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I am working on an entrepreneurship project, recording one-on-one video interviews with entrepreneurs across India. I am gathering some really interesting stories about small business, but I could use some tips. What can I do to make interviewees comfortable? What camera should I use? Should I try a collar mic? —M.P., New Delhi
Many entrepreneurs are recognizing that offering video clips on their websites, or on dedicated YouTube channels, is a smart marketing idea. The segments might present compelling interviews, as you are doing, or feature the business owner talking about the company’s mission or history, or demonstrating a new product or service.
Whatever the content, including video on your site draws viewers in and can keep them engaged—if it is compelling enough. It personalizes your company for customers and potential partners and makes you stand out, giving you an advantage over competitors. Be aware that the average video posted online loses 20 percent of viewers in the first 10 seconds and 60 percent by the two-minute mark, according to a 2010 study by video analytics researcher Visible Measures.
Of course, it’s important that any video bearing your company name comes across as high-quality and professional. That’s not to say it can’t be funny or offbeat, if that content meshes well with your brand, but it should not be cheesy or look like it was slapped together with little care. If it’s an introductory piece, keep it short and simple.
It does not have to cost a lot to make a quality product, given how technology has improved and prices have fallen in recent years. If you practice and experiment beforehand, you can shoot the video yourself or ask someone in-house to take on the project, says Peter M. Kelly, owner of communications team Framework Media Strategies in Woodbridge, N.J. “It is now possible for small business owners as well as amateur videographers to create professional quality media for their sites.”
Here are some tips from Kelly and other online video experts:
Preparation. “Having everything set and ready to go for the interviewee will give them a sense of calm and assurance. Keeping a positive attitude during the interview will allow for the best interaction during the discussion,” Kelly says. Even the best people-skills will be lost on your interviewee if you are struggling with the technology. “Way before interview day, practice, practice, practice your camera setup so you can concentrate on conducting the interview,” says David Carstens, a long-time cameraman, editor, and producer based in Los Angeles.
Camera equipment. Kelly recommends using a camera that shoots in 1080p HD, which is the kind of format commonly used by computer monitors and high-definition TVs. “To really have your video be noticed, it must be crisp as well as eye-catching,” he says. “In this world of fast-paced media, the quality of video or graphics you produce gives viewers a sense of your professionalism.” Even today’s smartphones can shoot at this rate, but Kelly suggests you use a Sony Handycam or DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera, such as the Nikon D5100. “Though they may cost more, it is an investment that will pay dividends down the road,” he says.
Andrew Lock, who records extensive video for his website, HelpMyBusiness.com, recommends the Kodak Zi8 as the best camera for shooting online video. “It’s easy to use, has good picture quality, and you can plug in an external mic, which is essential for good quality sound,” he says. You don’t need to spend more than $500, he adds, for a camera that records to an internal solid-state storage, or SD, card. Carstens recommends Class 10 SD cards for reliability and says he chooses cameras based on audio capability: You want to have headphone jack monitoring, external mic, input, and manual control of audio, he notes.
Sound equipment. The clip-on collar microphone, known as a “lavalier mic,” is the best choice for on-camera interviews. “It can be concealed while providing clear audio, which is a necessity,” Kelly says. Lock uses Audio-Technica microphones for himself and his interviewees. “You’ll also need a little microphone combiner box, which allows you to plug both mics into one input,” he says. Make sure someone monitors the sound with headphones and does a test before you start recording. This will ensure the conversation is picked up clearly.
Atmosphere. Make your interviewee comfortable by having the camera running from the start while you ask friendly questions about the person’s family or hobbies, Lock recommends. “After a few minutes, continue with your interview questions without a formal start so the whole process is like a friendly conversation.” Gabriel Shaoolian, founder and chief executive officer of Blue Fountain Media, a website design and online marketing company in New York, aims to draw people out and let them “become themselves” during an interview. “Talk about where they live; talk about movies they’ve seen. It’s scary to be interviewed. After it’s over you wonder why you said this or that—and people worry about that,” he says.
Be very aware of how you, or your interviewer, appears on camera. Shaoolian recognizes that he is an intense-looking person who, if he were an actor, might be cast as a bad guy. “When I’m listening, I get an intense look on my face, so people often think I’m angry. I tell them up front that I don’t want to intimidate them, and I’ll highlight something about them or their resume that I really like to get them more comfortable,” he says.
Location. If you’re recording on a day that’s not windy, try to find a quiet spot to shoot outside in natural light, Lock recommends. Make sure you don’t have such noisy distractions as planes passing overhead or loud traffic nearby. “The rule about noise is if you can see the source of the noise, like a water fountain behind the subject, then the audience accepts it,” Carstens says. If you must record indoors, choose a room that is brightly lit with even shade, no black walls, and either daylight or artificial light—not both—since the two don’t mix well.