I have a bunch of interviews to do soon, and I was wondering if anyone has a method or thoughts on backgrounds. This may seem like an odd question. I am wondering if it's better to take a fold-up background or just use what's on-site. Also if you use something on-site such as a bookshelf how do you make it look appealing?
The backgrounds of interviews can be very important in attracting and keeping the viewer's attention to what the subject is saying. Both non descript and themed colors, forms, textures and objects can all either lend credibility or alternately distract from the total effect.
It's often a good idea to create a unified approach that guides you in the production of a complete project; if for example you decide to use subjects in their own realistic settings, it's probably best to do so throught that particular show or project. Alternately, if you decide to create more abstract backrounds by painting colored light and shapes on a mottled backing, this could be a satisfactory style for another type of show or project.
Sometimes the choice is made for you by the logistics of the assignment; if cowboys are the subject, it might be most appropriate to shoot the interviews outside with pastures or horses in the bg. If you're interviewing teachers, a classroom setting would be a natural. Sometimes you're forced to shoot in hotel rooms and here the challange is to disguise that fact, try to make it look like someone's home or go the other extreme and put up a background cloth or seamless paper.
It's often preferable to "fuzzup" or soften thew backround, effectively drawing more attention and focus to the subject in the foreground. This is accomplished by using a telephoto lens, and by shooting with a wide open iris effectively keeping the depth of field to a minimum. This can be done by controlling the amount of light or using ND filters or the shutter to allow a wide open lens setting. This is even more important with smaller imagers (like the 1/3" types found in prosumer dv cameras) where the depth of field is so great to begin with.
It is a mark of the skill and creativity of a camera person/ photographer to come up with interesting backrounds for each and every shot you encounter. Good luck!
Thanks for your input, it seems that in video world these days that there is a lot of sloppy shooting. I want to create an environment that can draw a viewer into the content even if it's just a talking head.