Teaching Video, Part 5 -- Interviews

Filming interviews is one of the most important and also hardest things to do. For your video piece to look good and be effective, you want the interview shot to be really good -- well composed with perfect audio and near perfect lighting, in addition to getting the answers you need. Here are some really good overall primers, here and here. Here's my own bullet point list:


You want as quiet a place as possible, given your surroundings and the story you are pursuing, without distracting background noise if possible. In news type stories, you also want to have a background which helps tell the story, or with the story in the background, but make sure the background is not dominating. Movement can be interesting in the background as long as it's not too close, and not too distracting as well. Indoors, a small light placed in the background can make for an interesting studio-like effect.


When possible use a lavalier mic or a wireless mic. Wear your headphones and make sure your setup is working. You can also use a longer cable for your shotgun mic and place it on a small tripod next to your subject. If doing an interview in a crowded place without a tripod, make sure to be eye level, and also to point your mic as close to your subject as possible, while still getting a good shot. If you are micking them up, make sure the cables are not visible. Have them hide it under their clothes, so it doesn't ruin your shot. If indoors, make sure to shut off the AC, the music, to close the window. Tell them to silence their phone.

On the Go Interviews

The important thing is to always try being eye level with your subject. Pull them slightly away from the crowd, unless you want that crowdsurfing look. Don't ask existential questions. Best questions for this type of interview are of the ... what did you just do? what are you doing? what are you doing next? ... vein. Also remember natural lighting, shades, and distracting foregrounds and backgrounds.


If shooting indoors, make sure there's a lot of light to work with. Sunlight is always the best, but avoid shooting directly into the sun. Avoid having really distinct shadows on someone's face, it can make them look very creepy. Always think of the light and the color you are getting in your shot. Position your subject at a slight angle, slightly tilted so that the light hits the person on the side of the face, preferably toward their talking space, so they are speaking into the light and space. Having lights in your equipment bag is not necessary at the beginner reporter stage, just make sure you are aware of the lighting situation. Turn lights on and off. Play around with blinds. Reposition yourself and your camera and your subject, until you feel you have a nice shot. Be the "reporter sandwich", where you are in between the light source and your camera, facing toward your subject. Tell the subject you want them to look good, so it may take you a few minutes to set up the interview shot.


In addition to having your subject's body tilted, usually, you also want them to gaze slightly off camera. If you are working alone, press record and then move slightly to the side of the camera while they are talking and tell them to always look there. A stool is better than a couch. Tell your subject to sit on the edge of their chair so they'll have good posture, rather than look slouchy. Tell them not to lean back, and to change chairs if they are sitting in a squeaky chair.

Framing and Composition

You want to try the rule of thirds and let your subjects speak into the open, wider space. You also want to frame your shot so there is just the right amount of headspace, not too much, but also don't cut off the top of their head. You can mix shots for variety in between questions, but for standard reporting, don't get too creative, and don't zoom in while your subject is answering a question. If possible, place your camera 10 to 15 feet away from your subject and zoom in on your subject, so you can create a nice in focus subject with an out of focus background.

Camera Placement

You want to make sure you and your camera are at eye-level with your subject. Have your subject as they will be during interview and then set your tripod accordingly. Even if this takes time, it is well worth it.


For content, see my audio tutorial on interviews. You are looking for the same type of answers than a radio interview, but here you also want your subject to be interesting visually while they are answering questions or explaining events. So it is much harder, in this sense, to get a good interview in video, than audio, since the camera can get in the way more than a recorder. People also have a tendency to "play up" for the camera or be very nervous on camera, so you have to deal with those factors as well.

On Camera/Off Camera?

In a video interview, you also have to decide if you want to appear on camera during the interview, say in the foreground, or in a reverse shot, or side by side your subject ....Up to you to experiment, much like a standup ....

If you enjoyed this tutorial, make sure to check out the other chapters in my video series.

Teaching Video, Part 1 -- Your Equipment and How to Use It

Teaching Video, Part 2 -- A Lexicon of Shots

Teaching Video, Part 3 -- Shot Composition and Sequencing

Teaching Video, Part 4 -- Nat Sounds and Action Shots

Teaching Video, Part 5 -- Interviews

Teaching Video, Part 6 -- Standups

Teaching Video, Part 7 -- Choosing Your Video Stories and Shooting Them Wisely

Teaching Video, Part 8 -- Ingesting Into Premiere

Teaching Video, Part 9 -- Writing Your Script

Teaching Video, Part 10 -- Editing

Teaching Video, Part 11 -- Raising Your Game

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