Filming tips

Filming tips

On this page you’ll find advice on using a video camera to record your interviewee. Remember, even if you only want to have audio in your final digital history, you can still use a video camera to capture the interview and just use the audio part of it.

Set up your camera

  • Choose a quiet space, ideally with natural light and a background without distractions. This doesn’t mean you need to have a blank wall behind your interviewee – an interesting background can add to the story.
  • When filming your interviewee, put the camera at eye level and get in close. Move the camera closer, rather than zoom in.
  • Follow the rule of thirds and place your interviewee in the left or right third of the frame rather than in the middle.
  • Avoid horizontal lines if you can. For example, if there are horizontal blinds, don’t use them as a backdrop, because they get distorted on camera.
  • Use a tripod.

Light your interviewee well

  • Position your interviewee so there is ample lighting on their face without it being too harsh.
  • The ideal lighting setup is to have natural light coming from the side.
  • Avoid backlighting. Sunlight, windows, water reflections etc behind the subject will create a silhouette and you won’t see the subject’s face.
  • Avoid front lighting, which will shine in the subject’s eyes and make them squint.
  • Consider using a reflector to bounce light into the person’s face – even a white piece of cardboard will do.
  • Watch this video lesson on how to light your subject, which also explains how to set up lights if you don’t have enough natural light available.

Capture clear sound

  • Get in close to your interviewee so the camera’s microphone can pick up sounds. Ideally, use an external microphone and hold it just out of frame, or clip a lapel mic onto your subject’s shirt. Be sure clothing doesn’t rustle against the lapel mic and create noise otherwise you won’t get any usable sound.
  • Watch this video lesson on how to capture good sound.

Conduct your interview

  • Sit next to the camera as close as you can, and ask your interviewee to look at you rather than at the camera.
  • Try to give silent feedback when interviewing. For example, don’t respond with “that’s interesting” when your interviewee says something. Instead just nod your head and use facial expressions to respond. You won’t be able to use a clip if you’re talking over what your interviewee is saying.

And remember!
Check your equipment to ensure everything is working before you go to the interview. Make sure you have the necessary batteries and/or power and memory cards, etc.