Testimonial videos are pretty much the bread-and-butter of the freelance video production and filmmaking industry, and for good reason - they can be a visually appealing, effective way to tell a story. Interviewing people on-camera for your project is pretty common, but like anything else in the filmmaking and video production world the best way to get better is by doing it. Here are 10 tips and tricks we use to get the best footage possible when filming on-camera interviews.
The most important part of the interview is before you begin. Before the cameras start rolling is a time for you to develop rapport with your subject, reduce their anxieties, and explain your expectations from them. Some of the tips we’re going over might even be things you’ll want to talk to your subject about.
Get your subject to reiterate the question in their answer. This is SO important when crafting a story. The easiest way to explain this to an interviewee is to tell them that if you ask “What is your favorite color?” and they just say the word “blue” we can’t do much with that, but if they say “My favorite color is blue.” then we have some context and part of a story.
Ask open ended questions. This fundamental of interviewing is often overlooked. A close ended question is one with a set number of answers - usually just yes or no. “Did you have breakfast today?” is an example of this. A better, and open-ended question would be “What did you have for breakfast today?”
Shut the f*ck up. Seriously. When your interviewee is speaking or answering a question just smile and nod. Use your non-verbals to show them you’re listening, if we can hear you agreeing in the background that particular soundbite will be unusable. Smile and nod.
Get great audio. Obviously we don’t mean skimp on the visuals, but you can cover up visuals with b-roll, so focus on getting the best audio you can - because you can’t cover up bad audio. Make sure you or your videographer is monitoring audio at ALL times and that your mics are placed correctly.
Place your mic correctly. I prefer booming my mic whenever possible - I think they sound better than lav mics. Regardless of what you go with your mic should ideally be between 12-18” from your subject’s mouth. For lavs clipping onto a tie, lapel, neckline, or strap is fine, and for booming just out of frame above or below the subject works best.
Use available light to your advantage. A lot of times I’ll use a large window or natural light as the key light for our interviewee. It’s eco-friendly, free, fast, and a beautiful light source. Works great as a backlight or as a fill light as well.
Frame the subject properly. A well framed interview should have tight but ample headroom, and plenty of nose room, or space in front of their face. Poorly framed shots can create unwanted dynamics like drama, tension, or unease.
Don’t neglect the background. Your visuals are meant to tell a story, and your choice of background can help tell the interviewee’s story. Make sure the background relates and isn’t too dull or too flashy - it should be a part of the story, not the focus. Place your subject in front of something related to what they’re talking about - a restaurant, display case, machinery, a painting, whatever!
Create depth. We can do this with a well placed backlight, and if you’re in a small space try filming into a corner to create an artificial sense of depth. This helps isolate the interviewee and creates a subtle focus on them for the viewer.
Were there any we left out, tricks you use, or just ones you think should be on this list? Let us know below! For more content like this, and things like gear reviews, tips, tricks, tutorials, fun behind-the-scenes posts, and cute dog pics, then sign up for our newsletter, subscribe to Droi Media on YouTube, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.