Video Interview Basics

Now if you’ve gone to community college or university, you’ve probably taken broadcasting courses and know the basics of on-camera interviewing. I’m not going to go into great detail of how to conduct an interview so here are some basic reminders. Most of these tips boil down to common sense.

  • Don’t be an idiot – Type up or write out your questions on a piece of paper and remember to bring it to the actual interview.
  • Be Prepared – Make sure you all your production equipment is ready for the shoot, and the camera and microphone batteries are fully charged the night before.
  • Be Friendly – When you sit down with the person you are interviewing, be polite and approachable. Try to make him or her feel as comfortable as possible before you turn on the camera. Talk with them, one-on-one about anything, so they feel welcomed and able to answer your questions honestly.
  • Don’t be rude – When you’re asking questions to the person you’re interviewing let them finish with their answers before responding. Remember this person is your guest, and you want to capture his or her emotions and viewpoints for the video. Talking over them is rude and ruins your audio recording.

Now the obvious has been stated, let’s get into the deeper stuff.

Position Your Interview

Before setting up your camera and turning it on, you need to know where you, the person you’re interviewing, and the camera will be. Positioning your interview will help minimize poor lighting, background distractions, and achieve the best sound quality for your video.

Depending on how you want to shoot the interview, you may want the interviewee facing you as the camera captures him or her from the side. It’s a popular method, and has been used in a lot of cable news stories and documentaries. 

Let’s say, however, you want the person you’re interviewing to speak directly into the camera lens. As the interviewer, you wouldn’t want to stand or sit besides the camera because it’s human nature to want to keep eye contact when having a conversation. The interviewee will unconsciously shift his or her eyes back and forth from you to the camera lens. Having wandering eyes is in a video is distracting to the viewer. 

You should get up and stand directly behind the camera. Don’t put your head above it or on the side of it, because the interviewee’s eyes will go up and down, left to right every time you ask a question. Have your face completely covered by the camera so the person has no choice but to talk directly into the lens.

Don’t Talk Over Your Interviewee

If you’re shooting an interview don’t talk over your interviewee!

We tend to do talk over our neighbors when we get super passionate about a certain topic or we want to add our own perspective on the conversation. Sometimes it’s out of habit, but it can seriously hurt the sound recording. It happens all the time. You’re editing your video and you look through the footage for the perfect sound bite and all of a sudden…BAM! You find you’ve talked over the interviewee several times when he or she was giving their opinion about the product you’re trying to advertise. When  the person you are interviewing responds to a question just smile and nod.

In normal conversations when one person is drives the conversation, the person listening will typically respond with a passive “Uh huh” or say “Right,” acknowledging they’ve understood or agree with the other person’s viewpoints. Your camera mic will also pick up those knee jerk responses if you don’t discipline yourself to stay quiet.  Most of the time you can cut those bits out in post-production, but if you’re silent during when the interviewee is talking it will make the editing process go a lot smoother.

Keep Connection With Interviewee Unbroken

If the interview is part of a testimonial or product video, the producer or CEO in charge of the project may want the interviewee to say something specific about the organization or product/service. This person in charge may ask the interviewee a question directly while the camera is rolling. In an instant, the connection you’ve made with the person you’re interviewing is now broken because his or her eyes and head will point towards the person who asked them a question. As an interviewer you need to re-establish the connection and repeat the same question back to the interviewee, bringing their full attention back to you. All around this helps with presentation and editing later.

Avoid Background Distractions

When you’re shooting at a local business, make sure to tell the people working inside to try and keep their voices down. Typically you would want to find a separate room to conduct the interview, in order to get away from all the ambient noise, but not all businesses may have one to use.

I remember doing some production work for this testimonial video we were shooting at this jewelry store. The producer was constantly having to quiet down the workers in the background. When I went back to edit the footage, there were moments you could hear people talking, desk drawers closing, and chairs bumping into things behind us. Thankfully the video turned out fine, but there were sound bites I couldn’t use because of the ambient noise going on around us. 

Another tip would be to limit the amount of people on set. If they’re people walking back and forth in proximity then the person you’re interviewing will lose focus in the interview, and again eyes will wanders.

This happened to one of our interviewees at the jewelry store. His eyes kept moving to Mikey, to myself, to the producer, and to whatever was going on behind us. 

Remember all these tips and tricks, and you’ll be fine on your next video shoot. Let me know if you want more articles on video production basics like this. You can hit me up on Twitter @TonyGomezVA or message me in the comment section below. Thanks guys and enjoy NAB Show 2017!

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About the author

Tony is a Brigham Young University-Idaho graduate with a Bachelors Degree in Communication. He has experience in journalism and video production. One of his favorite movies is Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. His favorite superhero is Spider-Man. He lives in Rexburg, Idaho with his lovely wife.

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