After spending over a decade on the road shooting interviews, we have seen just about every scenario on location. We have learned a lot over the years, and I would like to share a few pointers that can help you on your next shoot.
Not every location will be ideal for a good interview setup, but I recommend you focus your attention on the elements that you can control, and choose the best location with the time and resources you have. An ideal scenario is one in which you have ample time to scout your location prior to setting up, but oftentimes, you will arrive the day of the shoot and will have to move quickly.
When we arrive at the location (before we even unload our gear), we find our setup location. We prefer to shoot indoors when possible as it allows us the most control over audio and lighting. I try to prioritize our setups (audio being most important), and choose the location that offers some natural lighting and minimizes distractions. When shooting outdoors, it’s important to try to find a quiet location (away from roads and other noisy distractions), and keep your subject out of direct sunlight. It’s also important to consider time and temp when shooting outdoors, and you want to be sure you’re not shooting in the middle of the day when the sun is high in the sky. Try to find a backdrop that helps tell the story, and allow space between your subject and your backdrop.
The photo on the left is house lights only. Photo on right is with no house lights- we added one large key light to the right side and filled with the left. We also added a hair light over her right shoulder. We placed her as far as we could from the tractor to allow some seperation.
It’s load in time. We prefer to offer our subjects a stool or chair for a sit down interview (for a few reasons), mostly to keep them comfortable and in position on camera. If they must stand, be sure to mark your location and ask the subject to do their best to maintain position as they speak. This can be a challenge for some, and it’s important to remind them in between takes. Set your lighting (or subtract) light. We always try to set up near a power source for our lighting (or position a generator 50-100 feet from our setup). There are many different lighting scenarios to consider, so here is a helpful link to learn more about lighting.
If you have a helper nearby, have them stand in the subject’s place. It’s nice to take your time to fine tune your setting before having your subject stand in. That will give you some extra time to make adjustments. This is also a good time to fine-tune your lighting, remove any distractions on camera, and test the audio. We prefer lapel audio over a shotgun mic (but if you have the time and resources to use both), that is recommended. You will be able to EQ both mics and mix in post (plus you have a backup track in case you have audio issues with one of your mics).