Again and again people ask how many cameras are actually useful to shoot an interview with video. This article explains the way to the correct answer with a checklist.
Is it advisable as a sign of appreciation or for quality assurance purposes to take top shots at C-level (CEO, CFO, COO, etc.) for a management video as opposed to employees or the rest of the cadre for testimonials in a video production with more than one camera? If so, how many cameras are needed?
Do two cameras for a video interview make it easier to “trim” a possibly poor performance of the boss in front of the camera afterwards in the image editing?
You need to know that
- The number of cameras can only be determined by the question of the desired effect of a video.
- Equally decisive, if not more important, is the question of who is in front of the camera.
- Too much technology can intimidate or even overwhelm a person during a video statement.
- Film-technical tricks (rerecording, B-roll) are always at the expense of authenticity and naturalness.
How many cameras does an interview with video need?
How many cameras should ideally be used to shoot a video interview is a question that was probably first asked in 1886, immediately after the invention of the film camera. Until today there is only one correct answer: It depends!
No one gives orders to the fabulous Cary Grant. You just put him in front of the camera and leave it up to the viewer to identify with him.
The camera lens is the eye of the spectator. All the answers for the production are derived from it. Perceptive psychology, content and technology. For the first time this sounds more complex than it really is for an interview with moving images.
Checklist “how many cameras?”: 7 questions
Every decision about an interview with video and the question of how many cameras to use always involves answering seven basic questions first:
- What should the interview or statement achieve?
- Does the person bring along experiences from comparable tasks?
- Should this person look the viewer directly in the eyes as in a personal interview?, or
- Is the interviewee speaking to a third person?
- Is this third person visible or invisible to the viewer?
- Should I as a viewer feel the statement dynamically-moving or statically-controlled?
- Does the interviewee’s agenda allow for a preliminary discussion and more than half an hour of shooting time?
The correct answers to these questions always depend on the type of key messages to be conveyed. A checklist for a video statement should be discussed with the film agency or production partner.
2 tangible reasons
In addition to soft factors for determining “how many cameras?”, there are also a number of tangible reasons that determine the number of recording units required for a video interview during a shoot:
1 Can and will
It’s not just about wanting to, but also about being able to. The question of how many cameras an interview with video requires has considerable consequences for production costs. But also on the later image processing. In addition to the rental costs for camera and sound equipment, there are always transport and insurance costs. At the same time, specialists are needed who have a thorough command of today’s high-tech equipment for image acquisition, both from a technical and a design perspective.
Logically, two cameramen cost more for a testimonial than just a video camera and only one operator. The synchronization and editing of two image sources is more complex.
Therefore, where the available production budget is restrictive, there is no need to discuss how many cameras are required.
2Form follows function
A corporate film is 99% about transporting content and emotions. As a rule, the key message is conveyed exclusively via a person who appears in front of the camera and speaks, possibly supplemented by graphic elements or clips.
The cinematic form must therefore be subordinated to the content. The focus is on credibility and comprehensibility, not staging.
Therefore, a second camera only makes sense if it does not dilute these two factors, but rather amplifies them from the perspective of the receiver.
Situational shooting is the ability of the cameraman to shoot with a camera from different angles during an ongoing interview. Situational shooting is an art that only very few cameramen master. How many cameras are used also depends on this ability.
Example: The CEO is interviewed by a TV editor. A cameraman is present, who pans back and forth between the editor and CEO depending on the question and answer. The cameraman has to decide exactly where the camera is looking at any given moment. This is because the actions and reactions of the interviewer and interview partner only become apparent in the concrete situation.
In this case, the cameraman must therefore
- check the image with the eye and
- determine the framing,
- to anticipate the reactions of the two interlocutors simultaneously and as far as possible in anticipation, and
- parallel in the head, make sure that a camera panning shot does not appear mechanical and unnatural, and that the right person with the right reaction or action is always seen.
Keep in mind:
If the intention is to see two persons, questioner and answerer, in the picture, the simultaneous shooting from two camera perspectives is the smaller risk. They are not much more expensive for the budget than the exceptional cameraman’s talent, which can simultaneously record two amateur actors.
