EDITOR’S NOTE: Guest Post by Ron Dawson

To see Part 1 in this series, go to : http://photofocus.com/2009/11/16/primer-for-still-to-video-shooters-part-1/

In this installment, we’ll cover some more shooting tips for getting good video footage for interviews.

Mistakes and Retakes—it is okay if the subject makes a mistake, garbles his/her words, or for some other reason, wants to repeat something said. Let the camera roll a few seconds before repeating, then have the subject repeat what was said.

• Cutaways & B-roll—after conducting the interview, if there is time, get a few shots of the surrounding environment (e.g. furniture, pets, clocks ticking on the wall, family photos, etc). These make for great “cutaways” during the interview to keep it visually interesting. If at all possible, grab video footage of anything that could illustrate what the subject was specifically talking about. Let’s say you’re interviewing your neighbor about how much she loves gardening. After the interview, go out and grab a bunch of shots of her gardening. This is what we call “b-roll” in the biz. The more b-roll you have, the more visually interesting your video will be. B-roll also helps to hide any visual jump-cuts or mistakes you may have in your video.

• Focus (traditional camcorders)—keep an eye on focus. Most consumer camcorders are set to auto focus, so if that’s the case, be mindful of people or objects getting in between the camera and the subject. This may cause the camera to focus on the object instead of the subject. If you have and know how to use the manual focus, zoom all the way in on the subject’s face, focus, then slowly zoom out to where you want to frame the subject for the interview.

• Focus (Video DSLRs)—with most video DSLRs you will need to manual focus anyway. However, it can be tricky setting your focus just using the view screen on the back of the camera. Particularly if you’re shooting at a wide open aperture (i.e. the F stop is a low number like 1.4 or 2.8). This creates a more shallow depth of field, making the area that is in focus smaller. Unless you’re trying to be really creative, you have a good monitor, or your eyesight is great and you can nail focus from the back of a DSLR view screen, I suggest using a wider focal length (in the 24mm range) and an aperture of f4-5.6. You won’t have as nice a bokeh (i.e. blurry background), but you’ll be safe. However, if you’re confident and want to go for it, zoom in to a 70mm focal length, and open your aperture to f2.8 for a more “filmic” look. Be mindful of your subject’s movement. Some people tend to sway back and forth or side to side when interviewed. Depending on your focal length and aperture setting, a movement as small as a few inches could throw part of their face out of focus.

• The 180 Degree Rule—if you want to film two people talking to one another so that when edited it will look like they are having a conversation, keep the 180 degree rule in mind. Draw an imaginary line that passes straight through both subjects. As you film each subject separately, keep the camera on the same side of that line. Don’t cross it! That way, one person will appear to be speaking from left to right, and the other will appear to be speaking from right to left. If you cross that line, both subjects will appear to be speaking in the same direction, and that will be disorienting to the audience. (See diagram).

In my next installment I’ll cover some lighting and audio tips.