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"Two-shot" is a film term referring to a shot composition that contains two actors, subjects or interviewees in the same frame. Capturing two-shot interviews can present some challenges with composition, lighting and audio. But when done correctly, it can be a powerful and unique addition to your story, so don’t let the hassles put you off. To share our lessons learned and help you on your next two-shot, we've created these easy tips to help alleviate any struggles.

Composition: Two-Shot vs. One-Shot

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A two-shot can appear as either a standard interview shot (both people in frame), or a traditional narrative film (cutting between two subjects to mimic a dialogue). In interviews, there is a natural tendency for people to interrupt each other, or to talk too soon after the other person finishes speaking. This could make the final edit sloppy and hard to follow for the audience (we will get to this later in “Audio”). To combat this, we recommend potentially having a moderator to guide the conversation and keep people from interrupting.

Photo Credit: Arbuckle Industries

You may discover that a one person interview will be a better fit aesthetically. Two people in a shot will leave little room for the background to be visible since they will probably fill up the whole frame. If the background is pertinent to the interview, film just the one person on one camera. If there has to be another person, you can film their interview separately and then cut between the two interviews in place of having the people physically side by side. If your story is more emotional and it is important to see two subjects reacting to one another, you may want to set up a two-shot interview. It all depends on the atmosphere you want to create for the viewer!


Photo Credit: Arbuckle Industries

Lighting a two-person interview typically requires more lights or a longer distance of throw per light. This extra light is needed because by adding a second person to the frame, you need to light twice as much space without showing the lights in the wider shot. Having more light often means more spill for shadows on walls or glass reflections, but you can reduce this with barn-doors or blackwrap, which will help focus the light on your subjects and not on unwanted surfaces. A two-shot setup also typically requires someone to physically raise the lights to minimize the cross shadows your subjects may cast on one another. So bring your gloves!


Photo Credit: Arbuckle Industries

With every person added to a scene, a new channel of audio has to be recorded. This means that each audio channel needs to be monitored independently and ideally recorded independently. If two peoples' dialogue overlap on the same channel, they cannot be separated in post-production. This type of sound recording is easy for a trained sound operator, not so much for a novice. But it doesn’t take a trained ear to identify flaws in sound. Anyone can tell if the audio is too loud, soft or muffled. If you have a boom mic, the boom/sound operator has to be very quick to rotate the boom between subjects. Typically, a lavalier is placed on both interviewees to account for any of the dialogue that might have been missed while using the boom. Don’t forget to factor in the added time for setting up and testing the lavaliers.

In almost every video Arbuckle makes, we get to interview the architect, administrator, artist or designer behind the building or event that we’re filming. We need to make sure that the quality of their interview matches up with the rest of the footage. We usually try to reserve the two-shot interview for scripted narrative works, or for journalistic pieces with a traditional interviewer and interviewee. For our content marketing videos, we usually keep it to a one-shot since you don’t know where one person’s eyes will be focused when the other person says that awesome quote. Also, the added complexity of a two-shot can be avoided by just making a really compelling one-shot interview. We generally recommend shooting a one-shot interview, but if you decide to double it up, hopefully these tips will help make it a great one!

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