In the past few posts in our series of 13 guidelines to shooting video interviews, we’ve covered why you want to make your interviewee comfortable and how to do that, why it is important to the quality of the interview to get acquainted with the person first before you start filming, what type of questions should be asked and how to prepare them and where you want to place your interviewee.
What your interviewee wears is also important to shooting a good video interview. What looks good in real life is much different than what looks good on camera, whether it’s photos or film.
As in determining how you want your interviewee to come across and where to place them, you’ll do the same with their wardrobe. Each situation will call for a different look. Interviewing a scientist in a lab? Having her wear a lab coat makes sense. Shooting a farmer in a field? Then it only makes sense he would be wearing his work clothes.
If possible, give him/her advance information about what to wear and more specifically, what not to wear. While it is important that they feel comfortable in their clothes, you not only want to make sure what they are wearing makes sense to the shot, you also have to keep in mind the limits of your camera. The camera doesn’t “see” colors and patterns the same as your eyes.
It is best that the person wear solids (except red) and avoid stripes, houndstooth and other patterns. The latter shows up as a moiré pattern on the video which is distracting to the viewer. Red colors also cause flickering.
Have them avoid pure white or black clothing as the camera will boost the contrast. White on screen can blind the viewer and black and navy will look as dark as midnight. This is especially problematic if your interviewee has dark skin so light clothing on dark complexions should be avoided in that instance. A white shirt under a darker jacket is okay but a light blue shirt is preferable. Have them stick to more muted, neutral colors or pastels.
Also they need to avoid wearing anything with sparkles or sequins.
As I shared previously, video cameras have problems with saturated reds, thin stripes and small patterns, but we often have to live with such problems to avoid making a big issue of it if the person shows up wearing such a clothing item. However if it is possible, have them bring a few sets of clothes in case the first colors they choose counteract with the background. For example, the dark purple he’s wearing is an exact match for the background and he’d look like a floating head. We once had a client who wanted us to shoot her on a green screen in order to drop in different backgrounds. She showed up wearing, you guessed it, green! (Luckily we were prepared to shoot her on a solid white background that worked out. I know videographers who keep a selection of neutral colored shirts in their studio in case people show up wearing taboo clothing colors. It’s best to have options.
The color and pattern of clothing material isn’t the only thing to think about. Some material, like nylons and polyesters, may also be “noisy”. We had that problem once with a subject when we used a lavalier mic on her. While she chose a great color for the camera – pale blue – her blouse made a swishing sound every time she moved.
One thing that is tough to deal with are glasses as they reflect the glare of the lights. You can position them to cut down on the glare. You may want to ask them if they have contacts or wouldn’t mind taking their glasses off. Of course, in the latter circumstance, you want to make sure you don’t see indentations on their noses from their glasses. A little powder or makeup comes in handy in this situation. In fact, using makeup is smart, even for men.
Also ask the person to not wear or if they do have it on, take off any noisy jewelry. Be particularly mindful of noisy necklaces or dangly earrings on women.
With men, have them remove their wallets, change, cell phone, car keys, etc. from their pockets. You don’t want anything in their pockets that might create a bulge or start jingling in the middle of a shoot.
If you are shooting at an event, make sure you take any name tags off.
Keep a clean hankerchief handy. The person may be nervous and they may perspire. Have them bring a comb and whatever hair products they use. It’s a good idea to have hairspray, a new comb and mirror on hand as well.
We’ll be talking about how to handle shooting two people in the same shot in our next post.
- Think about how you want your interviewee to come across in the interview.
- Give the person advance notice as to the types of colors, patterns and material that should be avoided.
- Before you start shooting, make sure the interviewee doesn’t have any flashy or noisy accessories that will be distracting.
- If the glasses glare is a problem and if they can, have them remove them.
- Have handkerchiefs, makeup, new combs and hairspray on hand.
So far in this series of how to shoot good video interviews we’ve covered making the interviewee comfortable, getting acquainted with him or her and what questions you should ask to get a powerful interview.
One other thing you need to think about is how you want your interviewee to come across. This will determine where you want to put her.
Should she be comfortable and relaxed, authoritative, or in the “hot seat?” Consider the interviewee’s posture and what you want it to be. This will determine whether to shoot her sitting down and the type of seat you will put her in. When people stand, they tend to preach. When they sit, they are more friendly.
A comfortable chair may be what you want but make sure it isn’t too deep. If so, that could relax the interviewee too much and limit her body language. Also couches often block much of the background and are usually too comfortable. People can sink in to overly soft couches and chairs.
A swivel office chair allows them to swing around and has a greater chance of creaking and changing your lighting.
If you are going for the “hot seat”, a stool will work better. An armless chair may tire people for a long interview.
The chair should also “belong” in the situation it is in. Your audience shouldn’t notice the chair unless it is an important prop.
The best chair is one that is quiet, comfortable, dark colored, and appropriate to the location. What seat would be appropriate in the woods – a log, a stump or a rock? If you never see the seat, it makes no difference.
The interviewer, camera operator and other crew present also need quiet chairs.
Our favorite chair to use is an inexpensive, lightweight, padded backless stool that folds flat. It makes people sit up and they don’t spin around on it. We always take it with us on interviews. We’ve had a lot of famous behinds on that stool.
Of course, you need to make the decision of how this interview’s look will fit into your final program. Remember, you are the director!
- Determine the interview’s look – do you want the person to come across as an authority or be comfortable and relaxed?
- If the interviewee will be sitting, have them sit in an appropriate chair for the situation and look.
- Make sure you provide quiet chairs for you and your crew.
Next up in our series…what should your interviewee wear?
This is where it is really important to be prepared. You need to write down the questions you want to ask in advance. The better the question, the better the interview. This is an area where you want to be in control and be professional. If you are winging it, it will show in the quality of the interview.
My advice is that while you might want to give the interviewee an idea of what you’ll be asking, don’t give them the exact questions. Some inexperienced interviewees will try to memorize their answers, which will then sound canned. Let them be spontaneous.
During the interview you’ll want to keep this list of interview questions handy so that you can make sure you cover everything you need to cover. If they or you are nervous, it’s easy to lose focus. They may be thinking ahead to what they want to say and miss a key point. The same can happen to you, you may miss asking them something important.
If you find they are stumbling, it’s okay to have them start over unless this is a live interview. It’s in their best interests to deliver their “lines” well and they’ll thank you for it when they see how good you made them look on camera, even if they seem a bit impatient at the time.
The ideal question is one that requires the interviewee to repeat the question or at least give a complete answer not requiring the question to be included. Sometimes “how about XXX” is enough. The interviewee then will have to explain in his own words what you are talking about. “What do you think about global climate change?” would elicit a better answer than “Do you think global climate change is a conspiracy?” You want to avoid questions that can be answered with a “yes” or “no.”
Asking questions that start with what, how, who, when, where and why are good conversation starters. These types of questions elicit detailed answers.
Next we’ll cover what and where you want them to sit…yes, that IS important.
- Think about what you want to get out of the interview and come up with several good questions.
- If you want to give the interviewee a heads up on what you’ll be asking, don’t give them the exact questions you’ve prepared.
- Don’t ask questions that can be answered with a “Yes” or “No.”
- Write these questions down, print them out and have them with you.
- If they stumble and you can do so, have them start over with a new take.