Shooting Interviews

Interviews From the Vice Shooting Bible

You should avoid sit down interviews with main characters at all costs. Better to have them doing something then sitting down. The only exception to this rule is expert interviews that will talk about your subject or topic but not necessarily be a part of it.

Interviews should always be shot as close to the subjects eye-line as possible, never in profile. Interviews are also framed left or right of center. The setting should usually dictate weather it’s left or right, but keep track of how many of each you do so it’s not all of one or the other.

Depth is nice for interviews but don’t over do it. If the subject is moving around and your having to ride the focus, best to close down a stop, zoom out, or back up a bit. On the C300 I generally don’t shoot interviews below an f2, and on the 5D a 2.8.

The Lavs should be hidden under clothes, using hush lav tubes and mole skin. As much as you need the sound to be good, try you’re best to not interrupt the interview. If you loose all sound, interrupt, if the sound has minor interference 1 time, let it go. There’s a grey area in between that can get hard to call. You have to use your best judgment on when to stop it, or if you stop it at all.

1 Camera sit-down un-hosted (this is typical for the expert interview):

This thumbnail is from HBO and Vice

Try to set your subject somewhere with some depth, not directly up against a wall, and not up against a solid background. Soft natural light hitting them from a ¾ front is best, but you’ll usually have to work with what you have. The person off camera asking questions should next to the camera at the same height as the guest. The scene can dictate how wide the shot is, but typically a bust is best. You can change the framing a few times during the interview to get a wide and a tight, but only change framing during the question, and make sure you’re set before the answer starts.

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You want to make sure that you have the interview’s eyes, nose and cheekbones in a fairly frontal position.

Close-up from a 60 Minutes interview

Avoid having “head-room” space between the head and the top of the frame unless there is something unusual or interesting. A tight shot is best.

NBC News Colorado fire interview. There is headroom in this shot because it helps tell the story.

Two-shot interview in COVID times also shows the place in which the interview subject works.

Close-up sit down interview from a 60 Minutes story. It is okay to cut off a little of the head. But you want to make sure that the chin is always in the frame.

Medium two-shot from a 60 Minutes interview.

Tight shot from 60 Minutes interview. It’s okay to crop the head. But you want to make sure you get the chin in the frame.

You want to make sure that you get a set-up shot. That means a wider shot than most of your interview. Ask your interview subject to wait a moment and step back and get the wider shot after you have done the interview.

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