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Preparing for Digital Video Interviews

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 3/9/2010

Though video interviews can look great, you must make sure the content is well coordinated. Learn techniques for preparing and asking questions, coordinating their answers, and making them feel comfortable and responsive.

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    Many Aspects

    If you are planning to use your digital video camera to conduct an interview there are a number of complicated aspects you have to address. Interviews can be perfect for a digital video documentary project, a freelance news piece, or simply to record an interesting person’s dialogue. No matter what the purpose is you have to prepare both your questions and your interview subject, as this type of interviewing is unique.

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    Questions

    First, the questions have to be carefully selected and custom-made to your interview purpose. You always want to start out with a few questions just about the subject which will make them feel more comfortable because now they know that you are really interested in them. Make sure to already know the answers to these questions, at least in terms of factual information. The very last question from this opening group should be based on something that they would not expect you to know, which will immediately break their “question and answer” routine. They will know that you are serious about your project and that the interview will be in-depth.

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    Order of Questions

    The order and style of the questions should reflect exactly what you want to do with the interview footage. If you are simply having them talk about different things you should try and group all the questions by emotional subjects, such as happy memories and sad ones. This way it will be easier to keep every question and answer separate from those that are dramatically different for the subject. If it is a documentary style production then you are looking to have your interview characters tell your story, and your interview questions need to be arranged in that story model. Be familiar with your own questions or script and plot your questions for them along that sequence. This will ensure that the subject makes the story arc with their dialogue so you can mine it later to help construct the plot of the film.

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    Mix It Up

    Make sure to mix-up general and specific questions so they are constantly being challenged and their answers are more spontaneous. For example, if you are interviewing a local politician about environmental issues try to ask how they feel about certain environmental topics then mention specific legislative bills. Do not hammer them over and over again about specific people, events, or political issues.

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    Put Them At Ease

    When setting up for the actual interview make sure to talk with the person ahead of time, making them even more at ease. Try to talk with them about other subjects, usually taking hints about their hobbies and interests from their dress and demeanor. Make sure to inform them that the questions you will be asking should be pretty standard and ensure them that you will be fair.

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    Prepare the Subject

    Always talk to them about their style of answering for the camera, because this is different than the way we speak in normal conversation. Tell them to always look at you instead of the camera, unless you are going for a more confrontational style. Make sure that they know they need to include the subject of the question in the answer they give. For example, if you were to ask them, “What is your favorite flavor of ice cream,” their answer should be, “My favorite flavor of ice cream is,” This will save you from having to use some kind of voice over in the final editing because each clip will make perfect sense on its own. Always sit only a couple feet in front of the subject because, even though they have a microphone on, they will feel like they need to raise their voice if you are too far away.

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    A Great Process

    One of the most satisfying digital video moments is having a perfectly recorded interview. Since you are able to control more aspects of it, they tend to look even more pristine than other types of recordings. Now you have to make sure the quality of the content matches that visual imagery.