Setting up your best shot: How to make a video on a tight budget (Part 3)

August 1, 2017

Figuring out who to put in your video can be half the battle. What they say and how you show them is just as important – perhaps even more so. That means coming prepared, asking the right questions and brainstorming different shots you can capture to make your video more pleasing to the eye.

So whether you’re on the street or at someone’s home, there are five basic rules to help get you started when it comes to interviewing people.

  • Come prepared with questions. That means, write your questions down, remember, getting good sound bites can make your video.
  • Let people get comfortable with the camera. Start by asking about their day or what they had for breakfast – this will also help you test your sound.
  • Ask open-ended questions to get more interesting answers, avoid the “yes” or “no” answers that don’t make for good clips. There’s no room for dull responses.
  • Don’t be afraid of silence, sometimes the best emotions come out of these moments. Promise.
  • Allow for spontaneity. If your interviewee brings up something that is interesting, follow that conversation thread for a potential magical moment. Don’t be afraid to go off script!

Now that you have your questions down on paper, it’s important to bring a few extra items to set up your interview and capture a variety of shots – a tripod, an extra camera and an extra set of hands if possible. Be sure to place your main camera on a tripod and ensure that it is in focus and angled on your subject – this will act as your main footage. One other thing to note here is the rule-of-thirds.

This is an important rule acknowledged through out art, photography and even film. Of course rules are meant to be broken, but if you’re just starting out, it’s a good one to at least be aware of. Make sure the person is not seated or standing in the center of your shot. Simply put, it’s not as interesting or as pleasing to the eye. Try to show more of the space you are in, this can help inform the viewer about who the person is. By placing them off-center, the viewer can take in more. Below is an example. (Notice how Carlos is not seated in the center of the shot, but in the lower left of his office.)

The extra camera you bring can be used to capture alternative perspectives. If you can, have someone shoot with it while you conduct your interview. For starters, try capturing a close-up of a person’s hand or face as they talk, even a side profile shot is a good and easy go-to.

If you don’t have an extra camera, during a break in action or while the interviewer is asking questions, change up your angle or perspective.

Think about a “shot list” which organizes which shots you’ll want to get, once you know more about your location and the subject you’ll be filming. Here’s one trusty shot list used by rookie journalists:

  • Interview shot
  • Wide shot—establishing place
  • Over the shoulder, or a close-up of your subject doing something that tells their story
  • Random—get creative!

If you are using a digital camera, try playing around with depth of field – bringing an object or person in and out of focus.

Nowadays, this is a common feature with any DSLR camera and can add in an extra, often, beautiful, element. In the end, incorporating a wide variety of shots is key – it allows you to break up your interviews and helps maintain your viewers’ attention (which is always a plus!).

Here’s a final tip: to make for smoother editing, film your b-roll shots of people walking into the frame, then out of the frame. Maybe they’re leaving their house to take their dog for a walk, or playing basketball with their friends. Find a few key action shots and get your subject to come into your frame, then out so you can stitch those together more seamlessly.

We’re not done yet, stay tuned for our next blog where we explore the importance of good lighting and where we try to answer the million-dollar question –  what kind of equipment do I need?

Marcela Gara