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13 simple journalist techniques for effective interviews

BY S A R A H S T U T E V I L L E ON M A R C H 2 6 , 2 0 0 7

Journalism is a creative job. DESPITE ALL THE professors who told me articles were a fixed formula plugged up with simple facts and despite the avalanche of clichd crap that passes for most mainstream journalism, I stand by that statement. Like any creative profession, you use your perception to re-interpret the world around you. You try to engage an audience with ideas and issues-you create something meaningful from all the incoherent information and noise out there. But heres the catch: good journalism is dependent on a total strangers cooperation and participation. The finished product may be a piece of writing that you craft, but the material a result of the interviews you conduct. At the heart of this issue is the interview. The finished product may be a piece of writing that you craft, but the material a result of the interviews you conduct. And while sources vary-some people know exactly what they want to say while others love to make you sweat for a basic quote-how you conduct the interview has more to do with the outcome than anything. Its odd that so much emphasis is put on teaching journalists how to write an article when that skill is useless without also teaching journalists how to develop strong interview techniques. In an effort to help other aspiring reporters develop this crucial skill-I brought together some of my colleagues and journalist friends to ask them what interview tips they think are most helpful: #1 Find a good location Avoid Starbucks! Its often easiest to suggest a centrally located corporate coffee shop but if there is any way you can interview in a place that has some relevance to the story or your subject youll have much greater success. Not only because youll gain a further sense of context, people are often more comfortable (and open) when theyre in a familiar place or what feels like their territory. Ask to meet at your subjects house, work, or the location of an incident relevant to the story. Even meeting at the interviewees favorite restaurant is more interesting than a Starbucks. #2 Prepare Your Goals Ahead Know what questions youre going to ask and why youre going to ask them. Heading to an interview with a sense of what you want to get out of it (a colorful reenactment of an event, an on-the-record opinion on the issue youre covering, general background, etc.) is critical to conducting a successful interview.

You should already be thinking about what you want your piece to look like and what you need from this interview to get your article closer to that end result. #3 Write down your questions Be sure and bring prepared questions with you. I usually go into an interview with twice as many questions than I expect to ask. The security of knowing that Im not going to get stuck helps my confidence and you never know what question will get you the information youre really looking for. #4 Work on your flow This is probably the most challenging, but also the most important interview skill you can develop. You want to strike a balance between a conversation (which helps make your subject feel comfortable and aids candor) and getting the job done. As your subject is answering your question, be thinking about what youll ask next and why. The flow of questions needs to seem natural and conversational, dont spin your subject off on a completely different topic just because thats the next question on your list-think about segues and transitions. This way your subject doesnt feel forced to give you sound bites and may open up a little (particularly important for anyone working on an audio piece where you may need blocks of the raw interview). #5 Think about the medium Interviewing techniques defiantly vary for different mediums. If youre interviewing for audio or video you want to ask two part questions which encourages subjects to talk for longer blocks of time. Conversely, when youre interviewing for print, try and break questions up so you can get shorter and more concise answers (easier for taking notes and for quoting later). You can be more conversational with interviews for print, you can say yeah, and uh-huh, etc. Not doing this is one of the biggest challenges when youre interviewing for audio. Nodding and smiling accomplishes the same sort of conversational encouragement and keeps your tape clean. Another great trick for audio interviews is to have your subject re-enact the story. It makes for good sound and helps you avoid having too much of your own narration later on. #6 Bring a buddy I find having a second person as a note taker and extra set of ears can be very useful. If you dont think another person will overwhelm or distract your subject (I find that is pretty rare) it can be a lifesaver to have that second set of notes to check your quotes and information. #7 Avoid Obsessing While good notes and recording are very important, you can do yourself a disservice by obsessing about recording every little detail of what your subject says.

As youre interviewing you should be able to discern the gems from the chatter-focus on the quotes and info you know youre going to use and make sure you get that right! #8 Be a little annoying Dont be afraid to relentlessly revisit a question or topic that you feel hasnt been properly addressed by the interviewee. Sometimes people need time to warm up to you or a topic, or will respond better if your question is worded differently. Keep trying. #9 Be a little sneaky Continue taking notes even after the interview is officially over. Sometimes people say the most revealing or intimate things when they feel that theyre out of the hot seat. If they dont say off the record, its all game. #10 Empower them A great question to ask if you dont fully understand the perspective of your interviewee is what is your ideal solution/resolution? Obviously this only works in certain circumstances, but when appropriate it can help clarify a persons point of view or opinion. #11 Work them up Another great question is Why do you care about this issue? This can be an effective way to get a strong and emotional quote about why the topic youre covering is so important. You can also ask for the turning point in a story, the moment when everything changed or catalyzed. This can help you shape the narrative of your story as well. #12 Endure awkward silences I know this is totally counterintuitive. My instinct is to keep chattering and asking questions to keep people feeling comfortable, but sometimes, especially when youre dealing with sensitive subjects, you need to shut up and wait. Ask your question, let them give you the rehearsed and generic answer, then sit there quietly and see what comes next. Youd be amazed how often this technique yields powerful results. #13 Ask for what you need Seriously, sometimes interviewees are frustrating not because theyre trying to bust your chops but just dont understand what you want from them. I find that many interview subjects get a kick out of having you pull back the curtain a little and tell them about your process. You can say, Listen, I really need a quote from you encapsulating your feelings on this issue, or I really need you to walk me through the chronology of this, or even, I really need you to take me to a location that is relevant to this issue so I can set a scene. For the most part people want to be helpful and you just need to tell them how they can. *** As you gain more experience interviewing, youll hone your own techniques. Your personality as an interviewer also plays a huge role in how you develop your approach.

In the meantime use these hints to help you mine the information you need to get down to the creative business of crafting a great piece of journalism. One tip someone told me is that if you haven't got what you need from the interview, if there's one killer question that you haven't quite been able to work in, or get a decent answer to, then pack up and leave. On your way out, ever so casually, ask your question. Make it sound like you almost forgot it - "Oh, by the way ..." or "Out of interest ..." are quite good openers for this. You may find your subject opens up so much that you have to sit down and do the whole interview again! Those a pretty good tips! I especially like (and agree with) the tip regarding awkward silences. Classic interrogator's technique. If you can train yourself not to feel awkward, then the interviewee will be the only one ... and the tendency is for an uncomfortable person to fill that silence. One tip I'd add: It helps to phrase certain questions in an open-ended way. "Tell me about ...", "How did you feel ...", "What do you think about". You can always narrow things down in your follow-ups if you need more specific info, but open-ended Qs work well to get things rolling.

Derek C. Wallace Excellent tips, as always, Sarah! One article I'd be very curious to see from you (and maybe you've already done this one, if so, forgive me and link away!) is the role of objectivity in journalism and how you balance that out with your personal desire to report on issues that mainstream media doesn't cover (which in itself reveals a bias). Can reporters ever truly be "neutral"? Or is everything we write a reflection of our biases and, hence, propaganda? Ian, I'd love to conduct that interview with Sarah! One independent journalist to another! :) Harry The way to keep your thoughts out of the interview is to keep them out of the questions. You do this by keeping descriptive words out of the questions. You ask "what did you think of the accident" and not "what did you think of the ++++++ accident'? If you want a bad example, watch Sean Hanity, he spends 2 minutes giving his opinion in a question and then lets you answer in one minute. I have done an interview for hours and never gave my opinion. My opinions were not in the written report of the interview as I did not put them in the interview questions.

