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T351 Week 7 - Spring 2015


  • Interview / Lighting tips
  • Review for next week's Midterm

Reality check:

  • No Labs this week: The time is for you to work on your Interview/Feature Stories. (Tips to follow below). Please remember that these are to be exactly 2 OR 3 minutes - NOT somewhere inbetween. (1:59:29 or 2:59:29 is ideal.) We'll watch these next week in lab starting at 10 AM.
  • Lighting Exercise projects are due this week by the start of your scheduled lab time. Turn in your groups media file to the Production Lab Dropbox and your individual log/critiques to the Oncourse folder "Lighting"
  • Art Video Proposal & Treatments are due this week. Please upload your work to the Oncourse folder "Art Video".
  • Final Project Proposal & Treatments are due next week by the start of lecture.
  • Midterm Quiz during our lecture time next week.
  • The week after next:
    • Produce Art videos (the week before spring break)

Interview / Feature Story Tips

Here are a few tips to help you approach a news/feature story:


  • Research your topic & formulate the basic story approach. How will you start? How will you end? The structure of a feature story or documentary is a lot like an essay or article. You've got to start by hooking the viewers and provide closure in the ending.
  • Discuss the topic in advance with your interview subjects. They may have some info/feedback for you.
  • Schedule the taping and if possible, make a site visit in advance of the shoot. Be sure you schedule time after the interview to shoot B-roll.
  • Interviews/testimonials can be shot in interesting locations. It's best if the location ties in with the topic- but this is not always possible.
    • Where would you shoot the director of the Musical Arts Center? What would be in the background?
      • What about an ice cream vendor who works out of a van?
      • How about a local skateboarder?
  • Remember that you'll want access to the location to setup lights and audio about an hour before you start recording the interview. As you consider possible locations, keep the following in mind:
    • Is it quiet? (fans, construction, car & pedestrian traffic)
    • Consider the background behind where the interview subject will be located. Does the background tie in with subject or content, or is it a distraction? Can you position the camera far enough away from the subject to get a small depth of field?
    • Is it free from problematic lighting issues (large windows, etc.)
    • Enough room to set up lights?
    • Is there AC power for lights and other gear?
    • B-roll opportunities?
  • Discuss clothing/makeup requirements with your interview subjects. (Avoid white clothing, commercial logos, other people's intellectual property, etc.)
  • Think about and plan the B-roll - this is what makes the story interesting.

Production & Set up

  • Assemble equipment and supplies. Sample gear list:
    • Camera (+ batteries)
    • Tripod
    • SD/CF card(s)
    • Lav microphone (extra AA batteries)
    • XLR cables
    • Headphones
    • Light kit & extension cord
    • Reflector & extra C-stand
    • Releases
  • Get to the location an hour before the start of the interview. This will give you time to setup lights and audio- and also time to fine-tune it.
  • Check your recording format! (proper bit-rate, frame rate, 0 dB gain, no shutter, proper timecode, etc.)
  • Use your PA or yourself to check MCU framing and lighting. Be sure to keep your subject's focus/gaze close to the camera. (If the interviewer's gaze is too far away you'll end up with a profile.) You want to see both eyes clearly. If you see the reflection of light in the subject's eyes, your key light is in the right position.
  • Is camera level? Are there distractions in the background. Is lighting close to perfect?
  • Make sure audio is working & that it sounds good
  • Make a test recording.
  • When the guest shows up make them feel comfortable, thank them for their time, and have them sign a release form.
  • Final tweaks:
    • Check talent’s physical appearance (hair, clothing) before shooting.
    • Audio: check levels
    • Lighting: Does your subject stand out from the background by a few f-stops?
    • Is the subject framed nicely? (Strong composition following the rule of thirds with proper lead room and head room, pleasing background, nicely lit, camera level, etc.)
    • Make sure there are no distractions in the background


