Interview question

Discussion in 'Professional Video Production' started by MCL, Sep 14, 2003.

  1. MCL

    MCL Guest

    I've been looking at videotaped interviews for a while now, I've have
    one to shoot next week and I've never done that before, and I have a few
    questions:

    On the more recent interviews I've looked at, I've noticed that the
    camera is zooming very close on the subject face (I guess it could be
    called a "mug shot") and always cutting the top of the head. Is that a
    new fad or a new rule maybe? Or maybe I should just plainly ask: Why are
    they doing that?

    Another shot that seems to be a favorite is the above the waist shot,
    but some camera operator seems to go out of their way to avoid filming
    the hands. If I chose a shot like that, are the hands to be avoided and
    why?

    In older footage I've watched, mostly from TV shows from the 50s, the
    interviewee is mostly shown from head to toe, but I'm wondering if this
    was not due to heavy equipment that couldn't be moved easily and poor
    zoom lens more than anything else; I'm I right?

    More importantly, if I don't follow what seems to be the norm now and do
    my own thing, would I ruin the chance of the documentary ever being
    broadcasted? (I'm especially annoyed at the "mug shot" thingy, now even
    more so than before, and I'm not sure I could bring myself to shoot
    something like that).



    Thank you for your time.
     
    MCL, Sep 14, 2003
    #1
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  2. MCL

    DaveNZ Guest

    [snip]

    As it happens I accidentally published an unfinished interview
    tutorial today (doh!). I've whipped it into a presentable state but
    it's still a bit rough and lacking in some areas. I'll try to finish
    it in the next few weeks. Anyway, it might answer some of your
    questions:
    http://www.mediacollege.com/video/interviews

    -nzdave
     
    DaveNZ, Sep 14, 2003
    #2
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  3. MCL

    MSu1049321 Guest

    << I've noticed that the
    camera is zooming very close on the subject face (I guess it could be
    called a "mug shot") and always cutting the top of the head. Is that a
    new fad or a new rule maybe? >>

    This is not a "new" thing, this is the signature style of the granddaddy of
    interview shows, "Sixty Minutes". And if you want to copy a style, copy from
    the best. Watch how they break down their shots, with the sound off. Take
    notes. Look for where the frame line breaks on the body: is it at the elbows?
    the nipple line? the collar bone? Other places?

    Notice how they use the rule of thirds, Like Ansel Adams, to place the points
    of focus in the shot at the intersection of a grid... draw a tic tac toe
    pattern on the screen with your mind, see if you don't notice the most
    important details concentrate near the intersection points in the frame. If you
    frame the hands out of some of the shots, you then can cut to later close-ups
    of them being wrung in the edit as a cut-away alternative to a 'noddy' or other
    interviewer reaction shot. Though that's a bit of a cliche'.

    The tighter framing really concentrates attention on the mouth and eyes, which
    is where the most visual information in a person's expressions comes from...not
    the hair. When you want to know if someone is lying, or you want to really
    "get" their emotional state, this is the shot you want. You cut off the top of
    the head, but you keep the eyes on a line across the upper third of the screen,
    the mouth in the lower third. You can occasionally lose the chin, but that's
    tightening it a bit too much... this is an especially intimate emotional space,
    and you don't want to keep there too long, or you "wear out" the shot's impact.
    This is the shot you want to wind up on after you've started wide, and
    tightened up on the cutaways as the emotional message builds. Adjust your
    pedestal height so we don't see a lot of nose hair.;-)

    When I started at my place of work, years ago, the camerawork was often
    performed by engineers doing double duty. Engineers who had no aesthetic sense,
    they weren't hired for it. Their idea of a "good" shot was that it be
    well-exposed, within limits on the scope, show at least 2 feet above the top of
    the head, and like pointing a rifle, they would put the crosshairs of their
    viewfinders right between the eyes of the guest, dead center, as if it was a
    firing squad. I had to introduce them to the concept of 'look space', and had
    to force them to cut off the tops of heads in extreme closeups, and they
    resisted this at first.
    "Look-space" means when you frame the person speaking, you pan a little towards
    the side they are looking at, so there is more space in front of them then
    behind them. Same as if they are walking across your frame and you're tracking
    them: unless you're trying to reveal a stalker sneaking up from behind, you
    show little of where they've been, and more of where they're going, what's in
    front of them.

