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Questions to ask in an Interview

Part of the video production process is often an interview with the business owner. I love this because I get chance to discover the story behind the business – why these people do what they do. And no matter what the business is – whether it’s a financial management company or a beauty salon, there’s always a motivating force and it’s understanding that “raison d’être” that helps potential clients buy in to what that business offers. And anyway, this is what makes the video interesting.

So here are some questions I regularly ask:

  • Describe your business and what you offer.
  • Why do clients come to you?
  • What’s unique about what you offer?
  • What is it about your work that really motivates you?
  • What is most rewarding?
  • What are the challenges?
  • Any anecdotal stories about someone who you’ve helped?
  • What difference did your service make to them?
  • Any funny moments?
  • What’s most important to you when dealing with clients?
  • What advice would you give to someone looking for your kind of service?

A little bit of emotion and humour help. Show you’re human and viewers will connect. The ultimate goal is to get a response and some insight into your work and vision will prompt that interaction.

Look out for my next article on “when an interview gets really interesting”!

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When an Interview Gets Really Interesting

The interview process is the bit I love most when making videos. Discovering the personality of a business and capturing it on screen is my goal and to that end I get to ask lots of nosey questions. Once the cameras are set up we forget they’re there. I settle down with the business owner and have a heart to heart. 

Our conversation covers all the main points and in the edit I choose the most compelling snippets. Not only does this approach make the experience easier and the resulting piece to camera more natural, but we get to the heart of what the business is all about. The general questions are important because they set the scene. And then we get to the good stuff.

It’s fascinating that as soon as I ask the question, “What motivates you?” Or “What got you into this work?” The atmosphere changes. More often than not, their voice softens, their face relaxes and it even becomes more fluent with less “um”s and “er”s. That’s because it’s personal and there’s a story to tell. We’ve got to the golden nugget and in the end that is what’s going to make the audience respond. There needs to be a bit of emotion and something people can resonate with.

This happened when I interviewed Dave Sully about his work running sports sessions for people with mental health issues. When he starts talking about his own experiences and his reason for doing what he does, there’s a depth. There’s an opening for the audience to put themselves in his shoes and connect on a deeper level. We get it and we respond. Click here to see the video.

Feel free to send your thoughts on what makes a good video. And check out other articles on video production here.

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Interview Technique

You want to get the best from your interviewee, help them relax and enjoy the experience because that’s how you will get the best answers and help them come across well. The best videos get to the heart of the matter, the personal stuff. You want it to be meaningful. There’s an art to interviewing well. Here are some tips.

Give a little of yourself. I’ve discovered that people will relax and open up if you are relaxed and open too. I’m chatty from the time we enter the room where we’re doing the interview. I chat and ask questions as I’m setting up the camera, mics and lights. It distracts the interviewee from the intensity of the situation and helps them warm to you. It doesn’t have to be on topic – small talk about the weather and travelling here is very non-threatening, and a good way to start. When we sit down and start the main questions, we’re already chatting and it’s a seamless transition. They may not even notice the interview has begun. Great!

Respond. The interviewee needs to know you’re listening to them. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to rush on to the next question. Feel free to comment briefly on what they’ve said. They’re more likely to open up if they feel listened to. I avoid looking down at the questions so that the interview flows like a normal conversation.

Body language is important. Sit with your legs and arms uncrossed. This shows that you’re listening, open and relaxed. They will then do the same. The likelihood is that they will automatically copy your posture and if they are relaxed then viewers watching the video will also feel relaxed. It’s all psychology! The same goes for smiling. Nod and smile and they will smile back. Remember not to make any noise though so that the video can be edited cleanly.

Don’t be afraid to ask the same question a different way. You need to have in your mind the main points that you need to get across in the video. So make sure they’re covered clearly and succinctly. You can tell the interviewee that it’s OK if they repeat themselves and that the best bits will be chosen in the edit.

