Shooting Video Interviews: Framing Your Shot
In this post, I am continuing in our series of 13 guidelines to shooting video interviews. Today I’m going to talk about framing your shots.
Framing Interview Shots
To make your video interviews interesting yet not distracting, you want to follow a couple of framing guidelines specific to interviews.
Staying on the same shot, like a medium shot, of even the most interesting person soon gets boring. If a person is using her hands to communicate, include them, they help tell the story. During more intense or intimate times, slowly zoom in for a dramatic effect.
We often use two cameras on the interviewee, one set to a medium tight head and shoulders frame. We have another right beside it that we can zoom in and out with to get varying tighter shots or a cutaways of hands. We set exposure and white balance carefully to match and this gives the editor much more variety to work with. A third camera off to the side gives your editor lots of choices to keep things interesting.
Frequently you see the shot framed so that the interviewee is looking not at the viewer but off axis, at the interviewer who may be just inside or entirely out of the frame. This makes it more comfortable for the viewer; she is still part of the conversation but not directly involved.
In this case there should be more space in the frame in front of the interviewee ‘s face than behind their head, otherwise they will look cramped and claustrophobic. In other words, they should be looking out of the frame with more room in front. You can do this type of shot even if there is no interviewer. This happens when you are both interviewer and camera operator. Tell the interviewee to look at a spot on the wall and act as if there is a person there.
If you include the interviewer, you need to make sure the interviewer and subject are always facing each other. Or if you are not including the interviewer, then shoot is from the angle AS IF they are talking to each other. If you don’t do that, it will seem like they both are talking to some unseen person out there.
Unless you are doing this for some extreme effect, avoid severe profile shots. We’re used to seeing a person’s entire face when they are talking. Also profiles can be unflattering so you’ll want to watch for that.
For close ups, put the person’s nose in the center of the frame. If you zoom out, change your frame so that you are placing some room (not too much though) above their head and keeping more room in front of the person’s head than behind. I like to use about 1/8 to 1/10 of the frame for head room. Be sure you know if your viewfinder is revealing the whole shot.
If available, have a stand-in sit in the interview chair before you start so that everything, chair, background, lights, etc. is set up and positioned as you want before the interviewee shows up.
- Shoot the interviewee looking off axis, to the right or to the left of the interviewer.
- Avoid shooting profile shots.
- Leave enough head room.
- Use more than one camera to shoot the interview.
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