    In the tight closeup, you also use look space to offset the face a bit. The
    crosshairs go on a cheek, to one side of the nose or the other, depending where
    they're facing. The eyes stay on an upper-third line, from person to person.

    I glanced at the video school web site mentioned in this thread. I have a
    suggestion:

    When you're shooting lots of interviews on the street, and you have two schools
    of opinion coming from the people you interview, I find it makes a subtle,
    positive difference to have all the folks with opinion "A" face in one camera
    direction, say, screen right, and the ones with opininon "B", face in the
    other, screen left. When edited, you get a nonverbal subtext in the shots that
    helps keep the opinions distinct. Conversely, if they all agree on the answers
    to the questions, they can all face the same way. How do you find this out
    beforehand, from people you've never met, so you can put the reporter on the
    correct side of your camera to get the guest's eyeline facing the right way?
    Simple. You ask a general qualifying question or two while "checking the
    microphone";-)
     
    MSu1049321, Sep 14, 2003
    #3
  4. MCL

    David McCall Guest

    --

    That would be an "extreme closeup", vbut some would call it a TV closeup
    because you have to get that close to get to "life size" on a small TV.
    As for the framing. There is a little rule of thumb that I came up with
    (although I doubt that I am anywhere near the the first), is to put an
    imaginary dot in the middle of the screen, then think of the nose as
    a pointer, and frame such that the nose points at that dot. You may
    think of that as your starting point in framing a shot. You will want to
    vary from that framing, but only after you consider it and find a reason
    to alter it. The extreme closeup is not a new invention :)
    Hands can be very expressive, but sometimes distracting. You sometimes
    need to frame wider than you would like, to leave enough room for the hands
    to wave around. It usually doesn't look very good to have the hands coming
    in and out of the bottom of the frame, so the compromise is to either leave
    plenty of room for the hands, or go close enough to eliminate them.

    The video equipment of the 50s & 60s was VERY heavy, but I don't know
    if that would have had that effect on framing. Zoom lenses were not comon
    in video until the late 60s. In fact the early zoom lenses were called varifocal
    lenses. They could be changed to diferent focal lengths, but they would have
    to be refocused with each change. In the 50s and most of the 60s TV
    cameras had a turet that would typically hold 4 different lenses. There was
    a handle on the back of the camera that allowed you to rotate the the turet
    to select the desired lens. I'd have to say the head to toe approach had
    more to do with style than equipment.
    You must develop your own style.

    David
     
    David McCall, Sep 14, 2003
    #4
  5. : On the more recent interviews I've looked at, I've noticed that the
    : camera is zooming very close on the subject face (I guess it could be
    : called a "mug shot") and always cutting the top of the head. Is that a
    : new fad or a new rule maybe? Or maybe I should just plainly ask: Why are
    : they doing that?

    I see that mostly in local news and on 60 Minutes. Personally I like to
    see the subjects hair. I generally frame people from the nipples up. If
    they're talking about some thing really emotional, then I might go in
    tight.

    It depends on the subject matter. For example, if the story is about cars,
    shoot the subject standing by their favorite car and shoot it wide.

    Feel free to be creative. There is no set formula or rules. Do whatever
    looks good to you. No one is going to say, "I'm not going to air it
    because you did some thing creative."

    -Brian
     
    brian a. henderson, Sep 14, 2003
    #5
  6. MCL

    DaveNZ Guest

    On 14 Sep 2003 14:28:23 GMT, (MSu1049321) wrote:

    [snip]
    Hey that's an interesting suggestion - thanks.

    I've been working for the same station for a number of years now and
    recently I realised I've become stale. That's partly why I decided to
    get motivated and revamp our poor neglected tutorial website, and also
    to get back into newsgroups. Already I'm finding some of that old
    enthusiasm returning. It's great reading how other people think and do
    things. Don't know why I ever stopped doing it.