Interview Technique
Interviewing is a vital skill for any journalist. It is one of the most important ways to gather information and create content for a story. Good interview technique requires practice so don't expect to master it immediately. The next few pages should give you a reasonable understanding of how interviews work, what to do and what not to do. Interview Questions Most interviews seek to achieve one or more of the following goals: 1. Obtain the interviewee's knowledge about the topic 2. Obtain the interviewee's opinion and/or feelings about the topic 3. Feature the interviewee as the subject It's important that you know exactly why you are conducting an interview and which goal(s) you are aiming for. Stay focused on questions and techniques which will achieve them. Do your homework. You will be expected to have a basic knowledge of your subject. Do not roll up to an interview with a band and ask them how many albums they have released you should know this already. If you show your ignorance, you lose credibility and risk being ridiculed. At the very least, the subject is less likely to open up to you. Have a list of questions. It seems obvious but some people don't think of it. While you should be prepared to improvise and adapt, it makes sense to have a firm list of questions which need to be asked. Of course many interviewees will ask for a list of questions before hand, or you might decide to provide one to help them prepare. Whether or not this is a good idea depends on the situation. For example, if you will be asking technical questions which might need a researched answer, then it helps to give the subject some warning. On the other hand, if you are looking for spontaneous answers then it's best to wait until the interview. Try to avoid being pinned down to a preset list of questions as this could inhibit the interview. However, if you do agree to such a list before the interview, stick to it. Ask the subject if there are any particular questions they would like you to ask. Back-cut questions may be shot at the end of a video interview. Make sure you ask the back-cut questions with the same wording as the interview even varying the wording slightly can sometimes make the edit unworkable. You might want to make notes of any unscripted questions as the interview progresses, so you remember to include them in the back-cuts. Listen. A common mistake is to be thinking about the next question while the subject is answering the previous one, to the point that the interviewer misses some important information. This can lead to all sorts of embarrassing outcomes. Open-Ended Questions The ability to ask open-ended questions is very important in many vocations, including education, counseling, mediation, sales, investigative work and journalism.

An open-ended question is designed to encourage a full, meaningful answer using the subject's own knowledge and/or feelings. It is the opposite of a closed-ended question, which encourages a short or single-word answer. Open-ended questions also tend to be more objective and less leading than closed-ended questions (see next page). Open-ended questions typically begin with words such as "Why" and "How", or phrases such as "Tell me about...". Often they are not technically a question, but a statement which implicitly asks for a response. Examples Closed-Ended Question Do you get on well with your boss? Who will you vote for this election? What colour shirt are you wearing? How do you feel? Perhaps the most famous (or infamous) open-ended question is "How does this make you feel?" or some variation thereof. This has become a clich in both journalism and therapy. The reason it is so widely used is that it's so effective. In journalism, stories are all about people and how they are affected by events. Audiences want to experience the emotion. Even though modern audiences tend to cringe at this question, it's so useful that it continues to be a standard tool. In psychology, feelings and emotions are central to human behaviour. Therapists are naturally keen to ask questions about feelings. Leading Questions A leading question is a question which subtly prompts the respondent to answer in a particular way. Leading questions are generally undesirable as they result in false or slanted information. For example: This question prompts the person to question their employment relationship. In a very subtle way it raises the prospect that maybe they don't get on with their boss. This question does not seek any judgment and there is less implication that there might be something wrong with the relationship. Open-Ended Question Tell me about your relationship with your boss. What do you think about the two candidates in this election? That's an interesting coloured shirt you're wearing.

Do you get on well with your boss?

Tell me about your relationship with your boss.

The difference in the above example is minor but in some situations it can be more important. For example, in a court case: How fast was the red car going when it smashed into the blue car? How fast was each car going when the accident happened? This question implies that the red car was at fault, and the word "smashed" implies a high speed. This question does not assign any blame or prejudgment.

Obtaining Responses to Suit the Edit In journalism, leading questions can be used in various ways. For example, a journalist might want a particular type of answer to edit alongside some other content. This can be good or bad, as illustrated by the following example. A hypothetical journalist is doing a story on the moon hoax theory. First of all the journalist gets the following statement from an advocate of the theory: "Photographs of the moon landing show converging shadows were they should be parallel. This could only happen in a studio so the photos must be fake." The journalist then interviews a NASA engineer. This response will be edited to appear immediately after the accusation. There are several ways to ask the question, each with very different results: How do you explain the missing stars from the Apollo photographs? This question leads the engineer enough to answer the specific question, while being open-ended enough to get a complete answer. This is good. This question elicits a tenuously-relevant reply without actually answering the accusation. The engineer will give a broad answer such as "I think these people have got it wrong". This gives the impression that the engineer is being evasive and can't answer the question. This question adds some spice with provocative phrases designed to encourage a stronger response.

How do you respond to people who say the Apollo photographs were fake?

How do you respond to conspiracy theorists who accuse you of faking the landing and lying to America?

Of course the ethical journalist will avoid using leading questions to mislead. Children Children are particularly susceptible to leading questions. Studies have shown that children are very attuned to taking cues from adults and tailoring their answers based on the way questions are worded.

Tips These are very general tips which apply differently to different situations. Use your judgment to decide when and how to use them. Dress appropriately, or at least dress with a purpose. Your appearance will influence the way interviewees respond to you. Try to be unique, so it's not just another interview rehashing the same questions the subject has answered many times before. Don't push this too far though if you try to be cute or disarming it may backfire. Be honest. Sometimes it's tempting to lie or omit important information when securing an interview. This isn't just unethical, it will damage your career in the long run. Don't have an attitude if you want a quality interview. A confrontational approach is less likely to get good information. Stay neutral. Try not to ooze bias. Don't appear to be persuaded by the subject's opinions. Don't judge or directly criticise the subject. Don't interrupt. This can upset the subject's train of thought. Minimize your own vocals (in video and audio interviews). Ask questions clearly and succinctly, then let the person speak without any more words from you. Learn to react silently as the subject talks rather than saying things like "uh-huh, right, I see", use nods and facial expressions. Don't over-direct. Try not to give the subject too many instructions or be too specific about what you want them to say. In most cases it's better to let them speak freely. Show empathy. Often you will need to cover sensitive or distressing topics. Show some compassion for the subject without getting too emotional. Ask for permission before asking difficult questions, e.g. "Is it okay to talk about...?" It's not about you. Don't talk about yourself or add your own opinion. Your questions can be long enough to add information or interest about the topic, but the interviewee is who the audience wants to hear from. Take an interest in psychology. Interviewing is very closely associated with psychology. The better you understand how people think, the better you will be able to extract their thoughts from an interview. When you finish the interview, put your notebook or recorder away and have an informal chat. As well as being polite and leaving a good impression, you might be surprised at what additional information flows when the subject thinks it's all over and is more relaxed. If you missed a question from the interview, you might be able to call the subject back later and get the answer. You get one shot at this call them back twice and you'll probably be out of luck. Obviously the call-back will be more difficult for video interviews, but you might still be able to voiceover the answer yourself during the story.

Example Talent Release Form Talent Release Form Talent Name: ____________________ Project Title: ____________________________ I hereby consent for value received and without further consideration or compensation to the use (full or in part) of all videotapes taken of me and/or recordings made of my voice and/or written extraction, in whole or in part, of such recordings or musical performance for the purposes of illustration, broadcast, or distribution in any manner. at __________________________ on ________________________ (Recording Location) (Date) by __________________________ for ______________________________ (Producer) (Producing Organization) Talent's signature__________________________________________________ Address ________________________________ City _____________________ State ____________________ Zip code _____________ Date: ____/____/____ __________________________ If the subject is a minor under the laws of the state where modeling, acting, or performing is done: Legal guardian _________________________ ___________________________ (sign/print name) Address _____________________________ City ________________________ State ______________________ Zip Code ___________ Date: ____/____/____

Note: This sample is a guide only. You may need to modify it for your purposes.

Shooting Interviews
The interview (IV) is a fundamental element of video and television production, used in a huge range of programming. Interviews are a very efficient way of creating content cheap to produce, effective for gathering and presenting information, and easy to edit into the program. In fact entire programs can be made using little more than interviews laced with cutaways and links. Producing a successful interview requires a combination of skills. In professional situations these responsibilities may be shared by the producer, director, interviewer, camera operator, audio and lighting technicians. In other situations it is a one-person operation. Interview Terminology IV Guest Interview The person being interviewed.

One-Shot Shot of a single person, either interviewer or guest. Usually a mid-shot or tighter. Two-Shot Shot of two people, e.g. interviewer and guest. Back-Cut Shot of the Question interviewer asking a question, shown from the other side of the guest. Noddy Shot of the interviewer nodding or showing an appropriate facial expression.

