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Three Tips for Shooting Good Video Interviews

Shooting a video interview is easy, right? Just point the camera at the subject, hit record and it will look just like 60 Minutes. No problem.

Not always.

As online videos become more ubiquitous and the technology to create them becomes more readily available, an increasing number of brands are using video interviews in testimonials, case studies and social media updates to tell their story.

There are many elements of a well-shot interview that you might not notice — until you see what happens when a few simple rules are not followed. Below are examples of three common errors that can cause a video interview’s quality to suffer, and ways to avoid making them.

1) Bad sound: Bad sound can make even the most beautiful and well-lit video seem unprofessional. Be aware of your surroundings and avoid shooting where there is excessive background noise. There are many unexpected sounds in the world that can complicate a video shoot — trucks, buses, helicopters, car alarms, nearby conversations, jackhammers, even cicadas. If you’re in the middle of an interview and a loud noise intrudes upon your interview — don’t settle for it. Wait until the noise has passed and ask the interviewee the question again. Or, barring that, move the interview to a quieter location.

You don’t need an external microphone, but if you have access to one, consider using it, as it minimizes background noises. If you are using a built-in mic, consider having the subject stand or sit close to the camera to get the best sound.

Also, it’s always good practice to do a sound check (or test) before you start the actual interview to make sure that your microphone (built-in or external) is working and that you can clearly understand what the person you are interviewing is saying.

2) Bad framing: Framing is the term for the general composition of a shot. It involves placement of the camera, placement of the interviewee, deciding whether they are sitting or standing, telling them where they should be looking, assessing what is going on behind them — all the basic elements that determine what the shot will look like.

Most journalistic-style interviews don’t have the interviewee looking directly into the camera. Instead, they are usually looking past the camera at the interviewer who is standing (or sitting) off screen next to the camera. In an ideal interview, if the person being interviewed is on the left of the shot, they would be looking to the right — across the screen. Conversely, if they are on the right side of the shot, they should be looking left across the screen. What you DON’T want to do is to have the person sitting on the left side of the screen, looking left off-screen.

If the subject is sitting, the person interviewing them should also be sitting so they are not craning their necks looking up at the interviewer. Similarly, if the interviewee is standing, the interviewer should also be standing.

One common framing technique to keep in mind is the rule of thirds — which (according to Wikipedia) states that: “An image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections.”

While not an absolute requirement, the rule of thirds is an easy-to-implement guideline, and can help create more tension, energy and visual interest than if a subject were simply centered in the frame.

Lastly, don’t shoot into the light. Your subject will instantly become a silhouette.

3) Shaky camera / moving subjects: Shaky camera movement and subjects who fidget or move around while being interviewed are distracting. Try to keep the camera as still as possible when interviewing someone. While not a requirement, a tripod can add a level of professionalism to a video, although there are situations when a hand-held camera might be more appropriate. If that’s the case, try to keep your hand as steady as possible when holding the camera.

If your subject has a tendency to rock, sway, squirm or fidget as they talk, point it out to them and see if you can get them to stop doing it. Keep in mind that this approach may or may not work. If it doesn’t, try having the subject sit in a chair that neither rocks nor has wheels and, if necessary, ask them to sit on their hands as they talk.

Whether you’re using professional camera equipment or your smartphone to shoot your video, keeping these three simple rules in mind can make your video interviews more visually appealing, and ultimately, more effective in telling your story.

By Brendan Kennedy Senior Content Manager, PR