Interviews are a basic and integral part of many video productions. However, because the concept seems so simple, often times less preparation and attention is put towards interviews compared to other aspects of the production. This can ultimately lower the value of your work, taking a project from professional to amateur quality. Here are 15 tips that will help you create professional quality interviews for your upcoming projects.
Research Your Topic
Have you ever seen one of those embarrassing talk show interviews where an author comes on the show, but clearly the host has not read the book? Don’t let this happen to you. Become well versed in whatever topic you are covering with your interview so conversation can flow freely.
Write Guiding Questions
There are two extremes that people encounter when they conduct interviews; either they have not prepared questions at all and end up with a very short or very scattered interview, or they have prepared too many questions and the interview comes off as very rigid and non-conversational. To help land in between these two extremes, prepare some guiding questions and a rundown for your interview. Know how you want it to begin and end, and have some topics prepared for the middle. You don’t have to plan everything out word-for-word, but you should be prepared enough to steer the conversation.
Whether you have a crew of 20 people, or you’re operating as a one-man-band, make sure everyone involved knows exactly what they are responsible for leading up to the interview. This will create a much more calm environment on the day of your shoot, helping your subject to stay calm, too.
Scout Your Location
Many interviews take place on location, adding extra variables into your shoot. Make sure to check out the location a day or two before. Where are the power outlets? Are there any windows that will cause lighting problems? How is the sound there? Does it echo? Can you hear noise from the street? All of these variables are important to know before you arrive at the location on the day of your interview.
The Set Up
Have Multiple Cameras if Possible
Having more angles will make your final project way more interesting. If you have access to multiple cameras, make sure to bring at least two along. Even if one camera is way lower quality than the other, you can still use stylistic filters to create an edgy and interesting look.
Lighting is crucial in any production, especially interviews. Try to have a key light on each person and also a flood light to brighten up the entire scene. Remember to adjust the lighting for each individual depending on the color clothes they’re wearing and their skin tone.
Whenever possible, mic each person in your interview with a personal microphone. This will create the most professional result. If this is not an option, do your best to limit any and all outside noise during your shoot. The less ambiant noise, the better.
Chair Set Up
This may seem like a no-brainer, but a classic “two chairs facing each other” approach to your interview is going to be the easiest and most professional looking. Then, you can set up a camera over each person’s shoulder (just make sure you follow the 180 degrees rule). A third camera to take a shot of the entire scene would be ideal. Other creative set-ups are fine (interviewing while walking, or sitting on a bench, etc), but two chairs in a designated room will give you ultimate control over lighting and sound, while still leaving you multiple camera angles to choose from.
During the Interview
Listen to the Answers
The biggest make that beginner interviewers commit is that they do not listen to the answers of the questions they ask. Instead, he/she is thinking about the next question already. Here’s an example of what not to do:
Interviewer: What types of projects are you going to take on next?
Celebrity: Well, I can see myself filling a lot of different roles in the future, but right now I want to take some time to focus on family. I’m excited to announce that Mr. Awesome and I are expecting a baby in July!
Interviewer: Great. And do you see yourself as an advocate for human rights?
This example is extreme, but clearly the interviewer was not listening to the celebrity’s answer. If he/she had, the conversation would have seamlessly flowed into follow up questions about the pregnancy and soforth. Paying attention is critical and will help you to become an expert interviewer.
Never Interrupt Your Interview Guest
You never know when they’ll blurt out the perfect soundbite. Keep the interview about them and not you. This includes making agreeing sounds like “oh, yes” and “mmhmm”. Those sounds are hard to edit out later on, and can be distracting. Try to just politely nod your head and refrain from any verbal communication while your guest is speaking.
Keep an Eye on Your Camera
Again, whether you have a huge crew or are operating alone, someone needs to be paying attention to the camera. You never know when it will stop taping, refuse to record audio or turn off altogether. The last thing you want is to have to ask your guest to do the interview all over because of a technical malfunction.
Editing the Interview
Keep it Natural
When applicable, try to keep the interview as true to real life as possible. Match the proper question with the proper answer and don’t edit just to make things more dramatic. You’ll lose the respect of your guest and your audience if you use editing to fabricate a story.
Use Lower Thirds
Graphics are a really easy way to provide information to your audience without being redundant in the interview. For example, if your guest is not well known, use a lower third with his name and title multiple times throughout the interview so the audience knows who they are and why they are significant to the story.
Use Reaction Shots
If you were able to shoot your interview with multiple cameras, add some reaction shots to your interview. This may be your interviewer nodding or agreeing with the guest, or it could be the guest pondering the interviewer’s questions. Sometimes these nonverbals speak more than the actual words!
B-roll is the term used to describe a cutaway shot of a different event or place during the interview. For instance, if your guest is going on and on about how they love spending time in New York, try to find some stock footage of New York and place it in there. We promise this will make your interview way more entertaining to watch!