A week ago Vimeo released a video and an article with good tips on how to conduct your first DIY interview.  And, while we've discussed a lot of tips about interviews and whatnot, it can't hurt to have some reminders and perhaps additional information.  Many of these are just basic shooting tips even when you aren't conducting an interview.  But aside from the technical aspect of it, you need to make sure you're prepared and your subject is at ease in front of a camera.  Following these steps should do the trick.

Vimeo's DIY Interview Tips

As always, be prepared.  Let's take a quick look at what Vimeo Video School has to say about conducting an interview.

1. Pick A Subject.  No kidding, right?  Pick a subject you're interested in and you think others will be, too.  Once you do that, it's time to learn everything you can about that person.

2. Do Research.  Go online, read past interviews, soak up everything you can so you can ask the right questions.

3. Prepare A List of Questions.  Write questions that are thoughtful and you feel will elicit thoughtful responses.

4. Mic Your Subject. Once it's time to start shooting, you'll need to mic your subject by using the first rule in miking people up: don't use the internal mic built in to the camera.  Use an external recorder with a lavalier mic or boom mic.  We have a ton of articles on mics, including this one from Reel Rebel.

5. Compose Your Shot: Wide, medium, close-up.  Close-ups add intensity, wide shots are seen as more laid back.  Use the rule of thirds.  Figure out where the subject's eye line will be so that they aren't looking directly at the camera (usually at the interviewer slightly off camera) and the interview will look natural.  Make sure you get cutaways in case you need to cut into the footage or break up the shot every once in awhile.

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6. Light Your SubjectThree point lighting techniques: In this video, they use the key light on camera left.  They then put the fill light opposite the key light.  They then use a "Hair light" (or back light) set up above the subject to separate them from the background.  If pro lighting isn't around, reflect the natural light in the room with a bounce (or reflector).

7. Groom Your Subject.  Make the subject look good (hair, makeup, wardrobe, etc.) before putting him or her on camera.  You don't want the person to look awful or distracting, unless that's the point for some reason.

8. Engage With Your Subject.  Show that you're listening with nods and smiles.  Make sure you have eye contact, but not too much.  You don't want to make your subject uncomfortable with staring.

9. Resist Interrupting Unless Necessary.  Not only is this rude, but it hurts your audio and editing when there are interruptions.  Allow the subject to speak all the way to the end and even allow some time to make sure they don't have more to say.

10.  Always Open Up to Going Off-book. Always ask if they have anything else they'd like to add.  These can lead to interesting snippets even more entertaining than the interview itself.

Vimeo Video School's Equipment Needed for an Interview:

  • Camera
  • Tripod
  • External recorder
  • Boom or lavalier mics
  • A few lights, but professional lighting isn't necessary if you have good natural light

That's it?  Totally.  Just follow the other steps and you'll be great.

  • Carl Hartman

    I can break down the actual psychology of why talking heads are a poor use of video. But, I'll go to an actual example. I have a client that is high profile, so I won't mention about them. But, they had us come in and help them set up with their own cameras, mics, and even the editing so they could do their own videos. Mostly, because our crews couldn't be there all the time shooting. At a certain point, the material got dumped back in our laps with the instruction "just work your movie magic." The videos never really converted well, even though we got them to #1-ish (first page) on YouTube in about 2 hours. We still shoot material for them. I still go back and work with them on elements of psychology of how, why and when to frame something along with the details. Frankly, a filmmaker needs to be in the room during the shoots. When we did recut the material I was constantly having my editors reposition, do digital zooms and all sorts of back flips because YES the right framing and angles actually have neural triggers that impact the messaging. - But, here is the worst part. The reason the content does not convert is the talking heads. First it was adding stock shots and B-roll, but that is a band-aid. --- Here's the secret sauce and here is what does work. Lifestyle content. Instead of teaching or pontificating in front of a camera, you need to go into the field and see it work. I worked for the producers of Reading Rainbow and as a network executive. I can tell you, flat out, no questions asked, the video field trip works better than anything. I have produced entire programs without ANY on camera interviews and then did educational testing from 5-year-olds to high school kids, the retention of the information is exponentially better. - Here is a great story. At PBS, we used to produce educational programming for high schools and it was almost all talking heads. The kids hated it. Even with great content, they were bored silly. The solution of my fellow executives at the network was to lock the doors and force them to watch the content. LOL. - However, I designed several courses that were knock-offs of MTVs Road Rules. I produced the entire course and testing showed the kids retained the content better than classroom teaching. - Now, we did a lot of other things with the content and I am not going to give away the store because we are working on several projects that apply the same processes I used at the network to marketing content. - The fact is, there is a reason NOT to do this yourself! EFFECTIVE content does take someone that knows what they are doing. And, talking heads are the worst thing to do, unless you have a high value subject on the magnitude of Steve Jobs, Richard Branson or Albert Einstein. Even then, its questionable. If you want content that actually creates emotional triggers that sell your products, you employ a pro like us. It has value beyond what you can imagine.

  • Carl Hartman

    Yup. It's just that easy. All you need is a camera and a tripod and you can DIY? Hint. bullsh---. It's crap like this that actually makes people think they can produce their own quality content for cheap. A bunch of these helpful hints are total crap. I produced high end documentaries for PBS for almost 10 years. - LOL, you do that. Do your own interviews. I spent several years in school just learning the psychology behind interviewing. But the worst part of this, people don't want to watch interviews. They don't care. It's BORING. Talking heads are crap. Creating a powerful story, that's king. But, go ahead, be cheap and record your own video of a talking head that nobody wants to watch. It's not content, it's the same old drivel that everyone has been doing in text, but on video. Nobody cares about the "blah blah blah" coming out of your subject's pie hole. This is sooooo friggin old school. Cheap people deserve the poor results they get.

    • http://www.facebook.com/chris.atkinson.560 Chris Atkinson

      Carl, would you be interested in doing a guest post? I have a feeling it would be greatly entertaining and informative (no bs, I think it would).

      As for everything you said here, I don't think anyone is arguing that the DIY interview techniques described in the Vimeo video are going to give you that awesome professional-looking PBS-style documentary stuff. I think this is for people who have almost nothing to shoot with and just want a basic interview. There's no doubt it isn't a substitute for actual professional stuff. It's for beginners. I know you aren't a beginner and this bores you--so if you have some professional no-bs tips to give, I'm all ears. I'd love to see that article.

      Appreciate your thoughts as always!

    • http://mocorealestate.com/ Bruce Lemieux

      What Chris said.