In this article, we will refer to a person being interviewed as Talent. We use the term in the industry whether it’s a CEO or a professional actor.
Choose the right place to film the talent.
This is an important step for 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 get a good interview 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 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 options, and you’ll be able to make a boring background pleasing. You should experiment by moving things around, bringing a plant in 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 interesting!
Just a reminder, stay away from cramped spaces if you can.
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 necessarily need to make your video testimonial a Hollywood production, but you’ll want to take some cues from the professionals.
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 the 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 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.
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.
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.
Audio — You must have Good Audio if you want people to watch your video.
No one will listen to your 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 approach. This method is used so the interview can look natural without seeing 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 how to capture good audio for video.
You should never use the built-in mic on your camera or phone if you are doing a serious interview.
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.
There are some amazing cameras that can be purchased that would have been cost-prohibitive a decade ago. The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K is an excellent example that can deliver excellent results. It’s under $2,000 and comparable to cameras that are 10 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. However, if the image becomes blurry at HD, then you’ve pulled in too much.
If you are not an expert with a camera, then consider using the latest cell phones
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 cell phones is pretty amazing.
Especially if you’re using the Cinematic features with the latest models. This feature will enable you to blur the background without having any knowledge of F-Stops or Aperature 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.
TIP: Try turning off the office lights if you have a lighting kit. A simple setup is having two lights pointed at your talent. 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.
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.
Ask the right questions and follow these steps when interviewing talent.
- 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 for the message you are trying to achieve. Rephrase the question if you aren’t getting the desired response.
- It’s ok to feed someone lines if your talent is having a hard time in front of the camera. As a producer, I feed lines to talent 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 say, but it’s taking too long or not cohesive. I’m always thinking about what people say during an interview and ways to say it better if they are having a hard time. I always get what I need, and everyone is open to delivering your lines in their own voice if it’s a good suggestion.
- Before recording the video, ask the talent to either look at you or 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 you are shooting direct to audience — the camera should be at the talent’s eye level.
- Ask the talent not to look left, right, or up/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 important if you 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. Such as: 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 they go off-topic.
- Give the talent the questions ahead of time 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 it comes time 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.
I can guarantee you will have excellent results if you follow these steps. I would encourage first-time shooters to run through setting up an interview a few times so they know how it works. You should become proficient with your setup before shooting an interview or video testimonial — practice makes perfect once you master the setup and interview a few colleagues to get a feel of the interview process.
If the video production process feels daunting, you can contact us, 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.