How to do great interviews and get killer soundbites

An interview is fundamental for a good promotional video, so let’s go over the lighting, set up, and how to get great soundbites.

Relax The Participants

The important thing about interviewing is to relax the participants as much as possible so they’re having a normal conversation and not acting or being self-conscious.

Set Up

Usually participants feel more comfortable sitting down but ask them what they like and help them feel at ease.

Props

Props are great, such as instruments or sports balls, they can help relax an interviewee and they make the image more interesting.

There’s Safety In Numbers

For this interview, the participants did not speak much English and in an effort to set them at ease I interviewed them altogether. This had the effect of producing a more natural conversation and was, therefore, more interesting for the viewer.

Leave The Camera Rolling

I personally like to leave the camera rolling before and after the interview. Sometimes when the interviewee is most relaxed and you’re just having a conversation you’ll get the best results.

Where Should The Participant Look

So when interviewing people, it’s best to not have them look straight into the camera as the effect on viewers can be off putting (unless your Errol Morris). So I usually ask an interviewee to look to the side of the camera during the interview.

Best Interview Question

My number one interview question is to ask them if they have anything else to say about the subject. Even the most seasoned interviewer will be surprised at the response this gets. I’ve found that very often it results in the best soundbite for the whole film.  


Lighting

The classic lighting for an interview is three point: key, fill and trim

Key Light

Key light as the name suggests is your main light. You are attempting to make your interviewee look 3D in a 2D image so we light one side of the face in order to create shadows and thus a 3D effect. The key light should be placed at 30 degree to the participant. 

Fill Light

One light on one side of the participant will create a very strong shadow and a harsh unflattering look. This can be useful, for instance, if you want to create a tense atmosphere. But, in most scenarios you will probably want to create a more flattering look for your participant, which is where your fill light comes in. 

The fill light is placed at a thirty-degree angle to your participant, on the opposite side to the key. Use a softer light than your key. This helps to soften the shadow on the interviewee without making them disappear completely, which ultimately creates a more flattering view of the participant.

Back Light

Finally you have the back light. This is used to create a glow around the interview’s hair which is very flattering, particularly for a woman. It also helps to create a separation of the interview from the background and adding to the 3D look.

Variation


 In order to vary the effect you can use gels (coloured pieces of plastic which clip to your lights) which colour the lights or diffusers (semi-opaque material that attaches to your lights) which create a softer more ambient look.  

Pink Gels

A slightly pink gel is often a very flattering light for skin tones.

Rules are meant to broken

These rules are guidelines. They can very much be broken! For instance, if you have beautiful natural light like I did in this video you should take advantage of it. You can use a reflector to provide your fill light. 

Roger Deakins, the Cohen brothers’ cinematographer often doesn’t use a fill light at all. He has a lot of interesting things to say about fill lighting, the most important takeaway being to find your own voice when it comes to lighting. As filmmakers you’re trying to create a painting using light.