If you're looking to give your interviews a little bit more aesthetic energy, there are a bunch of things you could try. Backgrounds, lighting, props, and varying perspectives help with setting your Q&As apart from the common "guy in a chair next to a fern" canon, but if you're looking to really enhance aesthetics, check out this lighting tutorial from NextWaveDV. Learn to employ the parallax effect to add depth to your shots, and take your interviews to the next level.
From the outside, interview setups seem pretty simple to achieve based on what we typically see in documentaries, journalism pieces, and even late night TV shows: put someone against a background, keep the camera still, and hit record.
Obviously it's not that simple -- lighting can be tricky, especially when conducting interviews outside. And because the mise-en-scène for interviews has been repeated again and again, the greatest challenge (at least in my eyes) is making the shot look interesting without taking the focus off of your subject.
I think creating the parallax effect in your shot does this nicely. Check out the tutorial below to find out how to do it.
Of course, there are so many ways to make an interview look interesting. We shouldn't have to settle for boring shots just because the focus is on our subjects' words and reactions. In fact, considering the laws of visual aesthetics -- that aesthetic energy is built using motion, color, and composition -- interviews have great potential for becoming visually unstimulating. They tend to be static shots with the subject framed on either the right or left 3rd of the screen.
There are things you can do to liven things up, though. Use color in new, interesting ways. In Paper Chasers, the filmmakers used DayGlo paint to create an interesting background. Use unique compositions -- your subject doesn't have to look slightly off-screen. Maybe film their profile.
Interviews don't have to be run-of-the-mill. It doesn't matter if you're a narrative filmmaker and documentarian -- we're all telling stories, and finding a visually appealing way to do that is a problem worth having.
What do you think? Have you ever used the parallax effect in your interviews? What are some ways you've enhanced your interview's aesthetic? Let us know in the comments.