How to Prepare for an On-Camera Interview

An on-camera interview can be the core thread of a compelling narrative, used to break down a difficult concept, or add an important voice to a story. Here’s a look at how to prepare and what to expect.

How to Prepare

The purpose of the video will determine whether you need to know the questions or answers before filming starts. If you’re trying to convey a carefully crafted message, a script and teleprompter can help keep things on track. If the goal is to get personable and candid insight, an improvised approach can be the way to go. With all things in filmmaking, the story and content is going to dictate the style, tone, and techniques used.

If the subject matter requires a script, it’s a good idea to practice reading it aloud. You’ll often notice that by speaking, you’ll naturally find where the writing feels clunky. Try to keep your sentences concise and conversational.

Whether you have a script or not, don’t worry about making mistakes or making changes to your answers the day of. Sometimes it’s easier to change a line than to fumble over a difficult passage.

What to Wear (And Not Wear)

The most important thing is to make sure you’re comfortable and to choose something that matches the tone of the video.

Having said that, there’s a few choices that you should try to avoid, if possible. Clothing with very fine patterns (pinstripes, gingham, houndstooth, polka dots, etc) can sometimes confuse cameras. Solid colours are often the safest choice.

Avoid fine patterns, if possible.

What to Expect On Set

Lights, camera, microphones! Let’s take a look at what these pieces of gear are achieving:

Lights: Unless the video benefits from a candid documentary-style or the interview is outdoors or has great natural light, you can likely expect there to be one or more lights. They may be small and portable, or they might be part of a more elaborate set-up including stands, bounces, and diffusion. No matter the scale, they’re there for the same reason – to make you look your best.

Camera: The camera is what’s capturing all of the magic of the lighting. There may only be one camera, but a common interview setup will have two cameras to get two angles to make for a smoother edit.

Microphones: There are two common types of microphones that may be used: a boom mic and a lavalier mic. A boom mic, commonly called a shotgun mic, is a microphone that will likely be placed above you. A lavalier microphone is a small mic that can be clipped on your shirt, or hidden underneath your clothing.

Along with these three things comes a crew of operators to make sure everything runs smoothly. As always, the scale of the shoot determines whether that crew is just one person, or if it’s a small team.

A typical interview setup with lights, an overhead boom mic, and camera.

The Interview

The production crew will let you know where to sit or stand and who to direct your answers to. Depending on the style and goals of the video it may be a member of your team, a director, or a host asking you questions.

Every video is different. In some styles, it’s common to hear the questions being asked (news, doc, radio), and in other styles the answers may be self-contained and edited.

Whether the interview is 1-minute or 1-hour, don’t hesitate to gather your thoughts, to practice a tough sentence, or to take a sip of water. It may feel like the pressure is on, but taking a moment to yourself can be the best way to get things back on track.

That’s a Wrap!

Now that your job is over, all that’s left is for the crew to pack up the gear and call it a day. Nice work!

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