So far in our series of 13 guidelines to shooting video interviews, you have found out how to shoot better quality video interviews by learning why you want to make your interviewee comfortable and how to do that. We shared why it is important to the quality of the interview to get acquainted with the person first before you start filming and what type of questions should be asked and how to prepare them. You also now know where you want to place your interviewee and what you should have them wear, or not wear, to the interview. Then last post I shared some tips for making shooting a side-by-side interview easier on you.
Shooting an interview should not only look good, it also needs to sound good too! This is where investing in and picking the best microphone will pay off for you.
There are other audio challenges you’ll want to control in order to get the best interview you can. Here are some things you can do before you start shooting:
Make signs that say “QUIET PLEASE, SOUND RECORDING.” Put these signs on doors you don’t want opened, toilets you don’t want flushed, etc. Have signs made for the interview room door that says “Recording in progress, Please do not enter.” Bring tape and sign posts if necessary.
Be still and listen to the room for several minutes. What do you hear? If you hear it, your microphone will most likely hear it to.
Clap your hands to check for echoes. If the location is good for everything but echoes, putting the mic close helps, but consider adding things that helps reduce the echo. In studios they hang up sound blankets. Moving blankets work almost as well. I buy them from my local moving company for $15. You can also get moving blankets for a good price on Amazon.
Is there an air conditioner vent nearby? Can you turn it off?
Sometimes air conditioning controls are not convenient or can be locked up. Tungsten video lights make a room much hotter and can trigger the air conditioner to come on too. A wet napkin over a locked and covered air conditioning control will fool it. (Make sure you take it off when you leave!)
If it will be too uncomfortable without the air conditioner on, then try to find a location in the room away from the vents.
Is there traffic noise coming through a window? Other noises like airplanes overhead, leaf blowers, children playing, etc?
Some of these sounds in the background may work for your shot. For example, if you are interviewing a teacher right outside the school’s playground, it makes sense if it isn’t too loud. But many times you don’t want to hear a lot of distracting noises. You may need to switch locations or if you can’t, definitely shut the window if it’s open and move your subject away from the window. If what you are hearing will end soon and you can wait, do that. We’ve also been known to ask gardeners to stop leaf blowing and keep people from walking by while we were shooting.
If you are shooting in a home and can hear the refrigerator, unplug it (put a large sign on it to turn it back on and don’t open often while it is off).
Are you using a shotgun mic on a boom? Look at what is behind the interviewee. It’s usually better to aim it down at the subject rather than up at them. Aiming at the ceiling can create a hollow sound. If the interview room has bare wooden or concrete floors, putting rugs or blankets on the floor around the interviewee can improve the sound. It also reduces noise your interviewee may make if they shuffle their feet.
Also when people are nervous they can get a dry mouth. This will show up in audio, so have bottled water for both the interviewer and interviewee.
Next we’ll cover some lighting challenges you may face in shooting your interview.
- Check the room for unwanted sounds and do your best to control them.
- If necessary, make and post signs stating “recording in progress.”
- Pay attention to your mic placement.
- Don’t hesitate to ask people who are doing noisy activities to stop while you are interviewing.
In this series of 13 guidelines to shooting video interviews, you have found out how to shoot better quality video interviews by discovering the following; 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, where you want to place your interviewee and what you should have them wear and more importantly, what they shouldn’t wear to the interview.
Today, I’m going to talk about another interviewing scenario – the side-by-side interview.
For some interviews, you may want to have one or more people on-camera at the same time. This makes the set up a bit more complex. Here are a few tips to make it easier for you:
On each person, attach the mics as far apart from each other as possible, but close to the mouth. This reduces echo if the two mics are mixed together. Later the audio tracks can be mixed separately. In an emergency, if you have only one lavalier, attach the mic high on the shoulder of the person with the softest voice, on the side toward the other person.
If you are using a shotgun mic, put it on a mic stand and aim it between them if you don’t have a boom operator.
Put the lighter complexion person farther from the light source. (Do this as they sit down.) If shooting a dark skinned person you may need to add light or adjust exposure for good skin tone and detail. If one is taller and might block light on a shorter one, place the taller one farther from the light.
Next post, I’ll be sharing how to make your interview sound better.
- When using lavalier microphones, make sure you place them as far apart as possible while still being close to the mouth.
- If you only have one lavaliere mic, place it high on the shoulder of the person with the softest voice towards the other person.
- When using shotgun microphones, put it on a boom pole (if you have a boom operator) or mic stand.
- Shine more light on the person with the darker complexion.
- Make sure the taller person is not blocking the light source of the shorter person by placing him farther from the light.
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.