    -nzdave
     
    DaveNZ, Sep 14, 2003
    #6
  7. MCL

    Kevin Guest

    Hey man,

    This is BEAUTIFUL. I flipped through it this morning and I bookmarked it..
    very nice stuff.

    I'll read it in detail later...
     
    Kevin, Sep 15, 2003
    #7
  8. MCL

    DaveNZ Guest

    Hey thanks!
     
    DaveNZ, Sep 16, 2003
    #8
  9. MCL

    nuttin Guest

    here's an interesting link regarding your notions of what makes it into the
    language of interview shots....it's by someone who does visual anthropology.
    http://astro.ocis.temple.edu/~ruby/opp/1stqreport03/methods.html
    when the person who answered you said that you could
    they were/are in error....there is a set language that defines what we see
    and why we see it that way....people don't often "get it" if we show them
    something new; then the picture becomes the point of the interview, not the
    content of the interaction.
     
    nuttin, Sep 18, 2003
    #9
  10. : here's an interesting link regarding your notions of what makes it into the
    : language of interview shots....it's by someone who does visual anthropology.
    : http://astro.ocis.temple.edu/~ruby/opp/1stqreport03/methods.html
    : when the person who answered you said that you could
    : > Feel free to be creative. There is no set formula or rules. Do whatever
    :> looks good to you. No one is going to say, "I'm not going to air it
    :> because you did some thing creative."
    :>
    : they were/are in error....there is a set language that defines what we see
    : and why we see it that way....people don't often "get it" if we show them
    : something new; then the picture becomes the point of the interview, not the
    : content of the interaction.


    I don't normally respond to stupid responses, but for some reason this
    one really irked me. This article you site is basically the ramblings of
    an anthropologist who tried to become a film maker and failed miserably at
    it. Since it seems to be a pretty obscure article, I'm going to make the
    giant leap of assuming you wrote it.

    A good interviewer knows how to make his subject comfortable and get the
    desired information in spite of the lights and technical stuff. I shoot
    interviews by my self all the time. If you feel that lights and such are a
    major issue, you can still usually find a way to work with available light
    and yet make a visually decent picture. The trick to good interviews is to
    get the subject to forget about all the technical stuff going on around
    them and to focus on the conversation with you. When some one gets up
    and you have to stop them from walking away with your lavaliere mic' on,
    you know you've done a good job of that.

    "Audiences must be trained to examine the quality of the ideas portrayed
    and to regard the intellectual contribution of a work as being primary and
    to stop assuming that pretty pictures are the most important element. I
    truly believe that ethnographers cannot produce what the film industry
    calls a 'good film' and also produce a work that is good anthropology."

    Sheer unmitigated bullshit. You are simply just an incompetent
    videographer. Stick to radio, or better yet, print. I constantly deal with
    reporters and producers who simply don't understand the medium they work
    in. It is a VISUAL medium. It requires good pictures, especially if you
    want to get it broadcast. These people simply don't belong in television.
    I'm not saying they're idiots or any thing like that. They just shouldn't
    be working in this medium. One can be a great painter, another a sculptor,
    yet they're both artists.

    I guess what vexed me most of all was that I felt you told the orrigional
    poster that he could not be creative and furthermore, you didn't offer any
    advice as to what he should do. You gave him no help what so ever.

    I have ten years of experience shooting interviews and events (news) for
    broadcast. When I suggest some one to take some creative liscence, I'm
    speaking from experience. It sounds to me like your issue wasn't that you
    tried to be creative, because photographically you didn't. Your problems
    were mainly technical issues that you didn't have the experience or skills
    to deal with. Sure the ideas are what should be the focus of any academic
    endeavor. However in television, the pictures are just as important.

    If you knew much about working in vedography you'd know how much stuff is
    shot by one man bands these days. Especially with DV. Stop whining about
    not having a sound guy or a production assistant to wipe your buttox.

    Yes there is a language to film. Good enters from the left, evil enters
    from the right (except in Japan), etc. However, this is a flexible medium
    and once you know the rules, you can make your stuff more interesting by
    breaking of bending some when it makes sense to.

