In this article, we will refer to someone interviewed as Talent. We use the term in the industry, whether it’s a CEO or a professional actor.
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Choose the right place to record video testimonials.
Choosing the right place to record video testimonials is an important step in engaging with an audience visually. You’ve probably seen a few video testimonials against a white wall or in a tight corner office. Those shots don’t convey warmth and do not create an emotional connection with the viewer.
It’s hard to record video testimonials in a confined space. Look for a wide open space that will give you options for a background that compliments your talent. Your focus should be on the person being interviewed.
That’s why it’s best to find a location where you can use the background as a texture. You can create texture by using a shallow depth of field or having the background blurred—this is what we call bokeh in the business. This gives you a nice, soft background that’s welcoming and keeps the focus on your talent.
Blurring the background will give you more aesthetic options, and you’ll be able to make a boring background pleasing. You should experiment by moving things around, bringing a plant into the shot or a painting, and seeing how that looks on camera. Or you can use a long shot of an office to create a fantastic backdrop. You can turn boring into something interesting!
Just a reminder: stay away from cramped spaces if you can.
Lighting for a video testimonial: Lights will make or break a shot.
I’m amused when someone says they want a shot to look natural, meaning it should take no effort. You don’t have to record video testimonials like a Hollywood production, but you should take certain inspiration from the pros.
It takes our production crew a minimum of 1-2 hours to set up a video testimonial, and that’s having done it a few hundred times.
It would be best if you thought about color temperature when using lights. The two reference temperatures are 3200 degrees Kelvin—the yellowish warm glow you get from a home or office lamp. The other color reference temperature is 5200 degrees Kelvin and is referred to as daylight.
The cost of technology has come way down over the years, and even inexpensive LED lights allow you to dial in a precise color temperature. You’ll want to match your lights with the environment that you are shooting in.
So, if you are in a space filled with natural light, you will use the daylight setting, which may look a little blueish. This will match the natural light from the sun.
You will use the 3200-kelvin setting if you are in a house or office lit with tungsten bulbs or warm LEDs — yellow hue. There are temperatures in between, but I want to keep this simple, as it doesn’t need to be complicated if you aren’t a professional.
If you want to take lighting to another level, you should invest in a light meter if you want the precise color temperature of the scene you are shooting.
Try to avoid shooting video testimonials outdoors. Lighting outdoors can be harsh and create unflattering shadows unless you have the knowledge and tools to control light. Below is a setup for a professional outdoor video testimonial.
Tip: The good news is you can get a good shot with an inexpensive interview lighting kit that you can purchase at B&H. They are one of the few places where you can talk to a pro that cares about your needs and find tutorials on an interview setup. They also carry everything you’ll need to conduct an interview, from a value setup to a full-blown Hollywood array.
I don’t get paid by B&H for endorsements. I mention them because they are the standard when it comes to buying production gear or comparing specs and prices.
You must have good testimonial audio if you want people to watch your video.
No one will listen to your video interview if it sounds like it’s coming from a fast-food drive-through speaker. No amount of magic can make that better in post-production. Luckily, there are affordable options for capturing good sound! For most, a wireless Lavalier system will be a good choice and easy to set up.
You can even purchase an affordable Lavalier system that you can plug into your smartphone, which you can sync up while editing.
For the adventurous, you might want to try a boom-and-shotgun mic approach. This method is used so the interview can look natural without an attached mic.
There are ways to hide a lavaliere, but that can be a minefield if you don’t know what you are doing.
If you want to dig deeper, we wrote an extensive article on capturing good audio for video.
If you’re conducting a professional interview, never use your camera or phone’s built-in mic for final audio. However, while utilizing an external recording device, you should leave this on.
You can use the camera’s scratch audio to sync with your external recording in post-production. Most digital editing systems can sync audio from several devices with a single click.
What kind of camera should I use to shoot a video testimonial?
A better question to start with might be: What is my skill level with cameras? Or, how well do I understand them? It takes knowledge to understand F-stops, aperture, ASA settings, and what lens you should be shooting with to get the desired look and feel of what you’re filming.
Some amazing cameras can be purchased that would have been cost-prohibitive a decade ago. The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera is an excellent example of a device that can deliver excellent results. It’s under $2,000 and comparable to cameras that are ten times its cost.
