If you’ve produced a corporate video, or any audio-visual production where ordinary people need to speak on camera, you’ll understand that it can be a big challenge.
Noisy backgrounds and nervous interviewees can make it extremely difficult to get responses that will work well in an edit – both from a sound quality perspective and a storytelling one.
I was recently approached to produce the promo video of the brand new Caesarstone Design Studio launch. Having worked extensively with this fantastic brand for nearly 6 years, I’m very familiar with their need to produce high quality video content that reflects the brand’s top positioning in the market. But with intense time restraints and an interview environment that wasn’t noise controlled, it was going to be tricky.
Here are my nine tips for producers who want to get great video interviews, no matter who they’re interviewing:
One of the most useful things you can do to prepare for a shoot is to formulate questions for your interviewees, before the shoot.
With limited time, there’s no use fumbling around to come up with questions on the spot. Knowing which questions you need to ask also helps to mentally prepare the person who will be speaking as you can warm them up by getting them to think about their responses while they’re getting ‘miked’ up. One of my favourite tricks is to ask all the interviewees all the questions that may be pertinent to them. That way you can pick and choose which answers work the best with your editor in the post production phase.
2. Explain Your Process
Unless you have a seasoned presenter on your hands, most interviewees have no idea what to expect, which is what makes them uneasy.
Always introduce yourself and the camera operator (or at least the main people who will be interacting with the interviewee), and tell them what to expect.
Processes to cover could be:
- where you want them to stand or sit;
- why you are asking them to move or turn their body;
- how the microphone needs to be attached to their clothing and why;
- why they need to state and spell their name to the camera;
- more or less how long the final edit will be and how long their contribution will probably be in that edit;
- which questions you want to begin with and why;
- getting their buy-in and agreement to say any prepared or scripted phrases you have on hand;
- why their answers need to be only two to three short sentences (or however long you want them to be);
- why it doesn’t matter if they mess up an answer. (If it’s not a live broadcast, they can have another go).
3. Keep Transluscent Powder on Hand
Sometimes the way a shot is lit can make your interviewee’s face, or bald spot, look particularly shiny. Generally speaking, this doesn’t look good on camera and may make your interviewee feel self-conscious when they see themselves in the final video.
Keep a box of translucent powder and a fluffy applicator brush on hand, just in case.
On that note, it’s always a good idea to protect the dignity of whoever is in front of the camera. If their makeup is smudged, there’s some leftover lunch stuck in between their teeth, or their hair is sticking up in a strange way, always let them know – gently and respectfully. If there’s no mirror or phone camera available, either send them to the restroom or help them out yourself. Except if there’s something between their teeth…
4. Say Your Name
A great way to focus the person sitting in front of the camera is to ask them to tell you their designation and spell their name and company name. Only get them to do this once your camera operator has given you the green light to confirm their sound is up and running. This is also incredibly useful to the editor who will have to correctly title each interviewee, probably when you’re not around to help!
5. Change the Topic
Soon into the interview some people will head swiftly into a brain freeze where they go blank on what they want to say. This often happens after they’ve repeatedly answered the same question, but they keep stumbling over their words and they begin to get disheartened.
As the producer this is a great moment to step in and ask them a completely unrelated question to ‘reset’ their brain.
Offering them a sip of their coffee or a glass of water will also give the interviewee time to compose themselves and relax again.
6. Encourage, Encourage, Encourage
A trick I learned in my early days of producing was to err on the side of encouragement.
We all feel better about ourselves and our performance (and we’re more likely to deliver a better performance) when we feel safe and that the people around us are on our side.
Even if your interviewee doesn’t answer your question properly, or stumbles over their words, tell them they’re doing great! Only after you’ve praised them should you explain what you want them to change the next time around. Never discourage an interviewee by telling them they messed up. Rather say something along the lines of, “That was great! Let’s try that again this way instead”. That way you’ll protect your relationship with them and leave them more likely to step in front of a camera again in future.
7. Say These Exact Words
During your question preparation, it’s sometimes helpful to come up with exact phrases you want your interviewees to say.
Corporate videos usually have very specific marketing objectives they are designed to achieve. Whether it’s a campaign catchphrase or a sassy key selling point, the great thing about prepared phrases is you will leave the shoot with confidence that you’ve covered all your bases.
Also, with growing pressure to create short, punchy videos, there usually isn’t time for long-winded responses to your set questions!
8. Make Them Laugh
Or at least make them smile.
The camera tends to flatten our emotions, which is why you may need to get your interviewee to add some extra conviction, smiles, warmth to the delivery of their answers – all in an effort to help them ‘read’ better on camera.
Tell a joke, or dramatically tell them “This is the best day of your life!” – that’s one of my favourite tricks to help people to warm up their disposition for an interview.
9. Say Thank You
This sounds obvious, but once you feel you’ve gotten all the answers you need, make sure to thank the interviewee and tell them they did a great job! No matter how stressed out or pinched for time you are, it’s important to finish your interaction with each interviewee on a high note. You’ll only do your own reputation a favour and you’ll help them to feel good about their performance, which will only reflect well on the brand you’re representing.
Take a look at the final result of the video I produced for Caesarstone and see if you can work out where I activated my producer magic. Enjoy!