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How to Shoot Video That Doesn't Suck

Making a Simple Interview Look Great

I’m living in Holland and I’m working as a teacher and a radiohost for a local station. I have just bought in New York your book and I’m loving it very much! In the summertime I have every week an interview of exactly one hour with a local vip. During the program I record on tape the interview with one videocamera from one point of view. Any tips how I can make an interesting youtube videoclip from it, length: less than 10 minutes.

–Boelo Lutgert

I recently watched the limbo video “Wisdom” example in your book. It appears they have 2 cameras during this setup; one zoomed in as a close-up on the face and the other letting the character fill the frame. Is there a way to achieve this effect with only one camera?

–Craig Ebersole

Thanks for writing guys.

I’m bunching you together (may I call you Boelocraig?  No?) because these seem like the same question to me, which is “How do I make a simple interview look great?”  It’s a different question than I’ve answered about interviews before (here and here, for example), but it’s definitely worth thinking about.

I write a lot about how humans can’t look at the same picture for too long. We get bored. It’s a brain/visual processing thing. You need to change up the picture early and often to give us more information, thus making us very happy. Key question for your interview:  What’s available to cut away to?

The easiest thing to do by far is have two cameras, manned by bright camera operators.  Set one for tight closeups on the face, the other for a waist-up shot.  That’s more or less what’s going on in the Wisdom video. Or have the second camera shoot closeups of hands, eyes or other body parts that help your subject express emotion.

Don’t have another camera?  You can accomplish the same thing with a couple of shooting and editing tricks.

1)  Shoot “cutaways” Ask your subject to sit tight and talk more with you after the interview, while you shoot tight closeups that you can cut in later– about where they would have gone if you DID have two cameras. When your interviewee talks about her excitement about the city council budget, does she gesture with her hands?  Get her to do it again by asking a similar question.  Shoot her hands waving around.  Cut it in later.

2) Shoot “b-roll.”  If you’re watching an interview with Beyonce and the camera cuts to a shot of her rehearsing for her tour while she talks over it, that’s “B-Roll.”  You shoot it separately, then edit into your interview to pick up the visual pace. Be careful!  B-Roll had to not only be great looking, it also needs to help you tell your story.  If the b-roll doesn’t give us more information, we’ll be almost as bored as if it wasn’t there at all.

3)  Blow up your shots: Are you shooting 1080p HD and posting your video to the web?  If so, you have extra resolution to play with since almost nobody watches web video on giant screen.  If you convert the video to 720p (a lower resolution) you can blow up your original video quite a bit without it looking fuzzy on playback.  That shoulders-up medium shot could become a big-head closeup with the touch of button.

Whatever you do, Boelocraig, keep your videos short. An hour long interview is terrific for radio, during which we can drive or exercise or whatever.  But a 10-minute interview with anyone will be tough to watch without cutaways.  Even with cutaways 10 minutes is a long, long time for anyone who isn’t extremely interesting or naked.

 

2 thoughts on “Making a Simple Interview Look Great

  1. Where are the examples of the commercials you referenced in your book i.e page 78 I’ve looked on your website I don’t see the videos of the things that you’ve done

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