How do you creatively stage a two-person interview with a single camera? Why not try using some man on the street style techniques with a few extra shots of noddies for added flavor?
John Fiske explained this technique best back in 1987: “the camera is … turned onto the interviewer who asks some of the questions again and gives a series of “noddies,” that is, reaction shots, nods, smiles, or expressions of sympathetic listening. These are then used to disguise later edits in the interviewee’s speech…”
Without the “noddy”, the visuals would show an obvious “jump” that would reveal where you made an edit. Let’s take a look at some of the basic tricks you can use to accomplish this technique.
THE MAN ON THE STREET NODDY
Think back to a roving reporter / man-on-the-street interview that you might see on the evening news. This video was most likely shot on location with a single camera. One of the techniques often employed when shooting this style of video is to record the interview twice. Shoot once with the camera pointing at your guest and then a second time with the camera pointing at your interviewer. The purpose behind this is so that you can record the faces of both people your video.
For the first pass at recording the interview, the camera should be placed behind the reporter with an over the shoulder view of the subject. See the first image above where I am responding to a question. While the reporter is asking a question you can take the opportunity re-frame the subject so that you get a closer view such as in the second image above. The trick is to reframe while the interviewer is talking and not the subject. A nice mix of close-ups and head-and-shoulder shots will create a more interesting video for your audience to watch. Be careful not to overdo it – keep it simple.
After the interview is finished its time to film some noddies. These are shots of the reporter simply shaking his or her head. If your guest does not need to leave immediately you can frame your shot so that they appear slightly in the video as seen in the third image above. If your guest is rushed, film the noddies without them in the shot.
Wrap it up
The final step is recording the reporter asking the questions a final time. Your guest will usually have left by this stage in the interview. Reposition the camera from the subject’s point of view and record the reporter similar to image #3 above.
In a future BLOG I will discuss camera positioning and discuss the techniques used in one- and multi-camera interview recordings.
THE NEWSROOM NODDY
You can also apply this method when you are shooting a staged video with a single camera. These could include anything from a product demo to the run-of-the-mill corporate video. For this example, lets think about an evening news set where the anchors are all facing you with their backs against the wall. In this case the subjects are usually talking to the audience rather than to each other.
A fun part of this shoot is when you tell your subjects you will need to film some noddies after the video. They will hear the word as “naughties” and everyone in the room will laugh. Sometimes it’s a good tip to mention the noddies at the beginning of a shoot so you can get everyone laughing and more relaxed before you starting recording. Nothing loosens up people in front of the camera more than some genuine laughter. You can use it as a running gag if your subjects are really struggling in front of the camera.
For this video you will want a mix of wide shots (both people on screen at once) and close-ups and seen in the previous example. You will also want ample noddies of your interviewer to help with your edit points.
Try to ensure that there is continuity in body positions as you change camera angles. The good news here is that if your subjects can’t remember their lines you can stop the camera between camera angle changes so that they can rehearse.
Thoughts on openings and closings
Stylistically, I like opening and closing the video with both people on screen so I will always open and close the video with wide angle shots. Sometimes (depending on the video and the audience) I open it up so you can see the set and lighting gear. This helps if the content is dry.
I find that people are more natural on-camera at the end of a video shoot than they are in the beginning. If this is true on a shoot, I will ask to re-record the intro. People are self-critical about how they look on camera so even if time is short they will usually stay for a re-record. Everyone wants to look good on camera and its your job to make them look the best that they can.