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Hints for videoing stories

Choosing an interview location

Just like the hints for audio recording, pick the quietest place possible.

Set up

Sit the person in front of plain background – you don’t want to be distracted by what’s behind the storyteller. Have light come in from the side (sit them next to a window if possible) to give their face more depth. Avoid direct sunlight if you can.

If you are using a handheld camera, something like a Flip camera (www.theflip.com/en-au/), keep the camera as close to your face as possible and tell the storyteller to tell you, not the camera, the story. Ask them to look you in the eye. With the camera close by it will look like they are looking at the camera.

If you are using a tripod, set your camera so that the lens is level with the subject’s neck. When you’re set up, position yourself right beside the lens, so that your eye is level with the centre of the lens. This will give a great just-off-camera shot for the interview. You may feel a little uncomfortable, but your shot will look great! When ready for the interview, your subject can look you in the eye.

Test the equipment

Make sure you are comfortable using the technology before undertaking a story gathering session. Practice setting it up, starting and stopping recording, zooming (actually, avoid zooming), etc.


Press record well before you ask your first questions. Engage them in some idle chit chat, to get them used to being filmed.

If you are using a handheld camera, concentrating on holding the camera as still as possible. If using a video mounted on a tripod, keep regularly checking the viewfinder to ensure you are capturing the shot you want.

Try to avoid making noise while they are telling their story, otherwise your sounds and movement also get captured. This is unnatural of course because you want to say, “ahha, that’s right …” nodding a lot. Need to avoid that and just smile a lot with encouraging facial expressions.

And like the audio equivalent, keep filming after they finish their stories because you never know what they will say after they relax.

January 6th, 2011 by Shawn Callahan
Filed in: How to, Recording
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