Keys to Shooting Video Interviews
The process of shooting an incredible video interview is a great example of a case where a simple thing can be the most complicated. In such a simple format, it becomes a difficult question of determining what small details can be improved to really make your interview content stand out. Whether you’re interviewing a Fortune 500 CEO or chatting with a focus group of college students, it is your responsibility to respect your subject and viewer by preparing accordingly.
Fortunately, we are here to help. From our decades of video interview and documentary filmmaking experience in the Washington, D.C. area, we have pulled this collection of tips for producing incredible video interview content at all stages of the process and at any skill level or budget. While this is merely the tip of the iceberg, we hope you’ll find them useful in crafting your own great interviews today.
Like any video content project, it’s critical for you to over-prepare as much as you can before the actual shooting begins. Choosing your subject carefully, or simply getting to know your necessary subject as well as possible, is the most important component of your preparation. You’ll naturally want to prepare a script of questions, but understanding your subject and content well will allow you, or your interviewer, to improvise better during a natural interview.
Next up is your shooting location. You’ll want a relevant spot, generally somewhere quiet and private if available to you. Also if possible, it is a good idea to location scout ahead of time. Consider details like available natural lighting, open electrical plug-ins, organic noise and interruptions, and simply where you will set-up and frame the actual shot.
Once you have those foundational details, now you can begin to set the tone for the interview. Prepare a gear list based on your location evaluation or at least with multiple options if traveling to an unfamiliar venue. Incorporate redundancies like storage and power into your kit so that you never risk missing out on valuable footage. Prepare your subject however you feel pertinent, whether it’s simply recommending attire or outlining the actual interview topics.
An extra detail worth carving out a little more of your budget for when it comes to shooting high-quality video interviews is how you’ll be recording sound. While devices like your average lavalier are always useful, a boom mic with an operator or advanced field recorder might be preferable to guarantee your audio is crystal clear. Effective audio can elevate any video content but is especially important for audio-intensive interview material.
Now that you’re on set, it’s time to really inject some creative quality into your interview. Every little detail counts on such a small, unflinching shot so it’s important to consider as many as possible before rolling.
Begin mapping out your shot in your head or notes. Will you have a single camera facing your interview subject with a plain, but picturesque background or would you prefer a roundtable between interviewer and subject with multiple angles and a group shot? Will your subject look directly into the camera or slightly to the side of it? Include attractive, but minimal foreground and background elements to create cinematic depth that doesn’t distract. Ensure that this frame can remain uninterrupted during filming.
Of course, you’ll also want to consider lighting when shooting this kind of material. While you can make due with available, natural light if you have to, something like a classic three-point light setup is more optimal. You should definitely leave time in your schedule for testing different light settings if the situation permits, so try to experiment a bit!
While filming the interview proper make sure to control the pace and flow to the utmost degree. Try to make clear to the subject what the schedule is as much as possible, and keep to it rigorously at least until you’ve made it through the bulk of your prepared outline. That doesn’t mean don’t let your subject wander (encourage it!) it simply means to remember the ultimate story you are trying to tell.
Don’t forget to also capture certain beneficial ancillary elements like transitional footage and b-roll. It is worthwhile to film little candid moments of your subject even if it breaks the fourth wall as these can often be the most rewarding. You’ll also want to record some room tone of the interview space to smoothen audio quality in post.
After you’ve wrapped and your footage is offloaded, the more tedious tasks begin during the editing stage. It is extremely important to stay as organized as possible, especially when working with lengthier interview content.
Start by creating a full transcription of your interview if time allows. Having a transcript will save you time later so that you can begin culling length without having to playback segments of the video too frequently. You can highlight worthwhile sections and remove others while also potentially re-organizing sections if it might benefit the video’s flow. If you’re limited on time but your budget permits, you can also take advantage of digital transcription software like Trint to expedite that part of the process.
With an edited transcription, you can now easily transition to working with your footage. Begin by finding those worthy selections and clipping them while cutting the rest. Eventually, you should be able to make a new project with only good footage that you can even notate with your transcript. From there it is simply making final cuts while opening up what you decide to keep in before adding any other transition or narrative elements you deem necessary.
Shooting interviews can be very unpredictable at times, so it is important to tailor many of these practices to the specific situation you find yourself in. However, there are a few more tips you might find useful on any interview set. Chiefly among them: never turn off the camera. Even if it means a little more work in post or greater resource usage, the risk is almost always worth the potential reward.
Other than that, always remember that the purpose of the interview is still to tell a story, so always keep that story in mind when producing one. Use tried and true methods to guarantee quality results, but experiment and try new things wherever you can to let the interview shine for itself. If you’re still in doubt, fear not. Reach out to a qualified video interview producer with decades of experience in web video content production today for a consultation!