How to Record a Video Interview That Has Personality

People have a tendency to get nervous when talking in front of a camera, making capturing interesting interviews a tricky business.

These things usually go one of two ways. In the first, the videographer comes in with a clear objective and maybe even a script for everyone involved. The candidness of a “conversation” is typically lost in this scenario and the content can sound a bit forced. As you can guess, these are typically boring and dry.

The second way is to let the interview lead itself by keeping it entirely conversational. While more interesting, this can cause troubles too. The person speaking may go on tangents, producing a lot of content that doesn’t edit together well later.

Our goal at Quadrid is to always capture candid, conversational moments that reveal a person’s true personality. We’d rather error on the side of being watchable than hammering out a few prescribed points because that’s what was planned.

That’s not to say we don’t plan, though. In fact, quite the opposite. There are a number of things we do in advance or “behind the scenes” to capture the essence of each subject – a style we’ve become known for.

Getting Comfortable

Make a point to show up early to a shoot to set up all of the equipment before the person being interviewed shows up.

Pulling out equipment after the interviewee has arrived causes unnecessary nervousness and worry for them. Most times, you want them to forget they’re being recorded as soon as possible.

Walking into a room that already has cameras, mics, and lights set up might be intimidating at first, but if you start engaging them right away, they’ll soon forget the tech and won’t have time to panic.

The less it feels like an interview, the better.

Checking Levels

You may have seen or heard people adjusting audio levels before an event or interview by saying something like, “Check one, two.”

This is unnatural for most people and inadvertently draws attention to the equipment and the process.

Rather, you can begin by asking some “softball questions” that are easy to answer. This is a better way to check audio levels. This warms them up and allows you to make the necessary adjustments without drawing undue attention to what you’re doing. Be sure these questions aren’t relevant to the interview topic, else you might end up with poor audio for those clips.

Converse, Don’t Question

video interview with Chocolate Spokes bike shop in Denver, Colorado
These are interviews, so questioning is inevitable. But firing questions at someone produces sterile answers and puts the entire interview at risk of becoming cold.

It’s important to think of the interview as a chess match – one where the videographer has to look two or three moves ahead. Setting up your ultimate question with easier questions in the same sphere will help lead the interviewee in a preferable direction and get a more thoughtful response.

If you’re capturing a story, it’s important to have an idea before the interview of how you’ll move into that story. Leading question may not be admissible in a courtroom, but they’re great for guiding your interviewee down the right path.

I’m constantly wondering, “Where do I need to take them?”

Find Your Inner Therapist

The style of the questions you ask is critically important to the content you’ll pull from people. To do this, you’ll have to channel your inner therapist.

It’s important to be able to dig deeper than most people will allow at first.

Open ended questions probably won’t be enough. Even they sometimes lead to surface level answers. Real emotion requires depth.

This is where instructions and questions like, “Tell me more about that…” or “What was going on emotionally when that was happening?” can really serve to provide deeper answers that reveal a person’s personality and creates a deeper connection with viewers.

Instead of asking, “What did you have for breakfast?” – which is technically an open ended question – you can get much a better response by saying, “Tell me about your breakfast.”

Outlining Flow

When conciseness or specific finish length is the goal, you can outline the flow of the video and bullet point important details ahead of time. You would then frame questions around those specific things.

This allows you to cover important topics in multiple passes. You can capture it naturally the first time and then provide a bit of guidance after that.

Some videographers encourage scripting everything out or instructing interviewees to repeat the questions in their answers. Asking them to repeat the question is too rigid for my style. It draws attention to the process, rather than the conversation.

While there are a variety of interviewing styles that can work, I prefer to put the least amount of pressure possible on the person being interviewed. When an interviewee is relaxed and just having a conversation, their personality will shine.

Don’t Instruct Too Much

In your quest to set up questions and lead the interview, it’s just as important not to over direct the person’s actions or responses.

While certain details are important to you, try not to get the other person too caught up in them. The more the interviewee has to think about, the more nervous they will become.

Just touch on a few key points before every interview, without getting bogged down in instructions, and you’ll get much better responses.

I try to keep it to two items: I ask interviewees to look at me, not the camera, and I remind them that the interview will be short. And that’s it.

Similarly, I don’t even provide interview questions beforehand. Some may scoff at this, thinking it’s setting the interviewee up to be unprepared, but experience has shown that the interviewee typically ends up sounding rehearsed if they’ve thought through their answers in advance.

Keep in mind…you’re asking people to talk about what they’re good at. Give them time to warm up to you a little and the content won’t be a big deal.

If you do want to help them prep at all, give general topic ideas. This helps put them at ease, but holds back just enough information to keep them from rehearsing.

Questions? Comments? Which techniques would you suggest to get the most personality out of an interview?
Leave a comment below.

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