3 Steps to Better Video Interviews

Market research is about connecting organizations with people, but understanding people is only half the battle. As important is the ability to communicate this understanding back to organizations. Here at W5 we offer video components of our final reports that capture and communicate research participants to clients, creating enriched portraits of their wants, needs, and experiences.

Video adds depth to participants’ responses that cannot be achieved through text. Communication isn’t simply verbal, it involves a host of other nonverbal cues, such as intonation and body language. Simply reading that a person enjoys a particular activity, like running, doesn’t communicate nearly as much as seeing their face light up as they sit up straight, smile, and profess their love of running.

Three easy steps to creating better video interviews

Through video, participants are transformed from a transcribed series of quotes to full people. Documentary filmmakers have long recognized the ability of film to humanize people. This recognition is incredibly powerful when your goal is precisely to communicate a full picture of the people you hope to portray.

Video, though powerful, does introduce a new host of concerns that, if not properly addressed, can get in the way of its potential. Here are three simple tips for maximizing the impact of video reports:


1. Set the context

Nothing happens in a vacuum, so when including interview clips in a video report, it is important to include visual cues that set the context, answering questions like who, where, and when. This can be achieved visually through two main methods: well-composed interview shots and B-roll.

Creating a well-composed interview shot is a subtle way to set the context. The all-powerful “rule-of-thirds” states that, typically, visual communication is more interesting when the subject is positioned slightly to the right or left of the center of the frame. This positioning leaves two-thirds of the frame empty and therefore full of potential. Think about the subject and location of the interview. Can you include a visual cue in the background that tells the viewer where this is happening and reinforces what the interviewee is saying? An interview about home exercising might be shot in the living room where the interviewee exercises and feature dumbbells or an exercise ball.

“B-roll” refers to the contextual shots that often accompany interview footage (called “A-roll”) and is a more direct way of setting context. It also offers an opportunity to visually break up interview footage, creating interesting visuals to keep the viewer’s attention while showing what the interviewee is discussing. In the home exercise example above, B-roll might show the interviewee pulling out exercise equipment as the audio touches on how easy it is to have your own equipment to work out at home.

These examples might sound simple, because they are, but they also represent an added and important step to properly planning and executing a video interview.


2. Walk softly

Video interviews are, by definition, intrusive. On top of their thoughts and feelings, video interviews require people to share their image with the interviewer. Documentary filmmakers have long had to deal with their subjects’ distrust of the camera and insecurity about their looks. There is no way intrusion, but it is important to recognize and minimize the effect through equipment and time.

It is important that interviews, especially those in someone’s home, involve minimal equipment. Imagine if you invited someone in your home and suddenly you were bombarded with a camera crew, multiple studio lights, and a boom mic dangling over your head. Streamline your video kit into one or two bags that includes a microphone (a small lapel mic captures great interview audio), a single camera, and at most one video light. Additionally, set these pieces up quickly so the process is smooth and easy. If you can successfully look and act like the process is no big deal, you set up your subject to feel the same.

Just as important is time. The longer a person spends in front of a camera, the more normal it will seem and the more comfortable they will become. Don’t introduce the camera abruptly at the start of an interview. Instead, take the camera out right away and have it out in the open, pointing at the interviewee the whole time. Make small talk that gradually transitions into an interview with the goal of making the camera a normal part of the interaction.

By minimizing your equipment and creating an environment that makes its presence feel normal and insignificant, you will drastically reduce the intrusive nature of video interviewing.


3. Get out of the way

Getting out of the way is the simplest and most important part of a successful video interview. Ideally a video report makes the viewer forget there is someone behind the camera. The ultimate goal is to represent the subject. Don’t try to too creative or artistic. This video isn’t about you. It’s about the subject and the subject matter.

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