Preparation Interview shoots are very unforgiving. This is a situation in which you must get everything right first time and make the job flow smoothly and comfortably for everyone involved. Interviews will quickly fall apart if things start going wrong or taking a long time. Therefore competent operators should be able to organise and shoot interviews in their sleep. It is a skill which must be second nature, so you should be well practiced in this art before you attempt a "mission-critical" interview. Preparing for an interview involves:

Contacting and making arrangements with the guest(s) Choosing a location Preparing equipment Traveling to the location and setting up Final briefing and technical checks

Before you begin shooting, double check everything. If you're not 100% sure that it is all working okay, stop and get it right. Don't use take one of the IV as a practice or test record. Interview Structure A video interview can be thought of as a conversation involving three types of people:

The interviewer is the facilitator. (S)he chooses the topic of conversation, asks questions and guides the discussion.

The guest is the subject of the interview. (S)he will do most of the talking and get most of the camera shots. The viewer is a silent observer who has been invited into the conversation. This creates a three-way interaction. A successful interview will include all three groups in the correct mix. Typically, the interviewer begins by setting the scene. They invite the viewer into the conversation by introducing the location, guest and topic. At this point the interviewer is probably speaking to the camera as if they were looking the viewer in the eye. Next, the interviewer turns to speak to the guest. Then follows a fairly one-sided conversation in which the interviewer asks questions which are (usually) designed to encourage the guest to talk a lot. The way the interview progresses will depend on the situation. A short vox-pop style interview will last long enough to get the information from the guest and then close, often quite abruptly. A more in-depth or personal interview will usually go through a settling-in stage where simple facts are discussed, then move gently towards the more thorny issues. The interview is usually concluded by thanking the guest. The interviewer may then turn back to the camera and say goodbye to the viewer, as well as tidy up any script requirements such as leading to the next piece in the program Framing Interview Shots In addition to the normal rules of framing, there are a number of guidelines specific to interviews. Later in the tutorial we will discuss the setup required to get these shots, but for now we'll just look at the types of shot and why they are important. Facing Direction In most cases the subject (interviewer or guest) is facing slightly left or right of the camera. This shows that the subject is talking to someone else (not the viewer), but by being relatively front-on the viewer is still part of the conversation. A big part of video interviews is making sure the interviewer and guest are always facing the "right way" so they are talking to each other. If they are facing the same way they will both appear to be talking to an unseen third person.

One Eye: Too much profile

Two Eyes: Acceptable

Avoid severe profile shots you should always be able to see both eyes. People are very attuned to seeing someone's whole face when they talk and if the viewer can't see enough of the face it becomes uncomfortable. Profiles are also unflattering to the guest. Common Interview Shots Interviews tend to use shots ranging from mid-shot to medium close-up (MCU). Wider shots are occasionally used as establishing shots or cutaways. Important: The following rule is especially important in interviews:

Shots ranging from wide shot to MCU are best for information delivery, i.e. when the subject is talking about factual information. Shots tighter than a MCU are appropriate for when the guest is talking about something personal or emotional the shot pulls the viewer into the same emotional space. For this reason it's not usually a good idea to go tighter than a MCU on the interviewer, since their feelings are not the focus and they should be portrayed as slightly detached from the emotion of the topic (but not completely detached).

The Sequence of Shots Most interviews start with a fairly loose shot of the interviewer and/or guest. Make sure you leave enough room for a name/title key if necessary. It's usually best to have similar framing for both interviewer and guest at the beginning of the interview. As the interview progresses the relative framing can vary. A common practice is to begin the interview with a mid-shot as the guest talks about the facts, then slowly zoom in to a close up when the guest begins talking about their feelings. This technique is popular in current affairs programs and documentaries. Don't drag the close-up on for too long after a while it becomes uncomfortable and makes the viewer feel that they are invading the speaker's personal space. Watch television interviews and learn to judge the timing of these moves. Use appropriate, motivated framing. For example:

If the guest starts using hand gestures, zoom or cut to a shot which includes them (if possible). If the interview is to be closely edited with other interviews or content, make sure your shots will match as necessary. And remember: Wider shots for information and casual conversation, tighter shots for intensity. Composing Interview Shots Once you are familiar with the basic framing requirements for interviews, here are a few more composition tips...

Set the interview in an appropriate location, perhaps with relevant background features. It's often desirable to make the background appear to be the guest's normal surroundings. If you're outside you could use an identifiable building or landmark; if you're inside you could use photos, logos, etc. Lighting can help set the mood. For example, soft low-temperature light for an intimate feel or harsh light for a confrontational approach. The position and framing of interviewer and guest can affect the perceived relationship. For example, having the interviewer behind a desk can provide a sense of authority. If there are props involved you may be able to place them in front of the interview so they can be shown whenever they are talked about.

Backgrounds Check the background and make sure there's nothing distracting from the person speaking. Often the worst visual distractions are subtle things the camera operator didn't notice during the shoot, for example:

An object which appears to be growing out of the guest's head. A sign in the background with some letters obscured to make an unwanted new word. Try to have something in the background supports the interview (e.g. a landmark,

Not Good: The speakers in the background make the guest look he has antennae.

which suits or monument, etc).

Check the microphone and cube. A wind-sock which is hanging off the mic doesn't look good.

Eyelines It is very important to make sure the guest's eyes are level with the interviewer's. Any noticeable difference makes the interview look uncomfortable, and may even give an unwanted message (such as dominant and submissive appearances). In studio situations, chairs are adjusted to make everyone the same height. In the field you may need to be a bit more inventive. In the situation pictured on the right, the interviewer and guest are only ever shown from the waist up. The audience need never know the true height relationship. Studio Interview Settings There are many possible settings for conducting interviews. The first one to become familiar with is the seated interview. Whether it be in a permanent studio or someone's living room, you need to arrange the interviewer, guest(s) and cameras to achieve the look and feel which best suits your objectives. There are a number of common floorplans from which you can choose. Often you will be limited by factors such as space and number of cameras. The guidelines below include options for most settings. Key: Interviewer Guest Camera Optional Extra Camera

1 Guest, 1 Camera In this simple case the interviewer and guest are given the same framing and appear with equal prominence. This is useful if you aren't sure who will be doing most of the talking, or if the talk-time is spread evenly between the interviewer and guest. It is a fairly casual setting, especially suitable for less formal interviews.

1 Guest, 1 Camera Taking the same situation and moving the camera to one side gives a different feel. Now the guest is much more prominent and becomes the main focus. The interviewer can face the camera at the beginning and end of the interview, but not usually during. This leaves the interviewer with profile framing so your 1-shots will be reserved for the guest. From time to time you can zoom out to a 2shot, then back in to the guest. If the IV is to be edited, you will probably frame most of the interview on the guest. At the conclusion of the interview, move the camera to the other side and shoot the back-cut questions and noddies (more on this later). 1 Guest, 2-3 Cameras Adding a second camera facing the interviewer not only provides a second shot, but allows each camera to reframe its shot while the other camera is being used. This enables you to cut between a range of shots without having to constantly zoom in and out. A third camera in the middle adds the safety and flexibility of a permanent 2-shot.

2 Guests, 2 Cameras This arrangement accommodates two guests in a friendly manner. It works well when the guests are somehow connected (e.g. family members or work colleagues), or share similar views about the subject. If you have one camera covering both guests, they can be covered with a 2-shot for much of the time but you will probably want to include some tighter shots. The camera operator must move carefully between the guests to follow whoever is talking. With the optional extra camera this problem is eliminated as one camera is dedicated to each guest. 2 Guests, 2-3 Cameras This arrangement may be preferable if the guests are likely to be antagonistic toward each other, or don't want to sit so close together.

2 Guests, 2-3 Cameras By seating the guests at opposite ends of a table you create a more confrontational situation. This is suitable for guests who hold opposing views on the subject.

Mobile Interviewing Techniques Shoulder-Mounted Camera Shooting "off the shoulder" is an easy and flexible method for recording interviews. Typically this will involve one camera, although other cameras can be added easily enough. This is the most common technique for field shoots in which speed and efficiency are important. A minimum of equipment is required and the production team can move around quickly and easily. It is also a useful method if the surroundings are likely to be included in the interview. Because the camera operator is so mobile, (s)he can move around and show objects and scenery as they are talked about. The standard technique is pictured here, with the camera situated just to the side of the interviewer. This gives a nice front-on shot of the guest. The interviewer and camera should be close together so the guest is facing just slightly off-camera. Off-the-shoulder interviews tend to have quite a different feel to tripod/pedestal interviews. They are less formal, less restricted, and involve more movement. Because the participants are usually standing or moving around, the impression is given of being "up and about" rather than sitting sedately in a studio setting. Indeed, off-the-shoulder cameras are sometimes used in studio settings to achieve this effect. The amount of movement involved depends on the production requirements. News stories tend to be quite static, concentrating on what the guest has to say and minimising distractions. Programs which are more entertainment-focused may include a lot more variety, with the camera operator moving around and showing different angles of the guest, presenter and surroundings.

