Talking head videos are a great way to explore complex subjects in an engaging way. But YouTube is littered with bad examples, how can you make sure that your videos are more Close Encounters of the Third Kind and less Plan 9 from Outer Space?
First things first
Before you even think about hiring a film crew, or hitting record on that camera, you need to lay the groundwork. Preparation is everything and taking the time to do these things now will help you deliver more value from your shoots.
Focus on your message
You want to produce a polished, professional looking video, but you also need to focus on more than just what’s on the surface. Your message should be your main focus. You can create a swanky looking video with all the bells and whistles that come from the post production process, but if your message isn’t clear, no amount of fancy editing will be able to save it.
You need to consider what this video is for, will it be a how-to guide, a sales pitch, or perhaps a customer story? Whatever the purpose, you need to have a clearly defined structure that contains signposting for your viewers. The more focused your structure, the better quality video you will produce.
In the US it’s a legal requirement for videos to be accessible to those hard of hearing, but it’s also just good practice for all of us. Also consider if you’re sharing your video on social media, it’s likely people will be watching it with the sound off—will the message still be clear? Taking the time to add closed captions to your video will help everyone understand the content and the messaging, no matter how they watch it. As well as this, you can also add your transcript to YouTube. And what about sharing your content in other languages? If this is something that could be of value, it’s beneficial to start planning before you start filming—consider avoiding colloquialisms and simplify any complex language.
Don’t leave questions like this until the last minute—you won’t have time to reshoot.
Plan for the shoot
To help the shoot go without a hitch, it’s important that you plan ahead. These tips may seem simple, but forgetting about them can have a huge impact on your finished product.
Schedule your day
For talking heads, you may not need a storyboard in the traditional sense, but you will need to create a schedule for your day. Plan exactly what you want to film and how. Consider whether you will need to film in multiple locations, if you will need more than one interviewee—people will likely give better answers if they’re able to bounce off of each other. And don’t forget to think about b-roll.
Prep your talent
You never know how well an interviewee will do under the pressure of being filmed—so it’s important to prepare them in advance. Many interviewees will already have an idea of what they want to say—they are the subject matter experts after all—it’s likely that they will worry more about what they should wear. Provide enough information so your talent feels comfortable, but not so much that they feel overwhelmed.
Consider your locations
You want to opt for places that are visually appealing—anything with street art, nature, or bright colours is usually a sure-fire winner. And consider what this video is for. You won’t sell yourself as an innovative tech company if you’re footage has been shot in a run of the mill conference room, and you won’t convince people to join your company if the office life in the background is dull and lacklustre.
If you need to interview multiple people, consider shooting at an event you know lots of customers and company execs will be at anyway. You’ll save a fortune on production costs and will be able to speak to a wide range of people easily and with minimal scheduling.
Anticipate location-based problems
Scout your location in advance and check things like power, lighting and background noise. You may not notice the air conditioning in the background, but your microphones will; checking you can switch things like this off in advance can save a lot of hassle and ensure that you can get started as quickly as possible. It’s also important to consider continuity when thinking about locations. Shooting in front of a window might look great, but it won’t work if what’s outside keeps changing while your talent is speaking.
During the shoot
Even the best laid plans can’t account for everything. You need to be ready to adapt on the fly during the shoot itself.
Be ready to improvise
Sometimes interviewees may be nervous and won’t give the answers you were expecting. Or they may deliver answers that open up whole new avenues you hadn’t even considered. Be ready to adapt on the fly and throw in some off-the-wall questions.
We recently interviewed a few C-suite execs about how technology was changing their industry. We asked them about how important culture was to innovation, but we didn’t quite get the answers we were looking for. So instead, we asked them what they’d say to a recent graduate thinking about where to start their career. As a result, we got some wonderful answers about how the industry’s culture had changed and how it was now somewhere you really felt like you could make a difference.
Help your interviewee feel at ease
Few of us feel natural in front of the camera, and it is likely your interviewee will make mistakes. You’ll need an interviewer who knows how to deal with talent that freezes, and one that can lighten the mood.
If your interviewee starts to tense up, or if they’ve stumbled over the same line several times, try moving onto something else—perhaps even come back to it later from a different angle. The more pressure you place on your interviewee, the more likely they are to enter a vicious cycle and continue to make little mistakes.
Record extra footage
B-roll is helpful for covering up cuts and is always useful to have on file. During your shoot, you want to try and look for opportunities to film extra footage wherever possible, we always try and shoot a mixture of location shots, candid shots of people and natural shots of the environment.
For example, if we’re in an office we might look for people in the kitchens or chatting in the hallways. These shots give your video a more human feel and help them stand out among all the other standard talking heads.
After the shoot
The shoot might be over, but there’s still a lot to consider. Editing can be a time-consuming process so knowing what to focus on can help you maximise both your time and footage.
Shake up the format
Get creative with your footage. Don’t just stick with the original plan blindly, review your footage and consider how each piece could be used to help achieve your objectives. You may not have set out to make four videos, but that might be exactly what your footage allows you to do. Consider creating compilations and bitesize versions—these are perfect for social media or using at events.
Don’t overlook the details
Tiny details like your music choice and use of separators and end cards may not be high on your priority list, but they can have a huge influence on the success and professionalism of the final product. And don’t forget about approval processes, if you’re aiming for a particular launch date have you allowed enough time for all the relevant people to provide their feedback?
Taking these steps and allocating time to prepare in advance will help you create effective video assets for your marketing. But it’s important to remember that even the best laid plans can be changed.
Posted by John on 13 June 2019