By Allen Bronstein
One of the best ways to acquire and share information is by interviewing an expert.It could be a professional, for example, an airline pilot talking about self-flying planes, or a physician discussing new insomnia treatments. But it could also be an “ordinary” person with special knowledge, for example, your grandmother talking about family entertainment in the pre-computer-game era.
Interviews can be stand-alone videos, or they can be incorporated into projects such as documentaries. Whatever the genre, using your mobile you can achieve excellent results if you know how. Here are a dozen tips we’ve found useful in our own interview projects. The illustrations come from Jessie Auriit’s prize-winning video “The Birdman.”
1. Write your questions ahead of time. Start with a few simple questions that will set your interviewee at ease, for example, “How do you pronounce your name?”
2. Choose the location. To achieve quality sound, look for a quiet place, such as a living room. For a more creative approach, put the interviewee in a setting related to the topic. For example, you might interview a pianist in a concert hall or a Little Leaguer at a ball field. When shooting indoors, if possible turn off noisy appliances like a refrigerator or furnace . Be sure to turn the items back on when you’re done.
3. Use an external microphone. If you rely on your phone’s built-in mic, it likely will pick up background noises airplains, leaf blowers, and cars passing by. A lavalier overcomes this problem by allowing you to clip a tiny microphone to your subject’s clothing. The microphone is then connected to your smartphone via a cable with an easy-to-use plug. For best results, put the microphone 6″ to 8″ away from the subject’s mouth. Test the set-up to make sure the sound recordings are OK.
4. Put your smartphone on a tripod. Make sure that the camera’s lens and the subject’s eyes are at the same level.
5. Have the interviewer sit off-frame, next to the camera. Have the interviewee look at the interviewer, not at the camera. This will not only give your interview a professional look, but in most cases, it will make the experience less stressful for the interviewee.
6. Let the camera roll for a few seconds before and after each take or answer. This increases the odds that you won’t accidentally cut off a response. It will also make editing easier.
7. If possible have someone else operate the camera while you ask the questions. This will let you concentrate on what the subject is saying, while your assistant monitors framing, lighting, and sound.
8. Ask the interviewee to repeat or paraphrase each question. This way, you won’t need to use your voice in the finished video. For example:
Interview: What was the scariest time you had scuba diving?
Interviewee: The scariest dive I ever had was when…
9. If the Interviewee gives an incomplete answer, ask a follow-up question. Often, responding to something the interviewee says will lead to the really interesting material.
Interviewer: Why did you quit the job?
Interviewee: I had problems with my boss.
Interviewer (follow-up): Could you give an example?
10. If the interviewee messes up an answer, simply repeat the question. Explain that it’s no big deal, and you will cut out the unwanted material later.
11. After one or two questions, pause the interview and move the camera slightly closer or further away. Changing the size of the image will add visual appeal. You can do this using the zoom lens, but it’s best not to zoom while the subject is talking.
12. Shoot additional material of the interview when not answering questions. This is called “B-Roll” footage. An example would be showing your subject engaged in an activity discussed during the interview. When edited into the footage of the Interviewee talking, it will give your video a professional look.