Tripod-Mounted Camera You can use a tripod in much the same way as above. Advantages:

Nice steady shots - important if the interview will be edited alongside other tripod-mounted shots. Reduced fatigue for the camera operator, which will make a big difference if the interview is going to be long or if you'll be shooting lots of them. Off-the-shoulder shots can become wobbly as the operator begins to tire. Disadvantages:

You are much more restricted in terms of movement and framing. You have another piece of equipment to carry around (and good tripods are heavy).

Walking and Talking A nice effect is the walking IV in which the interviewer and guest stroll side-by-side toward the camera. The camera operator walks backwards maintaining a constant distance. Obviously this must be well planned. The camera operator should have someone to act as a guide the usual routine is for the guide to place their hand in the middle of the operator's back and walk with them. In the example pictured here, the sound operator is doubling as the guide (he needs to keep turning his head backwards and forwards to do both jobs).

Field Kit Checklist


Camera, tripod and plenty of tapes Batteries/power + multiboxes and extension leads Microphones Audio mixer, headset and leads Lights, stands and gels Video Monitor White balance cards Shot-log sheets, pen, etc.

Basic shot types There is a general convention in the video industry which assigns names to the most common types of shots. The names and their exact meanings may vary, but the following examples give a rough guide to the standard descriptions. The point isn't knowing the names of the shot types (although it's very useful), as much as understanding their purposes. Basic shots are referred to in terms relative to the subject. For example, a "close up" has to be a close up of something. A close up of a person could also be described as a wide shot of a face, or a very wide shot of a nose. The subject in all of the following shots is a boy standing in front of a house. EWS (Extreme Wide Shot) In the EWS, the view is so far from the subject that he isn't even visible. The point of this shot is to show the subject's surroundings. The EWS is often used as an establishing shot the first shot of a new scene, designed to show the audience where the action is taking place.

VWS (Very Wide Shot) The VWS is much closer to the subject. He is (just) visible here, but the emphasis is still on placing him in his environment. This also works as an establishing shot.

WS (Wide Shot) In the WS, the subject takes up the full frame. In this case, the boy's feet are almost at the bottom of frame, and his head is almost at the top. Obviously the subject doesn't take up the whole width of the frame, since this is as close as we can get without losing any part of him. The small amount of room above and below the subject can be thought of as safety room you don't want to be cutting the top of the head off. It would also look uncomfortable if the feet and head were exactly at the top and bottom of frame. MS (Mid Shot) The MS shows some part of the subject in more detail, whilst still showing enough for the audience to feel as if they were looking at the whole subject. In fact, this is an approximation of how you would see a person "in the flesh" if you were having a casual conversation. You wouldn't be paying any attention to their lower body, so that part of the picture is unnecessary. MCU (Medium Close Up) Half way between a MS and a CU. This shot shows the face more clearly, without getting uncomfortably close.

CU (Close Up) In the CU, a certain feature or part of the subject takes up the whole frame. A close up of a person usually means a close up of their face.

ECU (Extreme Close Up) The ECU gets right in and shows extreme detail. For people, the ECU is used to convey emotion.

CA (Cutaway) A cutaway is a shot that's usually of something other than the current action. It could be a different subject (e.g. these children), a CU of a different part of the subject (e.g. a CU of the subject's hands), or just about anything else. The CA is used as a "buffer" between shots (to help the editing process), or to add interest/information.

Some Rules of Framing

Look for horizontal and vertical lines in the frame (e.g. the horizon, poles, etc). Make sure the horizontals are level, and the verticals are straight up and down (unless of course you're purposely going for a tilted effect). The rule of thirds. This rule divides the frame into nine sections, as in the first frame below. Points (or lines) of interest should occur at 1/3 or 2/3 of the way up (or across) the frame, rather than in the centre.

"Headroom", "looking room", and "leading room". These terms refer to the amount of room in the frame which is strategically left empty. The shot of the baby crawling has some leading room for him to crawl into, and the shot of his mother has some looking room for her to look into. Without this empty space, the framing will look uncomfortable. Headroom is the amount of space between the top of the subject's head and the top of the frame. A common mistake in amateur video is to have far too much headroom, which doesn't look good and wastes frame space. In any "person shot" tighter than a MS, there should be very little headroom.

Everything in your frame is important, not just the subject. What does the background look like? What's the lighting like? Is there anything in the frame which is going to be distracting, or disrupt the continuity of the video? Pay attention to the edges of your frame. Avoid having half objects in frame, especially people (showing half of someone's face is very unflattering). Also try not to cut people of at the joints the bottom of the frame can cut across a person's stomach, but not their knees. It just doesn't look right. Once you're comfortable with the do's and don'ts, you can become more creative. Think about the best way to convey the meaning of the shot. If it's a baby crawling, get down on the floor and see it from a baby's point-of-view (POV). If it's a football game, maybe you need to get up high to see all the action. Look for interesting and unusual shots. Most of your shots will probably be quite "straight"; that is, normal shots from approximate adult eye-level. Try mixing in a few variations. Different angles and different camera positions can make all the difference. For example; a shot can become much more dramatic if shot from a low point. On the other hand, a new and interesting perspective can be obtained by looking straight down on the scene. Be aware that looking up at a person can make them appear more imposing, whereas looking down at a person can diminish them. Watch TV and movies, and notice the shots which stand out. There's a reason why they stand out it's all about camera positioning and frame composition. Experiment all the time.

Basic Camera Moves As with camera framing, there are standard descriptions for the basic camera moves. These are the main ones: Pan: The framing moves left & right, with no vertical movement. Tilt: The framing moves up & down, with no horizontal movement. Zoom: In & out, appearing as if the camera is moving closer to or further away from the subject. (There is a difference between zooming and moving the camera in and out, though. There'll be more about that in the intermediate tutorial.) When a shot zooms in closer to the subject, it is said to be getting "tighter". As the shot zooms out, it is getting "looser". Follow: Any sort of shot when you are holding the camera (or have it mounted on your shoulder), and you follow the action whilst walking. Hard to keep steady, but very effective when done well. Note: Most camera moves are a combination of these basic moves. For example, when you're zooming in, unless your subject is in the exact centre of frame, you'll have to pan and/or tilt at the same time to end up where you want to be. Shooting Technique Position yourself and your camera. If you're using a tripod, make sure it's stable and level (unless you have a reason for it to be tilted). If the tripod has a spirit level, check it.

If you're going to be panning and/or tilting, make sure that you'll be comfortably positioned throughout the whole move. You don't want to start a pan, then realise you can't reach around far enough to get the end of it. If it's going to be difficult, you're better off finding the position which is most comfortable at the end of the move, so that you start in the more awkward position and become more comfortable as you complete the move. If the tripod head doesn't have a bowl (this includes most cheaper tripods), it's very important to check that the framing still looks level as you pan - it may be okay in one direction but become horribly slanted as you pan left and right. If you're not using a tripod, stabilise yourself and your camera as best you can. Keep your arms and elbows close to your body (you can use your arms as "braces" against your torso). Breathe steadily. For static shots, place your feet at shoulder width (if you're standing), or try bracing yourself against some solid object (furniture, walls, or anything). Frame your shot. Then do a quick mental check: white balance; focus; iris; framing (vertical and horizontal lines, background, etc.). Think about your audio. Audio is just as important as vision, so don't forget about it. Press "record". Once you're recording, make sure that you are actually recording. There's no worse frustration than realising that you were accidentally recording all the time you were setting the shot up, then stopped recording when you thought you were starting. Many cameras have a tape "roll-in time", which means that there is a delay between the time you press record and when the camera begins recording. Do some tests and find out what your camera's roll-in time is, so you can then compensate for it. Keep checking the status displays in the viewfinder. Learn what all the indicators mean they can give you valuable information. Use both eyes. A valuable skill is the ability to use one eye to look through the viewfinder, and the other eye to watch your surroundings. It takes a while to get used to it, but it means that you can walk around while shooting without tripping over, as well as keeping an eye out for where the action is happening. It's also easier on your eyes during long shoots. Learn to walk backwards. Have someone place their hand in the middle of your back and guide you. These shots can look great. You'll often see television presenters walking and talking, as the camera operator walks backwards shooting them. Keep thinking "Framing...Audio..." As long as you're recording, think about how the frame composition is changing, and what's happening to the sound. Press "record stop" before moving. Just as in still photography, you should wait until one second after you've finished recording (or taken the photo) before you move. Too many home videos end every shot with a jerky movement as the operator hits the stop button.

