10 tips for doing a great video interview

by Heather Cowper on January 3, 2011

If you’ve ever met an interesting character on your travels and wished you could interview them on video, then this post could be for you. I’ve been recently recording a few video interviews myself and thought I’d share with you the things I learned – this article originally appeared at Heatheronhertravels.com. I’m assuming that you already have a video camera and have a basic knowledge of shooting and editing the video.

Filming at Oenolpi Winery on Zakynthos

Filming at Oenolpi Winery on Zakynthos

1. Practice on your friends

Before you start interviewing people who are busy or important, make sure you have practiced on a few friends first. For example, your friend has just come back from an exotic travel destination, so interview them about the things they loved about their holiday.

2. Do your Homework

If you know in advance that you’ll be interviewing someone, then do your homework. Have a thorough look through the interviewee’s blog or website, read their book, find out a bit about the place or subject that they’ll be talking to you about.

3. Do a pre-interview

In order to get the best interview, you need to do a bit of a reahearsal, but without making it seem so. For instance you may sit and chat with the person for a while before the interview, or talk over the phone or in the example of a tour guide, take their tour. That way, you’re in a position to ask the right questions and get a concise and interesting interview. You’ll also be more relaxed and so will the person you’re interviewing.

4. Decide the look of your video

There are several different ways you could film your video interview, and you need to decide on one in order to shoot it the right way, for example;

  • Both interviewer and interviewee are on camera – in this example you need to shoot some close-up reaction shots
  • Only the interviewee is on camera but you hear the interviewer asking questions – in this example you need to keep the questions short
  • Only interviewee on camera but questions are shown on the screen and the interviewee talks continu0usly – in this example you need to avoid overlap of question and answer so that questions may be edited out.

These are just a few examples – you may find other creative ways, but you can see how you’ll need to plan this in advance to get the right shots.

5. Decide on the length of your video

If you are planning to show the interview on your blog or video hosting site such as YouTube you probably don’t want to go over the 5 minute mark. Most people will start to snooze after 3 minutes. Allow around one question for each minute of video. So in a 5 minute interview you can only ask 4-5 questions.

Now take a break and look at my video interview with Rob Wallace of Freddie’s Beach Bar. Be kind – this was my first attempt!

If you can’t see the video above, view it here

6. Decide on the questions you will ask and write them down

If you’ve had an informal chat in the pre-interview stage, you will have a good idea of the questions to ask to bring out whatever the subject has to say. Decide the questions, bearing in mind the number you will have time to ask and then perhaps a couple spare questions if the interview moves quickly. Then tell the interviewee the questions you would like to ask them in advance to give them a chance to prepare mentally.

You may also ask your subject if they have a question they’d particularly like you to ask. Once you’ve decided the questions, write them down to keep in front of you during the interview, although perhaps not visible on camera. You should use them as a prompt, but not necessarily follow them slavishly.

7. Brief your interviewee

Before you start the interview, tell the interviewee what’s going to happen in the interview – things like;

  • How long the interview will last
  • The questions you plan to ask
  • Ask them to allow a pause at the end of each question and answer, and to allow space at the end of the interview to allow you to edit the video more easily. If you are planning to edit out the questions, let the interviewee know, so that they allow a second or two before starting to answer each question.

8. Set up the equipment

I’m assuming that you have already arrived with your video camera, ample film or memory cards, and a couple of full charged batteries (double check all of this well beforehand to avoid embarassment) To get a good interview, you will also need to use a tripod, to avoid shaky footage and a small lapel microphone, to attatch to the interviewee’s clothes. Position the camera just below head level of the interviewee for the most flattering shots.

9. Consider the background and environment

Think about where you should do the interview. It’s best not to be somewhere too busy, or where you’ll be interrupted. Choose an attractive background, or one which will enhance the story you are trying to tell. If you’re talking to someone about a historic site, or their business, try to get it in the background. Consider the noise levels, and if there’s a lot of wind, traffic or background noise, consider moving somewhere quieter.

10. Think about your editing.

Either before or after the interview, you need to take some additional shots which will make your video look much more professional. Take lots and make them around 5 seconds each. The sort of shots to think about are;

  • Placement shots taken from a distance of the interviewer and interviewee. You should look as if you are doing the interview, although the audio of these shots will not be used.
  • Reaction shots – if the interviewer is also in front of the camera, you need to get some head shots of them reacting to what is being said – laughing, looking thoughtful, interested, nodding etc. Try to make them look natural.
  • Introductions and closure – You can film a shot of the interviewer making a short introduction and also winding up the interview separately from the main interview and then edit them in.
  • Cut-away shots of the surroundings which will be used to cover up any editing or breaks in the dialogue. These can be any interesting or attractive shots going on in the background of the main interview. You should make sure you get a cut-away shot of anything that represents the things being talked about in the interview. If possible, do these before or after the interview to avoid keeping the interviewee waiting.

Of course, sometimes things happpen on the spur of the moment and you won’t have time to follow all these steps, so just bear them in mind and use them where appropriate. You can also apply these tips when doing an audio interview either to post as a podcast or to transcribe for your blog. See an example of my interview with Yannis Vardakastanis about Saving the Caretta Caretta turtles on Zakynthos

Earth Sea and Sky centre turtles

Earth sea and sky centre turtles

My bonus tip: Note down names and addresses

An the excitement of doing the video it’s easy to forget to take a person’s business card or write down their name, e-mail address and website. You’ll want to show these on your video later and if you don’t have these details later it can be really embarassing. Also you’ll want to be able to let them know when you have posted your video. People love to be a star!

More useful articles on making travel videos

10 tips for filming a great travel video
TV travel documentary or Online travel video – where to start?
Where are all the Female Travel Presenters?

Other Resources

Many of these tips were covered in a podcast about doing interviews which was included as part of my Become a Blogger Premium course. The interview was with expert interviewer Corinne Edwards and you may be interested the article she wrote about interviewing;
Interview like Larry King – Learning from the Pro

See more videos on my Youtube Channel

This article is published at My Blogging Journey, but originally appeared on my Travel Blog at Heather on her travels where you can find travel tales, videos and podcasts from Europe and around the World.

You’ll also find lots of great travel stories, videos and podcasts at our travel blog at Heather on her travels .

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