Learnings from practice for the question “How many cameras?”
When preparing the briefing and determining the budget, it is advisable to think about the other points that may be equally critical for success in addition to the 7 essential questions and hard facts listed above.
The following practical tips can serve as a guide for these further questions on testimonials and for communication and marketing with moving images:
A Technology is a means to an end
Technology is only a means to an end in an interview with video. Not an end in itself. Also when it comes to the question of how many cameras are required on the set. Content does not become more attractive by using several camera perspectives.
How it is shot is less important than the content. The targeted use of B-Roll Footage can usually compensate for a multi-camera shoot effortlessly.
BVideo Equipment cannot do magic
The assertion that the use of two or more recording units at the same time would allow a poor performance to be concealed is nonsensical: a person shot from two angles is therefore no less often in the picture.
If the person is not in the picture during the interview with video, this because intermediate cuts (desk, hands) and so-called B-roll recordings are to be used, these recordings can also be generated with a camera. Shortening and sound cuts are possible with B-Roll.
CTechnique can be scary
Whoever swords in front of a camera performs better if he/she is not overwhelmed by technology (recording equipment, tripods, dolly, spotlights). Less is more with such a starting position and the determination of “how many cameras”.
What one should also consider when asking “how many cameras?”
The Filmpuls article “How video testimonials become even better with 6 simple rules” explains what types of interviews with video are available and what needs to be considered besides the question “how many cameras” when moving images are realized without a professional production partner.
D Questioner and respondent
Shooting from two or more perspectives at the same time allows the viewer to see the person in front of the lens from different angles. Or (with two people in the picture) the flowing change from the questioner to the respondent.
The angle and rhythm must do justice to the person in front of the camera and should always reinforce the communicated content. This has an impact on the composition of the team and the required shooting time (longer presence of the CEO on location) and thus also on the budget.
EYou have talent. Or not.
Many CEOs are absolutely suitable for camera work due to their experience and/or training. If this is not the case, the director has very special requirements.
With two or more shooting angles, however, the demands on the director and editor increase significantly. This also has to be taken into account when it comes to the question of how many cameras ultimately add value to interviewing with video.
Unlike before, when interviews for an interview were recorded on video on real film and every slip of the tongue had real cost implications, digital technology makes it easier to produce moving image testimonials. As punishment for this, the devil invented the teleprompter.
A teleprompter is a semi-transparent mirror that can be placed directly in front of the camera lens. It plays back the text to be spoken, invisible to the viewer. Sounds good and has been an indispensable standard for TV studio professionals for years.
TV presenters have learned this reading from a teleprompter and trained for weeks. That’s why on TV it looks as if they can recite the text by heart with ease and elegance.
But if an untrained person tries to use a teleprompter, it will almost certainly fall apart. Instead of looking into the camera and thus at the viewer, the view from right to left and from top to bottom flickers along the lines of text. All authenticity is lost. This is not an optimal condition for good commissioned films. The teleprompter turns untrained and inexperienced people in front of the camera into talking cardboard figures. Therefore: Hands off.
Further information on the question “How many cameras?”
You can also approach such tasks from a humorous side and without a checklist. However, this requires much more experience and talent. Dealing with comedy is one of the most difficult disciplines in filmmaking. Read more in the article Deborah Neininger and Jan Sulzer: On the road to success with humor
In an ideal cooperation between film agency and client, the concrete answers from the previous questions are combined with soft and hard facts and lessons learned from practical experience to form argumentatively comprehensible bases for joint planning in terms of content, editorial and technical aspects. The FILMPULS compilation The Top 10 of the most absurd commissioned films in the world shows what can happen if this is not the case.
At the same time, the procedure outlined here in the form of a checklist prevents possible misunderstandings and the suboptimal allocation of funds at an early stage. Thus, for all those involved, the result is more than the sum of the individual parts. The interview with video can fulfil its purpose in a targeted manner.
Also worth reading on the subject of camera and interview with video: Checklist for casting extras and actors for film and television and camera test of the PXW-Z90 by Sony: The wolf in sheep’s clothing.
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