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Video Interview Techniques - Introduction
In this article, we’re going to run through some video interview techniques I have used throughout my career to capture great interviews on camera.
There are many ways to create a narrative in video production, this could be via a voiceover, a presenter led video or even just images with text on screen.
One of the most popular methods however is an interview with a key person, sometimes called a ‘feature interview’ or ‘master interview’.
This could be just one interview with one person or a series of interviews with multiple people who have different experiences with the topic.
Capturing a well organised interview on camera with in depth, honest answers can raise a videos reach significantly, engaging the audience and allowing them to connect with the message in a way that many other mediums simply cannot do.
Providing honest answers to experiences and reasons instead of just ‘selling’ your product is key, you want to show your audience, not tell them.
1. Teleprompter or question based interview?
These are not the only ways to film an interview but they are the two most popular techniques.
Teleprompter – usually looking directly at the camera
Using a teleprompter (aka an autocue) is a popular option especially when the interviewee is talking about a complex message portraying facts or statistics.
Reading from a teleprompter ensures that what is said on the script is exactly what is spoken on camera. Verbatim.
A teleprompter is also a great way to speak directly to your audience. This involves looking directly down the camera and saying exactly what you want to say. This style is sometimes referred to as a ‘piece to camera’.
An interview or ‘piece to camera’ where the subject is looking into the camera and reading from a script.
Question based interview – looking to the side of the camera
A question based interview suits videos that have a more investigative or documentary approach. The answers tend to be more off the cuff or loosely based on key points instead of an exact script like a using a teleprompter.
It’s a great approach for an interviewee who is talking about personal experiences, a topic they are an expert in or more of a human led story approach. The answers can have more of a flow to them and be more conversational.
An interview where the subject is looking to the side of the camera lens.
Question based interview – looking into the camera
A recent trend with question based interviews is having the subject looking directly into the camera.
This can be a powerful way to create engagement with the audience. It can result in a mixture between having the impact of looking down the camera with a teleprompter whilst also achieving the flow and human impact of off the cuff answers.
Question based interviews looking directly into the camera can initially feel a little unnatural for the interviewee, having a conversation with a producer and then turning to the camera to answer isn’t something that people are used to!
We have found however that after the initial reaction of talking directly into the camera, the conversation gets going and it becomes a very powerful way to create ‘eye contact’ with your audience on screen.
A more relaxed style interview we recently worked on where the subject is looking directly into the camera without a script.
2. Preparation is key
Preparing your answers for a video interview can be a fine balance. You don’t want to over rehearse your answers to the point that you become overly reliant on being verbatim to what you have written down.
Some people prefer to not rehearse at all and answer off the top of their head – this can often be a great tactic.
After filming hundreds (if not thousands) of interviews with people from all walks of life, I have found having a few dots points on key topics for each answer is a good approach.
That way, if you need any prompting when the cameras are rolling, you have some pre written prompts next to you to get you back on track!
Having a read through your key points or prompts the day before your interview can also help solidify your answers in your head ready for the next day.
3. Knowing your target audience
Speaking to your target audience is one of the key fundamentals of making sure you’re connecting with your audience and speaking their language.
Keep in mind things like:
I’m definitely not saying to adjust your entire vocabulary here, using your natural language towards the style of the video will help the interviewee fit within the whole videos message.
Think corporate terminology for a corporate video & a more relaxed style for a Christmas message to staff.
Try to keep the tone of your voice in the same spirit of the video, i.e. what type of background music is being used and what type of b-roll / supporting footage is being captured.
Choice of words
Not using too many industry specific words if the video is for a wider audience and vice-versa.
4. The importance of the right location
Sourcing a great location for your video interview can go a long way in raising the production values of the video.
For indoor interviews at your workplace or office, the larger the space the better – having space behind the interviewee can give a sense of depth to the image, this allows the image to ‘breathe’ and not feel too claustrophobic on screen.
Picking a location that is relative to the subject of the video is also a great way to reaffirm the message we are conveying.
Sound is also equally important when it comes to filming an interview, if a video has some background noise, viewers can be distracted and may try and listen to the background noise instead of the interviewee.
Removing background noise in post production from an interview when an interviewee is talking can be tricky so it’s best to reduce background noise as much as possible during filming.
A good tip is to print out a few ‘filming in progress’ posters on the day to let co workers know to keep noise as low as possible!
For this project, we were interviewing a musician so having a large performance space with a piano out of focus in the background helped create depth whilst having a subtle connection to the subject.
5. Choice of clothing
Pick the clothing that makes you feel comfortable, confident and best describes your role & personality.
There is only one rule to remember, do not wear any clothing with very fine stripes. It can cause the camera to produce strange artefacts in the image. This is known as aliasing or moire.
Try and create a bit of contrast or ‘pop’ with your clothing. For example, if you know the location we will be filming in has warm tones in the walls and furniture, a blue outfit can help you stand out on screen.
Keep in mind that if we are filming a two camera interview, one of the angles may be quite wide showing more than just upper torso. This is however a collaborative choice which we can discuss on the shoot day.
An example of Moiré or aliasing on a suit. The camera cannot distinguish and individualise the fine lines.
If you like to wear jewellery then absolutely go for it! It’s all about making you feel comfortable when the camera is rolling.
Keep in mind that there will likely be some set lighting on you to create that wonderful soft lighting, this may in turn create some harsh reflections off large pieces of jewellery, we don’t want that!
Often, a sound person will place a small microphone near your lapel so keep in mind that more than one necklace can create a jingling noise right next to the microphone which could be distracting for viewers.
Makeup is entirely a personal choice. Wear as much or as little as you like as far as we’re concerned! We often carry a small amount of compact powder / blotting powder / anti shine powder to reduce spot lights or bright spots when filming outdoors.
6. Nailing your delivery with confidence
It’s common for people to be slightly nervous before being interviewed (especially for the first time) but we’ve found that after a couple of minutes, people tend to relax and start to find their groove.
This is your moment to shine! You’re being interviewed because you are the best person to speak on the particular topic so take the opportunity with confidence and really own it!
Try not to rush your words, remember to breathe and speak at a natural, steady pace.
Pause if you wish
After being asked a question, if the answer isn’t coming straight to you, don’t be afraid to take a short pause to collect your thoughts. Unless the interview is going live, there is no immediate rush with answering the question.
Taking a short pause to collect your thoughts can often lead to a more succinct and structured answer.
Question in the answer
If the producer’s question to you is not going to be audible in the video, they will usually ask you to include the question in the answer.
Producer: What is the weather like today?
Interviewee: The weather is beautiful today! Sunny days in Winter are the best!
You can see that by adding ‘the weather is’ at the front of the answer gave context to the interviewee’s response.
I hope these video interview techniques will give you some guidance to help get the most out of your time in front of camera.
Every video is unique with slightly different approaches, if you think your video campaign would benefit from an interview with a member of your staff, a client or a collaborator we will work with you to determine the best way to capture it.
We provide videography services in the Adelaide area as well as Australia wide.
We produce interview videos with 1, 2 or even 3 camera angles, soft beautiful lighting and professional sound recordists to ensure your interview sounds as good as it looks.