Get good at shooting interviews.
Shooting interviews is really important. As a videographer, it’s probably the most important thing that I do. It’s one of the things I spend most of my time doing, and most of the content I produce is based around someone (or multiple people) talking to camera.
Even though it’s a staple for most videographers, we’re often not given much time to actually conduct an interview. And the venues we are sometimes stuck with can make creating good quality interviews less than ideal.
These tips are easy things you can do to make the most out of these situations without having to spend a ton of time setting up or fork out loads of money either.
One of the first things we can do is create depth. When I get to a venue (especially if we haven’t got a lot of time or the venue isn’t very attractive visually), I look around and I try to figure out how I can get the person I’m filming as far away from the back wall as I possibly can.
This does a couple of things. Firstly it just creates more of an interesting shot because the person you’re filming and the background are no longer level with one another – you’ve created some separation which makes the shot look much more interesting. It also means that we can blur the background out which can hide anything distracting (or ugly) as well as create that ‘pro’ look that clients like.
So if you’re ever stuck or you get to a place doesn’t look that nice, just bring the person you are filming away from the wall, move the camera back, zoom in, and it’s gonna look ten times better.
Use natural light.
When most people think about lighting their videos they instantly think about the whole three-point lighting thing with big set ups and expensive lights. Those things are really, really good and I do use them on occasions but with the type of work I often do, I just found the set up time too long and inconvenient. I would often have to move to three or four different locations and set up each light from scratch every single time.
Don’t get me wrong – for high-end projects a good light set up is a must, but if you’re doing a lot of ‘run and gun’ videography, or you’re simply just trying to up your production value, you can achieve great results by simply finding natural light and using it well.
Look around your venue and find a way to get your subject next to a window so that the light wraps around their face. I also take a thin sheet of diffusion fabric with me to hang over the window to soften the light even more and cope with any inconsistency (like the sun coming in and out of clouds).
If you can shoot outside, then do – again diffusing any harsh sunlight with a diffuser. Outdoor light can be really flattering and doesn’t require much to make your shot look good.
Lighting is really important for interviews. It makes it look so much better but doesn’t have to be something that costs you an absolute fortune.
An often overlooked aspect of creating video is the importance of good audio.
This may sound really obvious but often our attention is focused purely on how the shot looks, rather than how it sounds. Ironically a viewer is much less likely to notice mistakes in the video quality but will rarely miss problems with your audio.
Try listening to a video with the sound turned down compared to the brightness of the screen turned down and you’ll see what I mean.
Poor audio can completely distract anyone who is wanting to engage with your video so it’s important to get the best sounding audio you can.
This doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. You can buy microphones that sit on top of your camera, wireless lapel mics that clip onto the person talking, or handheld recorders with in-built microphones. You can even get lapel mics that go directly into your iPhone.
If you’re willing to spend a bit of money but don’t have a huge budget, then I’d suggest something like this which is easy to use, small, light and produces great quality audio.
Whatever you choose to do, do not rely on the onboard camera microphone because they are very rarely usable.
If money is a problem when it comes to gear, scale back something on the visual side and you won’t regret it.
Use silence well.
This next tip is slightly left-field. This isn’t about how to make something look good and it’s not about how to make something sound good. Instead, this is about getting good content (because who cares if your video looks good if the content is rubbish?!)
Before I was a filmmaker, I worked in a mental health and bereavement service as a clinician and I spent lots of time with families, children and teenagers helping them to share their story with me. Check out the eBook that shares the things I learnt during that time which will help you get the best out of the people you are filming.
One of the things that I learned during that time which is really helpful now as a filmmaker is about the power of silence. We’ve all had those moments of awkward silence where we’ve desperately wanted to jump in and fill it. I’ve had lots. It’s perfectly natural to want to jump in and stop the awkwardness. The thing that we often forget though, is that the person we are with is probably feeling that too. This can be used to our advantage when we are asking people questions on camera in an interview.
If we are brave enough to allow for some silence, the person we are interviewing will probably try to fill it.
What’s great about this is that people don’t like to repeat themselves so the chances are the person will say something entirely new – either a completely new insight or just rephrasing what they’ve already said. Either way that’s really useful because then as an editor you’ve got different options to pick from, which will make your film so much better.
So hold your nerve! Obviously don’t wait for too long because that’s weird but just let the other person feel that awkwardness and they will jump in and say something fresh which will be really helpful for you.
Mix up focal length.
So the last tip is about using different focal lengths. What I mean by that is, is about creating different shots within your interview so you haven’t got the same shot throughout.
This gives a professional feel to your video as well as keeping people’s interest because it’s way more dynamic that one static shot. It also allows you to express your story better by coming in close for the more emotive parts of the interview, allowing the audience to really see the emotions on the face of the person talking.
But how do you do this with just one camera. Simple. Plan your shot list and move the camera for each question (or zoom in if you have a zoom lens).
So I typically have the camera zoomed out (or moved away) when I ask the generic questions and then move in for the more emotive ones. I obviously explain this first so they are not surprised! It also gives them a chance to catch their breath before they have to answer the next question.
This does take a little planning so that your camera position falls on the right questions but the difference you can make by using this technique is huge.
I hope you found those tips helpful. It isn’t a comprehensive list of all the things that you can do but just a few things there that you can use if you’re a in a bit of a pinch. They’ll make your videos look a bit better and sound a bit better and have better content as well.