Essential ingredients for shooting an interview
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Essential ingredients for shooting an interview

Author: James Cresswell | Posted on: 24 June 2021


Interviews are fundamental to many types of videos – they can be used to bring an expert’s perspective to an explainer video, or demonstrate the experience of a satisfied customer in a video case study, for example.

Filming a good interview is about a lot more than just hitting record and having a chat though. Here are the essential ingredients for shooting a top-quality interview.

shooting an interview



There are so many ways that we can create a certain mood or atmosphere simply through how lights are arranged around a subject. For an interview, the purpose of lighting will generally be to give definition and prominence to the interviewee’s face in the shot. A standard technique for doing this is known as three-point lighting, whereby lights are placed at distinct positions around the subject to illuminate them effectively.

In their introduction to three-point lighting, Vimeoreally effectively detail these three light sources and the roles they play in the process:

  • Key light: This is the main source. It shines directly on the subject, usually from the front right or front left, and it establishes the overall look and feel of the shot.

  • Fill light: The fill light provides balances to the key by ‘filling in’ the rest of the subject’s face with softer light. It should be positioned to the side that’s opposite the key light.

  • Back light: The back light creates a flattering rim of light around the subject, separating him or her from the background…”

three-point interview lighting
(Image produced by SweetCanadianMullet, available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license)



When framing your interviewee in a shot, the conventional standard is usually something like the image below – an angled view of the subject from the shoulders-up and looking, not to camera, but more naturally towards the interviewer at the side of the screen.


Depending on the purpose of your interview however, you may want to diverge a little from this standard. In the below video that we worked on with NTT, for example, we cut between the more traditional close-ups and a wider shot featuring both the interviewer and the interviewee. This creates a more back-and-forth “chatty” feel, whereas focusing purely on the interviewee will serve to focus more on establishing their expertise.

As a final point on framing, the background that you choose can also contribute a lot to what you’re trying to get across. In the video below, the background further illustrates the interviewee’s position at the Trident Honda garage – filling up space on the frame with industry awards, files, and a model Honda.



Though not part of the actual interview itself, cutaway shots can be hugely important when editing the footage together. Most commonly in interviews, these might be close shots of the interviewee’s hands gesturing while they speak; or they might be shots or images from outside the interview that serve to further illustrate what the interviewee is talking about.

As well as adding a bit of extra visual action to the screen to make the video that little bit more engaging; these shots can also be used to disguise cuts that are made in order to ensure the interview runs as tightly and smoothly as it can for the viewer.


Last but certainly not least, ensuring quality sound is of paramount importance when conducting an interview. Most commonly for interviews, we use lavalier microphones that conveniently clip onto an interviewees’ clothing – keeping the receiver facing downwards, as this helps to reduce sharp “plosive” sounds on consonants.

lavalier mic

As a means of testing the sound before filming starts, it’s a good idea to ask the interviewee a simple, casual question like what they had for breakfast. This allows you to get a sense of the volume of their speaking voice, so that you can adjust recording levels accordingly – ensuring the voice is neither inaudibly quiet or distortedly loud.

Interviews have been at the cornerstone of so much of the content that we’ve worked on at Ember – from educational videos and documentaries, to casual Q&As and testimonial videos. Through all of this experience, we’re highly aware of how important it is that these various elements – lighting, framing, cutaways, and sound – work effectively to serve a video’s overall message.

Are you interested in learning more about the content we make and how we could work with you? Feel free to get in touch with us via our contact page.

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Author: James Cresswell

James Cresswell gravatar avitar
James is our copywriter and social media manager here at Ember Television. He joined us after studying an MA programme in Film and Television: Research and Production at the University of Birmingham.
Essential ingredients for shooting an interview



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