Filming Remote Video Interviews Easily with Your Smartphone

Post Production Filmmaking March 9, 2021 5 min read

Like it or not, most of us are still working from home, maintaining social distancing, and not traveling to work. This can make filming interviews quite difficult, and many filmmakers will be turning to remote filming to make this work. After most people have spent a year on video calls, this should come as second nature. But there are some things you should keep in mind when filming interviews over a video call. Here is a guide on how to easily film remote video interviews using a phone or a webcam.

Part 1: Plan Out Your Remote Video Interviews

Let’s imagine you’re interviewing someone to feature in a documentary you are making. Where do we begin? 

Choose the Right Software

There are plenty of options when it comes to choosing the software for a video interview. If you’re filming on a webcam, Zoom, Skype, and Google Meet are great web-based platforms. If using a mobile, try using FaceTime (iOS), Google Hangouts, or WhatsApp video calls. Make sure your contributor is familiar with the platform before you begin.

Prepare Your Contributor

To make sure you are both on the same page of how the interview will play out, send in your questions in advance and ask for some details of how they will answer the topics. This means neither of you will be going in blind so are there are no awkward surprises on the day.

Because you won’t be there to plan the shot, you’ll need to advise the contributor to do it. Provide a guide for your interviewee about the attire and lighting of the room and sound requirements.

  • When it comes to attire, solid pastel colors are preferable to black or white suits, green clothes, or busy patterned dresses and blouses. Ask them to send a few options for you to choose from first.
  • Lighting is very important which the interviewee may not consider. Make sure there is access to natural lighting from the front, so they are not back-lit and silhouetted. Ask them to keep a lamp nearby in case you need to add a bit more light if it’s a gloomy day.
  • Audio is extremely important. Ask them to position themselves in a quiet room with a closed-door where there will be no distractions. If they have access to a USB microphone then great – if not then consider sending one in advance.

Prepare with Test Shots

Ask your interviewee to send some test shots beforehand so you can advise on camera and lighting positioning, as well as posture.

Consider elevating the webcam to eye level so the interviewee is not looking down over the camera if using a laptop. Try sending them a tripod for a cell phone but if you don’t have time or budget then a stack of books would be fine.

During the official recording, start with some warm-up questions to get to know them and get into the rhythm of things. You can edit them out if it makes the final video lengthy, but it’s also nice to keep that footage as bloopers or behind-the-scenes clips.

Part 2: Record & Edit Your Remote Interviews

So your contributor is all set up in the space, now you just need to record it.

It’s useful to have a backup camera such as a laptop or another cell phone, in case the first feed drops out for some reason. Make sure all devices are fully charged and plugged in.

Camera Settings

Ask your contributor to amend their video camera settings to 1080p at 60fps, and keep the cell phone on Do Not Disturb mode to avoid distractions from notifications.

  • Go to Settings > Camera > Record Video > 1080p at 60fps
  • Go to Settings > Do Not Disturb, select Do Not Disturb or Scheduled, and input the length of the interview

Make sure the device is landscape, with room above the contributor’s head to allow for any movement.

Once that’s all set up, it’s time to record. Some platforms like Zoom have built-in recording functions, or you may want to explore the possibility of the contributor recording their device separately so you have a backup.

Editing the interview

Once you’re done, import your footage into Adobe Premiere Pro. 

  1. Create a new sequence using the sequence settings that match the camera settings.
  1. Bring the complete interview onto the timeline, with both video and audio.
  2. Go through the footage and cut out any moments you don’t want to include.
  1. If you’re combining the interview with other footage, pay close attention to the color. Use the Color Panel in Premiere Pro to correct the white balance and match the color. You can learn more about color matching footage in Premiere Pro here.
  1. Balance the audio, making sure the levels are consistent throughout the video.
  1. If you want to include the interviewer asking questions as well, try adding a split-screen effect like in this tutorial.
  2. Create a dynamic intro and outro using a template from the Motion Array library.
  3. Cut down a short teaser video for social media to help promote your interview, and post it on platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube shorts.

And that’s all there is to it. The secret to success is careful planning, and working with your contributor to make sure they are properly set up in the environment they will be filming in. Send them a comprehensive guide before the interview so they can pay attention to the clothes they are wearing, their background, lighting, microphone and camera position. Once you’re done, you can edit the interview using Adobe Premiere Pro by combining several different techniques. Don’t forget to publicise your interview by creating a short teaser video for social media!