Camera Placement and Gear Overview
Once you've had an opportunity to listen to your location and look how the lighting is, you have to figure out where you want to put your cameras and your camera angles. Now, again, this is a beautiful space because I have a lot of space and I can use a variety of lenses. I like to use longer lenses when I do an interview. People tend to look better. It also allows me to control the area that's behind them. If I use a nice wide-angle lens because I'm in a small space, I might see this whole room and that's going to give me a much different vibe. So, I'll look at this space and I'll see where do I want to put my cameras, what is important in the shot to send the message that this is this person's environment? Do I want to show their whole office space? Do I want to really just focus on them? So, I'll make decisions on where I'm going to put my cameras and my lights based upon the story that we're looking to tell. So, I really like this space here, the couches are really nice. I'll proba...
bly use this, but we're also talking about some crafts in this interview, so maybe I actually want to go to the table. So, instead of having the people sitting here where it could be a little more stilted, a little drier, I might actually do the interview standing up with the person next to the table so they can show the items that they're working on. It's a whole different vibe and that's something you need to consider when you're telling the story, when you're deciding how you're going to shoot the interview and where you're going to position your cameras. Now, another thing to keep in mind is what's in the background. We tend not to see things we don't want to see when we walk into a room. So, if I looked at this space and I said, "Wow, this is great," I might not notice things such as this huge white wall that I have here. And if I put a camera so I'm looking in this direction where I have beautiful stuff all around, I have this dull, white wall and that's going to come and bite me. So, I have a couple of options. I'll think, "Well, maybe I'll throw some lights on there. Maybe I'll dress the background." I notice that I have this great metal door and it looks like it's on a slider, so I would actually ask the client, "Is that something that we can slide over to fill that space?" Maybe it's not. Maybe if they open that door, there's a giant stargate and people are going to come through. So, we have to be careful about what we move around. In addition, I want to keep things in mind such as switches and plugs so that if I'm zoomed in on the person, there's not a bunch of electrical equipment over their shoulder. It's often good to bring a camera with a zoom on it so you can actually see the kind of angles and shots that you want to get. And all of that is very important when determining your camera placement and how you're going to use the environment. One last thing to keep in mind, if you are doing an interview and you have an over the shoulder or a reverse angle shot, you have to take care of what's on the other side of the room. So, this room looks beautiful over here, but if we turn around, we can see over there there's a huge office space and that's not going to be pretty. So, keep in mind, 360 degrees and get in your head alternatives if something doesn't work. That's how you should scout out a room for your camera positions. Now, I'm ready to actually start positioning my cameras, setting up my lights, and looking at some gear that I'll be using and gear that you can be using when doing interviews. And a lot of it's relatively inexpensive. As a matter of fact, you probably have some of this gear already, you're just not thinking that this would be something that you could use to augment your interview. So, the first thing when I'm working with this space is, where am I going to put my cameras? And I decided that in this area over here, I want to be able to shoot our interview subject, Blair. And even though you normally would have the table further away in real life, I need to compress this space because that way, I don't have huge gaps when people need to lean over. It feels a lot bigger sometimes when you're shooting, so I'm going to bring the table closer to the couch and I'm going to use...this is my interview chair and I'm going to bring that in closer. And I know for a fact that I normally wouldn't like to use a chair like this, but I like it aesthetically even though this is not the kind of chair that you would want to put somebody in because they could slump. As an interviewer or if the person's being interviewed, you'd be leaning in. So, that's the space. Now, once I have this space set up, I have to figure out where I want to put my cameras. So, my primary camera I'm going to use, and as a matter of fact, I set this camera up. This has an external video monitor. Actually, this is a video monitor and a recorder, so it gives me a much larger image. It's nice to bring one of these to the set. You can get these inexpensively, a couple of hundred dollars for a basic monitor that's just a confidence monitor all the way up to a couple of thousand dollars for a monitor that is broadcast-ready as well as a recording situation. So, I like this. You'll notice also I am dealing with the sounds still, there's this banging, and I'm going to be sensitive to that. If I have to do the interview in this noisy environment, I'm going to make sure that I record some ambient sound without anybody talking so I can add a bedding underneath and it establishes the fact that we're in a warehouse. And that's okay as long you establish where that noise is coming from. So, my first camera, I'm going to go ahead. I'm going to bring it as far back as I can. I like to use really long