Over the last few years, both the size and cost of video production equipment has shrunk, meaning virtually anyone now can make their own video and publish it on one of the many outlets available across the internet. However, it is important to remember that while it may have become easier to produce a video, there are still several key fundamental skills required in producing a good quality video. The following is designed to assist you along the video production journey and, most importantly, to help you identify the pitfalls that can spring up along the way!
Having decided upon making a video, think very carefully about the elements that you will require to produce a good-quality story:
- Interviews: Who do you need to speak to in order to make this film relevant and interesting? Do you need contrasting views to make sure the film gives both sides of a story? Will the people you want to interview agree to take part?
- B-roll footage: What visuals do you require in order to supplement the interviews, to give examples of what the subjects are likely to refer to in their interviews?
- Archive footage: It may be B-roll or previous interviews that have been filmed within your department or in other departments, footage that is material you cannot film fresh or perhaps do not need to.
- Presenter or voice-over: Does the piece need someone to string it together, to guide the viewer through the story? Does that person need to be in view and on screen at certain points or just to talk over the pictures at particular points?
- Music: Would the film benefit from some music at certain points or even throughout? If so, what style of music? And most importantly, are there any issues in clearing the copyright to use your particular piece of music?
- Graphics/stills: Do you need any full-page graphics, animations or lower-third graphics for this production?
As a producer with a tight turnaround production, there is nothing worse than sitting in an edit suite putting your film together, and realizing that you don’t have enough material, or that you’ve neglected to ask a key question or to film a vital shot. It cannot be over emphasized: Planning is critical.
Think about what you are hoping to achieve from this video and about what messages you want viewers to take away. What kind of angles and perspectives can you offer to the audience? What can you do as a producer to bring clarity to the story and its more obtuse points? What will make your video different from others that cover the same topics?
Start to divide the story into sections, thinking about what angle each section will tell. This will guide you in writing your questions for each of the interviewees, and also allow you to think about how you might broach each section in terms of pictures and voice-over. You may have heard the term "storyboard," commonly used in the preparation of an ad film assignment in which every second of the production is mapped out on paper in front of you. It is not imperative to go to these depths but it is important to have a clear idea of how you will go about telling the story. However, you should keep an open mind and be flexible to change if one of your interviewees says something you weren’t expecting!
Research. Research. Research.
If you don’t know the topic or your subject inside out, you could be left with egg on your face! Make sure to read the specific material relating to what the subject will be talking about, but also search for the interviewee on the internet. You may find some surprises, some views or comments that you might not have expected, and you may find previous videos with the subject that will give you a good idea of how they perform in front of the camera. It may also give you clues as to how best, or perhaps best not, to film your interview.
Once you feel you have exhausted your research, sit down and begin sketching out your questions. Start with a couple of easy, less-important questions, allowing the interviewee to "warm up" to the experience, get used to the camera and feel at ease with you, the interviewer. Once you feel all is in order, begin moving through the questions generated by your research, positioning questions so one flows from the last. Questions do not need to be asked in the order that you expect them to appear in the final video.
When doing the interview, it is vital to listen to your subjects' answers so you can respond with a follow-up (that you may not have planned); if the interviewee has not answered the question to your satisfaction or says something that is valuable to your messaging and is unexpected, you need to be ready to respond.
Finally, leave any controversial questions to the end. If your subject objects, your bases have already been covered, and you should have what you need, without any further word.
Always ensure you have the correct spelling and title of any interviewee — on camera, at the start, ask for the spelling of your subject’s name and for a title. In this way, there will be no mistake when you get your footage back to the editing station. Be certain to thank your subjects at the end of the interview!
There are two key aspects to think about when you are deciding where to film an interview: light and sound.
In an ideal world, you would be filming in a quiet environment. Anticipate where noise might come from. ASU has beautiful campuses which in many ways make it ideal to record interviews outside, but the noise of passing staff and students aside — and the fact that Tempe sits in the flight path of Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport — makes it almost impossible to film without the noise of a passing jet every 20 or 30 seconds.
If you do choose to film outside, take into account such things as traffic noise, screaming kids, the click-clack of skateboards and other disruptive sounds. From a visual perspective, make sure that you account for the position of the sun when you decide in which direction to film. Film with indirect sunlight whenever possible.
Filming indoors gives you much more control of your environment. Choose a room where you are able to control the light or use it to your advantage. Think of the acoustics in terms of sound quality. A large room or one with tiled walls may produce echo. Also, keep in mind which machines may create background noise (think air conditioning) and see if you are able to turn them off for the interview. Consider capturing “room tone,” quiet natural sound of the environment, at some point on set to finesse audio edits later.
It is also important to make sure that you have enough space for all of your equipment, especially when utilizing lighting kits. Make sure there are enough accessible electrical outlets to run the equipment.
Once you’ve ticked all of the above boxes, choose a background that is not obtrusive and is pleasant to look at. If it relates to the subject (say a Sun Devils jersey for a football player), all the better. On occasion you may decide to put the subject in front of an artificial backdrop, like a black matte. This kind of decision may be made because no other suitable background exists, or you are trying to create a certain mood.
Make sure the locations and shots of each of the interviewees will work together. You do not want them to jar in the final edit. This means trying to use contrasting eye lines across the interviewees.