The interview is often the backbone of your video. When your goal is to provide relevant information to your audience, often times the easiest and most effective way is to interview someone with that information.
Framing your camera shot can make or break your interview; if your shot is poorly done, distracting, or out of place, your audience isn’t going to care that your subject may have just said the most profound thing they’ve ever heard, they’re only going to care that there appears to be something in the background sticking up out of your subject’s head, or that the shot is so far away from your subject that they’re not even sure what they’re supposed to be focusing on.
Here are some general rules to follow in order to get the best angles for interviews and help ensure that the how of your interview is just as good as the what.
#1: “Are You Lookin’ at Me?”
Generally, unless your subject is directly addressing their audience as a newscaster or telemarketer, they will not look straight into the camera. Instead, the interviewer (the one asking the questions to your subject) will stand or sit just to the right or left of the camera so that the subject will appear to be looking just off camera. This often makes the audience feel more comfortable with what is being said by the subject than they would if the subject were staring straight at them. For best results, place the interviewer and the subject level with the camera, to avoid making the subject appear to be looking up or down at someone.
#2: “The Rule of Thirds”
Because of rule #1, compliment your subject’s eye line (the direction that they are looking off camera), by observing the Rule of Thirds. Consider your camera shot as cut into thirds and place your subject in the opposite third to the direction that they are looking. For example, if your subject is looking to the right of the camera, place them on the left third of the frame. This gives your shot a sense of balance and removes any empty “dead space” behind them.
#3: “What’s Going on Back There?”
When framing up your shot, consider the subject’s surroundings. Try not to place them directly in front of a boring white wall, but also try to avoid the opposite: don’t place them where there may be major distractions going on in the background. A little activity that compliments the video may be nice, but too much and the audience may become more interested in what is going on behind the subject than in the subject themselves.
#4: “How Far is too Far?”
If you are shooting with a single camera, frame your subject with a wide to medium shot, giving them just a little bit of “head room” (the space between their head and the top of the frame) and ending the lower part of the shot around their mid-section. This will be far enough to allow the audience to see the subject’s facial expressions and body language, but not so far that they cease to be the focal point of the overall shot.
#5: “How Close is too Close?”
If you have a second camera for your interview, use it to get an alternative Close Up shot of the subject by placing the second camera fairly close to your first and framing the subject from their neck line to the tip of their head. In a close up, you don’t have to be as considered with leaving “head room.” Be sure to use the same Rule of Thirds for this shot as you do for your Wide; if the subject is on the left third of your Wide Shot, they need to be on the left third of your Close Up.
#6: “Two May Be Better Than One”
While most interview style videos do not feature the interviewer on camera, you may choose to feature both of them in your shot. These sort of shots can be very effective. In these cases, Rules #1 and #2 will not really apply, as they should be framed evenly within the shot and will typically look at each other. Be sure to consider the other Rules and you’ll have a great looking Two Shot.
Be sure to read up on some of our tips for lighting and recording the audio of your interviews, but in the meantime, these quick tips should help to ensure that the camera angles for your interviews are just as good as the interviews themselves!