Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Shooting Video Interviews: How To Make The Interviewee Comfortable

Indoor-Lighting-Set-UpVery few people are comfortable with a boom microphone dangling over their head, lights in their eyes, a camera in their face and an interviewer asking probing, embarrassing or dumb questions. It’s your job to turn this situation into an informative interview and make it appear that the person is having a relaxed and informal chat with the viewer.

Your first order of business is to have your camera, sound and lighting, all ready before the interviewee arrives. Use an assistant in the interviewee’s place to determine how the lighting and background will look and how the audio will sound. Then when the interviewee gets in front of the camera, adjust for his particular height and voice levels.

Keep the situation appearing casual but as much under control as possible, even if you’re having technical difficulties. Don’t let it show if you are nervous. The interviewee will pick that up in a heart beat.

When the person sits down, and before you start shooting, engage in chit chat to relax her. Tell her what you are going for and assure her that if she stumbles or needs to take a break, she needs to communicate that with you and you’ll stop recording and do another take.

A little trick I like to do to make the person more at ease. I tape over or turn off the “record” light on my camera. That red light can make people nervous. A little piece of gaffer’s tape works great.

Action Steps

  1. Set everything up before you have the interviewee get in front of the camera.
  2. Have the interviewer or another person chat with the interviewee in advance to relax him.
  3. Hide or turn off the “record” light on your camera so that the interviewee will be less conscious that he is being filmed.
  4. Read our post Video Interviews Tips: Where Should They Sit? to find out what type of chair is best for interviewing.
  5. Do you have a good tip or a question on how to make the person more comfortable? Add it to the comment section below.

Shooting Video Interviews: 13 Guidelines To Follow

Video-InterviewsA large majority of special interest videos will include on-camera interviews. While these can be shot almost anywhere, having them look and sound professional does come with its share of challenges. If you are not a skilled videographer, don’t panic. By following these guidelines, and taking time to dedicate to practice, you should be prepared to deal with many types of interviewing situations and come away with a good interview.

For example, a few years back we arranged to shoot a series of interviews in Venice Beach, California. I was concerned when I saw the tiny size of the room and the fact that the walls were bright orange. Cars kept driving up right outside the room, slamming doors or leaving their motors running.

However, I noticed there was a nice sidelight coming in through the window so I positioned and framed the interviewee so that I was able to throw the orange wall out of focus. Doing so made it look like a seamless backdrop and it worked out great. While dealing with the intermittent car noise, we resigned ourselves to stopping during the shooting session to wait for the car noise to go away. Even though that was a bit of a pain, we did manage to shoot a dozen short interviews within the space of an hour. The takeaway here is that you just can’t give up in situations like this, you just make the best of a situation, especially if this is the only chance you are going to get to have this person on camera.

Here is a quick overview of the 13 guidelines for shooting interviews I will cover in the coming weeks. Thanks go to cinematographer Ron Dexter for sharing some of his personal tips with us.

1) Make The Interviewee Comfortable

Perfect lighting, a great background, good sound and camera work can’t overcome an interviewee who is not at ease. That discomfort will show up in the quality of your interview. One of the best things you can do is get to know who you will be interviewing.

2) Get Acquainted

Plan on taking some time before the interview to get acquainted with the person. Ask “getting to know you” questions while you, the camera operator or coordinator gets the person set up for the shot.

3) The Interviewee’s Chair

Consider the interviewee’s posture and what you want it to be. Is it comfortable and relaxed, authoritative, or in the “hot seat?” What the person will sit on, or not sit on, will influence this.

4) Interview Questions

Write down the questions you want to ask in advance. To prepare your interviewees, you might want to give them an idea of what you’ll be asking, but don’t give them the exact questions as you want them to sound spontaneous.

5) Wardrobe

What your interviewee wears is also important. If possible, give him advance information about what to wear and more specifically, what not to wear. Neutral colors are best and light clothing on dark complexions should be avoided.

6) Setting Up The Side-By-Side Interview

A two person side-by-side interview is a trickier shot, especially if there is a significant height or skin complexion difference. This is one you’ll need more practice doing.

7) Audio Considerations

Before your shoot you want to assess the location’s audio conditions and prepare for noisy interruptions.

8) Lighting

As with the location’s audio conditions, you will need to consider how your subject will be lit. In all likelihood, you’ll need to add additional lighting.

9) Watch Your Background

When selecting backgrounds, consider where the camera will go and if the interviewee will have decent lighting AND good sound.

10) Framing

Staying on the same shot, like a medium shot, of even the most interesting person soon gets boring. This is where changing your framing will make a big difference in the quality of your video.

11) When The Interviewer Isn’t On-Camera

Here is a common scenario: you are the camera operator and the interviewer, so you can’t be on camera during the shoot. If you want to be shown asking the questions, then you will need to shoot yourself and add the two clips in the editing process.

12) Get A Release

Be sure to get a signed release from the interviewees before they leave. Granting an interview is an implied consent, but one on paper is insurance.

13) Shooting Video Interviews: When Things Go Wrong

Plan on things going wrong during an interview and think about how best to deal with them when that happens. Again, this is an area that will improve with practice.

Over the coming weeks we’ll delve more into each of these guidelines. Next week, we’ll talk about tips and tricks to make your interviewee comfortable. Having a comfortable interviewee will not only make shooting easier, it will make your video much better.

Video Interviews Tips: Where Should They Sit?

Here’s a video tip for when you shoot video interviews: where the person sits MATTERS! In this short video, you will learn:

  • Why an office chair, regular chair or couch does not work well;
  • What type of “chair” works better and why (it’s not about comfort!);
  • That the investment into a better chair is not large.

(If you can’t view this video on this page, you can watch it here on YouTube.) Folding Stool

The cushioned folding stool we featured is available at Amazon for $21.

Do you have any good video interview tips to share? Comment below and I will feature them (and you!) in our new book in our How To Make Money With Video Quick Guide Series: Shoot An Interview Like a Pro! that will be released in the coming weeks.

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