That's all there is to it! Finally, here's a few more tips to finish off with... Be diplomatic while shooting. Think about the people you're shooting.

Remember that people are often uncomfortable about being filmed, so try to be discreet and unobtrusive (for example, you might want to position yourself some distance from the subjects and zoom in on them, rather than being "in their faces"). Many people find the red recording light on the camera intimidating, and freeze whenever they see it. Try covering the light with a piece of tape to alleviate this problem. Learn to judge when it's worth making a nuisance of yourself for the sake of the shot, and when it's not. If it's an important shot, it might be necessary to inconvenience a few people to get it right. But if you're going to make enemies over something that doesn't matter, forget it and move on. Use the "date/time stamp" feature sparingly. It's unnecessary to have the time and date displayed throughout your video, and it looks cheap. If you must have it there, bring it up for a few seconds, then get rid of it. Modern digital cameras have the ability to show or hide this display at any time after recording. Be prepared to experiment. Think about some of the things you'd like to try doing, then try them at a time that doesn't matter (i.e. don't experiment while shooting a wedding). Most new techniques take practice and experimentation to achieve success, and good camera work requires experience. If you want to be good, you'll have to invest some time.

Video Shot Log A video shot log is a written record of the shots on a tape or disk. The shot log can be made either as the shoot progresses or after the shoot finishes. If possible, it really helps to do the shot log during the shoot it will be easier and save you time later. There are no hard and fast rules regarding the format of the shot log. Basically, whatever works for you is fine. If you are working in a larger team environment you will probably have a standardised format so everyone uses the same system and gets the required information. Below is one example of how a shot log can be formatted. SHOT LOG Date: Camera Operator: Comments: Timecode 0:00:00 0:01:00 0:01:20 0:01:28 0:01:39 0:04:16 2004/10/12 Jane Bloggs Take Duration 0:30 1 0:20 1 0:08 2 0:11 1 2:37 1 0:30 Location: Other Staff: Te Awamutu, New Zealand Sound - Billy Bloggs, Presenter Sally Bloggs Audio Tone Ambient '' '' Lap mic Comments Establishing shot Use this one Mostly good

Description Bars WS House Hallway '' IV - Joe Bloggs Noddies

Remote Interviews In a remote interview the interviewer is geographically separated from the guest. Transmission equipment enables the interview to take place in real time, either for live broadcast or recording. Remote interviews can occur between two studios, between a studio and temporary field location, or between two field locations. The signature of the remote interview is the split screen (pictured right). This establishes both locations and provides comfortable transitions between them. As you can imagine, the remote interview has numerous technical and logistical complications. Before the interview begins the following preparations must be made (in addition to normal preparations):

Establish transmission and communication links between locations, and complete technical checks. Prepare the guest for the interview (see below). Sometimes vision monitors are set up so the participants can see each other, but this isn't usually necessary (or even desirable as it can be distracting for the guest). The cameras in each location must be matched in composition, colour balance, etc. It's not a good look when one head is much bigger than the other. Preparing the Guest How you prepare the guest will depend on the their level of experience. If they are new to this type of interview they will need to be well briefed. It is a difficult and unnatural situation and not everyone will cope. The guest will need to be rigged with a microphone and earpiece. While this is happening, explain briefly how things work and what to expect. If a hand-held mic is being used, make sure the guest knows how to use it. If possible, let the interviewer and guest have a short preparatory conversation before the actual interview begins. This ensures they are both comfortable with each other's audio level and quality, and helps relax the guest. Useful advice for the guest includes:

"The interview will be similar to a telephone conversation." "Look straight at the camera. Imagine the camera lens is a small window through which you and the interviewer can see each other." (This is because many people tend to look aimlessly toward the ground or sky as they talk. If they feel more face-to-face with the interviewer they are more likely to keep looking in the right direction). The Interview Sequence The interview sequence will typically begin like this:

1. Full-screen shot of the interviewer with their preamble. 2. As the interviewer begins introducing the guest (e.g. "I'm joined from Auckland by..."), a split screen is shown between interviewer and guest. Titles below each person identify the the respective locations. 3. Shortly after the guest begins answering the first question, their shot is shown full screen. 4. The guest's name/title key is shown. The interview can then comfortably cut between the two full-screen shots, just as if the two people were sitting next to each other in the same studio. Occasionally the split screen is cut in to remind viewers of the situation and to allow the interviewer and guest to interact together on screen.

Telephone and Audio-Only Interviews A simpler version of the remote interview can be conducted by telephone. This is often referred to as a phone-in interview. A graphic is prepared like the one on the right, which includes a picture of a telephone or some other icon which makes it obvious what's happening. If possible, use a photo of the guest. The graphic is then used when the guest is speaking (i.e. in place of video shots). This technique can also be used with normal transmission equipment if for any reason video is not available.

New Technologies These days remote interviews can also be conducted via mobile video phones. This is desirable in situations where equipment and personnel must be kept to the bare minimum, or when resources are spread very thinly. The most well-known examples are during wartime operations when reports are filed from many journalists in difficult locations. Expect this type of remote interview to become very common as the technology improves. Vox Pops The term "vox pop" comes from the Latin phrase vox populi, meaning "voice of the people".

The vox pop is a tool used in many forms of media to provide a snapshot of public opinion. Random subjects are asked to give their views on a particular topic and their responses are presented to the viewer/reader as a reflection of popular opinion. For video and television vox pops, the interviewer approaches people "in the street" and asks them simple questions about the topic. These people will be new to interviews and will often be nervous, flustered, giggly, etc. It's therefore important to make them feel comfortable and relaxed. When asking people to participate, fast is best - don't give them time to worry about how they look or what their friends will think. Use a short, sharp standard question such as "Would you mind answering a couple of quick questions about genetically modified food for TV3 news tonight?". (Note: Everyone will want to know what channel you're with and when the programme will be broadcast, so it helps to get that out of the way quickly.) As always, ask open-ended questions and avoid leading questions. At the same time, you must be specific enough to obtain brief answers. Camera shots are usually framed as an MCU or close up. It's important to think about the guest's looking direction, and get an equal number of left-facing and right-facing subjects. These can then be alternated in post-production. Some producers go so far as to get all answers with a particular opinion facing one way, and answers with an opposing opinion facing the other way. Whether or not you think this is effective is up to you you may feel that it is too contrived. It pays to ensure that an accurate mix of genders and races are represented, appropriate to the population being surveyed.

Here's an example of how some vox pops can add interest to a news item on genetically modified foods. At some point in the story the journalist would say something like "meanwhile, public opinion is still divided..." The following sequence is then inserted: "I think we need more research. I think we've seen this product arrive on our shelves in a tearing hurry, without any long-term case histories available for us to look at any possible harm."

"I think it will be better in the short term, but in the long run it will promote more diseases, some inherited ones like cancer or something like that."

"I don't actually have that much of a problem with it. I think that basically science enters every part of our existence anyhow. Scientists have been genetically modifying animals and things since the beginning of time, so no, I don't have much of a problem with it."

"I don't really have a problem with it myself. I mean, it's coming up to the year 2000, the new millennium, we're going to have new changes, aren't we? People have got to get used to it. If they don't like that, if they can't stand the change, well... get out of the way and let those who can stand the change look after it." "I'd prefer not to have it, not to use any of it, but I'm not sure what's been altered and what hasn't." Recording Sound for Interviews Sound quality is especially important in interviews. The audience will be concentrating more on what the guest is saying than how they look. Without crystal clear sound your interview will be irritating to viewers.

