Twelve Steps In Shooting A Successful Corporate Video Interview

Interviews are often a vital cog in the production of a video.  An interview can have a variety of purposes and can also be handled in a number of different styles depending on the nature of the project. For our purposes we’re going to focus on interviews that are shot for an Orlando corporate video

Whitney Media Productions, Corporate Interview with Sharon Hall, Program Director for TAmpa MADD.

Whitney Media Productions, Corporate Interview with Sharon Hall, Program Director for TAmpa MADD.

The intent behind an interview is to deliver content (the answers to the questions) in a way that meets the objective of the video.  What needs to be told?  What’s the message that’s being delivered to our audience?  Even more important…how can we make it resonate with them?

A typical corporate video might consist of several interviews.  Each interview reveals an important part to the overall story.  Some might come from a client’s perspective in the form of a testimonial, other interviews might be delivered from different departments with the purpose of affirming a company’s service or commitment to quality.

So what needs to be done to ensure a successful video interview?  Here’s a list of 12 we feel are pretty important.    

1.      Research - We need to think our questions out, know the people we’re talking to and how they relate in the company landscape and what they mean to the video.  This goes hand in hand with selecting the right people to be interviewed.  Who will shine?  What group of people will tell your company story most effectively? 

2.      Picking The Right Room Or Area – This is a very important first step in the actual production. Some of the things we’re taking into the account are the sound quality.  How loud is it there?   What kind of activity is nearby?  Can we control the environment so that it’s quiet when we need to start filming?  We don’t want any kind of music playing in the background because it’s a distraction and it’s also a licensing issue.  Also…what is the lighting like?  Does it have enough power for our lights?  Are there large windows that we might need to close off?  We want to avoid mixed lighting.  How big is the room?  Will it give us the depth we need to position our lights and let our background go soft for a film look? 

3.      Sufficient Time To Setup Interview and Light – After we’ve decided on the room we’re taping in we can begin setup.  Naturally each project is different…from budgets to expectations.  So time setting up for an interview will vary depending on how many interviews and locations we’re trying to shoot during the day.  Sophisticated lighting takes time. Depending on the setup we might be working with several lights, c-stands and grip accessories.  One of the best strategies to employ is using one very large room where we can use the room’s size to our advantage and get different ‘looks’ so that each interview doesn’t look the same.  On average having 45 minutes to an hour for a lighting setup is ideal.  In some cases we'll need more than that if we're dealing with a multi-camera setup.  For much smaller shoots having a minimum of 30 minutes to setup is preferred.

4.      Scheduling The Interviews One By One – Most interview participants are a little nervous for one reason for the other.  We don’t want to make that worse by having other participants in the same room (that might be next) watching their co-worker.  It’s not a comfortable situation for the person being interviewed.  An interview can take as little as 10-15 minutes in scenarios where time is limited; it can also take up to 45 minutes depending on the depth of the interview.  In order to keep the day on schedule the length of the individual interviews should already be decided on so that people can anticipate how long they’ll be needed and people also known when to show up. 

5.      Wardrobe – Cameras (even new ones today) don’t handle stripes and tight patterns very well.  That type of clothing causes a moiré effect in the video and it’s something that needs to be avoided.  We like to be able to address that in advance by providing some guidelines and clothing recommendations for the people that are being interviewed on camera.

6.      Diversity - It can be a sensitive subject but one that needs to be addressed.  It’s important in both internal communications as well as B2B video marketing.  A video should reflect a company’s appreciation for diversity.  An organization known for respecting workplace diversity builds on its reputation among its peers.    

7.      Proper Questioning Techniques - We always avoid questions that might illicit yes or no type answers.  Instead we focus on open-ended questions.  “What was the biggest challenge you faced in the project?”  “What makes you feel proud about working in your department?”  “How do you provide value to your clients?”  Probing questions will provide the greatest return and make your participant think about the answer they are providing.  Another key here that we emphasize is having our subjects answer in complete sentences.  That way they are providing some context to the question because more likely than not we won’t hear the question being asked.

8.      Never Provide Specific Questions In Advance – This is a cardinal sin.  The last thing you want is to have an interview sound rehearsed or staged.  Providing questions in advance will only hurt the production.  Emailing a list of questions will ensure that the interview loses any sense of spontaneity.  It will not be authentic.  It’s fine to discuss in general terms some of the topics we’ll cover, but we will never send a list of questions in advance.  It’s one of the common requests we receive and we explain our reasoning why every time.

9.      Positioning – It sounds simple but it’s important.  When shooting an interview we like to have the participant looking off camera at the person asking the questions…but not too far off.  We don’t want a profile shot.  We generally keep our cameras at eye level during the taping and implement lead room for proper composition.  If the interviewee is looking to their right on screen we adjust the shot to offer a little more room in that direction.  We want to frame the shot so that there aren’t any kind of distracting pictures or anything else in the background that will draw the attention of the viewer.

10.    Pick The Right Chair – The chair the interviewee sits in is important.  It cannot swivel…it should not be able to roll.  The best option is a chair with a low back and four legs.  Sofas, couches and stools are not good ideas. 

11.    Record Room Tone – This applies to audio.  Room tone is important because it gives us sound content we may need in post-production.  After we tape the interview but before the participant leaves we’ll record one minute of everyone in their places being absolutely quiet.  One of the main reasons why we record room tone is so we can try to take out obtrusive background sounds in post.  Say for example an air conditioner was on in the background during the interview.  Recording room tone with that air conditioner on will provide us the opportunity to sample that specific noise and reduce it in post-production.  

12.    Get A Signed Release - We make sure that every employee that’s being taped for an interview signs a release granting their permission.  It’s a safety measure that provides companies large and small protection.         

There are many other factors that go into producing a successful video.  Having the right crew, allowing enough time to shoot b-roll, even making sure to schedule enough time for lunch during the day is important.  Interviews though are one of the most important elements that will go into your corporate video.