Technology has made the ability to film loved ones and record their stories more accessible than ever before. Video offers the chance to capture a warmth and familiarity that written memories aren’t able to match. While it’s easy to simply pick up a phone and hit record, there are a number of helpful tips to elevate your videos from mere archives into something that family and friends will be eager to watch for years to come.
Don’t go into your interview blind. Come in with a list of questions you’d like to ask, or a list of stories that you know you’d like to hear the details of. This allows you to guide the interviews in an efficient direction – valuing both your and the interviewee’s time while getting the highest quality answers possible.
Make Yourselves Comfortable
Interviewing can take a while, so take special care to ensure everyone feels their best. Make sure to have comfortable chairs for both the interviewee and yourself. For the interviewee, try to choose a chair that’s comfortable as well as supportive. You want them to be able to last the interview, but don’t want them slumping in their chair or leaning back in a way that compromises how they look on screen.
Pay Attention to Lighting
Lighting is the number one thing you can improve to turn a home movie into professional-looking video. In addition, good lighting does wonders in making your interviewees look their best. I could spend an entire article talking about lighting techniques (you can google “3-point lighting” to find some yourself). What’s important is having a “key light”, a big and bright light at roughly 45 degrees in front of your interviewee, and a “fill light” at 45 degrees on the other side to lighten any hard
shadows. The bigger the light, the softer the shadows – often times this can be as simple as sitting them next to a large window on a cloudy day.
Don’t Forget Audio
Audio is the most unforgiving aspect of video production and the most tempting to cut corners with. When we’re dealing with a visual medium, it’s easy to push audio quality to the side, but nothing takes a viewer out of the moment like bad audio. A lavaliere or lapel mic clipped onto the shirt of the interviewee will pick up their voice loudly and clearly. Another option is a shotgun microphone either boomed in above them or mounted onto the camera and pointed their direction. Either option is much better than the built-in microphone on the camera. No matter what you choose, take special care to be aware of background noises. Silence what you can control, like people in the room, or loud AC systems, and politely ask your interviewee to pause during things you can’t control, like loud cars driving by or airplanes.
The technical aspects of recording are all important for creating a video worth watching and sharing for years. But none of that matters if you don’t have compelling stories to record. The way you conduct the interview has a huge effect on the quality of the story you receive. Be warm and inviting, show genuine interest in what they’re telling you, and respond accordingly (Without making any noise that’ll spoil the audio! Eye contact and an enthusiastic nod go a long way.)
There’s a lot to keep track of when filming a loved one, but each step adds an important
layer toward creating a memory that ensures your loved one looks good, sounds good,
and feels comfortable telling their incredible stories.
Ryan Anderson is an award-winning editor and videographer whose work has been featured on NBC Sports, Esquire Network, USA Network, Fox Sports, and the Pursuit Channel. He is owner of Ryan is the owner of Paper Ketchup Productions in San Antonio, TX & a part of the Sacred Stories Advisory Group.