lenses, and then I can zoom in and that's going to tighten the space. If I shot this camera from this angle using a wide-angle lens, I'm going to pick up a lot of extra area in the background. Using a longer focal length, I have a smaller space that I have to worry about behind my talent. Less space to confuse the viewer, less space to light if I need to. So, once I have this in position, I'm going to figure out where I'm going to put my other cameras. And as a matter of fact, I'm going to put the other camera across the room and that's going to give me a over the shoulder shot of the talent and me as the interviewer if the interviewer's going to be in the shot. If the interviewer is not going to be in the shot, I would use that second camera probably over here to get an alternative angle. If I was doing the interview, I'd wait for that noise to stop. That's one of the tricks. You can always stop, pause, ask the question again. Be sensitive to the sound that's going on when you're creating the interview. Another trick that I do is you can shoot high-def, but a lot of cameras now will shoot something called "4K," ultra-high-definition. And I like to shoot my interviews at 4K because it affords me the opportunity to reframe the image in the post-production. So, this camera is not going to be recording just a close-up of our subject, it's actually going to be recording a two shot at ultra-high-definition. And then, I can go ahead and crop in for the close-up, giving me two shots from one camera. Also, if they say something more dramatic, I don't have to worry about zooming, especially if I'm a one-man band. I can actually do that push, do that zoom in the post-production process. So, that's the idea with the cameras. Once I have the cameras here, I'm going to figure out my lights. Now, this space has great ambient light and I really want to leverage that because it's pretty. So, I'm going to go ahead, and instead of keeping the curtain closed, I would take the curtain and open it up and this just really brightens the room. There's curtains over there. I might open up everything, giving me a lot of light. However, the downside of all this light is that it's very flat. So, I could bring in a couple of additional light fixtures to enhance the scene. So, I may go ahead and put in a small LED on my talent and that's going to give a little more definition because they'll have a stronger key light and my ambient light is my fill. I also, because of this environment of a brown couch and a brown wall, I may want to put a backlight on my talent to give a little bit of a light curl to give some separation. And I think that's what we're going to do in this set up, is we're going to work with two additional LEDs just to give it a little more depth and a little more punch. So, once I have all my lights set up, I want to show you some of this other gear that you may already have. And some of this gear is...most of this gear is relatively inexpensive that you can use to augment your interview shoots. Because even if you're only one person setting up a couple of static cameras in other parts of the set, it can give you an option for cutaways or if you need to do something with, you know, we have to make a cut because the person stumbled or there was sound. Having a second angle to cut to is very advantageous, just make sure that the second camera has a different focal length than the first because you don't want to cut from medium shot to medium shot. So, let's take a look at some of the gear that we can work with. I'm a big fan of using stuff you already have, and smartphones and iPads are great, especially if they have outlived their usefulness or you bought a brand new one and it's not worth selling back. As a matter of fact, this is an old iPad and I put it in a mount. This is a nice mount that I got, and what's cool about this is I can mount the light on here, an LED that runs off of batteries for a few hours, I can put an external microphone on, and I can even change lenses. I can put on a wide-angle, or a close-up, or an anamorphic lens. And I have this great, huge screen that I can then see and shoot with. I can go handheld, this is really nice if you're at any kind of an event, say, a wedding or a conference and it's really run-and-gun to get that interview. You can hold it a lot steadier, and you can even record 4K on these iPads and your iPhone. So, keep in mind, that's something you might have that you can leverage. Also, small tripods are really great. I could set this up as an alternative to a camera across the room if I want to be able to have a backup wide shot. Audio is very important. As a matter of fact, it's the most important thing when doing an interview. If you can't hear what the person is saying, then it doesn't matter how pretty it looks. So, in addition to using maybe a mic that's on the camera, it's important to get quality audio. A lot of times, I like to record my audio with something called "DSS," dual system sound. So, I'm recording just audio with an audio recorder and I can place this close to the person. I could even plug in a lavalier and now I get clean audio because if you're recording the audio off your camera, you could be picking up your fingers moving, the focal length if you're zooming in, if it's a motor, you would hear that. And also, the microphone built into cameras are like a little pinhole, so it's worthwhile to invest in either a second audio recording device, or if you want to save a little money, you can use an old smartphone and buy a lavalier mic that is designed to be plugged into that smartphone. And usually, they have about a three-foot length. This would be great. I could turn on the recording, and there's a variety of applications that are free that