Make sure the interviewee answers in complete sentences so your own voice can be chopped out  of the video. It’s a good idea to explain this before you start.

Be encouraging and show appreciation but don’t over-do it. Be genuine and enjoy it. 

Look out for my next article on what questions to ask.

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Choosing Music for your Video

I often find that when I add the music track to a video the whole thing comes alive. Choosing the right piece of music is crucial – you can make it or break it. Sometimes choosing the right piece of music is the thing that takes the longest because I want to get it just right. Music touches the soul – it has a way of evoking feelings in your viewers. And it’s the emotion which will motivate the audience into action. So if you get the music right you’re on your way to making a video which creates the impact you want and the right response.

I always make sure I listen to the client’s ideas. Some have a strong idea of what they want and what will work well. Some business owners have a favourite genre. I follow their lead. At the end of the day it’s their company they’re presenting and they know their brand best. 

Many clients give me free reign. So this is how I choose: It has to be appropriate to the message. I consider what feelings does the video needs to evoke in the viewer: peace of mind, relief from stress, positive, exciting, forward-thinking, action…On music library sites you can search by mood. 

You can also search by instrumentation. A full orchestra sounds grand. Perfect for accompanying shots of prestigious buildings. Acoustic guitars and indie vocals work well for campsite promo vids, for example, where campers are chilling out. It will help viewers feel the mellow vibes and join in with the whole experience.

Titles at the beginning and end captions/logos need a good clean punchy sting or a gentle fade which appropriately matches the message of the video.

I often use quiet music in the background of interviews. This keeps the video moving and provides continuity throughout. Volume is increased when talking stops. It’s best to avoid a piece with a strong drum beat. This can distract from the speech.

How to source music is a big consideration. I avoid commercial music which can be very expensive to license. 

If a company has the budget music can be commissioned specially. It’s easier to negotiate rights to use this music and it works well if we’re making a series. Unique music gives a series its own identity. Otherwise, library music offers a massive choice and good value. I don’t go for free tracks – these will be over-used and will make your video like thousands of others.

Finally, I always give the client the option suggest changes. We work on the video until everyone’s happy and it tells exactly the story that’s intended.

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Talking Head Videos – Pros and Cons

There are dozens of different ways to present your business on video. An interview with a person is a massively popular choice. But are we getting bored of the classing “talking head”?

Well, there are some solid reasons why they work.

  1. It’s personal. Business is about people – meeting a need – a transaction between people. We choose who we work with and we need to know they are human. So much is conveyed through that personal presence – the tone, ethos, vision, care, professionalism and so on.
  1. Research shows that we tune in to a face much more easily than to graphics or other images. There’s something about a human face that actually draws our attention. What’s more, when looking at another human being, we automatically copy their facial expressions. Smile on camera and your audience will instinctively smile back. This then creates the feelings in them. You are influencing how they feel. And it’s the feelings that will generate a response. You’ve created connection.
  1. Explanations. Sometimes your product or service needs an explanation. You’re company’s unique and so are you, right? So an explanation of what you offer is the best way to communicate what other companies don’t.
  1. Story. Beautiful shots of your product or premises will go so far but the story behind why you created them will add so much more and give your audience extra reasons to engage in the experience you’re offering. I t creates a deeper empathy and connects on a deeper level.
  1. An interview is straight forward compared to other filming and it can be pulled together relatively quickly. Therefore the production costs are lower.

The Cons

  1. Talking heads can be same-y. We’re a bit too familiar with them and everyone’s doing them. This is particularly obvious if an interview is done badly. Too long lingering on one static shot; explanations far too waffly and all about the person speaking. The way to deal with this is to mix it up. B-roll footage, stills and captions help keep the video moving. Or cut between speakers. Speakers need to remember what they are aiming to do – create connection and engage the audience. Keep it relevant. Empathise with them and offer help.
  1. They can be too long. Online videos are mostly watched on smart phones or tables while people are on the go. They will switch off if it goes on. I always thing that less is more. Mae your point and leave it at that.
  1. Show don’t tell. We’re more likely to believe you have good customer service if we see that in action rather than being told. True. Additional footage offers a lot her. Mix it up and use it well.

