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Record Audio Interviews and Film Video Interviews

How can I prepare for an interview?

  • Think carefully when you are picking an interviewee - find a person that you think your audience will identify with.
  • Give your interview subjects some context in advance, such as who you are and what you would like them to talk about.
  • Get permission from your interviewee to use or share their interview.
  • Research your topic and interviewee to help you form your questions.
  • Write down your questions and have back-up versions of other ways to ask those questions if you don't get the answer you want.
    • Decide on an order for your questions.
    • Check that your questions include plain language instead of complex language.
    • Keep your questions short.
  • Don't give interview subjects the questions in advance, this will support getting authentic responses from your interviewee.
  • Become familiar with the equipment that you will using in advance.
  • Always make sure you have extra materials on-hand just in case, such as extra batteries.
  • When you are picking a location, think about the factors that might present technical challenges, such as sounds that can't be controlled (fans or air conditioning, for example).
    • Choose a location that is as quiet as possible.
  • For a video interview:
    • When you are picking a location, think about the message it sends.
    • Create a shot list of the different types of shots that you want.  This will help you decide what you need.
    • If your subject wears make-up, ask them to wear natural tones.
    • Ask your subject to avoid wearing patterns, if possible, as visually this can be distracting.

What should I remember to do during the interview?

  • Take notes about the type of equipment you’re using and about anything notable when testing your equipment.
  • Test the equipment before starting and check your footage or recording before you finish, to make sure that you have what you want.
  • It is important for the person in charge of the audio to wear headphones so they can listen to the audio and check it as it is being recorded.
    • Do a test recording at the beginning and check this recording.
    • Audio should come to -12dB or a little less for digital recording.
    • If your subject is wearing jewellery, make sure that you are listening to the audio for any noise that is created by the jewellery.
    • Capture location sound as a separate recording. You can add this to the interview, which will be recorded in a quiet spot, as appropriate when you edit afterwards. Do not record sound that is not from the authentic location of the interview.
  • If you are recording both the interviewer’s voice and the interviewee’s voice, record them on separate tracks to help with editing later.
  • Let your interview subject know what you are doing throughout the process, such as when you are doing microphone checks, camera checks, etc.
  • Establish a tone for the interview and make sure your subject is comfortable.
  • Start your interview by asking your interviewee to state their name and to spell it.
    • This will give you the correct spelling of their name and you can check their audio levels too.
  • Ask open-ended questions.
  • Maintain eye contact and professional body language throughout the interview.
  • It should feel like you and your subject are just having a conversation.
  • Allow for pauses if the interviewee needs time while they are giving their answers.
  • Be quiet while your interviewee is answering a question (avoid saying “mm hm”).
  • Leave a few seconds in between the interviewee’s answers and your questions - this will help with editing later on.
  • Listen to the responses your subject is giving you - you might want to ask a follow-up question to hear more about something interesting they mentioned.
  • If your subject isn’t happy with how they answered a question - tell them that it’s okay and they can answer the question again.
  • Ask your subject for further clarification if there is anything that isn’t clear to you.
  • At the end, always ask: “Is there anything else that you’d like to add that we haven’t touched on?”

Top tips for recording audio interviews

  • Test the equipment before you begin.
  • Put the microphone close to your interviewee - no more than 6 inches on the table in front of them. 
    • Be aware that if the microphone is very close to your subject, you might get the “popping P” sound - try to avoid this.
  • Place the microphone to the left of your subject’s mouth and a little lower than their chin.
  • If you are holding the microphone, wrap the cord around your hand so that it doesn’t hit the microphone.
  • If you are outside, use a wind sock for your microphone to prevent excessive noise.
  • If something goes wrong or if your subject wants to re-start their answer, make sure that you leave a few seconds of space before they start their answer again. 
    • This will give you more flexibility when you edit.

Top tips for filming video interviews

Setting Up

  • If you are using a memory card for the first time, format the card and make sure that the card has enough space on it.
    • Be aware that formatting the card will delete all of the previous files on the card.
  • For your audio, a shotgun microphone, lavalier microphone or portable recorder is best.
  • Put your camera on a tripod so your shot is steady.
  • If you are the interviewer, set-up the camera so that it is beside you. 
    • This way, your subject is looking just past the camera at you - you don’t want your subject to look at the camera. 
    • If the subject is going to be on the right side of your shot, you should sit to the left of the camera, and vice versa.
  • Medium shots are recommended for a typical interview shot - this shot includes a person’s upper torso.
    • You could also film multiple types of shots, including using movement in the shots.
  • Use “the rule of thirds” - imagine that your shot is a 3 x 3 grid. Your interviewee’s eye line should line up with the upper horizontal line and their face should be around the far right or far left vertical line of the shot.
  • The camera should focus on the interviewee so that they’re clear - zoom up on the person’s face to do this. 
  • Avoid swivel chairs for your subject - ask them to sit in regular chairs.
  • Think about what you would like in the background of your shots.
    • Backgrounds give context, but you don’t want them to be too crowded or busy.
  • For lighting, the strongest light should be in front of the interviewee, about a 45 degree angle from the direction that your interviewee is looking. 
  • Before you start, check your audio and your camera settings. Test your sound and test the video. 
    • Check your video monitor to make sure that the tips of the microphones are not in your shot (if you do not intend for your microphones to be visible).
  • If something is scripted, record a practice run - this might turn out to be your best version.
    • If your interview subject will be looking at a script on a monitor, test how the text looks and test the speed of the text scrolling if applicable. Check if it looks like your subject is reading as you will want to avoid that.

During Filming

  • Film B-roll footage - the footage that complements your interview footage.
    • This footage should show what your subject is talking about in action. 
    • It is recommended that you plan to film B-roll footage for the same amount of time that you took to film the interview.
  • If something goes wrong or if your subject wants to re-start their answer, make sure that you leave a few seconds of space before they start their answer again. 
    • This will give you more flexibility when you edit. 
    • You can also insert B-roll footage as an option to replace portions of your interview footage if needed.

Top tips for editing interviews

  • Make sure that you stay true to your interviewee’s meaning.
  • If possible, you can remove “ers” or “ums”.
  • If possible, you can remove repetitive portions.
  • Make sure that the speaker’s name is included in some way.
  • You cannot replace questions that you asked with recordings of new questions.
  • Do not record or include sound that is not from the authentic location of the interview.
    • For news purposes, you cannot include sound effects or other inauthentic sounds.

Resources to help with interviews

Link to Guide: Edit Video WeVideoGuide: Make Your Digital Media Project AccesibleLink to Guide: Record Audio with Audacity

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