you can download as recorders, and put it in the person's pocket, and then clip on the lavalier. If I wanted something longer, you can get lavaliers for...this is maybe six, seven feet long so I can run it across the room so I can control the start and the stop. These are relatively inexpensive. You can get these between anywhere from $20 to $80, $90, and this will improve your sound dynamically. When dealing with sound and audio, it's important to take advantage of a pair of headphones you might have at home. You want to make sure that you can listen to playback and hear that that sound is clean. The last thing you want to do is think that you're getting good audio and maybe the mic is not plugged in and you were getting buzzing, or maybe the mic wasn't even working or wasn't even recording. So, always bring a good set of headphones. It's good to have a closed set of headphones as opposed to the kind that come with your phone. You want to be able to isolate the sound so you can hear if there's any problems. Another important thing to keep in mind are camera supports. And they come in all shapes and sizes and they're relatively light and small. I like this. I can screw in a small pocket camera and clip it to something. I always carry very small tripods. Stable images are the most important thing when doing an interview or capturing any footage. And there's a variety of toys out there. This is nice, it's able to put this onto uneven areas. I can put in a strap and hang it on to a tree if I'm going to be interviewing a monkey. Lots of fun stuff. As a matter of fact, this is a great little gadget and it's a stabilizer. You don't need a $20,000, $30,000 Steadicam. I can go ahead and mount a regular-sized camera, a pocket camera, or even a smartphone and the stabilizer will allow me to get very smooth shots. All I have to do is turn it on, it will find the stable point, and there I can get a very smooth motion if I wanted to do the interview handheld. Now, don't think this is very expensive. As a matter of fact, you can get these anywhere from, like, $250, maybe even down to $200 for a smartphone or a GoPro, and if you have a heavier camera, it might go up to $500 or $600. But it's pretty affordable to get that really nice, smooth footage that you might want to get. When it comes to also shooting on location, I'm very sensitive to what my light is doing. Now, they are very small lights as you see here, the small LED. Light is very important when I go on location. As you can see, you have these small LEDs. They're relatively inexpensive. You can get them anywhere from $100 up to, say, $300, $400. The nice thing is they run all day on just a few batteries. You can change the color temperature, they're portable, they're easy to throw into a backpack. You can even get small lights. This is kind of a small focusing light that I can mount on top of my setup. Things to keep in mind, bring a little bit of extra light. It doesn't have to be a big unit, it doesn't have to be very expensive. When it comes to light, I also like to bring a reflector. This is kind of a nice little reflector I like to bring. It's dual-purpose. On one side, it's a reflector so I can bounce light if I need to, and on the other side is a grayscale card so if I'm shooting with multiple cameras, I can shoot this and then it's easier to color balance two cameras to each other because I have this grayscale card. When I'm dealing with sound, another thing I like to bring is some sort of sound blanket or sound deadening material. This is some duvetyne. A great thing that works for sound blankets are actually moving blankets, those things when you go move from your apartment to another apartment, or an apartment to a house, or wherever you're moving. Those are inexpensive. They're great. I can throw them on the floor to absorb sounds, I can throw them against the window or even to an air-conditioning system that I can't necessarily turn off. So, understand that you can bring something small that can help you absorb sound. Another way I like to control light, and this is a great bang for the buck, everybody should be able to have this in their kit, is if I have a strong light coming in and I want to diffuse it, this is a six-dollar frosted shower curtain. And I can just hang this up in front of a window and now I have really soft, controllable light coming through. I like to carry this in my kit. And, finally, I want to show you another trick that I like doing. And, I have these little pocket cameras and they range in price, but maybe you have one just for a vacation. Think about using this also as an additional camera on your shoot. So, this will be my primary camera and I'm going to go ahead and shoot this as probably a medium shot or a close-up. I can leave this camera as a wide-angle. And now, when I roll both of these, I'm actually getting two different shots from the same position. Also, if I go handheld, I can zoom in on specific objects with the larger camera and keep this one as a wide shot, so now, I have both wide and close. Great for getting some B-roll on a run-and-gun environment. Last but not least but probably most important is batteries and cards. You should always bring plenty of batteries. You don't want to run out of juice in the middle of a shoot because you didn't charge your batteries or because you didn't bring enough. And also, make sure you bring enough memory cards because, again, if you fill up your memory cards, you can't keep doing the interview. So those are some of the things that you can bring into play. And remember, it doesn't have to be expensive. It could be things you already have. The idea is think about what you can leverage to give you more bang for the buck when you're shooting an interview.