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Shooting ‘Man-on-the-Street’ Interviews

by Zachary Hanover

Zach_Hanover_MOS_Framework

What is a “man on the street” interview?

You’ve seen them on your local news, late night talk shows, and every manner of web videos. It’s one way we capture the thoughts and ideas of every day people, instead of actors or paid spokespersons.

We see them all the time in our industry, but we don’t always see them done right.

Video production is never an easy task, full of obstacles and challenges that require quick-thinking and flexibility. This is especially true when you’re shooting in an uncontrolled environment, like you would be when doing man-on-the-street interviews.

CRAFT has compiled some of our best-practices that we like to follow during these kinds of shoots.

  1. Preparation Makes Perfect – Bring a neutral density filter for your lens.
  2. Shooting and Sunlight – Keep the sunlight behind you. Never, ever put the sun in the shot. Position your shot so that the sun lights your subject’s face from behind the camera.
  3. Listening is Not Optional – Pay attention to your audio. Keep a close ear to the surrounding background noise. You may need to move to a more quiet space to capture good audio.
  4. Take Two – Don’t be afraid to shoot another take.
  5. Proper Direction – Determine beforehand whether you want the subjects to look off-camera or straight into the lens while answering the questions. Make sure you keep this consistent.
  6. Vary Your Looks – MOS interviews give you the opportunity to be in different locations. Find cool visuals!
  7. A Little Coaching – If someone says something good, but you want him or her to say it more succinctly or rephrase, it is OK to feed him or her the line. “I loved that! Can I have you say it again to me this way?”
  8. Start Fresh – Make sure you ask them for their name and hometown as the first question. Otherwise you will never find out who that person is.
  9. Keep It Simple – Keep the content of your questions to a basic level of understanding. Keep in mind that most people you will film don’t know much about the issues, even the big ones. Your questions should be simple, and easy to answer.
  10. Remember Your Basics – Proper exposure (low iso, shutter speed at 1/50, use your ND filter to achieve a lower f-stop setting on the camera), white balance, rule of thirds, etc.
  11. Frame Your Shot – Make sure your background contributes to the testimonial in a positive, non-distracting way. Is there an inappropriate sign or location specific landmark (unless desired) in the background? Simply flipping your shot or finding a new location 5 to 10 feet away can remove anything that draws your attention away from the interviewee.
  12. Slow Down – With man-on-the-street interviews, the tendency is to get the person on-camera and on their way. Take an extra minute to double check your shot and your sound. Always have a second person to entertain your interviewee so they don’t get too antsy or frustrated while you set the shot.

Zachary Hanover is a Media Producer at CRAFT | Media / Digital. Zachary is an award-winning producer and editor, and several of his pieces were featured by major news outlets during the 2012 election cycle. Zachary has been a component of CRAFT’s media production team since August 2010. You can reach Zachary via email at zhanover@craftdc.com or on Twitter (@zhanover).