Production: How To Do a Conversational Interview

An interview can be an integral part to any video production, especially in documentary. There are a few different interview styles that you can choose from to include in your program, and one of these is the conversational interview. A well known example of this is "Inside the Actor's Studio," where James Lipton interviews famous actors about their craft. What makes this form of interview unique is that the interviewer is just as prominent as the interviewee.

Have a Great Host

You're obviously interviewing your subject because they're interesting, but if you're going to do a conversational interview, then you need to have a great interviewer/host. You need someone who is personable and lively, otherwise you'll end up with a boring and flat interview. Remember, the interviewer is just as prominent as the interviewee. If this person is not personable, then you're interview will end up being very dull.

Have More than One Camera

You're going to need at least two cameras to pull off a conversational interview: one that will be covering the interviewer and the other covering the interviewee. Ideally, you want to have three so that the third camera can cover the wide angle master shot of the interviewer. But, if a third camera isn't available, it is possible to pull off with just two. 

Find a Great Location to Shoot

Because this is a conversational interview, you're going to be seeing a lot of the area you're working in. It doesn't need to be a visually perfect location, but it should still look nice. The location should also be quiet because you're sound recording is extremely important for an interview. If you can't clearly hear what the people are saying, then the interview is a failure.

Light a Wide Area

You're going to need a larger lighting package for a conversational interview because you're lighting two people instead of one. Work the fact that you're lighting two people at once, and try to make the lights work double for you. One person's key light can be another's backlight in the same set up. Be smart with your equipment. Try to have everything you think you might need there, but be conservative in what you use.

Use Lavaliere Mics

When recording the audio for a conversational interview, try to use lavaliere mics on each person so that you have their distinct audio on two separate channels. It will leave you with a cleaner sound track when you edit the piece later on.

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