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Shooting a Documentary Interview


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#1 Kevin Pham

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Posted 13 November 2009 - 02:53 AM

I'll be shooting an interview with an African American female on an HVX200. I will be wiring two lavaliers, one to the interviewer and one to the interviewee. I don't have the luxury of a B camera to pick up inserts while A cam is mounted on sticks for security and consistency. I'd like to move the camera around but I'm afraid I might do so while important dialogue is being spoken. How can I get a variety of interesting shots while still securing everything necessary?

I apologize for the vague question, but any help would be very much appreciated. Things to keep in mind would also be very helpful.

Thank you

Kevin Pham
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#2 Richard Van Le

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Posted 13 November 2009 - 09:52 AM

I'll be shooting an interview with an African American female on an HVX200. I will be wiring two lavaliers, one to the interviewer and one to the interviewee. I don't have the luxury of a B camera to pick up inserts while A cam is mounted on sticks for security and consistency. I'd like to move the camera around but I'm afraid I might do so while important dialogue is being spoken. How can I get a variety of interesting shots while still securing everything necessary?


If you're talking about getting reaction shots with one camera... I'd film the entire interview first. Then when the subject is gone, I'd turn the camera around and film the reaction shots and/or shots of the interviewer asking the questions. I would not move the camera around during the interview... it breaks the flow of the interview and you'll get inconsistent results with framing (and probably lighting).
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#3 Daniel Sheehy

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Posted 13 November 2009 - 08:23 PM

...I don't have the luxury of a B camera to pick up inserts while A cam is mounted on sticks for security and consistency. I'd like to move the camera around but I'm afraid I might do so while important dialogue is being spoken. How can I get a variety of interesting shots while still securing everything necessary? ...


Don't move the camera unless you absolutely have to. The variety of shots should never come at the expense of the necessary basic coverage.

You can then either ask the subject if they don't mind sitting and chatting further while you get the cutaways and inserts you want, plus the interview questions if needed.
Or you can get the interviewer's shots earlier or later, even at another location if need be.

A couple of tricks (depending on how well you work with the interviewer):
- rolling during setup (maybe turn the front tally light off...) can allow you to get some reactions, laughs, gestures, cu's etc (not always possible, but worth keeping an eye out for)
- have an understanding with the interviewer such that they might repeat some questions in different forms through the interview, to allow you to use that answer to get a different shot (eg, a wide 2-shot as opposed to the mcu of the talent you shot the first time the question was asked, or a close up of a nervous response that was noticed last time.. etc).

At the end of the day, good picture and sound of the interview is the first priority, everything else can be worked around. Don't sacrifice the meat of the interview for the fancy shots.
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#4 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 15 November 2009 - 04:03 PM

Don't move the camera unless you absolutely have to. The variety of shots should never come at the expense of the necessary basic coverage.

You can then either ask the subject if they don't mind sitting and chatting further while you get the cutaways and inserts you want, plus the interview questions if needed.
Or you can get the interviewer's shots earlier or later, even at another location if need be.

A couple of tricks (depending on how well you work with the interviewer):
- rolling during setup (maybe turn the front tally light off...) can allow you to get some reactions, laughs, gestures, cu's etc (not always possible, but worth keeping an eye out for)
- have an understanding with the interviewer such that they might repeat some questions in different forms through the interview, to allow you to use that answer to get a different shot (eg, a wide 2-shot as opposed to the mcu of the talent you shot the first time the question was asked, or a close up of a nervous response that was noticed last time.. etc).

At the end of the day, good picture and sound of the interview is the first priority, everything else can be worked around. Don't sacrifice the meat of the interview for the fancy shots.


The most basic way to do this that is done all the time is to simply vary the image size (zoom in and/or out) during the question. So, start the interview on a wider shot then a few questions in, simply zoom in to a tighter shot. On questions that are of a personal nature (ie, "how do YOU feel about said topic?"), push in to tighter shots with a little room left over in case you can zoom in SLOWLY while the subject tears up. For more general questions, stay wider. Remember, the camera is NOT an impassive observer. With the camera (and lighting), you are helping to manipulate moods and attitudes toward the topic at hand.

What varying the shots during questions does is to give the Editor choices and places to cut without having to rely on B-roll (GVs) to cover the edits. It's far more natural and less distracting than using "MTV" like off-angles and unmotivated dolly moves in the middle of answers.
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#5 David Desio

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Posted 17 November 2009 - 12:07 PM

Since you've only got one camera, try setting it up to frame the interviewer, have the interviewee sit across from them, like a normal interview. Then place a large mirror over one shoulder of the interviewer so that we see the interviewee in the reflection.

It's different...

the limitations here would be cutting the interview up, unless you went in tight on the reflection for portions. You'd have to be careful in how you lit this, dark backgrounds would probably work the best.
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