You should shoot all your video testimonials in 4K. This will give you more options while you are editing. It’s like shooting with two cameras because you can export your video in HD, which is half the size. You should frame your video with a wide-to-medium shot. That way, in post-production, you can pull in for a tight shot without losing any clarity because your output will be scaled down from 4K to HD, as illustrated below. However, if the image becomes blurry at HD, then you’ve pulled in too much.
Cell phone video testimonials can achieve great results.
I would suggest using the latest iPhone or Android If you’re not familiar with how manual settings on video cameras work. The video quality on the latest generation of cell phones is pretty amazing.
Especially if you’re using the cinematic features of the latest models, this feature will enable you to blur the background without having any knowledge of F-Stops or aperture settings to achieve depth of field. Again, blurring the background can make a boring setting look great.
That said, you still need to follow certain steps outlined in this article to make your video look good.
You should also invest in a Tri-Pod for your phone to get a consistent, steady shot. No one likes shaky videos unless it’s a horror film.
TIP: Try turning off the office lights if you have a lighting kit. A simple setup is having three lights. Two front lights pointed at your talent. This will avoid any distracting face shadows and give your talent a more youthful apperance. Use the third light to paint the background or use it to make a spotlight behind your talent. Using your lighting kit will ensure that your are perfectly white balanced and ensure a well lit scene.
At minimum have one to two lights.
If you can, avoid shooting near windows because it’s hard to balance the intensity of the light indoors to outdoors. If the window is getting direct sun chances are your window shot will be washed out, meaning it will just be a white glow. That said, some shooters might want a washed out glow but I would stay away from that senario if you haven’t done it before.
Also you’ll need to balance the outside light with the indoor lighting. Remeber, there’s the range of light from 3200K-5200K.
You need to ask the right questions and follow these steps to get great customer testimonial videos:
- Ask your talent to respond to your questions by repeating part of the question when applicable. Example: Question: Why do you like ACME widgets? Answer: I like ACME widgets because…
- Ask questions to elicit your desired response to the message you are trying to achieve. Rephrase the question if you aren’t getting the desired response.
- It’s okay to feed someone lines if your talent struggles in front of the camera. As a producer, I feed lines to people all the time. The goal is to get what you need because you only have one shot at it. Maybe they are saying what you want them to, but it’s taking too long, or it’s not cohesive. I’m constantly thinking about what individuals say during interviews and how they can say it better if they’re having difficulty. I always get what I need, and if you make a decent suggestion, everyone will perform your lines in their voice.
- Before recording the video, ask the talent to look at you off-camera or directly at the camera while responding to the question. Looking at the camera will be a direct-to-audience response, and looking at you slightly off-camera will be an interview setup.
- If you are in an interview setup, you should be standing or sitting at eye level with your talent. The same applies when shooting directly at the audience—the camera should be at the person’s eye level.
- Ask the talent not to look left, right, up, or down while answering your questions. Shifting focus away from the camera can distract the viewers’ attention.
- Ask your talent to continue looking at you or the camera for 2-3 seconds after they answer the question; this will help when you are trying to edit segments together. This might seem like a low priority, but you should make this clear. It’s a natural tendency for some people to look away after answering a question. It becomes essential if you are trying to make a tight edit from one line to the next.
- Watch your talent’s body language. If you see someone respond positively to a question, focus a little more on that topic or phrase the following question with that topic in mind. I’ve gotten some great answers by watching people I interview and doubling down on questions when I see a spark of interest.
- Ask a feeling question when you see a positive response from your talent. For example, how does that make you feel that ACME widgets have your back?
- Don’t interrupt someone while they are talking, even if it’s not what you want to hear or if they already gave you a great answer. Let them finish with their thoughts, and you might get some gems. Of course, stop the interview if you are about to fall asleep from someone rambling or if they go off-topic.
- Give the talent the questions beforehand to familiarize them with the content. This will give the person time to think about what they will say. It will feel more natural when the time comes for the interview.
- Pick the right person to ask the questions. You don’t want an introvert asking the questions. You should choose someone with experience or a natural ability to connect with people.
Learn how to record video testimonials like a pro.
I guarantee that if you follow these procedures, you will achieve fantastic results. I would recommend first-time shooters practice setting up an interview a few times so they understand how it works.
Before filming an interview or video testimonial, you should become familiar with your equipment. Once you’ve mastered the setup, practice interviewing a few coworkers to get a feel for the process.
If the video production process feels daunting, you can contact Mighty Fine Production Company, and we’d be happy to provide you with a quote for your next video testimonial. We have also consulted with organizations looking to set up a permanent space within their office to shoot videos.
Practice, practice, practice.