    "I stood at the entrance of the center buttonholing people, asking if I
    could film them going through the process. Most said yes." Later, "I
    fantasized that the next one would be the 'perfect' client who would say
    and do all the right things." All the right things? Aren't you being
    overly subjective for an anthropologist? You want them to say what you
    want to hear, to reflect your point of view in your film. That doesn't
    sound at all objective to me. You're also working from a skewed sample
    population... Perhaps that's ok for anthropology. I have a psychology
    degree and that wouldn't fly in that world.

    Have fun making your intellectually stimulating, but visually DULL AS HELL
    ethnographic films. Perhaps I'll see one screened at one of our many
    local universities some day.

    To the orrigional poster. Be creative, please. If this guy is the future
    of television, I may as well smash my lens.

    -Brian
     
    brian a. henderson, Sep 19, 2003
    #10
  11. MCL

    MSu1049321 Guest

    The reaction to that hyperlink was so violent, I was intrigued and read it. As
    a Chicagoan, I question the sanity of an "ethnographer" documenting African
    Americans in Qak Park... this is like looking for whites in Compton or Harlem.
    I won;t criricize futher than that, as I have no formal schooling in this
    discipline, but i have a lifetime's experience in video and have to say the
    author's facts are wrong and many of the premises are faulty. The writer
    doesn't even 'get' the film American Family... it was not originally about the
    divorce, or the kid coming out, none of those things were known or anticipated
    by anyone at the beginning of the project, but evolved during the course of the
    shooting.

    I have to say from reading the web link, my impression is the author is trying
    to make up reasoning and excuses to explain a summer wasted fiddling badly with
    a camera taping home movies of friends. I would grade it D.
     
    MSu1049321, Sep 19, 2003
    #11
  12. : "Audiences must be trained to examine the quality of the ideas portrayed
    : and to regard the intellectual contribution of a work as being primary and
    : to stop assuming that pretty pictures are the most important element. I
    : truly believe that ethnographers cannot produce what the film industry
    : calls a 'good film' and also produce a work that is good anthropology."


    I love how he concluded that because HE couldn't make a decent film on his
    first try (and who can?) that it must be impossible for ANY ONE in his
    field to make a good anthropology film at all. He must have the biggest
    ego in the whole world. I also loved how in his post he basically said,
    "here's an interesting article you should read" when it was probably his
    own work. The wordiest 'what I did on my summer vacation' essay ever! :)

    Oh well. Enough raging on the poor guy. Does any one else have some
    constructive advice for the orrigional poster?

    I say don't worry about the 60 Minutes look. The shows I like best both
    visually and content-wise are Frontline and Nova on PBS here in the U.S.
    That's who I want to work for some day. Also watch the network news and
    magazine shows like Nighline.

    If there is some thing you can do to make your interview interesting like
    a different angle, framing, location, composition, go for it. As long as
    it's appropriate for the topic. Don't put a guy in a clown suit to talk
    about funerals, but do take him out of his office and interview him next
    to a casket, or in a cemetery. Don't put interview subjects right up
    against the wall. Set them up in the middle of the room with some thing
    interesting in the background, or in a place where you can add some depth
    to the shot. Try to make sure the background will work out for wider and
    tighter shots if you intend to change that during the shoot. If you light
    it so that you can shoot at a low f-stop, the background will be slightly
    blurred so it won't be as distracting. I think some one already mentioned
    that if your subject is lit about a stop brighter than the backdrop,
    they'll stand out more. You don't want to make them so brightly lit that
    it looks like you interviewed them in a dark room. Frame them with look
    space, just a bit off center facing the emptier part of the screen. Heck,
    make sure you've got clean audio and a good white balance and you'll be
    fine. :)

