How to Location Scout for an Interview

We shoot a ton of interviews and our clients don’t always have the budget to take us along on location scouts, so we get this question a lot. The first thing to consider is whether you want to be indoors or outdoors.

Indoor Interview Location Scouting

  • Indoor interviews are typically more efficient
  • Look for a big room
  • Look for a quiet room
  • Don’t worry about lighting
  • Look for a room with visual appeal
  • Send pics to your production company
  • Lower the A/C in anticipation of turning it off while shooting

Indoor interviews have several advantages, the first being that circumstances can almost always be more controlled than outdoors. That helicopter or grounds crew or gaggle of loud geese (this is real and it’s interrupted my shoots more than once) is no longer a factor indoors so if you need to maximize your limited time with a subject, it’s typically best to go indoors.

Indoor interview example
At a gym shoot we had various setups that showed the interview subject in their natural environment.
Indoor interview example
Utilizing natural lighting with a window.

Look for the biggest room possible so you can get some separation between your interview and the background, which produces that nice soft background look that will engage viewers. Next, stop what you’re doing and listen. If there’s an air conditioner that kicks on every 12 seconds and sounds like a jet taking off it’s time to move on. This will ruin your audio and distract viewers, and there’s almost nothing you can do in post production to fix it. Same goes for people who might be walking by; they will ruin good takes and it’s often hard to divert them so it’s best to find a room without a lot of nearby foot traffic.

Don’t worry too much about lighting because your videographer should bring a lighting kit that can work wonders with bad fluorescent lighting.

Next, take that big, quiet room list (usually a short list) and narrow it down by visual appeal. A big window can be great, but it can also mess with the camera’s exposure if it’s cloudy and the light is waxing and waning in the middle of a good take. An interesting background is always nice, and can typically be accentuated with a little lighting. Try to find anything but a blank wall. As a professional videographer, blank and boring background walls with no other options are what keep me up at night.

When you find a handful of options, it’s best to send pictures of them to your production company so they can point out potential pitfalls and plan for what level of lighting is going to be necessary.

The day of the shoot, make sure you crank down the air conditioning in the room ahead of time so you can potentially turn it off when you start shooting and it’s still a comfortable temperature for the interview.

Outdoor Interview Location Scouting

  • Weather is a factor
  • Consider the lighting
  • Scout at the time you’re going to shoot
  • Find a quiet spot
  • Find a spot in the shade
  • Try to get some separation between the subject and background
  • Darker backgrounds are better than lighter ones
  • Send pics to your production company
Outdoor interview
Outdoor interviews are their own separate beast and separate concerns need to be addressed before undertaking.

 

 

 

Outdoors! Who doesn’t want to be outside? We’re in offices all day, wouldn’t it be nice to shoot our interviews outside? Well, it could be, but there are some big things to consider. First of all, temperature. If it’s 4,000 degrees outside (which it often is when we’re shooting video during a Florida summer), your subject is going to be way too uncomfortable to formulate sentences, and they will sweat like it’s their job.

Next consider the light at the time you’re going to shoot. It’s best to location scout at the time you’re going to be shooting so you know where the light is going to be. If that’s not possible, consider using an app like SunSeeker to figure out where the light will be. You typically want to be in shade if possible. It’s going to be more comfortable for the subject because they won’t be squinting as much (videographers want the light at their back to get light on the subject’s face, which puts the sun in the subject’s eyes) and they won’t be as hot. Another important point for staying in the shade is that your great take won’t be ruined by a cloud. If the camera is exposed for sunlight and a cloud comes through, that bit of video is almost certainly not going to be usable.

Consider the noise level. Noise is almost always more of a factor outdoors, so try to limit it as much as possible. Foot traffic, auto traffic and even animal traffic can be seriously time consuming because every take that gets ruined by external noise means you have to start over on that question. Put it this way, if I had a few bucks for every time I’ve had a take spoiled by outdoor noise I wouldn’t be writing this post right now because I’d be sitting on an island somewhere sipping a margarita.

When you’ve found your spot in the shade, try to find an interesting background that’s a little darker than the spot your subject is going to be sitting. If you can bounce a little light off a reflector and onto the subject’s face while the background stays nice and dark the subject will command the viewer’s attention like nothing else.  If you can also  find a spot with a little separation between the subject and background  you can get that soft focus look on the background and you might just win a daytime Emmy. And don’t forget to send some quick pics to your production company.

Consider these points and you’re well on your way to a successful shoot, but remember there can always be bogies that come up, which is why it’s important to have an experienced camera crew that knows how to punt when the time comes. We’ve been shooting interviews for years and we would love to hear more about your project. Don’t hesitate to contact us for a quote or to talk about your project.