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-   -   Not Micing the Off-Camera Interviewer? (https://www.dvinfo.net/forum/all-things-audio/100632-not-micing-off-camera-interviewer.html)

Peter Moretti August 5th, 2007 06:56 PM

Not Micing the Off-Camera Interviewer?
The typical setup will be one or two people responding to questions asked by me off camera.

I intend to exclude my questions from the final cut, unless absolutely necessary; so I'm wondering "Why do I even need to mic up?"

In those cases where I want keep the question, I can dub in my voice during post-production. I know that's not ideal, but I don't have to accurately synch my voice with my mouth since I'm never in the shot.

The benefit of not micing myself would be to free-up a track for extra coverage with a boom, or to mic an additional interviewee.

Another alternative would be to record myself on the same track that the least talkative interviewee is on, and as soon as I'm done asking my question, turn my mic off. (I'm not sure how this will affect recording levels.)

Ty (I believe) mentioned this second approach, but I'm wondering if there are any nuances I'm too ignorant to realize, and also would it be vialbe to just not micing myself at all.

(FWIW, I'm planning on using a SD 302 mixer recording double to a Sony HDR-FX1 and a SD 702 recorder.)

Thanks very much guys!

Bill Davis August 5th, 2007 07:57 PM


It kinda depends on how disciplined an interviewer you are - and how "interactive" the interviewee will be.

My experience is that "ask a question then shut up and listen" works best for professional respondents like PR folks, and media reps who are schooled to answer in nice convenient sound bites and won't need a lot of ACTIVE encouragement by the interviewer.

In my experience, this style isn't usually the best for "civilian" interviewees without much on-camera experience.

Sometimes the best way to get usable sound bites from the inexperienced is to actively GUIDE the interviewee - and sometimes that means a real dialog where, in the middle of my question, they might suddenly they pop up with the start of a useful answer. Then no matter how quickly I clam up, it's enevitable that I'll step on the respondent a bit. That's just the rhythm of a good active conversation.

I personally like being able to choose to either isolate their response - OR use both parts of the conversation if including the question helps the audience understand things better - and that typically means I mic myself as well.

Just my approach, you might be more comfortable working in a different style.

Dan Brockett August 5th, 2007 09:07 PM

Interviewing style
Bill, very astute observations. After interviewing thousands of non-pros, it can be really fun to work with pros like some of the ones I have been lucky enough to work with. You can also make up some of the "whoops, I stepped on your line or you overlapped with mine" by just staying organized and re-asking the questions or by even "editing" the answers.

I usually let them finish their answer, even if it's long but then I will follow up with, "could you just give me the part where you said, "XXXXXXX", your answer was perfect but I want to make sure that I have that one line/paragraph clean". This will not usually fluster non-pros as long as you keep reassuring them that their answers are great and they are giving you exactly what you are looking for in their answers. They key is re-assurance, low pressure and patience.

Realistically, doing interviews is like panning for gold, you are mainly concerned with finding the "nuggets" most of the rest is dumped back into the stream. I would say that typically, in a short form doc format, if I interview 8-12 subjects, each subject ends up being used for perhaps 1-2 minutes combined so if I shot an hour interview with them, the vast majority of their stuff ends up on the cutting room floor anyway.

OTOH, when I have interviewed higher profile people like Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, Jack Valenti, Ed Zwick, etc. I typically only have them for a very limited amount of time, sometimes as short as 15 minutes so I must be a LOT more specific and selective although I still use the same techniques of "editing" during the interview to make sure that I get soundbites my editor can use. Usually people who have been on-camera a lot don't have a problem with this, they know that I am trying to get soundbites from them that will make them appear intelligent and thoughtful. It can be tough when they relate anectdotes simply because those stories can be tough to use without hearing the entire story, which often will just take too long or I will not have b-roll and supporting material to cover the anecdote visually.

Being a good interviewer is a real skill. I have shot interviews as a camera operator for terrible interviewers and it makes me wince to even think about how bad some of those interviews have turned out. Interviewing is really just about listening and thinking ahead of what the subject is responding to. As the interviewer, it is up to you to guide the conversation where you need it to go and to make sure that you are obtaining the soundbites you need and that the tone of the interview is what you need.

I have a lot of respect for great interviewers like Dick Cavett, Howard Stern (you may or may not like him as an entertainer but when he is interested in a subject, he is a very accomplished interviewer), David Letterman as well as people like Bogdanovich. A lot of it depends on who you are interviewing and how you want to use it, there have been some great confrontational interviews I have seen, but outside of broadcast journalism, you generally don't want to pxss off your subject.



Peter Moretti August 5th, 2007 09:21 PM


Originally Posted by Bill Davis (Post 724027)
...Then no matter how quickly I clam up, it's enevitable that I'll step on the respondent a bit. That's just the rhythm of a good active conversation.

I personally like being able to choose to either isolate their response - OR use both parts of the conversation if including the question helps the audience understand things better - and that typically means I mic myself as well.

Bill, do you put yourself on a separate track or are you on the same track as the interviewee?

And if it's the same, do you toggle your mic on and off to eliminate any camera noise or rustling that might be coming from your position when you're not speaking?

Sorry for all the questions, but I'm recording to only two tracks (doubled to the HD camera and a recorder) so I'm a little freaked over mixing the various miced sound sources into only two channels.

Bill Davis August 6th, 2007 01:20 PM


Separate tracks. I want the interviewee isolated.

One on one interviewing is a form where lavs usually work better than a boom - close micing with lavs helps supress audio bleed between the channels.

The exception would be "serial interviews" where you set up somewhere and have a parade of interviewees coming in all day. Then a boom approach will save you a lot of time and grief by eliminating micing and dressing cables over and over again.

But the key, as always isn't the gear - it's the RELATIONSHIP you establish with the person you're interviewing. The real goal is to get them to forget the equipment and just TALK to you. Then you can help them express themselves well by guiding the converstaion.

Good luck.

Peter Moretti August 6th, 2007 03:48 PM

Thanks for that Bill. May I ask how you'd handle two-on-one interviews (with the interviewer off camera) recording to two tracks? Something's gonna have to get mixed together, AFAICT.


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