Video interviews help tell stories

Estimated read time: 4 minutes

Recording interviews of people who are part of stories that brand or traditional journalists are working on sharing opens up the options for content distribution.

Even if you’ve haven’t shot video before, cameras continue to get easier and easier to use – even for the novice user.

Small devices shoot great quality video today and adding a microphone to the mix makes the recording of interviews – in a quality format that audiences will want to watch – affordable to many of us.

You can record the entire interview and then use bits and pieces of it in different capacities. Let’s take a look at the pros, cons and equipment.

Before video interviews

When I first worked as a print journalist in the early 2000s, I would interview people to tell their stories daily. I would take handwritten notes that I would later use to accurately quote people. Yes, I really believed that I got quotes written down word for word. But, you might imagine that this kind of interviewing (asking questions, listening to the answers, thinking of follow-up questions, writing down person’s answers and then asking more questions) can be challenging. It’s not impossible, but there’s a chance that the interviewer might miss an answer.

Recording interviews on video offers a number of advantages.

Video interviews: The positives

Recording our interviews allows us to:

  • Focus on the conversation during the interview without trying to get the right words written down.
  • Use clips of the interview later on the website/social media, with a fully-produced video or give us quotes for materials with written copy.
  • You can play back the video to review what somebody said. So misquotes are unlikely, but keep in mind that people can misspeak from time to time.

Video interviews: The drawbacks

There are some disadvantages to recording interviews on video:

  •  People might not want to be recorded. I usually try to explain the advantages and if they still don’t, we can just talk. A good story can be told many different ways.
  • It does take some time to set up the camera equipment, hook the microphone on the person and do a mic check.
  • You’ll have to watch the footage again to get the soundbites – especially if you are planning on using them in a written format. But really, you’d have to find the quotes, too, when taking pages upon pages of notes.
  • Technology issues can happen. Make sure the battery doesn’t run out while you are recording. Remember to push record. Etc.

Video interviews: The equipment

There are plenty of options out there for equipment to record your video interviews and shoot b-roll video. For under $1,500 you can surely get reasonable equipment. I’ve even seen people shoot decent video – with decent audio  – with a smartphone. So that could be an option for you.

Related: Storytelling with just a smartphone (Internet Marketing Association)

flipcam first generation
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I’ve also shot great video with a first generation Flip video camera before. The camera doesn’t have an audio jack so you will have to make do with the internal mic. That’s not a problem for b-roll. For an interview, you have to be really close to people. Depending on the situation that may or may not work.

Camcorder for video interviews
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If you prefer a camera with more features, the Canon VIXIA HF M41 Full HD Camcorder might be a suitable option. I’ve used it for a few years and there have been few – all minor – problems. At the time of writing this, it was selling for around $1,000. It’s also on sale from time to time. I love the compactness and quality of footage.

Video interviews - microphone suggestion
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Bad audio can kill an otherwise great story. Using a good microphone is important. The Audio Technica ATR288W VHF Battery-Powered TwinMic Microphone System works well with the Canon camera mentioned above and provides good audio. Make sure to have extra batteries while on a shoot.

Video interviews wrap

There are many advantages to recording interview on video. They can help us get quotes (soundbites) right, help us engage more during the interview and can help us distribute the story more easily across several channels.

Having the best equipment for a specific situation, knowing how to use it and using it with the different channels of distribution in mind can help us tell better authentic stories.