Tips for making video/audio interviews

Over the past six years I have been doing multimedia packages for my clients. Some of these are still images with audio and others are video with some still images.  The one thing that is constant in everyone is the interview.

I have taken many classes from other pros and read many books, but most of my tips here are from what I use now for most of my packages.

I want to break down the tips into two lists: technical and content.

This is a Nikon D4 with the Nikon stereo microphone

Technical tips

Rode VMPR VideoMic Pro R with Rycote Lyre Shockmount

  1. Use a good microphone and recording device. With today’s iPhones and other smart phones you can use this as your recording device, but get a good microphone if you choose to use this. I prefer using a shotgun microphone on my camera/video and/or a lavalier microphone clipped onto the shirt of the subject.
  2. Use headphones. You need to hear what is being recorded and the only way to do that is to put on headphones and hear what your microphone is picking up. This will also help you set the recording levels. This is when you will hear hums from electronics and air conditioning units to water falls. When you hear these things you can then see about moving or turning off electronics for the interview. This also will alert you to any short in the line of the microphone.
  3. Pick a quite space. With your headphones on and testing your sound you need to listen and try and pick the quietest place unless you want the ambient sound of the background.
  4. With video watch backgrounds. Look for a background that is simple or compliments the subject. Be sure it isn’t distracting and taking away from the audio.
  5. Back light with fill. I prefer when outside to back light the subject. This helps give them a rim light and then I use a fill light. The rim lighting separates them from the background and keeps their eyes from squinting. I use a fill light off to the side to help shape the face and fill in the shadows.
  6. Set camera and have subject talk to you. I don’t always do this, but it does relax the subject.

Aputure Amaran AL-528S Daylight LED Spot Light

Aputure Amaran AL-528W Daylight LED Flood Light

This is an example of a package I did for our church. I drove up to Chattanooga, TN in between other work jobs and shot this in couple hours and drove home.  Posted it a little later that night.

Interview Techniques

  1. Get to know your subject before interviewing them. This will not just help them be more relaxed but help you know how to interview them and perhaps help them relax.
  2. Do the interview at the end of the coverage and not the beginning. I find it is easier to have someone sum up what we saw today than have them talk about a lot of stuff that by the end of the day I never caught on camera. This helps you from lacking in b-roll or images.
  3. Ask the subject to summarize what you have seen that day. While you may not use all of this, it will help you with a starting place for the narrative.
  4. Mirror them. Keep them going by nodding and smiling.
  5. Ask your questions then be quiet. No noises to affirm them. Affirm with gestures. Your noises will distract from the sound quality.
  6. Remind them what you have that they need not talk about. Often people will want to tell you everything not understanding you have visuals that will help the audience. You need them to tell the things that the visuals don’t convey. While you have a visual that shows something happening, it often doesn’t help the audience know why.
  7. Keep them on topic. If you have two or more interviews in your package planned, then each person needs to know what they are covering. Sometimes I break it down as to let one person tell me why something happened and the other to explain what they did to make it happen.
  8. Help them revise their comments. Often i need about 30 to 45 seconds of comments and a person may talk for more than 5 minutes. If I were to edit it later their will not be a good flow. I try and help them summarize what they just said or even edit. When I say edit–I mean cutting content.
  9. Get variety. I like to often record a longer comment and then follow up with them making it really short. Sometimes I use the longer comment. Get another direction just in case. After doing this for a few minutes often this gets their minds engaged and they find a new way to articulate themselves. Allow for this to happen.

These are just a few tips of things I am doing today with my multimedia packages. I am now adding a second camera to add a variety of angles to interviews.

Before I get on a plane and travel to do a story, I have a good idea of what the story is before I take off. After I get there I listen and watch. Often the story changes and is modified. I go where the story takes me, but I am ever mindful of two things: the audience and the subject. I am trying to connect them to each other. What can the audience learn from the subject? Why should they care?

I am constantly looking and listening for ways to tell the story in the shortest and most effective way possible. I hope these tips may help you.