Shooting Video Interviews: What to do When Things Go Wrong
This is the last post in our series of the 13 guidelines to follow for shooting video interviews. We’ve covered not only the technical aspects, i.e., getting good audio, lighting, and framing the shot, but also planning what questions to ask, what they should wear, where they will sit, how to make the interviewee comfortable, why you need a release, among other things.
This last guideline focuses on what to do if things aren’t going as planned?
First of all, expect that things may go wrong. In my experience, 9 times out of 10, no matter how I try to make sure it all goes to plan, something happens to make my shooting life difficult. Despite that, it is still better to be proactive and plan ahead. Think about what can go wrong and what you can have on hand to deal with the challenging situation. I find that even when things go wrong, if I have thought it all through and came up with worse case scenarios, I’m a more confident shooter and that in turn makes the interview go smoother.
What should you plan for? Here are a few things that could go wrong and how you can prepare.
1) No power? Make sure you have plenty of batteries on hand for your camera and microphone equipment.
Unless you have a battery operated lighting system, this is more of an issue so think about how you can light a scene with natural light or if you can change location or go outside. When you are scheduling the interview, have another area you can use before you show up.
If it is imperative that you shoot the scene indoors, you may just have to wait until power is restored or reschedule. Have a fall back date discussed beforehand.
2) Is there excessive background noise? Here is where having a good uni-directional mic will come in handy as you may be able to record the interview without picking up the background noise. Make sure you bring along, and use, a set of close ear headphones so that you can hear for yourself if the background noise will be noticeable.
If the noise is coming from people not affiliated with your shoot, ask them politely if they are able to stop talking, working on machinery or equipment, etc., during your shoot. We usually find that people are happy to oblige if possible. When planning a shoot, ask ahead of time if there will be any construction going on, if it is under a flight path, next to a loud highway, or other activity that will be temporary. If you know in advance, you can plan around it.
3) Are you shooting in an area where there may be a lot of public around, as in a large park, busy office, or store? Here is where it is handy to have an assistant who can keep people from interrupting, explain to curious onlookers what is going on, and keep people quiet and not walking into your shot. If you are shooting someone who is not used to being on camera, know that getting a good shot where she won’t get distracted or be too nervous may take several tries. Plan for this.
4) Equipment malfunctioning? Bring backup equipment with you. This also includes extra memory cards. Also, as you are shooting, check and review your shots regularly. Make sure you nailed it before you end the session.
If during an interview the sound or lighting goes bad for some reason tell the interviewee that you (not the interviewee) have a problem and stop to correct it. Don’t be afraid to admit there is a problem that needs to be corrected. If the interview is interrupted, the operator should remember when the problem occurred so the interviewer can repeat the question. Writing down the words will help.
5) Interviewee messes up? As we used to say, tape is cheap. Now with the use of memory cards, that is even more the case. What this means is don’t be afraid to do more than one take. Most of the time the people you will be interviewing will not be actors. Even actors will stumble and mess up too. Be patient and plan enough time so that you will get the best out of them.
- Plan for power outages by bringing along plenty of battery power or having a back up place to shoot if necessary.
- Make sure the background noise won’t be distracting. Always bring and use headphones to ensure you are recording good audio.
- Find out beforehand if there will be any noise issues at the location.
- Ask people for help in reducing the noise they are making.
- If you are shooting in a public space, have someone help you keep the public from interrupting, walking into the shoot or otherwise distracting the interviewee.
- Be patient with your interviewee in order to get the best out of her.
- If things are going wrong, stop the camera and fix it.
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