Microphones The first decision is which type of microphone best suits your situation. Hand-Held Mics Hand-held mics are versatile and relatively easy to use. They are well-suited to mobile interviews, and to situations where the interviewer needs to direct the talking (people can only speak when the interviewer points the mic at them). For more information, see How to Use a Hand Mic. Lapel Mics Lapel (lavalier) mics create high quality, consistent sound. Each person has their own mic, the mics are (theoretically) always in the correct position and unwanted noise is rejected well. The disadvantage is that they are slower and more difficult to set up, especially if there are a number of guests coming in and out of the IV setting. Also, if the mic position does happen to go awry, you have to interrupt the interview to fix it. Boom Mics Microphones placed on a boom arm are also very versatile and are used in both studio and mobile settings. The main advantage is that the IV participants don't need to be rigged for audio or worry about mics, and the sound operator is in full control. The microphone is usually a shotgun (very directional) mic which can easily be pointed to any speaker (or other sound if required). The boom operator and camera operator need to work together to make sure the mic stays out of camera shot.

PZM (Pressure Zone) Mics PZM mics are useful when a number of participants are seated around a table. The mic is placed in the middle of the table and can pick up all speakers. Radio Mics Any type of microphone can be plugged into a small battery-powered radio transmitter and sent to a receiver at the recording end. This frees the interviewer and guest from the restraints of audio cables. It also means the participants can be a long way from the camera (which would obviously be on a long zoom). Built-in Camera Mic If you're desperate you can use the mic which is built into the camera. However this is unlikely to produce good interview sound.

Mixing and Recording In the studio, mics will be routed to the sound desk and mixed into the program audio by the sound operator. In mobile interviews, the ideal situation is to have a dedicated sound operator ("soundie"). The soundie will plug the mics into a portable sound mixer like the one pictured and monitor the audio via a headset. The output of the mixer will either be fed to a portable recording device or (more commonly) fed to the camera and recorded on the same tape as the vision.

Audio Traps to Avoid


Many people begin their sentences loudly then tail off. You may need to compensate. Beware microphone handling noise, especially with cheap mics and inexperienced presenters. If wind is a problem, use a sock or (preferably) shield the mic. Background music means death in the edit suite. Turn any background music off. Lighting Interviews The normal rules of lighting apply to interviews. If You Have Your Own Lights You need to decide whether or not they are actually necessary. Although conventional wisdom says you should control interview lighting yourself if possible, in many situations the existing light will be fine and more practical. Shooting outside The weather will obviously influence your decision. If the natural light is sufficient there may be no need to add artificial light.

If you do use your own lights you will need to add the appropriate gels to match your lights to the daytime colour temperature. If the sun is too strong you could find a shady location. Shooting inside Find the best location - ideally a room with plenty of space and the ability to control existing light. Unless you have a good reason to use existing light sources, try to eliminate them all (close curtains, turn off lights, etc). Then set up your own lights.

If You Have No Lighting In many situations you are limited to the available light. This is where a reflector board (pictured) can be a lifesaver. Easy to carry and use, it can create useful lighting effects and compensate for unfavourable conditions. If you don't have a reflector board you can sometimes improvise with other reflective objects. Shooting outside With luck the natural sunlight will be fine, using the sun as the key light. If the sun is low, be careful not to make the guest squint. Strong sunlight creates strong shadows which can be balanced with a reflector. Shooting inside Try to avoid mixed lighting, e.g. sunlight through a window mixed with artificial light. Depending on the strength and quality of light sources, you could either turn the artificial lights off or block out the window light. Overhead lights aren't desirable as they create ugly shadows on the face. If they are all you have you may be able to balance them with a reflector.

Camera-Mounted Lights In many situations a light mounted on the camera is all you have. This is common in mobile operations such as news coverage. Although it is a simple, practical solution, it does not produce particularly good lighting and should only really be used when better lighting is not possible. Note: Lights which draw power from the camera battery will reduce the battery's charge time. Common Lighting Terminology Ambient The light already present in a scene, before any additional lighting is added. Light More info: Ambient Light Incident Light seen directly from a light source (lamp, sun, etc). Light Reflected Light seen after having bounced off a surface. Light Colour A standard of measuring the characteristics of light, measured in kelvins.

Temperature More Info: Colour Temperature Chart Contrast The difference in brightness between the brightest white and the darkest Ratio black within an image. More Info: Contrast Ratio Key Light The main light on the subject, providing most of the illumination and contrast. More Info: 3 Point Lighting Fill Light A light placed to the side of the subject to fill out shadows and balance the key light. More Info: 3 Point Lighting Back Light A light placed at the rear of a subject to light from behind. More Info: 3 Point Lighting Hard Light Light directly from a source such as the sun, traveling undisturbed onto the subject being lit. Soft Light Light which appears to "wrap around" the subject to some degree. Produces less shadows or softer shadows. Spot A controlled, narrowly-focused beam of light. Flood A broad beam of light, less directional and intense than a spot. Tungsten Light from an ordinary light bulb containing a thin coiled tungsten wire that becomes incandescent (emits light) when an electric current is passed along it. Tungsten colour temperature is around 2800K to 3400K. Also known as incandescent light. Halogen Type of lamp in which a tungsten filament is sealed in a clear capsule filled with a halogen gas. Fresnel A light which has a lens with raised circular ridges on its outer surface. The fresnel lens is used to focus the light beam. IncandescentIncandescent lamps produce heat by heating a wire filament until it glows. The glow is caused by the filament's resistance to the current and is calledincandescence. There are many different units for measuring light and it can get very complicated. Here are a few common measurement terms: Candela (cd) Unit of luminous intensity of a light source in a specific direction. Also called candle. Technically, the radiation intensity in a perpendicular direction of a surface of 1/600000 square metre of a black body at the temperature of solidification platinum under a pressure of 101,325 newtons per square metre. Footcandle (fc or ftc) Unit of light intensity, measured in lumens per square foot. The brightness of one candle at a distance of one foot. Approximately 10.7639 lux. Lumen (lm) Unit of light flow or luminous flux. The output of artificial lights can be measured in lumens. Lux (lx) Unit of illumination equal to one lumen per square metre. The metric equivalent of footcandles (one lux equals 0.0929 footcandles). Also called metre-candle.

These are some common types of light you'll often hear about in film, video and photography. Note that these definitions are not always rigid and some people may interpret them a little differently. Blonde 1000-2000w, used as a key flood light for large areas. Redhead 650-1000w, used as a key flood light for large areas. Pepper Light 100-1000w, small light used as a more focused key or fill light. HMI A high-quality type of light which uses an arc lamp instead of filament bulb. Halogen Work 150-500w, used as a key flood light for lighting large areas. This is a lowLamp budget lighting solution. Other Lights Domestic light bulbs can be used at a pinch, ideally as a secondary light such as fill or backlight. Many video cameras have built-in lights or the ability to mount a light these are useful in emergencies but provide poor quality lighting. Chinese A low-cost light, useful in some situations. Lanterns Instruments / Housing Fresnel A light which has a lens with raised circular ridges on its outer surface which are used to focus the light beam. Lighting Equipment Some common types of equipment used in video and photography lighting. 18% Gray Card Ballast Consoles A gray-coloured card which reflects 18% of the light which falls upon it. Used as a reference to calibrate light meters and set exposure. A device used to control the electrical current in a light. Hardware and software systems which control lighting. Operated by the lighting technician, consoles coordinate lighting displays on stages, studios, etc. A tool used to measure light and indicate the ideal exposure setting. Also known as an exposure meter.

Light Meter Reflector Board

A specially-designed reflective surface used to act as a secondary light source. The board is lightweight and flexible, and is normally folded up for transport in a small carry-case. Gels Materials which are placed in front of a light source to alter it's characteristics, e.g. colour temperature or dispersion (see diffusion gels). SpectrometerA professional-level instrument which measures the spectrum of light. Technically speaking, a spectrometer analyses the electromagnetic spectrum and measures the intensity of radiation as a function of wavelength. Stands & Systems used to support lights and hold them in the correct position. Clamps

Colour Temperature Chart Colour temperature is a standard method of describing colours for use in a range of situations and with different equipment. Colour temperatures are normally expressed in units called kelvins (K). Note that the term degrees kelvin is often used but is not technically correct (see below).

