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Posted on 09.18.2012

Quick Tips on How to Conduct a Video Interview and Prevent Heartburn Back in the Editing Suite

We produce videos for many of our clients; many are testimonials and the interviewees are not accustomed to being videotaped. I wanted to share some tips on how to get the best responses from the people you interview. Most of the time, people are nervous in front of a camera and, as the one asking the questions and trying to get good footage, it's the interviewer's job to put them at ease. Here's how I approach it:

  1. Decide in advance what you want your subject to say, and don't be shy about asking a question 15 different ways to solicit an answer that is going to make an effective sound bite. I always explain to my interviewee that I am likely to ask a question several different ways, but it's only so I will have a lot of choices in the editing room - not because they have not given a good answer.
  2. Give the interviewee a little advance coaching. Even if he or she has given interviews before, it's nice to remind people to:
  • look only at you and not the camera or anyone else in the room;
  • not to worry about making a mistake because it can always be edited out;
  • pause right before they answer each question;
  • don't begin their answer until they are looking you in the eye (not up in space trying to think through their response);
  • don't rock or sway in the chair (shame on you if you give them a chair that moves);
  • ask for a pause if they want to restate or reframe an answer.
  1. Write down your questions prior to the interview, but don't refer to them unless you must. When you look down at your paper, it reminds the individual being interviewed that this is on camera, not a casual conversation. Memorize the topics you want to cover so you don't have to interrupt the flow and shuffle through your papers.
  2. Listen to the other person's answers; not your questions. If you're a novice, this is tough because you are nervous about how you sound. In most cases the questions are edited out so you can bumble around all you want and nobody will know the difference. In fact, sometimes it really helps ease the anxiety in the room when you aren't too rehearsed and you stumble a bit yourself.
  3. If you are lucky enough to have a professional shooter, let them have as much input in regard to the location of the shoot as you do. They have an eye for composition (and for making sure it doesn't look like a plant is growing out of the subject's ear on camera.) Likewise, give the crew adequate time to set up. They need to scope out the room for potential visual and audio challenges that could foil you on the post-production end.
  4. Get your crew to over-shoot B-roll. As time consuming as it is, you can almost never have too much B-roll to cover the jump cuts and edits you will need to make when you put the piece together. Likewise, don't forget to get "room tone" to help you later on when you get down to editing.

Does anyone have other tricks of the trade to share about getting good video testimonials?

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