So there are pros and cons. All things considered, talking heads still have a lot to offer and nothing really beats a personal interview. But it’s essential to do it well. Happy filming! And watch out for my next article on what questions to ask in an Interview.

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What to Wear in your Video

Dress appropriately for your video. The clothes you wear give messages to your viewers as well as what you’re saying. How do you want to come across? Corporate or casual? Clinical or creative? Friendly? Remember who your target audience is. Imagine you’re speaking directly to a new client.

Avoid patterns as they will distract from your face. Small patterns and stripes can create a buzzy effect on video so keep it simple. Avoid wearing solid black and plain white. Black will make you melt into the backgroun’ white will dazzle the viewers. Pastels, pale blues, lilac and warm colours work well. Shiny fabrics like silk or satin reflect the light and shimmer as you move which can also be distracting.

Be practical. Check if the shoot is outside and if you’re walking through the shot stilettos aren’t ideal.

Wear clothes you can clip a mic to. Ideally you need a collar. So if you wear a dress, add a cardi or jacket. Otherwise the mic wire will have to be threaded through your dress. Awkward!

Wear clothes that wont date. Don’t give your video a short shelf life. You will want to get as much use out of it as possible. Similarly, try not to dress seasonally so it can be viewed at different times of year and not look odd. 

Finally be comfortable. If you feel comfortable you will be more relaxed and this will show as you talk and you will do a great job.

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What’s Involved in Video Editing?

Ever wondered what video editors do for hours in a darkened room? Here are some insights.

Loading in the footage: Plugging in the SD card, I can save all the footage onto my hard drive via my computer. I keep super organised, labelling everything clearly as there are often hours of footage to deal with after a shoot. I’d hate to lose those shoot days and all the contributions of everyone involved! From tape years ago it would have to be in real time but 10 mins will do it these days.

Importing the footage: The editing software I use is Final Cut Pro X. From this programme I can select the clips I want to use and load them into the programme. 

Synchronising the sound to the pictures: Because I record the sound for interviews on a separate device I need to synchronise it with the pictures. Fortunately Final Cut Pro X is very clever and will align the files exactly together, all at the click of a button.

The fun begins: This is when it really gets going. I start a new project file for the video, selecting the best resolution, frame rate and dimensions. (All of it’s wide screen these days.) This gives me a “timeline” to put all the clips into, in the order I like.

I start with the interviews. As I play through the clips of the interview I choose start and end points for each good sound bite and send them across to the timeline. Next I go through my chosen clip sections, re-arrange them to make sense and delete any bits I don’t need. Before long I have the story outline. 

Then I select and add in visual footage to cover some of the talking and illustrate the point being made. I normally try putting in different clips and see which works best. This process is quite intense but when it works it’s very rewarding and the video is really beginning to take shape.

Some of the clips may need slowing down, speeding up, stabilising, cropping, etc. There are dozens of effects you can utilise in Final Cut. You can give your clips an aged, vignette, cross-hatched, glow, dream or faded look and dozens of other effects. I also add dissolves to help clips merge into each other gently. Blur effects between clips give a more modern, stylised look to the piece.

All the clips and effects are visually represented in the timeline, which is now looking pretty busy! You can see how much editing has been done in a video by how complicated it looks in the timeline window.

Colour correction: This means adjusting each visual clip so that they’re no too dark/light/red, etc. If shots are taken in different light conditions (eg inside and outside) the lighting will need adjusting to give a consistency that isn’t jarring to watch. If a shot is too bright you can change the exposure. You can even make daylight look like night time! There are dozens of tools and effects within the software which allow you to do this. And plug-ins give additional options.