    -Brian
     
    brian a. henderson, Sep 20, 2003
    #12
  13. MCL

    nuttin Guest

    No...it wasn't my work. I know the person who did the research. He's
    talking about doing VISUAL anthropology (creating a research project and
    findings that gets expressed visually, rather than in print). I'm talking
    about the anthropology of VISUAL COMMUNICATION, which is not exactly the
    same thing. The original poster asked if they were to do something that
    might be creative in some sense, would it get "broadcasted?" And, maybe it
    would, but would others "get it?" How long does it take before the
    "creative" becomes the language of the "normal" or "usual?" This is one of
    many questions that can be asked.
    Your points about what the researcher was doing in Oak Park interviewing
    black people missed the point of his research. He wanted to know IF Oak
    Park -- as a community, an organism -- had a process of developing and
    maintaining diversity. This researcher was explaining his methods and how
    he went about obtaining the interviews and what sort of control he gave his
    participants in the process (asking to stop filming, veto over content,
    etc.) My guess is that you read his explanation as babble about unimportant
    issues and a lack of technique/technical expertise, which he says is so.
    However, what technique should be addressed is another topic. For example,
    how video/film gets assembled and edited plays a bigger role than doing the
    filming.
    Personally, I think in the language of video and image and being the "star"
    that most people just want to see themselves onscreen, or on the tube, and
    don't think about whether or not they're being accurately represented. That
    would be the anthropological question I would want to explore.
     
    nuttin, Sep 20, 2003
    #13
  14. MCL

    Alan Lloyd Guest

    (snip redux)

    Even as writing _about_ visual presentation, that stuff was truly
    clumsy and poorly structured. This is what's going on in academia
    these days?

    (Quoting "nuttin's" referenced article...)

    Utter BS. Good science _can_ be presented well. Would you like some
    sources to explore?

    Even if they are not your words, "nuttin", citing them does little if
    anything to enhance your case.

    Has this guy ever heard of Discovery or NatGeo? Or for that matter,
    any one of a good number of very well-presented _academically_based_
    scientific presentations, either in thye various broadcast media or on
    the internet?

    Attempts to equate quality content with poor presentation are roughly
    similar to claiming inarticulateness as a virtue. Bad idea.
     
    Alan Lloyd, Sep 20, 2003
    #14
  15. MCL

    nuttin Guest

    Um...yes; he would be doing something different from mainstream media stuff
    such as Discovery and NatGeo. His audience, however, has been trained on
    output like those aforementioned programs. He's making reference to the
    fact that programs such as those you find comparable (peferable?) to what
    he's attempting to do may be the reason that his audience finds they don't
    want to look at the evidence; they want the pretty picture. That's doing
    anthropology visually. (his product would fall under the "creative" in
    terms of not being "mainstream") My point is to raise the issue that
    mainstream product (Discovery, etc.) conform to a set of ideas, forms, a
    language of video or film, etc. I look at the product anthropologically.
    Ergo, if the person who wants her/his work broadcast wanders outside the
    lines, what's the likely outcome?
    BTW, academia may contribute to programs such as Discovery, but not all
    academics agree with every premise in every program; it's called a healthy
    debate. TV makes the debate go away to present a narrow picture.
    Inarticulateness is in the mind of the beholder....
     
    nuttin, Sep 21, 2003
    #15
  16. : No...it wasn't my work. I know the person who did the research.

    My apologies then for directing my wrath at you. It would not have been the
    first time some one had made a post saying "look at my stuff, I'm
    brilliant!"

    : He's talking about doing VISUAL anthropology (creating a research project and
    : findings that gets expressed visually, rather than in print).

    An interesting concept since one could actually whiteness the subject's
    interactions rather than read about them, but I still think he was being a
    winy egotistical twit.

    : I'm talking about the anthropology of VISUAL COMMUNICATION, which is not
    : exactly the same thing. The original poster asked if they were to do
    : something that might be creative in some sense, would it get
    : "broadcasted?" And, maybe it would, but would others "get it?" How
    : long does it take before the "creative" becomes the language of the
    : "normal" or "usual?" This is one of many questions that can be
    : asked.

    I guess it depends on what you consider creative. I heard about a
    performance artist who had a public access show. One episode was half an
    hour of him standing naked facing a wall on which they'd chromakeyed a
    tight shot of his but. Would that fly on your typical TV network? Probably
    not, even if it was J-Lo's but. However, one can still be more creative
    than others within the confines of of the accepted visual language of
    video and film. Also, one can push the envelope and perhaps add to that
    language's lexicon.

