If you are filming people in a studio you will probably have a degree of control over where to position them, decide whether they should be sitting or standing, and what background they will be in front of.
You can move them away from background items that will give a bad frame or simply distract the viewer, and create a pleasing frame, which can be lit correctly. However many locations, especially outside, will not allow you this degree of control and you will be limited to working with what’s available.
If you are only filming one subject you have the option of moving him or her into a position where the background works well for the camera, but if you have to film reverse shots on the interviewer, the chances are that they will need repositioning to get the best frame. Especially if there is an unattractive highway or a broken down vehicle behind them.
The two key points to remember if you have to deal with this situation are that the shot sizes on the interviewer or “reverses ” must match with the shots you have already filmed of the subject. So if you have filmed the first question on the interviewee as a mid-shot and all the following shots as MCU’s (mid-closeups), you’ll need to use the same shot sizes on the interviewer questions.
Secondly the camera should not cross the line or when you get to the edit both people will be looking the same way and not at each other. You’ve probably done this topic in your camera studies but it’s easy to get caught out on location when you are doing interviews and moving positions frequently, especially, if you shoot the reverse shots after the interviewee has gone. In this case you can position the camera incorrectly and that’s when you cross the line. I’ll run through it here for those readers who need a quick refresher.
In the illustration above, we see our single camera A is shooting a normal two-handed interview. When he wants to turn around and shoot the reverse shots on the presenter he places the camera in position B. Both people appear to be looking at each other when you view the two shots, which means it will edit correctly. However, if you were being rushed to shoot the reverses quickly, possibly you also had to cheat the background on the reverse shots, you might place the cameras as shown below. Then when you viewed the shots back you would have both people looking in the same direction, and when edited together it would look like they were not looking at each other, so you’ve crossed the mythical line.
Paul Martingell is a camera operator, director, and producer, and he currently spends 4 days a week shooting for the BBC on location shoots. He has filmed, directed, and produced over 98 broadcast TV shows, and he has shot on location throughout the world.