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  • Writer's pictureJulian Pais

Shooting Guidelines for video interviews

I managed a team of content creators for a PR campaign in 2010. I was asked to produce 100 videos in the space of 3 months. Myself and my colleague Mark Sydserff came up with the following guidelines to ensure the quality of the content.

Shooting Guidelines

This document is meant as a general guide to helping you produce engaging video but also making sure that you come away with footage that you can use. This guide will start from the initial stages and lead you through to the edit. Although you may find some points obvious it is worth thinking about them.

Research and Contact:

This stage is important in making first contact with your subject. The impression you make on them from the start will probably be the guide for the rest of the shoot. Try to gauge how you communicate with the subject, some will prefer a deferential manner, others will be ok with a more friendly approach.

Get as much information on the subject as you can and talk over with them what you will be asking them. This will get them thinking about what kind of answers they might give when it gets to the shoot. The more relaxed you can make them feel about it now will help you when it gets to the day.

Once everything is arranged make sure you confirm with the subject a couple of days before or preferably the day before. Make sure you have a contact sheet with all crew and subject contact numbers, send this to crew and interviewee.

Shoot Day:

On Location:

When you are shooting at someone’s workplace you have to remember that they are doing you a favour. Although they have agreed to do the interview they will also expect a certain level of professionalism from you. Don’t arrive late, be courteous to everyone you meet from receptionist up and generally behave in a professional manner.

When you meet the subject explain again what will happen (setting up, etc.) and how long it should take. This is also your chance to make the subject feel more relaxed about the process. Make small talk with them to start a rapport and get information that you will ask in the interview. If you get them thinking about the questions now when it comes to recording they will be ready.


- Make sure that you do not put the subject in silhouette. Avoid windows directly behind a subject or any other bright light source.

- Don’t make the lighting to harsh

- Use three point lighting if necessary/possible (include diagram)

- Try not to mix daylight with fluorescent.

- Watch out for harsh shadows.

- Light the background to pick it out if you can.

- If needed reflect off white card/reflector.


- Get establishing shots. Either of the building where the subject works, from outside, their working environment and general shots of the area they work either internally or externally.

- DO A COLOUR BALANCE! Use a piece of white paper in front of the subject and do a colour balance

- Watch the headspace

- Watch out for objects in the background

- Frame your initial shot either Wide or Mid Shot and then do the interview again with a different shot e.g. close up or extreme close up. Extreme close ups are quite useful in interview situations as a cut.

- Check any computer screens in the background and change refresh rate to compensate.

- Ensure that you are comfortable using the camera before the day of shooting you do not want to be fumbling around the camera when you are meant to be shooting.

- Don’t use zooms whilst recording. If your eye can’t do it you shouldn’t do it. Zoom in or out before going for a take.

- Record any run through – they often are the best takes.


- On board camera mic should be on channel 1 and boom mic on channel 2

- One person should be responsible for monitoring sound. WEAR HEADPHONES THROUGHOUT THE SHOOT. Either cameraperson must check levels before starting and check sound whilst recording or interviewing.

- Remember, without good sound the pictures are useless.

- Get the boom mic as near to the subject as possible without going into shot.

- Listen for background noise and redo takes if the sound is too intrusive. This may be a bit repetitive but you will make it much easier in the edit if you get sound as clean as you can.

- Make sure you are monitoring the shotgun mic channel.

- Monitor background noise. If the reason for the noise is in shot and it is not to distracting this can be acceptable. Although it is best to avoid it where possible.

- Record a “wildtrack” - this is 30 seconds or so of just sound with no-one talking. This will come in useful in the edit if you need to create ambiance “background” noise.


- Your job is to make the subject feel at ease.

- Go through the questions at least twice with a different shot for each run through. This will not only give you different shots to cut to in the edit thus avoiding jump cuts but it will also help them relax into the process a bit more. Don’t be afraid to do more than two run throughs if you think you need to.

- Listen to what they are saying and don’t just blunder through the questions. They may say something interesting that you want to question further.

- Listen for the “Golden Nugget”. There is always something that the subject says that will be the stand out quote from them. Remember what it was and make a note if necessary

- Make them include the question in the answer. Say to the subject at the start “ when I ask you a question, can you include it in the start of your answer?”

- Get cutaways/wallpaper. These are shots of the subject engaged in whatever they do for a job. It could be them working at a computer - you would get a wide, close ups of their face, close ups of their hand on the mouse, close ups of their hands typing. The job of the shots is to either illustrate what they do or are saying. Think about trying to use interesting shots (low angle, dutch angle, reflections in mirrors, etc.)

- Sit as near to the camera as you can.

- If you are sitting on the left of the camera then angle them so they are sitting just off from the right of the camera. They should be looking across the lens at you.

- Remind them not to look into the camera

- Try to relax them by saying something like - “Just pretend that we are having a conversation and try to ignore the camera”

- Before you go for a take, check with the cameraperson and subject that they are ready.

- Get the cameraperson to tell you when they have started the camera to record. When the camera is up to speed the cameraperson shouts “speed” and then you should start your questions. This process stops you leaving too little room to make cuts in the edit and makes sure that you record the beginning of the interview.

- Before you start, state that if they get muddled when answering or forget what they are saying not to worry but just take a deep breath and start the answer again. Or start from the last point they were making. If necessary repeat the question.

- If the subject gets really muddled stop recording and give them a couple of minutes to compose themselves.

- Also state when doing the second run through that they do not have to remember exactly what they said the first time. They will usually answer in the same way if slightly differently but it will cut together.

- Try to make notes of particularly good answers. Come up with an annotating system that suits you. This will help when it comes to the edit.

- Finally make sure that the subject signs a release form and you make a copy.


- When it comes to the edit try to remember the best answers. This usually comes back to you when you review the footage anyway.

- Review the footage and break into shots and answers.

- Edit together the different answers using the different shots for each answer. This will not only help break up the answers but also give you edit points.

- Edit the pictures first and then deal with the audio

- Use the cleanest track and delete the other. You will then need to pan the remaining audio track to the middle.

- Use quick dissolves for transitions between shots. No jump cuts.

Although this is by no means an exhaustive list of do’s and don’ts it should give you a good guide as how to prepare and shoot an interview.

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