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Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Ask Your Interview Subject

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For every story you'll produce, effective interviewing will probably be a part of it. Before you start thinking up questions, you should ask yourself some questions about who you should spend time interviewing. You have to watch for subject, content and character.

Are you speaking to the right person? Will they bring the goods to the table? Do they have the on-camera character?

1) Are you speaking to the right person?

What experience does this source need to have? Obviously, if you're doing a testimonial, of course it's important to have a customer who your product or service really helped. True emotion will show through. So will a forced script.

2) Will they bring the goods to the table?

You need to ask the right questions to the right people. For example, will viewers find it very useful to hear you talk about the many features of your product, or how your product helped fix a problem in one of your customer's lives FROM the customer himself? Would a supplier be the right person to talk about why your company does what it does? No, that's the time for you to shine.

What type of source do you need for this story? Do you need someone with deep expertise and knowledge, or do you need a generalist who can relate to your audience? Think, who has the best credibility

3) Do they have the on-camera character?

Will their on-screen persona match the emotional appeal and tone you're trying to achieve with your story? Will they speak clearly and concisely on camera? Of course, your interview will be easier if you're interviewing someone who is well-spoken. But even the most well-spoken person can freeze when you put a camera in front of them. Thankfully, people are more used to having a smartphone in their face rather than the video cameras of yesteryear (the average teen takes something like 16 selfies a day, we hear).

Character also comes down to you, when you're choosing good quotes. What we look for most in quotes from our interviews is a lot of color, emotion, and a character to root for.

Consider what would be more powerful?

“We are very happy with X product.” Or…

“When we started using X product, I felt like I was finally able to reclaim my time. I finally felt like I was in control of my life.”

One is chock full of emotion, though both convey (generally) the same point, that the customer is happy with the product. Video is a great medium for empathy, but you need the right people in order to convey the tone you want your audience to pick up on.

The first few keys to a good interview is to find the right subjects to interview, based on their ability to speak well on camera, their credibility for the part of the story they're conveying, and their personality. Lastly, if you can say something better than the interview subject in your voice over, do it. Ultimately, we want all the information we present, interviews and other, to be clear and easy to understand.

Setting Up the Perfect Interview

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Finding the perfect interview subject can be very difficult. But once you have that person, setting up the perfect video interview shot can be easy.

Setting up an interview shot seems simple, but if you do it wrong, it's an obvious and distracting mistake. Here are some simple guidelines to getting a good interview shot that adds context to your story without adding distraction or lowering your video quality.

Four things to consider before you shoot.

  1. Location. The first decision to make is where to have the interview. Ideally, we want a background with some visual interest—not a blank white wall—but not something that is very busy, messy or otherwise distracting.

  2. Light. The light source, ideally natural light, should be to the front of the person. If not, they might be backlit and look like a silhouette.

  3. Clothing. Once you know what the background will be, consider telling your sources what to wear. White clothing usually isn't ideal, because it draws a lot of attention. Same with very bold colors or patterns. You might also consider requesting added blush or color.

  4. Subject. Not every source is he right source for an interview. Consider who can perform on camera and who will give the best information.

Four things to consider while you shoot.

  1. Composition. The best set-up is to use the rule of thirds and align the subject with one of the vertical lines. The top of their head and their chin should be a few inches from the edge of the frame.

  2. Eye contact. Their eyes should be level with the camera—we don't want people looking up or looking down. You should be at the same level, too, sitting slightly to one side of the camera, so the subject is looking across the frame and beyond the camera, at you.

  3. Framing. If you have a very emotional interviewee, you should frame the interview a bit tighter than normal. If you have a very compelling background, you might consider framing the interview slightly wider than normal to show the backdrop.

  4. Focus. Once your interview is set up, you should lock your camera's focus and exposure on the person's eyes. If you set the focus elsewhere, they may be a bit out of focus, and if you set the exposure elsewhere, they might be blown out or too dark.

Four tactics to minimize mistakes.

  1. Motion. Have your interview subject sit down, if possible. It will make them more comfortable and less likely to move. And, for the love of God, avoid spinning chairs. If the subject is at all nervous—and they often are—they will spin!

  2. Noise. Of course we want to avoid external noises, like hums or background music, but we also want to avoid noises from our subject other than breathing and speaking. Make sure your interview subjects aren't holding anything that could make noises, like a clicking pen or jangling the keys in their pocket.

  3. Solo/Double. Typically we try to avoid interviewing two people at one time because it can look awkward. But, if you do end up interviewing two people at the same time, whichever person isn't speaking should be looking at the interviewee who is speaking.

  4. Dual Camera. Although using two cameras at once can be confusing and take more time to edit, it will allow you to cut out any long pauses or mistakes. You can simple delete the error and cut to the second camera angle. This is useful if you have a subject that you must interview who can't seem to get through a sentence on camera. It will also add visual interest if you're lacking b-roll options. When people are saying something more compelling, switch to the closer camera. When they return to more explanatory material, you can use the wider angle. If you plan to use two cameras during an interview, the source should be framed on the same side, looking in the same direction, on both cameras.

Our ultimate goal is to get an interview shot that makes the subject, and the viewer, comfortable while maintaining the best video quality we can.

Check out these tips in this infographic!