I had the pleasure of catching up with Roger Stotesbury from Milton Keynes video production company Jump Off The Screen about the ins and outs of video this week – and I got sandwiches and coffee to boot, bonus! More about that coffee later…
Listen to this podcast in which Roger talks about the power of audio, filming in pairs and getting the right shots…
And here’s some more of what he had to say… (note the audio would have been longer if I hadn’t experienced technical problems, i.e the recorder app on the iPhone stopping after 10 minutes, grrr). And if you’re dead keen to find out about that coffee, scroll to the podcast at the bottom of this post.
The power of audio
Roger creates videos but says the audio element is the most important: if you have bad audio you have a bad video and it’s very difficult to ‘touch up’ sound like you can with visuals, he says.
‘A microphone is an important strategy for sound’
“These days any portable camera captures quality footage, including mobile devices, but while why they can perform visually most have tiny microphones so the sound quality isn’t there. A microphone is an important strategy for sound.”
When choosing a camera, he says, it’s less about filming (they all do a great job) and more about their audio capability which you might need to support with extra microphones.
If you miss scenes there are things you can do to fill the gap, but if you miss the audio it’s a disaster.
There is so much to do and think about when creating good video so doing it in pairs helps. You can do it yourself, and this can have advantages, such as creating a more intimate atmosphere/interview, but pairs works well to help distribute the workload so mistakes aren’t made. Too many people, however, and it won’t work – and never have more than three involved, says Roger.
Here’s a video Roger shot alone, managing to film and get the interviewees to look at him, just to the side of the camera, at the same time. This takes a bit of manouvring if you have a large camera! He confesses to getting the camera angle slightly wrong with one lady who’s looking up at him, rather than at the level of the camera. “Both me and the camera should be at eye level to get this right,” he says.
Trial and error
Making good videos is all about trying things, and learning from your mistakes.
For example, experimenting with where the interviewee is positioned and who they’re talking to. In one video, Roger tried a “look directly at the camera” approach for main players delivering the key messages and a “look slightly to the side” approach for the other contributors. Here, he’s using a “look at the camera” approach to create a different style of video.
Both are fine but, as a rule, Roger suggests the interviewee looks lightly off camera and not down the lens.
Let the interviewee be in control
Putting the interviewee in control helps make for a better interview, says Roger, even if you’re just letting them think they’re in control.
“Ask them which is their favourite chair and get them to start there; you may have to move them if it doesn’t work but it hands an element of control over to the interviewee and they’re more relaxed if they feel in control.”
Chat to the interviewee before hand to warm them up but don’t discuss the subject of the interview or you risk their best quotes could be lost before you’ve had chance to press record. Ask easy questions first, as a rule, and build up to the more difficult ones.
Roger uses a Sony EX3 but fancies a Canon C300 next. He says any DSLR camera/recorder will do a great job visually as long as you can come up with a fix for sound. “For good video the audio is important, the camera less so. It’s more to do with the questions, access and relationships,” he says.
When it comes to editing, Jump Off The Screen staff use Final Cut Pro but Roger says Apple have “dummed down” the latest version, which is more like an iMove Plus. “For that reason we’ll probably have to move to Adobe Premier or Avid, most likely Adobe which has a very similar interface to Final Cut and is easy to use.”
Oh, and that coffee we had? Here’s why it’s best not to brew and drink coffee during and audio interview… it’s a tad loud!
Huge thanks to Roger for making the time to speak to me, for the guided tour of the studio – and for the sandwiches and coffee!