two cameras if the ‘over the shoulder shot’ then ‘reverse shot’ –
I’ve taken this from one of our short films so the feel is a little different to a corporate video but the principles are exactly the same.
What if I want to address the audience directly?
For this we can film the interviewee talking directly to the camera. This is one of the more difficult options as it is quite strange talking to a camera lens and requires a bit of practice. The other thing to bear in mind is that we still need enough different footage to edit with so if there are no available GVs then we will need to run the interview twice so we can get a wide and close. Here’s an example –
I could go in to a lot more detail about setting up and filming interviews but this should help you to decide what you like and what questions to ask when hiring a video production company to produce your first video. If however you would like to know more please don’t hesitate to contact us on 01273 911345 as myself (Will) or Andy are always happy to talk videos, especially over a coffee!