You want to create an interview that will have the look and feel of a professional studio production with multiple cameras and graphics. But you only have one camera. It can be done. Remember in creating video, the viewers' perception is more important than the reality. And we create our own reality for the camera. It doesn't matter if it's an interview that will air on television or just your grandparents telling stories to document your family history. Both are important and need to have visual appeal as well as interesting dialogue to hold the viewers' interest.
Tips for Making Professional Looking InterviewsFrom having only one camcorder at your disposal to preparing your interview subject, these tips used by the pros can help you record a professional interview that resemble those you find on television news shows and documentaries.
We are accustomed to the cuts from interviewee to interviewer as they speak and cutaways that help tell the story. Our society has become very visually literate. We have been programmed by commercial television and will quickly become bored by a static one-camera interview. By static, I mean that the camera is mounted on a tripod, focused and framed before the event starts and the camera angle is never changed during the interview.
Get OrganizedSo how can these effects be accomplished with only one camera? It can be done, but it does require some preplanning, a pre-interview interview and editing after the footage is shot. Therefore you need some type of video editor. It can be a computer program (i.e. iMovie, Pinnacle, Premiere, Final Cut, or any of the other fine editing programs), or a stand-alone editor, such as one of the Casablanca or Avio series; but you will need an editing device or at least access to one.
To create a one-camera interview, you will also need the following:
2. Tripod or other stabilizer
3. Two chairs
4. An Interviewee
5. An interviewer
6. At least one mic
For your location, look for an area that is relatively quiet with as little ambient noises that could interfere with your sound, like traffic or kids playing outside, (unless these would add to the story you are telling but make sure that the noises do not over-ride your talent). Lights, lighting reflectors, gobos, and a good microphone are all nice to have and they will improve the quality of the final video. But they are not an absolute necessity.
Let's get started setting up an interview. The first thing is to select a person to interview and set up the pre-interview with them. This can be done in person or over the phone. If you do not know the person that you will be interviewing it is best to do the pre-interview in person. During the pre-interview you can establish a time and location to do the video interview. You should select an area for the interview that is well lit. That means an area with even lighting that has no bright areas including light sources that may be caught in the camera's angle-of-view. If the room has windows that overwhelm the interior lighting, they must be covered in some way.
Make sure that no deep shadows are evident in the viewing area as well. Remember, even with all of the improvements that have become available with digital video equipment, the camera still does not differentiate as well as the human eye. And speaking of eyes and lighting, be aware that overhead lights may create raccoon eyes on your subjects. Make sure you have some type of fill lighting to differentiate the topography of the face. This can be with lights or reflected light. You can reflect the light using commercial reflectors, gobos or even a white sheet of copy or typing paper. The size of the reflector will be determined by the proximity of the lights and area that the light is to be reflected into.
The mood you want to create will also affect the choice of location and lighting. To create a formal feeling to the video then that of an office, for example, the living room or dining room would be good locations. But the living room and dining room can also be readily made to look like an office or studio. For a homey effect, the kitchen table or front porch might be better. Avoid porch swings and rockers, as they will be put in motion as the talent gets into their story. This movement could cause problems for the camera's focus and depth-of-field and is also a distraction to the viewer. If you want to do a cut-away shot of the rocker or swing in motion (a long or establishing shot), you can cut this into the interview during editing to make it look as if the interviewee is in the swing or rocker. Just remember to make sure that the background is the same for the rest of the interview.
All video projects should be divided into three phases: Pre-production (planning), Production (Shooting) and Post-production (editing and distribution). Good preplanning can save you money, labor and time during the production and post-production phases. It will also make you look more professional to your client/interviewee.
Pre-production should consist of at least the following:
- Decide who you would like to interview. This choice will affect many aspects of the video: tone, subject matter, and location just for starters.
- Contact your prospect and get an agreement.
- Set up a time and location for a pre-interview.
- Try to have the pre-interview in the same location and at the same time that you will be taping the interview. This allows you to evaluate lighting, ambient sounds, and pre-plan your set-up for the interview.
- Before the pre-interview, find out as much as possible about your interviewee from other sources. These sources can include internet searches, family members or friends. Compose 15-20 questions for the pre-interview and write them down. Leave space between the questions to make your notes.
- The day before your pre-interview, contact your interviewee and confirm the time and location for the pre-interview. Check your equipment for the pre-interview. Make sure your voice recorder is working and you have extra tapes and batteries; that you have your list of questions; and you have a pad of paper and at least two pens or pencils. The pencils and paper are your primary note taking equipment, the voice recorder is for backup if you need to check back on your written notes. During the pre-interview, have your client sign a release form. This gives you permission to use the interview for publication, i.e. commercial television, cable, and/or the internet.