Video Corner: shooting an interview

Shooting an interview with multiple cameras can seem a bit like overkill to those without much prior video knowledge.  There's normally one or two subjects for a start!

Well, you’d be surprised.  One camera can be surprisingly limiting. If you only need a wide-angle or a mid-shot, it’s fine, but what if you want to get a bit closer to capture an emotional response, or zoom out further for a better sense of the environment? One camera cannot give you these results. Shooting an interview with a multi-cam setup enables producers to gain multiple perspectives on the scene: when you’re able to use one camera for a wide angle or mid shot, and another for a close-up, you’ve immediately got more opportunity to make your video visually interesting and dynamic.

Keep ‘em keen

​Where long interviews are concerned, it’s common for interviewees to become bored. Not because what you’re saying isn’t interesting; far from it. But there’s a reason people think of watching paint dry as the single most tedious activity in the known universe: stare at anything long enough – an explosion, an attractive person, a real-life woolly mammoth, whatever – and you’ll eventually lose interest. The same thing applies to video: if you don’t change things up, your interview will lose all momentum, and your prospects will turn their attentions elsewhere.

This isn’t to say it has to be wall-to-wall jump cuts or anything, but it’s a good way to subtly shift emphasis. If, in one sentence, the interviewee is talking about their business as a large corporate entity, and then suddenly starts talking about company culture and the people who keep the whole thing humming along, it makes sense to transition from a wider shot to a close-up so that target viewers can see how sincere the speaker is about the deep, genuine, and abiding love they hold for the miserable faceless husks who make them all that sweet, sweet, paper.

Safety in numbers?

It’s not all about the audience, however. For the film crew, using two cameras provides far more room for experimentation. When you’re using a solitary camera, you can only really veer so far from the pre-approved plan: you don’t want to end up with reels and reels of footage you can’t use. Creatively speaking, this kind of boxes you in: you get a smart, professional interview video that looks exactly like your competitors’ smart, professional interview videos. Hooray for conformity! Nobody loses when you’re all the same.

Of course, nobody wins either, and if you want something that’ll make you stand out, you’ll need to take a different tack. With two cameras, you’ve immediately got more options for shooting an interview. You can use one as a static safety shot, and another for documentary-style focus racking – or perhaps to pick up (appropriate) hand gestures. You can also try mounting the second camera on a dolly and using it to track the subject of a close-up. While keeping the subject firmly at the centre of the action, it gives the illusion of a moving background. When you’ve got a truly spectacular view to show off – a metropolitan skyline, Central Park, the big Brazilian Jesus, maybe – a tracking shot will allow you to capture all of it without forcing your interviewee out of frame.

Needs must

Naturally, sometimes multiple cameras are a necessity rather than a luxury. If you’re filming a live event, one unit simply isn’t going to do it. It’s unfortunate in many respects, but still sadly true – real life cannot be rewound or repeated from a different angle. You don’t want an unmissable moment ruined by someone obstructing the camera: having two cameras allows you to cover it from multiple perspectives (and insures you against one of the cameras failing to get a good view).

We would, however, argue that a multi-cam shoot is always worth the time and effort. They do take longer to set up – especially if you do decide to do a dolly – but you’ll make this time back quickly because you won’t have to do constant reshoots. Plus, your editor will LOVE you for it.  If you’re going to shoot an interview, multi-cam really is the only way forward.

TopLine director Jamie Field can shoot an interview that will change the way your clients think about you. In a good way, not an "impromptu drunken toast at an ex-girlfriend's wedding" sort of way. Get in touch to discuss your brief!