Video Tutorials

Section 1

How To Develop A Story

A six step video guide to get you to your first interview

Part 1 - Research: 

When searching for experts to interview it is important to be well informed about your topic.  Before speaking to someone, do a little research about who they are.  Demonstrating your knowledge about their work on this issue will impress them, and make them much more willing to assist your project.

Part 2 - Conducting Background Interviews:

The first interview you will conduct on this project will be a background interview. This is an interview which will enhance your research by allowing you to speak to an expert on your topic.  When you first reach out to someone for a background interview you should let them know a little bit about your topic, ask them open-ended questions, such as "what are the key ideas I should consider as I research this story?"

Part 3 - Asking Effective Follow-up Questions:

When you conduct your background interview, and any future interviews, it is very important to ask follow up questions.  These are questions that do not appear on your official list of questions, but instead you come up with on the spot in response to something your interview subject has said.  The goal of most follow up questions is to encourage an person to elaborate on something they have said.

Part 4 - Organization:

Now that your group has researched your topic, and you have conducted a background interview it's time to start organizing all this information.  It may help to create a few shared folders where members of the group can store information they find.  This could include news articles, lists of possible future interview subjects, notes on interview selects, even graphics or clips you may want to use later.

Part 5 - Setting up Interviews:

Armed with research, and your background interview with an expert on the topic it is time to start setting up more interviews.  Try to find someone who has dedicated themselves to the issue.  Some issues may involve conflict or opposing sides, in these cases try to find individuals who can represent each side of the issue.

Part 6 - Conducting Interviews:

Don't robotically follow the questions your team has developed, remember this is more of a conversation than an interrogation.  Repeat back what people say, when they say something interesting or thought provoking ask them to elaborate.  The more engaged you are the more relaxed your interview subject will be, and you will be more likely to get effective, usable soundbites for your final film.

Section 2

Video Production: Basics


Module 1: Where to Place Your Subject

It is very important to think about where you place your subject in relation to the camera, and in relation to the location where you have chosen to shoot your interview.

a. Don't film people with their backs up to a wall.  

b. Don't put your interview subject too close to the camera, or too far from your interviewer.  You want them to feel comfortable during the interview.


Module 2: Filling the Frame

Look through your viewfinder, and ask yourself whether the image looks good or if it just looks sloppy.

a. Fill the frame with your subject, don't allow lots of blank space, known as "negative" space to distract viewers from your interviewee.

b. Ensure that everything in your frame is contributing to the look and feel of your film or reinforces an important concept.  If something is distracting, or does not contribute to your film in any way, then reframe your shot so that it is excluded.


Module 3: Wide Shots, Medium Shots and Close-ups

When framing your shot you should decide which type of shot your are trying to achieve.  Ask yourself what the goal of this shot is.  

a. Wide Shot: reveals more of the location of the interview.

b. Medium Shot: the standard interview framing.

a. Close-up: a more intimate and personal framing.  Which can be effective for more emotional or powerful parts of an interview.


Module 4: Backgrounds and Mergers

Having a pleasing background, that reinforces an idea in your film can be very effective.

However, beware of mergers.  Sometimes an object in the distance goes unnoticed during a shoot, but when reviewing the footage later you notice that the object appears to merge with your subject.




Module 5:  Picking The Right Seating For Your Interview


This may seem trivial but what you choose to have your interviewee sit in can have a big effect on your interview.

Avoid chairs that swivel, or are on rollers.  Some filmmakers choose to have their interviewees stand up, as this can add a sense of urgency to the film.  However, having someone stand for a 45 minute interview can be asking a lot.  So pick something that is stable, comfortable and quiet, and is also not visually distracting


Module 6: White Balance

To a video camera sunlight looks blue and most indoor light looks orange.  Use the white balance feature on your camera to balance this out, this will greatly improve the look of all your shots.


Module 7: Setting Focus

One of the most common mistakes in student films is out of focus shots.  Sometimes a shot looks perfectly fine while you are filming, however, once the image is shown on a larger screen even slightly out of focus images become very apparent.


Check back soon!

We will be adding more videos to Section 2 throughout the year.


Section 3

Advanced Video Production

Interview Technique: Part 1

Scouting A Location

There are two types of scouting that happen before you shoot at a location.

"Location Scout"  This is where you search for potential locations for your shoot.  On a location scout you want to find out if the location fulfills the aesthetic needs of your movie, it also gives you a chance to find out about logistical limitations at the location.

When we say aesthetic needs, this is simply evaluating a location to determine if you will be able to get the look and feel you want for your film.  Logistical limitations means looking into the limits of the location, where will your crew park? How long will you have at the location? Are there restroom facilities available for you to use?  How long will it take you to reach the location?  

"Tech Scout" The tech scout refers to when you visit a location to evaluate the technical needs of the location.  This means evaluating whether or not you will be able to bring in your own lights, or if you will use natural light.  On a Tech Scout you also check for possible sound interference, for example ask whether or not a room has "zoned AC".  This means determining whether a room has it's own heating and cooling controls, which will allow you to shut off noisy systems before you being shooting.

The Location Scout and the Tech Scout can occur at the same time.   For most of your interviews you should ask for an hour beforehand for you to evaluate the location and begin setting up equipment.  Also, certain elements of the location scout can be covered by just asking in advance, issues such as parking, travel time, and how long you  will have at the location can easily be sorted out with a simple phone call.

 When you get to a location leave your equipment in your production van, truck, car, or school bus.  Introduce yourself to the person in charge of the location, and ask if it is ok if you look around for a good place to shoot.  Once you have found a suitable location begin moving equipment in.  On larger productions location scouts and tech scouts will happen weeks before shooting begins.  This is because with a larger production many more variables must be taken into account before a location can be approved.


Advanced Video Production

Interview Technique: Part 2

Choosing a background that helps tell your story

In the above video you will see some real world examples from actual interview shoots.  Notice how every element in the frame in some way reinforces the story the filmmaker is trying to tell.  


Advanced Video Production

Interview Technique: Part 3


This tutorial will give you a crash course in the basics of three point lighting.  While there are many rules to how to light an interview, rules are meant to be broken.  Think of this as a jumping off point, once you get the basic three point lighting technique down you can start experimenting by shifting your lights around a little.  It is ok to create a different look, the key thing is to ensure that no matter how unique your lighting set-up is you keep it consistent from interview to interview.  If your lighting set-up changes drastically with each interview your interviews will all look like they are from different movies, and your final project will feel disjointed and amateurish. 


Section 4

Additional Materials from Other Websites

A collection of links to video tutorials from other websites.  

These links will take you off of the Civic Life Project website, and the videos have not been produced by CLP.

Basics of Cinematography

By Film Riot

Basic Lighting Set-up

By Andyax

Shoot Like A Pro Series - Interview Basics

By Sony - Professional USA

The Art of the Interview

By FilmSkills

A Guide to Basic Filmmaking

By Jamesy Dub Productions

Cinematography Learn from a Master

Hugh Fenton