Camera Positions and Lighting
For A Typical Office Interview


Rather than require two cameras, two camera operators, two sets of lights, a microphone mixer and an audio person to do an interview segment, most short interviews are done in the A-roll, B-roll style illustrated below.

This approach only requires a single camera, one set of lights, and one microphone plugged into the camera.  It is even possible—although not too convenient—for a interviewer/reporter to handle everything.

A-Roll: First, the camera is set up to tape the guest answering the interviewer's questions.  Note in the first drawing that the guest is lit.  The camera position allows for both closeups of the guest and (when the camera is zoomed back) shots over the shoulder of the interviewer. Note the key light is a bit closer to the guest, making its intensity twice that of the fill light.

A back light (approximately 1½ times the intensity of the key) and a background light (approximately 2/3rds the intensity of the key) serve to separate the subject from the background and add depth to the scene.

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B-roll: Once all of the answers are taped, the camera angle is reversed and focused on the interviewer.  The mic (typically a personal mic or lav) is then moved from the guest to the interviewer.

This angle provides closeups on the interviewer as all of the questions are re-asked (but this time not answered by the guest). The questions, if not obvious from an answer given, will be edited into the interview as needed. 

These closeups and over-the-shoulder shots of the interviewer will also be used to cover edits when nonessential parts of the guest's answers are edited out. Otherwise you would see a jump cut. These shots are generally taped after all of the questions have been asked.  They consist of the interviewer nodding or (apparently) just listening to an answer.  These reaction shots are often called noddies. In a humorous interview they could show the interviewer smiling or even laughing.

It's possible to record the B-roll footage (the questions) without the guest being present.  This may be necessary if the guest is on a tight schedule.  Even so, to preserve audio acoustics and visual ambiance the B-roll should be taped in the same setting as the interview questions—the guest just won't be sitting in his or her chair and you won't be able to do any over-the-shoulder shots with the guest in the foreground.

Note in drawing #2 below that the lights have been repositioned and are now aimed at the interviewer. All of the lighting angles and intensities are maintained in their new positions. Note also that we have kept the key light source on the left, which will keep its direction consistent in the reverse-angle shots.

In linear editing two videotapes are typically used: an A-roll and a B-roll. During editing the tapes are switched back and forth as the questions and answers are assembled.  In nonlinear editing this is not necessary.  Everything can be recorded on one tape.   Once the shots are transferred to the computer hard drive, you can instantly access both the questions and answers as needed.

In more elaborate interviews two cameras, a double lighting setup, and several crew members may be used.  One camera records the interviewer's questions and reactions, and the second camera simultaneously records the guest's answers. Two mics and an audio mixer would have to be used in this case.

With either setup room tone may also be recorded.  This is done by just letting the camcorder record "silence" in the room for 15 seconds or so before or after the interview. This "silence" will just consist of the normal background sounds in the interview setting.

During editing room tone may be needed to add an appropriate pause in the audio track . Absolute silence, or no audio at all, would be noticeable, whereas room tone would naturally blend in.


© 2002, Ron Whittaker
All Rights Reserved