Eight Things to Consider When Setting Up Your Interview Room

As video and audio recording become the norm in law enforcement interviews, it’s important to consider best practices when setting up both your interview space and monitoring room. What kind of lighting is best? How many microphones should you use? Is there an ideal room shape? We answer these questions, and more, to help you capture clear, crisp evidence that will shine in court.


1. Microphone placement

An interview recording is only as good as its audio, so microphone placement is the most important consideration to make when setting up your interview room. It is always a good idea to install two separate microphones in the event of an equipment malfunction. Microphones should be installed on the ceiling—not a table—either in the middle of the room or directly above where the subject and interviewer will sit. A second microphone installed closer to the interviewee’s seat, (either on the ceiling or in a discreet wall plate), ensures the capture of any mumbles or whispers. Avoid placing microphones near HVAC vents, fluorescent lighting, or where they can pick up extraneous noise from adjacent rooms or hallways, as all of these can be sources of interference or distortion. Sound dampening materials, such as tiles and carpeting, can improve audio capture and quality.


2. Proper Lighting

Good lighting is essential for cameras to provide a reliable image. Light should be even and bright to minimize shadows and to provide a clear picture of the subject’s face. Consider a second light installed overhead for better coverage. If you have a window or floor lamp in the room, be sure that it is not positioned behind the subject. We recommend using a windowless room if possible, or a window covering to soften any incoming light which can close the iris of the camera and obscure the subject.  


3. Two Cameras Are Better Than One

Two cameras per interview room means your recording will include a scene-view and a face-view—both of which can provide different and crucial details. The scene-view shows everyone in the room and their actions, while a face-view captures important nonverbal expressions and movements. The overhead (scene-view) camera should capture as much of the room as possible, including the interviewer, interviewee, and the door. It should be installed 6.5 to 8 feet (200 cm to 245 cm) from the floor, much like a security system motion detector. Ensure that its view isn’t blocked when the door is open. The face-view camera should be installed approximately 4 to 4.5 feet (122 cm to 137 cm) from the floor, directly across from where the subject will sit.


4. reduce background noise as much as possible

The best interview room has carpet and a drop-tile ceiling—both of which prevent noise from bouncing around the room. Sound is absorbed by the carpet and fiberboard material, rather than bounced off of drywall or tile. The ideal interview room is also rectangular, as square rooms tend to create more echo. If your space isn’t the perfect shape, try adding acoustic paneling to help absorb noise and echo. Choose furniture that can’t be easily moved as squeaking chairs or moving tables can negatively impact a recording.


5. declutter your space

When it comes to interview rooms, less is more. Extra furniture or items on the wall can increase video size, making it harder to export and store. Remove unnecessary photos, wallpaper, mirrors, or busy furniture from the room. Also, when installing soundproofing material, avoid eggshell products that are sparkly or have a lot of extra movement. Eliminating these simple objects from your recording room will reduce the file size and free up valuable storage space.


6. cable protection and rating

Cables in both interview and monitoring rooms need to be secured to prevent them from being kicked out, stepped on, rolled over, or otherwise damaged. We recommend using rubber duct cord covers, micro conduit, raceways, and cable channels to keep wires safe and out of the way. Be sure to follow all local fire codes and use plenum-rated cables if the system is installed in plenum spaces. It is also highly recommended to create a wiring diagram that shows how the system is interconnected with the building.


7. monitoring room location

Just as important as the interview room, a well-designed monitoring room is key to interview recording success. It should be located within 1,000 feet of the interview room(s) with a desk at comfortable typing height and a clear work surface at least three feet wide and two feet deep. Within three feet of this work surface, there must be space (either on a shelf or the work surface itself) for the computer chassis. The chassis should be off the floor to prevent damage. The viewing monitor should never be in direct sunlight. Finally, a secure and private location is a key consideration when officers need to review sensitive or high-profile interviews.  


8. practice makes perfect

Before you hit record on any custodial interviews, try a few practice runs with people talking in the room. These trial recordings will help determine if your cameras or microphones need adjustment or if there is any interference from inside or outside the room.  Getting your interview room set up perfectly can be challenging, but taking the time to get it right will go a long way when it really counts.


Are you setting up a new, or updating an existing, interview room? We would love to learn more about your interview recording needs. In the meantime, check out CaseCracker interview recording solutions.



Criminal Justice Interview Room Recording System Selection and Application Guide