Because a noisy or distracting interview location has the potential to destroy an entire production, it is important to consider surroundings when choosing where to conduct an interview.
The 1st Combat Camera Squadron shot this group of interviews in which four Airmen discuss their roles within the Department of Defense Human Space Flight Support Operations Task Force 45. Watch this video, paying attention to background noise and distractions as well as how each interview is framed and lit.
- The videographer uses depth of field to blur out the less appealing background and keep the focus on the interview.
- The first and second interviews display good composition, where the subject is loosely composed.
- All subjects are looking slightly off to the side of the camera; this keeps the subject from staring and looking confused or startled.
Opportunities for Improvement
- Background noise during the second interview competes with the interviewee and distracts the viewer from what is being said, making this interview almost unusable. The first and third interviews have minimal background noise that is distracting at times. The fourth interview, in contrast, has almost none.
- The third and fourth interviews are composed too tightly, making the subject seem cramped into the frame.
- More fill light is needed on the subject's face for the first interview; lots of shadows create a distraction.
- The second, third and fourth interviews miss the opportunity to frame the shot using the unit logo in the background to create a more balanced composition, similar to the first interview.
Choose a location with as few distractions as possible. Properly light the subject to minimize distracting shadows and loosely compose the shot to allow for lower thirds during editing. When contemplating which location to use, focus on noise, background and the ability to properly frame and light the subject.
The first element to consider is noise. Sound must always be clear and audible. When choosing where to conduct an interview, listen for ambient audio, then choose a relatively quiet area and closely monitor the audio. Background music, crowd buzz, air conditioners, engine noise and people typing on keyboards may be tuned out when physically present in the environment, but a microphone will pick up all of these sounds and detract from the message. One of the worst things to discover after an interview is that excessive environmental noise ruined the audio.
Another factor to look for is distracting elements in the background. A viewer's attention may be diverted if it looks like a pole or plant is sprouting from the interviewee's head, if action is happening behind them or if crowds are moving past the subject. Conducting a working interview in a familiar environment is a great way to put an interviewee at ease, yield more natural responses and provide for more control of the background.
Framing and Lighting the Subject
It is also important to think about framing and lighting the subject. Loosely compose the shot to allow room for inserting titles and names during editing, and have the interviewee look slightly to the right or left of the camera. The subject may be sitting or standing, but ensure they are not rocking on their feet, tapping their toes, shaking their legs, slouching or leaning. If the interview is lengthy and will be edited into a longer production, recompose a second shot to allow editing select sound bites together without jarring jump cuts. A second camera angle and focal length can add interest and emphasize mood or emotions. Use fill light to properly illuminate the interviewee's face and minimize distracting shadows.