Bold Content 10 Tips For Filming The Perfect Talking Heads Interview

Interview videos, aka Talking Heads, are one of the most frequently requested type of corporate videos. While talking head interview videos are relatively straight forward to produce, there is still plenty to think about if you want to produce a professional looking and effective video. Here we share our top ten tips for filming the perfect talking heads interview.

Prepping Your Subject

When prepping an interview subject it usually useful to tell them exactly what will happen in the interview process, without letting them know the questions you are going to ask. You want to capture natural, authentic answers and that tends to be hampered by giving the subject a list of questions prior to the interview.

Tell the subject the general topics that you will cover and let them know that there won’t be any difficult questions. You want your subject to know that you aren’t going trying to catch them out. Tell the subject how long you will interview them for and let them know whether if you will need to film any cutaways of them doing things that they talk about during the interview.

Bold Content Talking Head Showreel

Wearing The Right Clothes

As well as logistical information, such as the time and place of the interview, you also should inform your interview subject of which clothes they need to wear. Usually this involves asking them to dress in their normal clothes but avoiding close repeating patterns as that can play havoc with cameras and clothes with logos in order to avoid any copyright issues.

It can be tempting for subjects to put on a nice dress or their best suit if they know they are going to appear on camera but this may clash with the portrait of the person that you are trying to paint in the video, it’s important to mention whether you want them to be casually dressed or not.

Keep Accurate Notes During The Interview

It’s important that during the interview the director makes a note of anything that the subject mentions that might require clarification. This can be covered either by asking them to explain further or by using a cutaway to give the audience context.

An example might be a subject mentioning a friend or relative that the audience haven’t yet heard of. It might be useful for the subject to explain how they know each other or just cut to a photo of that person. If the director is keeping good notes then they will remember to ask the subject for clarification or a photo at the end of an interview.

Selecting The Right Location

The best location for a talking head interview is usually one which gives the audience some information about the person being interviewed. Each frame of the video is an opportunity for the filmmaker to communicate information about the subject and the talking head interview is no exception.

If we want the audience to get to know the subject it can be useful to interview them in their own home as information can be gleaned about their personality from every detail of the background; whether they are a clean person or messy, the colour of the walls, the artwork and décor, even down to the size of the room you use for the interview.

Very often the background will be out of focus in order to give the feeling of depth and to concentrate the eye on the subject so the information available might be quite minimal and may just be a subliminal message that the audience pick up on due to the colour pallet of the background or the type of environment we see the person in.

Position The Subject Correctly For Natural Light

If windows are behind the subject you may see unwanted reflections of lights and camera equipment. If the sun is shining through it can silhouette the subject and combating daylight with film lights is difficult and may create a lot of heat.

If the window is in front of the subject then you may get varying light levels coming through as the sun goes in and out of clouds or shifts position in the sky. The amount of daylight will also change throughout the course of a day as the sun rises and falls so if you expect the interview to last a long time you may find a jump in light levels if you were to cut a clip from the beginning and middle of the interview together.

a photo of and interview setup outside

Setup For Sound

When location scouting it’s important to listen out for any sounds that may interfere with filming there. Usual culprits are air conditioning, traffic noise and co-workers.

When considering the sound within an interview it’s essential to have a consistent approach as you may find that the editor wants to cut back-to-back clips from several different interviews, either with the same subject or different people. If there’s a significant difference in the audio gathered the audience will find it jarring and will distract them from the narrative.

Sound is so important to get right that an experienced sound person is a crucial member of the team. The audio recorder should always be setup from scratch to ensure that all settings are correct for the situation you are trying to capture.

Light Your Subject Correctly

There is a traditional lighting setup used for interviews called three point lighting. This setup involves a key light which is the main source of light pointing at the subject. If you have the luxury of seeing the person before the interview you can choose which side of the face to put the key light. You can complement their features by looking at the subject’s face and casting shadows to compensate for any asymmetry.

You may also use a fill light to balance out the amount of light falling on one side of the face and a back light which will help them to stand out from the background. Once you have mastered this technique it is possible to innovate, experiment and chop and change lighting setups to get across the desired tone for the interview.

a photo of a studio lighting setup

The DOP or lighting camera person should know the story and tone of the interview prior to arriving on location so they can design their lighting to suit the message you’re trying to deliver to the audience or the mood we want to evoke.

Often in corporate interview situations, you don’t have much time to set up your lighting so knowing how and where to put lights the minute you enter a room is a valuable skill which can be gained over time.

Avoid Overheating Your Subject

The heat coming from the lights is also a factor to consider. In small offices, especially in the heat of the summer or foreign locations, you don’t want your subject to feel uncomfortable or to sweat profusely, so choosing a location and lighting setup to suit will be essential.

Before filming make sure that you are aware of the availability of power sockets and the amount of current that can be drawn from them (film lights often draw a lot of current and may blow a normal ring main if too many are on at once).

Position Your Cameras

Typically you will use a two camera setup for interview filming. This allows you to cut from a wide shot to a close up during the edit. The advantage of this is it lets you edit the dialogue without the subject jumping position within the frame.

Sometimes you can position the cameras so they are filming the subject from the same angle and other times it will make more sense to position them roughly 30 degrees apart so one gives you a portrait shot and the other gives a three quarter angle view of the subject.

Produce The Key Messages

It is often important for the subject to deliver key messages within the interview. There are two approaches that can help ensure that they deliver the appropriate dialogue, each with pros and cons.

Approach one is to use an autocue. This allows the subject to read from a screen whilst looking into camera. The eye line will remain correct as they are looking through a piece of mirrored glass. The downside to this approach is that unless the interviewee is a seasoned professional, it may come across as stilted or fake as the person will cleat be reading lines.

The second approach allows you to get around this problem by giving the person bullet points that remind them of the key messages. Their dialogue will remain natural but the downside is that their eyes may be seen to flick to one side of the camera as they read the bullet point which may be held up on a sheet of paper by an assistant.

This is also distracting for the audience so the best overall approach is to keep the message short and for the subject to memories the dialogue and key messages – this easier said than done, which is why we stay firmly behind the camera!

If you need a professional interview video which will deliver your key messages, then we would love to talk with you. Call us on 020 3637 1467 or use our contact form below.

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