Filming an interview is different than filming an event or live action film – it requires someone who understands the social aspects of asking someone to talk about their personal life or work. The interviewee needs to be able to interact well with the interviewee, make them feel comfortable and help guide them through the process. Interview segments also require attention to the technical aspects, from the location, equipment set up and lighting. Here are a few helpful guidelines to create the optimal setting for filming an interview.

The Setting

The first thing to think about is the location. If you are filming in a studio on a white or green screen, then you have a lot more control over the setting. If you are filming on location, you will need to do some extra prep work to make sure you will be filming in a somewhat controlled environment. If you are outdoors, you have weather, traffic, and people to contend with and if you are inside you will need to think about the type of lighting and other potential noise factors or interferences. Once you know where you are filming scope out the location and determine where exactly you will place the interviewee, find a suitable background that will complement the subject, and evaluate the lighting. Always make sure the interviewee is brighter than the background and make sure there isn’t a window or any distracting backlighting behind them.

Equipment Set Up

The next step is setting up the equipment and other gear. Once you’ve determined where the subject will be, mark the spot they will be standing or sitting so you can then set up your camera and lights. You want to make sure the camera is set up at the correct angle and frames the person’s face. Once you have the interviewee in place, frame your shot and adjust the lighting until the color and placement look optimal on camera.

Guide the Interviewee

The next step is one of the most important – make the person feel comfortable. The last thing you want is a subject that looks awkward on camera or is obviously uncomfortable. If they are going to be talking for a long time give them a chance to try different poses or ways of sitting and standing until they feel relaxed. The better they feel, the better they will talk and interact with you when filming.

Finally, you are ready to start filming. Begin by asking your interviewee some casual questions to get them warmed up and relaxed. Give them some pointers on where they should look and how they should behave on camera. Ask your interviewee open-ended questions to elicit longer answers rather than just yes and no responses and try to silently show agreement or acknowledgment as they talk to encourage them. You can nod your head to engage them and try maintaining eye contact, so they know where to look. If you have a monitor facing the interviewee with a live feed, make sure they aren’t looking at themselves but at you. It’s tempting to watch yourself as you talk but this will result in them looking off camera the entire time. If you don’t want your questions in the final audio ask the interviewee to pause before answering, this will give you room to edit out your voice. Also, ask them to repeat the question in their answer, this will give the audience some context to their response. Listen carefully to what they are saying and respond with follow up questions.

Following these basic steps will give you some guidance to create an optimal interview scenario. As you are talking to your subject, repeat questions as necessary and encourage them to keep talking organically. The more they talk, the more comfortable they will become and you will end up with some natural, flowing material to edit. Don’t forget to have fun and try to extract all the information you can from your interviewee; you’ll likely learn a lot from what they have to say!