7 Tips for Shooting Great Interviews
This guest post is by Andreas Goeldi, the CTO of Pixability, Inc.. Pixability helps small and medium-sized companies market themselves with video and is a Brightcove partner.
Interviews are an important and very effective component of many business videos. An interview with the business owner, with satisfied customers or friendly employees is a powerful way to tell the story of a business.
Shooting good interviews is easy if you follow a few simple rules:
1. Discuss your questions previously with the interviewee, but don’t practice
Most people are not great at reacting to surprising questions, so always let the interviewee know what you are going to ask beforehand. But don’t do a practice run, because you want to capture some spontaneity. Always tell interviewees what the footage will be used for (if they don’t know yet) and ask for their permission to use their statement.
2. Find a good background
The ideal interview background is interesting, but not distracting. If possible, it should have something to do with the subject of the interview or with who the interviewee is. For instance, a business owner could be interviewed in front of something that represents his or her business, such as a production machine or an exhibition wall with the company’s products.
Avoid bright backgrounds like windows or blank white walls. Offices or buildings are OK, but not very interesting. It’s typically best to avoid situations where people walk through the picture, since that can be very distracting and often ruin a perfectly good shot.
3. Avoid noisy surroundings and get enough light
The goal of an interview is to get across what the interviewee has to say, so you need to make sure you get good sound. The easiest way to do this is to do the interview in a quiet place. Do not allow anyone else in the room to speak while the interviewee is talking on camera!
As always for video shoots, getting enough light is important. Even though today’s cameras can get a decent picture in low-light conditions, your interviewee will look much better with enough light. But make sure the lighting looks natural and contrasts are not too harsh. Turn on existing lamps, but avoid moving lamps around into unnatural positions.
4. Frame the picture
Interviewees look best if you frame them with your camera in about the same way as you would see a news anchor on TV. In other words, don’t get too far away and don’t get too close either. With a Flip camera, the best distance is about 3-4 feet. That’s also when you will get the best sound.
This distance is too close
This distance is too far away
This distance is just right
You don’t necessarily have to put the interviewee right in the center of the picture. The picture actually looks best when you put them approximately at a third of the frame horizontally.
5. Leave some slack, and don’t interrupt
Make sure that you start recording about 5 seconds before you start the interview, and let the camera run another 5 seconds after the interview ends while still keeping the interviewee in the picture. Otherwise a part of the interview might be cut off. Video cameras need a moment to start recording and sometimes cut of a bit at the end, so make sure you leave a few seconds of slack.
It’s also very important not to interrupt the interviewee. The interview will get edited anyway, so even if somebody gives a long statement, it doesn’t really matter. Let interviewees finish their answer fully and wait a second or two before you ask the next question. Remember, this is an interview and not a normal conversation. Great statements might not be usable in the final video if you interrupt too early.
6. Have the interviewee state and spell their name
Frequently, our editors will use “lower third” titles to show the interviewee’s name, like on most news interviews. That’s an effective way to make any interview look even more professional.
To avoid errors, ask the interviewee to state and spell their name just before the interview while the camera is already rolling. This trick is used by news camera crews all over the world and will help the editor put in the right titles and identify interviewees correctly.
7. Shoot more material than you need
We at Pixability typically recommend that online videos shouldn’t be longer than 2 or 3 minutes. But that doesn’t mean that your interviews should be extremely short. If you capture 2 to 3 minutes of footage per interviewee, you have enough material to select the perfect shot with the perfect message when editing the material later.
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