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Old May 26th, 2009, 10:03 PM   #1
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about camera placement for interview

When interviewing a subject, is it better to place the camera at 6:00 and have the subject look slightly to the side or is it better to have the subject look straight, and but the camera at either 5:00 or 6:00. I'm trying to get this technique down, but I still seem to be off with the look. Any thoughts?
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Old May 26th, 2009, 10:07 PM   #2
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Well here goes. It depends. Hows that for an answer.

Serioulsy, while I prefer in most cases for the subject to look slightly off camera (look at 7 camera at 6 for instance) it depends on what the producer wants. Some want straight on, some want the talent to look so far off it hurts, but if I'm not producing then it's up to someone else. Put it this way. If you have control over it, then do what YOU think looks best and would be most effective. If you're not the man on the shoot go along with what the man wants but maybe gently suggest doing it your way as well.
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Old May 26th, 2009, 10:12 PM   #3
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Is there an industry standard? I just dont seem to be getting quite the right look when I do this.
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Old May 26th, 2009, 10:19 PM   #4
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Is there an industy standard? I just dont seem to be getting quite the right look when I do this.
if there is one I haven't seen it in 25 years. nothing really "in writing" so to speak. Watch the TV news magazines sometimes. Even though they might be using 2 or 3 or even 4 cams most times the interviewer and interviewee are looking slightly off camera HOWEVER I've seen plenty where they are looking dead on into that big red light.
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Old May 26th, 2009, 11:19 PM   #5
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Every set up can be different, depending on the effect you're looking for but day in and day out:

If you have the subject framed on the right side of the screen, looking left, place the interviewer/reporter to the left of and just behind the front of your lens, close enough to the camera so that, if you suddenly panned hard to the left, you'd whack them in the ear.

That keeps the sight lines just about right. Of course, it can also make it so you have to stand in a somewhat contorted position, but such are the sacrifices we endure.
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Old May 27th, 2009, 02:26 AM   #6
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Who's he talking to?

If the subject is answering questions posed by an interviewer "just off camera", then have the subject look "just off camera". If the subject is explaining something to the audience, have the subject look at the camera.

BTW, I've noticed that in dramatic films (where an actor almost never mugs the camera), the amount he looks away from the camera almost always depends on how tight the shot is. For example: for a medium shot, he might look 2 feet to the side of the lens; while for an extreme close-up, he might look only 2 inches to the side of the lens. In other words: the closer the shot, the more intimate the mood, and the more intimate the actor can be with the camera.

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Old May 27th, 2009, 05:02 AM   #7
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If you have control over it, then do what YOU think looks best and would be most effective.
Okay, here's my pitch - influenced heavily by the two DoPs I studied under aeons ago (Alex Flury, Marc Westcott, thank you):

Lighting: whether it's clockwise or anti-clockwise, it's Camera (6), Interviewer (7/5), KeyLight (8/4).

Continuity: If you know who you're interviewing and what their stance is, I tend to separate interviews into 'gamekeeper' and 'poacher' so all gamekeepers face one way, and all poachers face the other way. If I'm grabbing vox pops, I'll mix up the backgrounds and try to even out 'thisways' and 'thatways' according to the background.

Interviewer can start off in two shot, but should work with cameraman so that the interviewer is next to camera. You can get noddies (real or faked) afterwards. I have gently tugged inexperienced interviewers by the shoulder during a take to put them next to the camera. I have drawn a smiley face on my palm for intervewees to talk at.

Presenters talk to the audience - looking directly into camera. The presenter is having a conversation with YOU. The person who looks at you is your representative within the Magic TV Box. Note that this is confrontational or intimate. It's powerful, so your audience is going to either 'love' or 'hate' that entity, roughly speaking, in the same way that dogs and other animals do.

Contributors look to the Presenter (usually off camera). You, the audience, are listening in to a conversation and can take a more dispassionate, open view of what is being said. You, the audience, are not engaged in the situation and are an invisible witness.

One of the 'laws' I learned for factual video is that 'the audience must always be able to see both eyes'. Two up profile shots can be a good establisher, but they're tiresome and unfulfilling to watch for any length of time.

As time goes on, so the laws change. In the 1980s, jump cuts were anathema in the UK, and there was a strong sense of derision for 'the American cut' - a 5 or 7 frame dissolve to shorten an interview where there's no cutaways. Today, cuts in monologue are almost expected - I watched 21 last night, and only on the second pass with the commentary on did I notice the 'cut-cut-cut-cut' pace of a sequence. We, the audience, assume that the editor has simply 'trimmed the fat' off the delivery.

In the world of web video, this is desirable - every last gramme of fat is taken out with a precision laser. But the fat sometimes has the flavour - the spaces between comments, the beats between lines. Watching any film over 15 or 20 years old and you can feel that fat and it it's almost a guilty pleasure. Today I'm asked to get rid of every 'uhm' and 'err' - IN VISION!

Oh, but the nurse says I must rest now and the crayon needs sharpening. Rant over.

BTW, watch for contributors who usually present - it's very hard for them to stop the reflexive glance to camera. This can be very conspiritorial and great fun if you've got an opportunity to break the fourth wall, but usually it ends up making a trusted spokesperson look like a startled rabbit.

On a completely different note, and whilst the nurse can't find me, I am having to consider a wretched matte box 'codpiece' for my EX1. It can take time to get an experienced contributor to warm up to smaller cameras - I had a job last week with a TV 'semi-star' who was unintentionally flicking their eyes at the camera for the first few takes. From his NVC, all I could hear from him was 'do I take this seriously, or do I just blab and get out of here?' Big matte box, big fuzzy mic on a stick and he'd have done a one-taker even though the interviewer was obviously on her very first job.

PS: regarding the importance of seeing both eyes - and mouth for that matter - consider this experiment:

YouTube - Head spin trick

We are but animals with simple visual stimuli. Easily fooled, but very sensitive to the things we care about: faces - eyes, mouth, wrinkles and folds.
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Old May 27th, 2009, 05:37 AM   #8
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A common practise is to sit the interviewer close to the camera, so that the interviewee's eye line is close to that of the camera. This works especially well in the C.U.s when the interviewee's eye line can appear more "disconnected" for the audience if the interviewer is further away from the camera . Perhaps not the same as in drama when the actor may have to act to a taped "X" on the camera's matte box during the C.U. to avoid this effect, but it's effective.
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Old May 27th, 2009, 08:59 AM   #9
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Thanks for the input evryone, its been very helpful.
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