Technically speaking... Colour temperature means the temperature of an ideal black body radiator at which the colour of the light source and the black body are identical. (A black body is a theoretical radiator and absorber of energy at all electromagnetic wavelengths.) Colour Temperature in Video For video operations the relevant temperatures range from around 2,000K to 8,000K these are common lighting conditions. In practical terms this usually means selecting lights, gels and filters which are most appropriate to the prevailing light or to create a particular colour effect. For example, a camera operator will select a "5600K filter" to use outside in the middle of a sunny day. Terminology

When referring to the unit kelvin, it is not capitalised unless it is the first word of a sentence. The plural is kelvins (e.g. "The light source is approximately 3200 kelvins"). The symbol is a capital K (e.g. "The light source is approximately 3200K"). When referring to the Kelvin scale, it is capitalised (e.g. "The Kelvin scale is named after William Thomson (1824 1907), also known as Lord Kelvin".

Degrees kelvin According to the The International System of Units (SI) , colour temperatures are stated in kelvins, not in degrees Kelvin. The "degrees" part of the name was made obsolete in 1967. However, the "degrees" reference has remained in common use in media industries. Contrast Ratio Contrast Ratio is a measurement of the difference in brightness between the whitest white and the darkest black within an image. A ratio of 300:1 means the brightest point in the image is 300 times as bright as the darkest point. A higher contrast ratio therefore means a larger difference in brightness. Contrast ratio is of interest in two situations: 1. Cameras: When recording an image (video, film, photography) 2. TVs, Monitors, etc. When choosing or setting up a playback device (TV, computer monitor, etc)

The Standard 3-Point Lighting Technique The Three Point Lighting Technique is a standard method used in visual media such as video, film, still photography and computer-generated imagery. It is a simple but versatile system which forms the basis of most lighting. Once you understand three point lighting you are well on the way to understanding all lighting. The technique uses three lights called the key light, fill light and back light. Naturally you will need three lights to utilise the technique fully, but the principles are still important even if you only use one or two lights. As a rule:

If you only have one light, it becomes the key. If you have 2 lights, one is the key and the other is either the fill or the backlight. Key Light This is the main light. It is usually the strongest and has the most influence on the look of the scene. It is placed to one side of the camera/subject so that this side is well lit and the other side has some shadow.

Fill Light This is the secondary light and is placed on the opposite side of the key light. It is used to fill the shadows created by the key. The fill will usually be softer and less bright than the key. To acheive this, you could move the light further away or use some spun. You might also want to set the fill light to more of a flood than the key.

Back Light The back light is placed behind the subject and lights it from the rear. Rather than providing direct lighting (like the key and fill), its purpose is to provide definition and subtle highlights around the subject's outlines. This helps separate the subject from the background and provide a three-dimensional look.

If you have a fourth light, you could use it to light the background of the entire scene. Video lighting is based on the same principles as lighting for any other visual media. Light Sources All video uses some sort of lighting, whether it be natural light (from the sun) or artificial lights. The goal of video lighting is to choose the best source(s) to achieve your goals. First and foremost you need enough light. You must ensure that your camera is able to record an acceptable picture in the conditions. With modern cameras this is seldom a problem except in very low light or strong contrast. Assuming you have enough light, you must then consider the quality of the light and how the various light sources combine to produce the image. If you have clashing light sources (e.g. artificial interior lights with sunlight coming through the windows), you may find the colours in your image appear unnatural. It's best to control the light sources yourself if possible (e.g. turn off the lights or close the curtains). When moving between locations, think about what light source you are using. If you move from an outside setting to an inside one with artificial lights, the amount of light may seem the same but the colour temperature will change according to the type of lights. In this case you need to white balance your camera for the new light source.

Contrast Ratio Contrast ratio is the difference in brightness between the brightest and darkest parts of the picture. Video does not cope with extreme contrast as well as film, and nowhere near as well as the human eye. The result of over-contrast is that some parts of the picture will be too bright or too dark to see any detail. For this reason you need to ensure that there is not too much contrast in your shot.

Camera-Mounted Lights The camera-mounted light is an easy, versatile solution used by amateurs and professionals alike. Typically the light will draw power from the camera battery, although a separate power supply can be used. Be aware that lights which draw power from the camera battery will significantly shorten the battery's charge time. This type of lighting does not create pleasing effects. it is a "blunt instrument" approach which is really only designed to illuminate the scene enough to allow normal camera operations. However it is a simple, practical solution.

Night-Mode Video Shooting Some cameras offer a special "night vision" option which allows you to shoot with virtually no light. This mode uses infrared light instead of normal visible light. This is useful in extreme circumstances when you have no other option. Unfortunately the results tend to be poor-quality monochrome green. Of course, you can use this mode for a special effect if it suits the content.

Lighting with Background Windows Shooting pictures indoors with external windows is a common issue for photographers and video makers. The large difference in light levels between the room and the outside view make finding the correct exposure a challenge. Video is particularly susceptible to this problem due to it's relatively low contrast ratio. If you can't avoid having the window in shot, in most cases the only thing you can do is use the manual iris to set your exposure correctly for the subjects in the room. This means that the window will be over-exposed but that's a necessary compromise. If you wish to show the outside view, expose the iris for the window (which will make the room dark). If you have time and resources available, there are two things you can do to help even out the lighting so it's possible to capture both areas effectively: 1. Add more light to the room 2. Reduce the light from the window (1) Increase the Lighting in the Room Any extra light you can shine on the subject will decrease the contrast ratio between them and the window. In some cases switching on the standard room lighting can help, although this often introduces new problems such as clashing colour temperatures and harsh downward shadows. It's possible that a reflector board could be useful.

(2) Reduce the Light from the Window You can reduce the amount of light coming through the window by placing some sort of filter over it. In the example pictured here, black scrim (a fine mesh material) is taped to the window. You can see that the background is much more manageable through the scrim. If the entire window needs to be in shot you'll need to be careful and discreet with the scrim/filter. It can be difficult getting exactly the right fit. If only part of the window is in shot it's a lot easier. Filters can cause unwanted side effects such as ripple and the moire effect. Being further away from the window helps.

Lighting Effects Cold / Warm You can add to the feeling of coldness or warmth by using additional filters or doubling up on gels. Very blue means very cold, very red/orange means very hot. Moonlight (or any night-time light) This is an old standard technique which has become something of a clich. You can make daytime seem like night by lowering the exposure slightly and adding a blue filter to the camera. However a convincing illusion may require more effort than this you don't want any daytime giveaways such as birds flying through shot. You also need to think about any other lighting which should appear in shot, such as house or street lights. Firelight To light a person's face as if they were looking at a fire, try this: Point a redhead with orange gel away from the subject at a large reflector which reflects the light back at the subject. Shake the reflector to simulate firelight (remember to add sound effects as well). Watching TV To light a person's face as if they were watching TV, shine a blue light at the subject and wave a piece of cloth or paper in front of the light to simulate flickering. Use "Real" Lights Some filmmakers prefer to use natural light and "real" light sources.

DIY Lighting Kit Professional lighting kits for video and photography are very expensive. Fortunately for the budget-impaired enthusiast, it is possible to put together a perfectly adequate lighting kit for less than $US100. A good beginner's lighting kit should include:

Three (or more) lights with stands Reflector board(s) Power cables, extension leads and a multi-box.