    If I recall correctly, the original poster was asking if he had to shoot
    his interviews 60 Minutes style. The answer to that is a resounding NO. I
    told him to feel free to do some thing different, use more relaxed
    framing, perhaps a Dutch angle, to shoot it in an interesting location,
    include a relevant background, whatever. I was not suggesting he chromakey
    the subjects but behind them (unless of course it's a film about
    proctology). :)

    -Brian
     
    brian a. henderson, Sep 21, 2003
    #16
  17. MCL

    DK Guest

    So you present the evidence without care for the "pretty picture"?

    A poor presentation is the fastest way to get someone to not pay attention
    to your case.

    Anyone who has been on a debate team, or taken a public speaking class,
    should know this.

    Anyone who has written a college English paper should know this.

    Anyone who has listened to a dull, boring politician should know this.

    Anyone who has had a bad attorney represent them in court should know this.

    Although people might care about the subject matter, a poor presentation
    will leave them disinterested, at best. Too bad of a presentation and you
    actually can turn people against you.

    Imagine: This professor goes into a college lecure hall to talk about his
    subject. He dresses shabbily, shoes untied, socks not matching, shirt
    partially tucked in, partially hanging out, hair unkempt like he just got
    out of bed. He carries his notes in a briefcase that they are sticking out
    from even before he opens it. He pulls out his notes, a sloppy, disorganized
    pile of paper, and begins to address the students. As he does so, he
    enunciates poorly, he can't pronounce the words, he slurs his speech,
    sounding drunk, and he loses his place, having to spend 2 to 3 minutes
    searching through the disorganized pile of paper trying to find his next
    point. The speech he presents has no introduction, and no logical ordering
    of the main points.

    Now, what will the reaction be?

    "They should listen to the message and not worry about the presentation" is
    nothing more than an excuse for sloppiness and mediocrity. If you REALLY
    care about the subject, you will go out of your way to insure that it is
    presented well. Poor presentation tells the listener (or viewer) that you
    don't really care about the topic - and if you don't care, why should they?

    Now, I know very little about anthropology. But I will make a bet - you pay
    the expenses, and tell me exactly what you want done, and I will produce a
    video that will be interesting while also informative. If I can't deliver on
    this (based on direct comparison of audience reaction), I will refund DOUBLE
    my usual production fee. However, if I DO deliver, you will pay me double my
    usual fee.
    Someone who knows what they're doing CAN wander "outside the lines" and
    still make an effective presentation.
    Only if that's what the director chooses. You can present any picture you
    want, if you know what you're doing.
    Another excuse for laziness. "If you don't understand me, it's YOUR fault."


    I'm not surprised that this is what our colleges and universities are
    turning out today. After all, when little Johnny says 2+2=5 and the teacher
    passes him on "because he's trying very hard", we create a culture of
    mediocrity by rewarding failure and punishing success.
     
    DK, Sep 21, 2003
    #17
  18. MCL

    MSu1049321 Guest

    This stuff about nonconformity is all fine and good, but, in any professional
    endeavor, it's [email protected] zfirst, you learn the rules and understand them before
    you go breaking them. The author suggests we just throw stuff against the wall
    and see what sticks. That's totally ineffective. There is a big difference
    between what one personally finds interesting and what you can make another
    person watch and believe is interesting.

    I have a synthesizer at home, an old analog model. For grins some nights, i put
    on the old cans and start blooping and bleeping and tweaking away at random
    stuff that sounds like a diseased whale ate Wendy Carlos while munching on
    Phillip Glass. I think it's cool at the time. It's personal and interactive. I
    can even stand to listen to m,yself noodling like this off a tape for a while.
    Then I tune in the local college radio station on avante-garde night, and some
    bozo is doing basically the same thing as i was for over 20 minutes, and it's
    frigging awful, I can't stand it for thirty seconds... i tune out, come back to
    the station a few minutes later, can't stand it, come back.. until it's gone.
    it should have been as fascinating to me as my own stuff... but it could never
    be. To get really scatalogical about it, your author thinks his farts don't
    stink, but everyone else's (the industry) does. I submit he's living in a
    sollipsistic bubble.
     
    MSu1049321, Sep 21, 2003
    #18
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