How to: Make a Home Interview Look Good
So, you want to record an interview. You’ve picked your interviewee, arranged a time and now all that’s left is the recording bit. No problem. We got you covered. Tools you will need: computer, internet and two light sources: sun, lamp - though we bow to it, your inner light does not count.
- On your computer, download Zoom or Skype. Our preference is Zoom: it’s easy, free (yay!) and downloads directly to your desktop.
- Create a Zoom call. In the Zoom window, press the plus sign (upper left of the window) to schedule a new call. A form should pop up. Title it, set the date, start and end time anywhere in the world. Make sure you have the right time zone - it’s good interview etiquette to schedule the call in the time zone of your interviewee. Remember to click the video option for both you, the host and the subject. Press save. From there you can add it to your Google Calendar.
- Send out an invitation. There are many ways to send out a Zoom invitation. One of the easiest, in case your interviewee does not use google, is in the Zoom window, you will now see your scheduled call. Click on it, and press ‘copy invitation’. Paste the invite into an email to your interviewee. It includes a link, date and time. You’re ready to rock.
- Before the call, pick your recording space. This is your makeshift studio - it can be a corner of the house, a whole room, in the bathtub - someplace quiet. On board mics aren’t the best. They are broad, meaning they treat most noises equally. So the quieter place the better. Even if you have to film in the shower to hide from the kids. That can become a charming calling card. Don’t worry about the look of it, we’re getting to that.
- Mise en Scene. A term every film nerd knows: everything in front of the camera. Walls, props, actors, you - if you can see it in the frame (what you’re recording), it counts as mise en scene. So look at your frame with an artist’s eye. If there is anything you don’t like in there, move it. Less is more. As the interviewer, your focus should be giving the attention to your guest.
- Framing. Let’s start with the hard bit, framing. Basic framing requires you to ask yourself: is anything pulling my attention? Does my eye roll around the image without getting stuck? If not, keep moving yourself and or the camera until it becomes ‘balanced’ - ie nothing is standing out more than anything else. Some people like setting themselves up in the middle of the frame, others to one side. Film theory tells you that a frame is broken up into 1/3rds, so you should be to the side, in one of them. In this post-film Youtube era however, we say, rules are meant to be broken and the artistic preference is totally up to you. However, most frames benefit from having something both in the foreground AND background.
- You. Most faces look more pleasing if the camera is at eye level or a bit above. Experiment. You may have to lower your computer, prop it up on something or shift your seat a bit at an angle. Make sure you’re happy before starting.
- Lighting. We have Leonardo Da Vinci to thank for this lighting theory that we still use today: three point lighting. The best way to light yourself is to have three points of light. A backlight is a soft light that separates you from the background. Most likely if you’re filming during the day, the wall behind you will bounce enough light off your back to do the trick. A key light - this is your major source of light - a window, lamp etc. Ideally if you are facing North then the key light is north east - just to the side of you and a bit in front. A strong key light can create a dark side of the moon effect on the other side of your face. So the last last, a fill light is a gentle solution. It is a light source to lessen the shadows on the other side. Ambient light is often enough. If you’re filming at night, however, you may need something - a sheet of aluminum foil, a reflective jacket - anything to bounce the light for the fill light.
- Lights, camera, action. Sign on a couple of minutes early to Zoom and test out your lighting and frame. When ready, find the red record button on the lower right of the window and you’ll record immediately.
- Troubleshooting. If the internet goes, or your interviewee needs a break, Zoom offers a pause button to pause the recording, and you can quickly pick up where you left off. When you stop the recording, it will wait till your call is done to download it onto your computer.