Friday, February 27, 2015

Shooting Video Interviews: Make Sure You Watch For This

Background-Good

Example of a good background

In this post, I am continuing in our series of 13 guidelines to shooting video interviews. So far 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. I 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. You learned some tips for making shooting a side-by-side interview easier on you and also why the interview also needs to sound good and what you can do to make that happen. Then in the last post I tackled another technical subject that a lot of people struggle with: lighting your subject well.

Of course, you don’t want to spend all that time focusing on your lights, shoot then find later that there were things in the background that don’t look good, don’t fit the feel of your video, or downright distracting.

Here is where a lot of looking around your environment will pay off. When selecting backgrounds, consider where the camera will go and if the interviewee will have decent lighting AND good sound.

What should you be looking for?

As you did with deciding what your interviewee should wear, does the environment match the tone of your video? Shooting a video related to health care, are you interviewing a doctor in his/her office or hospital makes sense, shooting the same person near the beach would be odd. If you will be featuring a surfer for a surf video, the beach would be perfect.

Look for distractions in the background. Is it really cluttered? Will the light source change too dramatically during the interview?

Bad background - the lamp is coming out of head, there's clutter in the background.

Bad background – the lamp is coming out of head, there’s clutter in the background.

Look through your lens. Is there a plant coming out of a person’s head? (More on framing in my next post.) Is there anything that may take a person’s attention away from what the interviewer is talking about – like an inappropriate poster, kids in the background mugging for the camera, etc.? Don’t be hesitant to move furniture and other things around if you are allowed to. Sometimes a simple change in camera position will make all the difference.

An easy way to solve this would be adding a backdrop. I have a few nice backdrops in my studio plus I like to bring along a portable photographer’s backdrop whenever I’m doing a shoot outside of my studio. You can find a good selection at backdropoutlet.com, cowboystudio.com, or dennymfg.com. Dark to medium gray is a good choice. If you order from a backdrop outlet they will also sell portable stands to hang them from. If you look at the lighting kit I mentioned in my post on lighting, it comes with backdrop and stands.

Another more complicated way of dealing with this issue is using a “green screen” which is a process that allows you to replace a solid colored background with a background of your choice. In getting this to look right, you also have to light it correctly to make it work well. You will also need an editing software program that will let you select out the background in order to drop in your other background.

Don’t forget the foreground either. If you want to shoot a person behind a desk, a messy desk may not be the look you are are going for so make sure you either clean it up or go with a different angle.

Action Steps:

  • Look around your environment for distracting background features and eliminate the distracting elements.
  • Set up your own backdrop to solve background issues.
  • Don’t forget to look at what is in your foreground.

Shooting Video Interviews – How To Light Your Subject

Let’s do a recap of what we’ve covered in our series of 13 guidelines to shooting video interviews: 1) 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; 2) 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; 3) you also now know where you want to place your interviewee and what you should have them wear, or not wear, to the interview4) I shared some tips for making shooting a side-by-side interview easier on you; and 5) why the interview also needs to sound good and what you can do to make that happen.

Today we’re going to tackle another technical subject and one that a lot of people struggle with: lighting. You need to think about the type of lighting you will encounter in your interview because the camera, even the top of the line camera, just doesn’t discern the nuances of light like our eyes do. Even if it does, you may want to change the way the your subject is lit to affect the look and mood of your interview.

If you are conducting the interview in your own studio, you’ll be more able to control it especially if you have invested in some basic lighting equipment. You don’t have to spend a lot to get a system that will be adequate for your needs.

However, if you are shooting somewhere else and/or on location, you’ll have more challenges. Here are some things to consider and tips for making your interviewee look his or her best in those situations.

Consider the Light Source

Some meeting rooms already have adequate lighting levels but it is from mixed light sources. If possible, bring your own lighting to either supplement or replace existing light. Again, a simple portable lighting system doesn’t have to break the bank.

Don’t forget to white balance your camera to the key light source.

If you are using window light and the interview is lengthy or the weather outside is changing, i.e., partly cloudy, the angle and intensity of the light will change. It may get too harsh or disappear altogether. If the sun goes behind a cloud, the lighting won’t be consistent within the scene. If you are cutting the interview up and skipping or rearranging segments this will be particularly apparent. Anticipate such problems and be prepared.

Large picture windows with bright backgrounds are tempting to use but can be very difficult to work with. If you don’t add fill light your subject will be a silhouette against the bright background. If you expose for your subject the background will be overexposed or as we say in photography, “burned out.”

The only way to save a shot like this is to add a lot of fill light on your subject, but beware of reflections in the glass.

A better idea would be to reverse the setup, putting the camera operator’s back to the window and let the light fall on the face of the subject like I show you in this image.

Interview-Lighting-Bad-Too Interview-Lighting-Good

Caption: Example of how changing your camera position improves lighting on your subject

Balancing Light Sources

Trying to balance indoor lighting with daylight is challenging. In these situations you have to match the color temperature (white balance) of your artificial light source to daylight. The new daylight balanced fluorescent lights help a lot in these situations.

If you are using tungsten lights then you’ll want to place a blue gel, known as CTB (color temperature blue), in front of the light source to bring its color temperature close to that of the daylight. You can buy these gels in different sizes and grades of blue, depending on the amount of correction you need to do. It’s a good idea to keep some of these gels with your lighting gear if you’re using tungsten lights. You can buy them from many sources online by searching on “CTB color correction gel.”

Shooting Outside

When you are shooting outside, nature gives you one of the largest lighting sources, the sun. It also brings with it different challenges.

 If it’s a bright, sunny day, you’ll be dealing with harsh shadows. Move your subject under a tree, you’ll get a speckled light due to the sunshine coming through the leaves. The best conditions I’ve found is on overcast days. You don’t have to deal with harsh shadows, changing light or cloud movement, and the colors really pop. When the weather doesn’t cooperate, many of the challenges of shooting on a sunny day can be overcome with the use of a reflector.

Next post we’ll be dealing with choosing your background.

Action Steps:

  • Take a good look around your environment and see how the lighting in the room will fall on your subject.
  • If you are shooting on location, bring along some lighting gear so you don’t have to rely on the lighting you find.
  • Shooting outside? Don’t forget to add a reflector to your kit. This simple tool will make a huge difference in the quality of your video.
  • Add gels to your light kit so that you will be ready for uneven lighting sources.

Shooting Video Interviews: How To Record Good Audio

So far in our series of 13 guidelines to shooting video interviews, you have External-Micfound 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.

Action Steps:

  • 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.

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