Taping Multiple Interviews

Would you like to feature more than one person in your next video biography? Should you videotape them together or separately? Here’s my advice.

In the two-people-shot-with-one-camera interviews I’ve seen, the subjects always look a bit uncomfortable. First, in order to make the shot as tight as possible, they’re seated very closely together. Then there’s the awkwardness that occurs when one subject is talking and the other subject doesn’t know quite where to look or what to do. From the videographer’s standpoint, you’re forced to keep a two-shot most of the time, which cuts down on visual interest. Then, when you do venture in for a medium close up or close up of the person speaking, quite often the other person chimes in and you either need to pan to try to get him/her on screen or zoom back out to your two-shot.

I think taping each interview separately is a much more elegant solution. It allows you to focus your attention, and the camera, on one person at a time. It also gives you much greater flexibility when editing. You can ask each parent lots of the same questions and then take pieces of their answers and cut back and forth between them. This is especially helpful when you don’t have a lot of visuals. I recommend shooting them at “cross angles.” In other words, if you taped your mom facing screen left, make sure to shoot your dad facing screen right. This lends to the visual interest. Also, make sure to change the setting a bit between interviews. If you want to tape the interviews in the same room, that’s fine – just move the camera after the first interview so that you have a different background for the second interview. Also, change your focal lengths during each interview. I always establish a wide, closer and closest framing with my camera person before an interview begins. Then, while I ask each question, the camera operator makes the shot wider or tighter. This way you have a variety of looks within each interview, which also lends to visual interest. Check out a short clip in the
Family Legacy Video Theatre called “Childhood Memories” to see how two people in one video can work.