Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Shooting Video Interviews: 3 Common Interview Shots

I’ve been going through our 13 guidelines to shooting video interviews. Here’s a quick recap of the first 9 guidelines.

1) Make The Interviewee Comfortable

2) Get Acquainted Before You Begin

3) Consider the Interviewee’s Chair

4) Develop Interview Questions

5) Pay Attention to Wardrobe

6) How to Set Up The Side-By-Side Interview

7) Audio Considerations

8) Lighting Considerations

9) Watch Your Background

The tenth guideline is on framing your shot. As I was writing that post, I realized that I should talk about and introduce you to the types of shots you want to have before we discuss framing. When shooting an interview, I recommend using a variety of shots. Not only will this allow you to create more visual interest in your interview, each of these shots is important to how information and emotion are conveyed.

3 Basic Interview Shot Types

The Wide Shot

Wide shots reveal a lot of information about a scene. When I say “wide” I don’t necessarily mean a wide angle but a shot that reveals the environment into which you are taking the viewer. More often than not it is shot from enough distance to indicate the setting.


The Medium Shot

Move your camera closer to the interviewee for a medium shot. This has the effect of the camera bringing the viewer into the scene. This will probably be framed from the waist up. Also when you’re framing the shot, watch the space above their heads; don’t have too much distance above their heads to the top of the frame but don’t cut the head off either (save that for the close up).


The Close-Up

As the name implies, this is a close shot of your subject. This shot functions to focus the viewer’s attention tightly on this person or item. If it is a person’s face then it is telling the viewer that this is an important shot, pay attention to what is being said!


Once you’ve established your scene you’ll mostly be cutting between medium and close shots until you either change the scene or come to the end.

When Should You Use Each Type

Each one of these types serves a different purpose so think about why you are choosing a particular shot before setting it up.

Wide and medium shots are best for when your interviewee is sharing factual information.Close up shots are good for when your interviewee is talking about something personal or emotional; this shot pulls the viewer into the same emotional space. At the same time, if you are also shooting the interviewer, it’s better to go no further than a medium close up on her, since what she is feeling is not the focus. The interviewer should be portrayed as slightly detached from the emotion of the topic.

The Sequence of These Shots

Most interviews where the interviewer will be on camera start with a fairly wide shot of the interviewer and/or interviewee. This type of shot is also commonly called an “establishing shot”. Make sure you leave enough room in the frame for a name/title key if necessary.

A common practice you see in many documentaries is to begin the interview with a medium shot as the person talks about the facts, then slowly zoom in to a close up when she begins talking about her feelings.

Action Steps:

  • Watch television news programs and documentaries to see how these types of interviews are set up.
  • As you plan your interview, think about the questions you are going to ask and think about what type of shots you’ll use when.
  • Use wider shots for information and casual conversation and tighter close-up shots for intensity.
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