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.
So far in this series of posts on the 13 guidelines to follow when shooting video interviews, we’ve been focusing more on the technical aspects to make your interview footage look professional. Today we switch to the legal side of things….making sure you get permission to use it.
When you’re shooting a video interview and you want to make sure you’ll be able to use it in your video, it’s a good idea to get a signed release, also called a talent release. Get into the habit of having the person sign it before you turn on your camera.
It’s my understanding that talent releases are not necessarily required in an interview situation because you already have tacit approval by the fact that the person is there, in front of the camera and microphone and aware of what’s happening. This is called consent by conduct, meaning an ordinary person should realize that with a microphone and camera pointed at them and with their willing participation, they know they are being filmed.
But it’s still a good idea to get it in writing. Having it on paper is insurance that you’ll not have problems using the interview in your video. Imagine if you don’t get it signed and then later the talent refuses to, or physically can’t, sign the release for whatever reason. You will have wasted all that time and money spent in shooting that person and may have to spend more time to edit or re-shoot with someone else. Worse yet, this person may be one of the important people you want to feature in your video and if you can’t use him or her, you may have to scrap your entire project.
We use a generic signed video appearance release form that gives you legal permission to use the video and audio recording of the person for commercial and non-commercial purposes. It’s designed to protect you from litigation if the person you filmed were to come back later in a court of law and claim they didn’t give you permission to record them or that your recording is an invasion of their privacy or unfair or slanderous use of their image. A signed release shows the court that the person did, in fact, give you such permission.
Using release forms to get permission in writing is a standard practice in video production. Releases help protect your rights and also help keep you out of legal difficulties in the future.
NOTE: This is not intended to be legal advice; I am not a lawyer and do not profess to know all the ins and outs of this area. Laws covering permits and the use of images of individuals and property differ based on jurisdiction – from country to country and even from state to state. If you have any specific legal questions regarding permits and releases, you need to consult an attorney familiar with this area of law to ensure the release form you use will cover all the points related to your situation.
- Put together your talent release form.
- Look at the releases we have available at the website for our book Shoot To Sell: Make Money Producing Special Interest Videos. Download and change them to meet your needs.
- If you have any questions, consult an attorney familiar with this area of law.
- Bring plenty of copies with you and make sure you get them signed.
- Keep them with your project files.
We’re almost to the end of our 13 guidelines to shooting video interviews. We’ll wrap up with the last few, starting with what you can do when you find yourself in this common scenario: you are the camera operator AND the interviewer. In that case, it’s obvious that you can’t be on camera at the same time as your interviewee.
Here is what you can do if you want to show yourself conducting the interview…
While conducting the interview, frame the interviewee fairly close, focusing on her head and shoulders. Here is where having a portable backdrop is ideal because you can use it for shooting you conducting the interview. Have them direct their focus and answers just off-camera, like we shared in the last post on framing your shot, and have her pretend she is talking to you.
Even though you are not on camera, record your audio so that you know exactly how you asked the questions. You’ll want to know this later because you are going to set up a shot that looks like you are in the same room during the interview. It can be a different day and different place, but should it should look reasonably similar. Using that same portable backdrop you used for shooting the interview will make this possible.
You will ask your questions on camera and edit them in with your interviewee’s responses. While shooting your interviewee, get some footage of her with thoughtful expressions of her listening to your questions. When you shoot yourself, be sure to film yourself reacting to her answers.
Make sure you keep the lighting on the same. This should edit together to make a believable interview situation.
- Shoot the interview as if you were sitting there asking the questions, keeping in mind the best way to frame your shot.
- Consider using a portable backdrop. You can purchase them at backdropoutlet.com, cowboystudio.com, or dennymfg.com.
- Set the shot you will be doing of yourself asking the questions using the same backdrop and lighting so that it will look believable when you edit both footages together.