1. Top Tips: setting up for an interview

    Previously we looked at choosing a good interview location. Getting this right really helps make the job of capturing a good interview a lot easier.

    Now we have found the location the next thing we want to share are some tips on getting you and your camera ready.

    Be prepared

    You ideally want to set up before you have your interviewee in position as it can take a while. You don’t want the person you are interviewing to sit and get bored and/or nervous. This isn’t always possible though, so I tend to have an initial chat and explain that setting the camera, lighting and sound up will take roughly 10/15 minutes. Whilst this may not sound much of a tip, what it allows you to do is concentrate on setting up your equipment without trying to have a conversation at the same time. You need to concentrate to ensure all the elements below are optimised.


    We advise that you use a tripod during the interview as it will ensure the camera stays completely still, helping to give a professional look to your footage. It is also one less thing to think about once the interview is underway. This is especially important if you are filming the interview on your own and are therefore also asking the questions. Having the camera or smartphone set up on a tripod means you can press record and step in to interviewer mode.

    A lady using a smartphone to film an interview with a farmer in a field


    We shoot most of our interviews with the camera at eye level, or just below, as this gives a nice engaging feel to the footage. Your first decision therefore is whether to have the interviewee standing or sitting, as this will determine what height the tripod is.

    We covered the rule of thirds recently in a photography top tips, the same guidelines apply here. Instead of placing your subject in the middle of the frame, try setting it up so they are in the right or left third of the frame and looking into the empty space. This gives your frame a nice balance and also leaves you space to bring in a name title when you get to the edit.

    You don’t want your interviewee to look straight down the lens of your camera/smartphone, unless it’s a call to action or a direct piece to camera. The best thing to do is to place the interviewer just to the right or left of your camera depending which works for the shot you have set up. Remember you want the interviewee to look into the frame.

    Background & lighting

    Now you have the shot set up you want to bring the interviewee in to position so you can double check the background and lighting works, and make any final adjustments. If you have them sitting through the whole process outlined above, it can feel like a long time and they might start to fidget. It also puts a bit of pressure on you and you don’t want to feel rushed and forget something.

    Sound check

    Once you are both happy then I tend to leave the camera and come and explain about the lapel mic and make sure that’s fitted correctly. Then you are ready to do your sound check.

    Usually we will ask a question that has nothing to do with the interview like, “What did you have for breakfast?” You are aiming for them to give you a few sentences so you can check your audio levels and listen out for any interferences with the mic, like wind, clothes or jewellery rubbing.

    If you want to learn how to shoot and edit films on your smartphone then book a place on our one-day Smartphone Filmmaking course

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