Creating titles: This will normally include some of the best shots from the video and the company logo, to get viewers engaged right from the beginning. I like to get some movement into it, revealing the logo in a visually interesting way. This can be done using “keyframes” which will transform, crop, distort at different points in time. Timing the movements with the music create maximum impact and cohesion. 

Captions: Contributors need to be named. Sometimes music, artwork or locations require a caption. Highlighting key points made by the interviewee using captions is also a useful way to get the messages across and add visual interest. I keep the fonts and text colour consistent with the business branding. Final Cut has templates for captions but I often create my own and this makes the video unique.

Music: Choosing the right music is crucial. It creates so much atmosphere and brings everything together. I choose from royalty-free library music so there are no complications with copyright. Different music producers have different payment options and they totally vary. The music is attached to the timeline and moved to the point where it’s needed. 

Sound editing: The volume levels for the music, voices and background sounds need adjusting and fading in and out so it’s not too abrupt.

Making changes: Shooting and editing a video is a creative and therefore a personal thing but I’m open to ideas and suggestions. So when I send a rough cut to a client I allow the opportunity for the client to suggest changes. I give them time for them to discuss the video with me and then adjust accordingly.

Exporting and uploading: This is the final process where the video is transported from my computer software into a format that can be sent to the client. Up it goes to YouTube from where businesses can link. Many businesses have their own YouTube channel and I can upload it directly.

Huge sigh of relief and happy customers: I love it when a video comes together!

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Copyright

Copyright

Boring as it sounds, you need to know this. You’d be surprised how careful you need to be on a video shoot, no matter how informal your video is. Supposing you create a beautiful video, investing significant time and expense, you post it online and get a good response. Then someone pops up and makes a claim. Their painting is in the background of your video and you’ve benefited from their work. They have a point. You’re then in a legally awkward situation. The video is removed and you could owe lots of money. Eek!

If any artwork, recognisable logos, book covers, magazines or photographs appear in your video you need to have permission. And when you seek permission from whoever owns the copyright they will want to know exactly what your video is about, who will see it and what it aims to achieve. They are then likely to charge you a fee.

The same goes for music of course. Production companies employ people who’s full time job is to clear copyright. It’s very complicated.

Your video production company will sort out copyright issues for you. But it’s good to be aware of the issues at the planning stage. If you want to avoid big costs and if you want your video produced quickly just avoid getting any art work in shot. Unless you painted it yourself of course. And if you know the artist just check with them that they’re happy – it’s only polite.

For more information and ideas on making videos see www.buttonmedia.net/blog

Happy planning!

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Choosing Your Shoot Location

Where to Shoot your Video

The shoot location says just as much, if not more, than what is said on your video. So it’s important to get it right. When choosing a shoot location here are some things to consider.

Style

Do you need a corporate background or a more informal location? Urban or rural? If you’re a business coach you’d probably want to be in an office, for example. If you’re in the medical profession you’d want somewhere clinical. If you work with children, choose somewhere colourful. Go for somewhere that adds to your message and says something about what you offer.

Cost

Many locations like hotels or office premises charge a fee and it can be really expensive. See if you can find somewhere that will let you film for free. You could always offer to film their sign and caption them so they get coverage too. If you can afford a location fee though, then you will probably be well looked after and be given the time and space you need to get exactly the right shots.

Get permission

Don’t assume it’s OK to film anywhere. Always check with the manager of the premises well in advance. If you’re filming on the street strictly speaking you should have a permit. Your production company will sort this out of course but it will cost money.

Sound

If you’re filming an interview a busy cafe may look great but the sound will be a nightmare to record. In TV dramas if there is dialogue to capture in a crowd scene, the extras mime their action and the background noises are added later.

Light

Natural light is always great to shoot in because it gives best shots so choosing somewhere well lit will help your videographer enormously (and will show your in the best light if you see what I mean!) Of course a good videographer will be able to light the scene beautifully with filming lights but this will require quite a bit of gear and will need planning carefully.

For more ideas on videos see www.buttonmedia.net/blog

Happy planning!

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