  • Sit just to the left or right of the camera with your eyes at the same height as the lens.
  • Don’t forget pre-roll and post-roll. (I usually just keep rolling during the whole interview.)
  • Check audio levels and monitor the recording with headphones
  • Give yourself room for a slow push in if needed. I almost always shoot at a MCU or CU with room to move into a CU or ECU. (Use a sloooow zoom in for intense emotional moments.)
  • Start recording and ask your subject to spell his/her name and title. You might need this for their lower third ID graphic. If you forgot to get a talent release, record an on-camera release.
  • Keep your eyes open for potential problems or bad habits. (Collar straight? Hair neat? Bad Habits: rocking back and forth, shifty eyes, etc)
  • Use an “ice-breaker” question to start. (Where did you grow up? When did you move to Bloomington?)
  • Ask open-ended questions.
  • Don’t interrupt - always wait an extra few seconds before jumping in with the next question.
  • Listen carefully to the responses (They might lead you to another angle.) Also consider your planned B-roll and any other footage you also need to shoot.
  • Look interested. Nod and act encouraging.
  • Don't hesitate to have them repeat the response if there is a noticeable flaw or if you want to get a closer shot for editing.
  • Sometimes you need the question restated in the answer.
  • With microphones in place record at least 30 seconds of room tone.


  • Ask the talent if there is anything they'd like to add.
  • Review part of the interview
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the talent to redo parts of the interview if there are any technical problems.
  • Shut lights off immediately and strike all other equipment before putting lights away. They need up to 15 minutes to cool down.
  • Shoot appropriate location B-roll.
  • Thank your talent
  • Remember which batteries are dead, which have some use and which are still fresh.

Shooting B-Roll

Can you name some specific techniques that you can use to make sure you get outstanding B-roll?

  • Shoot mini-continuity sequences (think about the 180 degree line, cut on matching action, etc.)
  • Shoot film-style (Changing shots by 30% or so, and overlapping, repeating action)
  • Remember the rule of threes (consider the shot you are taking, the shot you'll use before it, and the shot you'll go to after it)

Avoiding Jump Cuts in a single character sequence: Sometimes you need to shoot a sequence of a subject for B-roll over an interview or for a montage. When shooting, have the talent enter the shot or leave the frame, or use a camera movement to change the focus either up to or away from the subject. The reason is that we don’t want to cut from a shot with the subject in the frame to another shot with the subject in the frame.


  • Start with something to capture the audience's attention.
  • Your topic and approach should be obvious to the viewer in the first 15-20 seconds.
  • Try focusing on audio first (Your soundtrack will be interview audio, music, nat sound, & possibly some SFX). The next step is to fill jump cuts with B-roll, montages, etc.)
  • Avoid jump cuts in your interview (cover interview edits with B-roll)
  • Cut out "ums, yeahs, and buts.."
  • Use several shots at a time for B-roll (not just a single shot). This lets you set a rhythm and use the mini-continuity sequences you have artfully captured.
  • Capture audio - Nat audio is important.
  • Find a strong close/conclusion. Consider book-ending as a technique. (Begin and end in a similar manner.)

Proposals, Treatments & Scripts

Some students (and producers and teachers) don't know the difference between a Propgram Proposal, Treatment and a Script.

Program Proposals (see Jim's Program Proposal overview) Program Proposals describe the purpose, scope, production method, and budget of the production. The two most important things to start with are an objective and a target audience.

For short productions, the proposal can include a treatment. For feature-length films, and longer-length productions, the treatment is usually a separate document.

Treatments are essentially condensed versions of the scripts. They don't contain detailed production information, but should concisely describe the story, the act structure, and the scenes within the acts. Treatments can show precisely how the story flows by describing the dialog and action of every scene. (If the scene does not advance the character or the story, cut it out!) I typically title my scenes and describe them as a paragraph or element in my treatment. Check out the actual treatment I used to pitch the Elkinsville documentary I produced for WTIU.

Scripts (See Jim's script overview) Film style vs. two-column.

Everything can be scripted in advance. This includes documentaries and music videos. I like to compare producers to lawyers. They shold never ask a question that they don't know the answer to. I always try to know the role that someone will play in a production before I go to interview them. If not, it's because not enought time has been spent in pre-production.

You can determine, visualize, and create the flow of an entire documentary simply by spending time doing pre-production.

Almost all of the documentaries you see on PBS, Discovery and the History channel have been planned and scripted before any production takes place. Producers and writers research the subject and approach well in advance of production. There is an unscripted approach referred to as "exploratory". It has merits, but is typically not used when large amounts of money, gear and time are at stake.

Consider your Interview/Feature Stories. How do you want it to begin? Close your eyes and imagine how you would like to introduce the viewer to the subject.

How do you get every shot you need? Visualize every shot & write it down it down in your script.


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