Take 5: Five Tips for Better Interviews

No matter what kind of video you shoot – family gatherings, birthday parties, travel and tourism, sporting events, weddings, commercials, news, etc. – you’ll eventually point your camera at someone and ask that individual to answer a few questions on tape.

1 In the professional world this is called conducting an on-camera interview. Whether you interview your sister-in-law or the president of a corporation, there are several things you can do to improve the responses that you get from the folks you shoot. Here are five simple tricks the pros use that you can try the next time you shoot an interview.
Turn off the tally light.
That little red record light can make people nervous when it starts blinking. To keep them focused on your questions, not the camera, switch off your tally light or cover it with a small piece of black electrical tape. You’ll be surprised at what a difference it can make.
2 Get out from behind the camera.
Talking to the lens is difficult for people who are not accustomed to being in front of the camera. You’ll get much better results if you lock your camera on a tripod and stand beside it. Have your subject talk to you – not the lens.
3 Shoot them sitting, not standing.
Nervous interviewees tend to bounce up and down and rock from side to side, causing them to jump around the frame of your locked-down shot. To keep your subjects still, have them sit in a chair. They’ll feel more relaxed and you’ll have a nicer looking shot.
4 Change shots between questions for easier editing.
You’ll likely need to edit your interviews for use in your final production. To avoid unsightly jump cuts, reframe your shot between questions. Shoot Question 1 with the camera set on a wide shot, Question 2 on a medium shot and Question 3 on a closeup. The variety of shot types will make your job easier in the edit bay and will make your sequence more palatable for the viewer. For maximum impact, shoot questions with emotional impact in closeup.
5 Keep onlookers to a minimum.
As much as possible, take your subjects to a quiet place to conduct your interviews. Stares and comments from the peanut gallery can distract your subjects and make them feel self-conscious. To help your interviewees relax, get them away from the rest of the crowd.

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