The standard budget light is the halogen work lamp which can be found at any hardware store or purchased at amazon.com for as little as $US10. These come with or without a stand and range from around 150W to 500W. The stand-less units have a small handle and can be rested on any solid surface such as a table or the floor. This is not ideal for your main lights but it can be useful for fill lighting, backgrounds, etc. In any case these units are so cheap that it can't hurt to buy a couple. Lights with stands are more versatile and you should have at least one of these (preferably two or three). Try to find a stand which goes up to around 2 metres (the height of a tall person). Taller than 2 metres would be even better but this type of light stand doesn't normally go that high. Some lights (like the W12665 unit pictured) can be used with or without the stand, making them even more versatile. One drawback of these cheap lights is that the colour of the light is quite yellow. As long as you white-balance your camera this isn't a huge issue, but if you want the best quality lighting you can try one of these solutions: 1. Purchase a 32K white bulb (ask your hardware supplier). 2. Place a coloured gel in front of the light to correct the colour. Speaking of gels, the other big drawback of these lights is that there is no built-in system for mounting accessories like gels and diffusers. You can improvise by creating a wire holder or separate stand for accessories. You will also find that you can't alter the spread of these lights, i.e. from floodlight to spotlight. This is not a big concern for most people but if you do need this functionality you might need to consider a professional video lighting kit. Reflectors Professional reflector boards are used to add or control light in a scene. You can make your own from just about any large reflective object, although the exact colour and reflectivity will obviously affect your lighting. Common suggestions for an improvised reflector include:

Windshield sunshade (pictured) Sheet of foamcore Polystyrene sheet Stiff cardboard, or tin foil on cardboard (try both sides of the foil for different effects) Whiteboard Survival blanket (gold on one side and silver on the other)

Hobby shops have a lot of items which may be of interest. Online auction sites are also worth checking as reflectors can often be found fairly cheap there. Power You will need a few power extension cables of varying lengths, plus one or more multiboxes with built-in trip switches. It helps to have a separate carry case for power cables. Safety

Lights get very hot! Seriously, you can burn yourself badly or set fire to things. Lights can draw a lot of current so be careful not to overload power sources. If you're working outside, use an isolating transformer on your power.

Lighting Safety Tips Keep bystanders away from lights they are notorious for knocking them over. Always be extremely careful with the heat created by lights. The barn doors can burn your fingers. Wait until lights cool down before touching or moving them. Don't handle bulbs with your fingers use a piece of cloth or something else. Only use material for gels which is specifically designed for lighting. Don't use paper, tracing paper, baking paper, plastic, etc. Never attach anything to a light which isn't designed for the application. Make sure stands are stable and loose cables are taped to the ground. Lights are power-hungry don't overload sockets. Never plug more than 2Kw of lighting into a domestic power point. Make sure all lights have adequate ventilation and never cover them. Tips for Lighting People Harsh light is not flattering; soft light creates a warmer feel. Avoid strong nose shadows or any strong contrast on the face. Place the key light on the same side as the camera and fill the shadows. Avoid reflections from glasses. You may need to adjust the position of the subject and/or lights to do this. Beware bald heads they can reflect a lot of light and appear over-exposed. Try weakening or softening the light with a diffusion gel. Soft light and diffusion helps reduce the appearance of wrinkles. General Lighting Tips You can use a frosted shower curtain to create diffusion. Hang the curtain in front of the light(s) but be careful the curtain will melt if you get too close! Use a chinese lantern for a nice soft close-up light.

Editing Interviews

Before you shoot your interview you must know how it will be edited. For example, if there are going to be lots of other shots inserted you may want to hold a static shot throughout the IV so that these shots can easily be added anywhere. On the other hand, if there is to be little or no editing you may want to vary your shots to maintain interest. Despite the many different styles of interview, most have a fairly common basic structure. The following example outlines a typical approach: Establishing Shot 2-Shot A very wide shot which shows the location. Not always necessary. A visual introduction to both interview participants (interviewer and guest). Usually a wide shot or MCU. Begin concentrating on the guest with an MCU and overlay name/title key. While most of the interview concentrates on the guest, the interviewer is occasionally shown asking and responding to questions. When appropriate, relevant cutaways can be dropped in.

1-Shot

Questions & Noddies

Cutaways

Cutting Between Interviewer and Guest The most common edit is the cut between shots of interviewer and guest, whether it be live cuts between cameras or post-production edits. The natural instinct is to cut exactly between the end of a question and the beginning of the answer. However this tends to look stilted. Try cutting a little before or after the question/answer is complete. In live multi-camera situations it's easy to get caught behind the action, cutting to the wrong person at the wrong time. This can happen, for example, when you expect one person to speak but another person does. Do not "chase" the person speaking - it's better to have a shot of someone else listening for a few seconds than to cut quickly to the speaker and draw attention to your mistake. If you have the luxury of a wide shot, this can often get you out of trouble.

Back-Cut Questions If you are using one camera and the IV is to be edited in post-production, the usual routine is to concentrate your framing on the guest during the interview. Then when the interview has finished you reposition the camera to face the interviewer and shoot them asking the questions again. The interviewer is in exactly the same position as they were during the IV, facing the empty space where the guest was (which is of course out of shot). These shots are then inserted into the interview over the original questions. The result is an interview which looks like it was shot with two cameras.

Obviously it's important to record the back-cut questions exactly the same as they were asked during the actual IV. You will usually have a pre-prepared list of questions to help you, but you should also make notes during the IV of any new questions. Make sure your positioning and eyelines are consistent, as well as microphone placement.

Noddies "Noddy" is the term given to a shot of the interviewer reacting to the guest. The interviewer may be nodding, smiling, frowning, looking concerned, etc. Noddies perform two functions.

To include the interviewer and show their reactions. To provide edit points. Noddies are shot in the same way as the back-cut questions. The interviewer faces the same direction and provides a series of nods, smiles and any other expressions relevant to the interview. This is difficult for inexperienced presenters and will cause much hilarity for anyone watching who has never seen it done before. Note: If you are tempted to laugh and make jokes at your first professional shoot - don't! Experienced presenters have heard all the noddy jokes a million times and it just shows how new you are. In the edit suite, whenever you need to remove a segment of the guest's speech you simply inset a noddy to cover the edit. Obviously the noddy must be appropriate - you don't want a shot of the interviewer smiling as the guest relates a tragic incident. This is why you must make sure you shoot the whole range of expressions - so you'll always have the right one for the edit. Note: For better or worse, noddies can give emotional cues to the viewer. For example, if a guest is reciting some facts and figures, a shot of the interviewer looking shocked suggests to the audience that these figures warrant a strong reaction.

Some More Rules: When shooting for post-production create clean lead-in and lead-out space, and include information about the IV content.

At the beginning of the IV have the presenter record a brief intro and 3-second countdown, leaving the "one" silent, e.g: "IV with John Smith regarding environmental contamination, starting in 3... 2.... (silence)..." The interviewer then begins the actual interview on "zero". At the conclusion of the interview, pause and don't move. This stops the guest from immediately looking or walking away, providing you with enough time to mix or wipe away to the next shot. Keep an eye on looking room and direction. When gathering and editing lots of different shots you must be constantly ensuring that everyone is facing the right way.

For example, if you shoot your back-cut questions the wrong way the interviewer and guest will appear to be facing opposite directions. Cutaways and noddies will save your edit. You can't have too many of them.

General Tips for Shooting Interviews The KISS Principle When you're starting out shooting IVs it's probably best to keep it simple. It's better to have a boring static shot for 60 seconds than an empty or soft shot. Remember, the important stuff is what the guest is saying, not how creative your framing is. Dealing with Newbie Guests Guests who have never been interviewed before can be a challenge, especially if they are very nervous. It's important to reassure them and make them feel comfortable. Here are a few things you might find yourself saying to the nervous newbie: "Just treat it as a normal conversation. There's no reason for you to worry about anything else that's happening. The best thing you can do to look good for the cameras is to ignore them." "Don't worry if you make a mistake or muddle up your words - just carry on. It actually happens all the time in interviews, but because it's something the audience is used to seeing in everyday conversations they won't even notice." "You look fine!" Note: If the interview is to be edited, you can point out that any serious mistakes can be cut out. Pace Yourself (and Everyone Else) Fatigue is the enemy. Interviewers and guests who are tired do not perform well, so be careful not to exhaust them. When preparing the set, use stand-ins to take their place while you set up the shots. Do not ask for multiple takes unless necessary (you will often find the first take is the best anyway). Clothing Beware of clothing which is un-camera-friendly. This includes shirts and jackets with fine patterns which produce the moire effect. Dark glasses or caps which obscure/shade the eyes are not good. Be Prepared Think about everything that could happen during the interview. Especially if you're shooting off-the-shoulder and there's a chance that your subjects could move around, you need to know how you're going to move. Try to ensure that unwanted bystanders aren't going to interrupt the IV.

Summary

Interview technique is a required skill for any serious camera operator. Know what the goal of the interview is and stay focused on that goal. Know the editing requirements. Double-check everything, then do it again. Be prepared for anything.