Film Impactful Interviews

My bread and butter as a videographer (especially a Chicago videographer) is filming interviews and testimonials. I have filmed hundreds of such interviews, I have worked with other videographers setting up interviews and I have seen many more video interviews all over the web. Over this time I have learned a few important keys to making a good and engaging interview.

First point, be brief. When I set up a video interview I usually end up talking to my subject for 30 -40 minutes. However, an effective interview video with one subject is 1.5 minutes to 2.5 minutes. When I get a response from my subject that is long, verbose, and it feels like he/she is wondering with an idea, I let them finish, complement them on how good their response was and ask them to summarize it in 2-3 sentences. Sometimes it takes a few takes. Hence, allow 40 minutes for an interview.

Secondly, make the interview conversational. There is nothing more boring and flat than reading questions to the subject. As humans, we are social beings. Yes, the subject understands that ultimately he/she is talking to an imaginary audience and he/she is just being filmed. However, I have seen shy people open up to me when I engaged them with conversations. They forget the camera is pointing at them and they give me content that is rich and personal. At times, as videographer, you can’t engage in conversation or you don’t feel comfortable doing it, and prefer just attending to the gear. If this is the case, it is worth bringing another person to whom the subject can talk (and engage).

Always use at least two cameras. Having multiple angles makes the editing much easier. You can easily cut the interview and jump from one camera to another during the transitions. Cutting interview filmed with one camera creates distracting jump cuts. Additionally, having multiple camera angles makes the video more dynamic. Sometimes, I even add a little slider movement to add more dynamic feel to an otherwise static shot.

The sound quality is huge. In my video production I use high end lavalier microphones. The lavalier mic is close to the subject and you get much more voice signal and less environment noise. Truthfully, most viewers watching these types of videos will not be able to tell the difference between a video shot with a $30k camera and something shot with a smartphone. However, bed sound is immediately noticeable. Bed sound screams “amateur” video. If you don’t have a good lavalier mics you can use a shotgun mic. Ideally, you want to get the microphone as close to the subject as you can. You can mount such microphone on a stand and run the cable to the camera. Mixing of the sound is also crucial. To get that professional sound quality you always want to add a little compression to the sound, so the loud parts are attenuated and quite parts are turned up. I often use a little EQ to remove the low end of the sound spectrum. When mixed with some music, the voice that is compressed and lightly EQ will cut through the mix easier.

Lastly, to make a video interview engaging you need to have something visual to cut to. Often this is called B-roll. B-roll shots are visuals scenes that support the story the subject is telling. However, sometimes I use photographs from the subject and build a collage that visually tells the story. When I do this type of a collage, I actually prefer photos that are not taken professionally, as they better represent the reality of the person being interviewed.

In summary, a video interviews need to be cut to about 2 minutes, they need to be conversational, recorded with good sound and multiple cameras. When done well, they are one of the more powerful marketing tools for any business, product or service.