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Information Marketing Videos: Interview Style



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Consult With Fred Gleeck

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Anyone who markets and sells information products will do a video interview at some point in time. Over the years I’ve done over 2,000 AUDIO interviews and recently I’ve started doing more VIDEO interviews.

I’d like to share what I’ve learned to help YOU do video interviews better!

Understand that you can create video interviews at a VARIETY of price points. You can do them SUPER cheap and you can also spend a TON of money. In any case, you’ll want to get the best VALUE for what you’re doing.

As an example, I recently hired a crew to help me with a video interview. The crew consisted of 2 “shooters” and an audio guy. The shooters “man” the cameras and the audio guy concentrates on making sure the sound comes out right.

They showed up with some very high-end cameras suitable for doing a network broadcast. The quality of the end product would be something very similar to what you might see on “60 Minutes”.

The crew showed up just before 8AM. It took them about an hour to set up. The interview itself lasted from about 9:10AM to 10:30AM. It then took them 30 minutes to break down and leave.

Cost for the “shoot” itself? Around $1500. In a scenario like this one you end up paying for the quality of the staff and the equipment they use. You’ll also end up having to pay for what’s referred to as a LIGHTING PACKAGE. To do video interviews right, and have them look good, lighting is a KEY component.

I am also paying an additional $800 to have the editing done. Editing can be fun, but for this interview, I wanted someone else to do it. If you do it a LOT yourself, it may take 6-8 hours to edit a one hour video piece. This is IF you have some decent experience. MUCH longer if you don’t!

I do most of my OWN video editing using IMovie on my Mac. This piece is being edited in Final Cut. It’s the software of choice for video professionals. This is NOT to say that you can’t get pretty DARNED GOOD results using Imovie, but more on that later.

I turned over the editing to a professional because I wanted to get it done FAST and RIGHT. I did not have the time to spend on editing this piece and I decided it made sense to have it done for me. Included in the quote he gave me for POST (this is the term used for post-production of the video – the editing) was a 90-120 second TEASER or TRAILER.

The trailer is being created because I want to give people a chance to see an enticing PREVIEW of the video and then cajole them into opting-in to my list to see the interview in its’ entirety.

Right after the video was shot, I was able to see a quick snippet of it and it looks REALLY good. This is certainly one route to go, BUT there are other CHEAPER ways to do things as well. For the purposes of this post, I’ll give the finished product the PROFESSIONALS are doing a rating of 100 for future comparison as I go on.

If you see yourself doing a LOT of videos, then it probably makes sense for you to OWN the various pieces of equipment necessary. In the example above, if you were to BUY all of the equipment they brought with them to shoot the video it would cost you somewhere around $15,000. This is the HIGH END STUFF.

In MOST cases, this would be overkill. You don’t NEED to have high-end equipment like this; depending on how you want to use the video interviews you produce. IF you want to make them available for BROADCAST TV, then the PROFESSIONAL level of equipment DOES make sense. For most people, you won’t need to spend this kind of cash. Not unless you want to put your videos on NETWORK TV. Are you??

So, let’s assume that you don’t need to make videos that are broadcast quality. What are your choices then?

Here is the set-up that I own that I would put in the MIDDLE price category. With the set up I’m going to delineate, you’ll be able to get to about a 85-88 level of quality, IF you have GREAT LIGHTING.

In my discussion with a number of very savvy video professionals, I learned some things YOU need to know and understand. HIGH priced cameras have MULTIPLE chips and have a LARGER surface to capture and record images.

The multiple chips and bigger recording surfaces are most critical in low light situations. I’m going to be doing the vast majority of MY video interviews indoors where the lighting can be controlled. This means that I can produce some VERY decent looking video without having to spend BIG money on equipment.

If you will be doing the same, you can follow my lead.

Earlier today I had a conversation with some video pros about how I could get some VERY GOOD looking video without having to spend a bundle. First, remember this. If you’re going to be using multiple cameras, try and get the EXACT SAME cameras. If not EXACTLY the same cameras, then as a minimum, cameras made by the same manufacturer. BUT, better yet, get 3 of the EXACT SAME cameras.

You can get a VERY decent HD camcorder from Canon for around $400. Getting three of them would cost you around $1200. I use the Canon Vixia series. I get them from B&H Photo. They keep coming up with new models, so again, if you’re going to buy the equipment, try and get the same model.

One of the things I like about these NEW video cameras is they record onto SD cards and NOT video tape. There are pluses and minuses to both media, but for my money, recording onto SD cards makes the MOST sense!

(A further discussion on this issue would get us into VIDEO GEEK SPEAK!)

It’s also mandatory t to get some good tripods. They don’t have to be expensive, particularly since you’re going to be mounting VERY light camcorders onto them. I have been buying the SunPak 7500 models recently. You can get them from Amazon for around $60. Get one for every camera.

To set up the cameras, you’ll want to set up one camera that goes “over the shoulder” of your interviewer and points at you. You’ll then want another camera that goes over YOUR shoulder and points at the person you’re interviewing. Make sure that you set up the tripods so that the eyelines match. This means that you set up the tripod at a height about level with the persons’ eyes. Doing this will make it so that the individual on camera won’t appear to be looking down or up when you’re finished editing.

You’ll also want to have one camera set up in front of the two of you (or more if you have more than just you and one other person in the shot). This camera should be set up so that you have a “master” shot of the two (or more) of you. Start paying close attention to television when they do interview shows and see the shots that they use and how they set up the cameras.

Make sure that ANY camera you buy has a mic input. More on that later.

LIGHTING

What is GOOD lighting? Good lighting is where you light your subjects (that would include YOU as the interviewer) in such a way as to make the video look as GOOD as possible. I use “60 Minutes” as the look I’m shooting for. I won’t be able to make it look THAT good with the less expensive equipment, but I will be able to get to about 85-90% of the way there. That’s why I gave it a rating of 85-88 on my scale.

To create GOOD lighting for your video interviews you have a LOT of choices for equipment at a LOT of different price points. You CAN spend around $3,000 to get some REALLY HIGH END lighting equipment. If you were to spend this much, you would be able to create lighting that was AS GOOD AS the lighting I got for my interview I described above.

For most people, NOT necessary!

The nice thing is once you buy the lights, they will last you for a LONG time. If you wanted to RENT a lighting package like this one that you could buy for $3,000, you would probably have to spend around $500 to rent it for a DAY. If you’re doing a lot of video interviews, you can see how OWNING your own lighting package makes a lot of sense.

AND, the OTHER equipment for that matter!

BUT, there is another option. Similar to cameras, you can create some VERY decent looking lighting with equipment that you can get for around $500 for. It may not look AS professional, but you’ll be able to get lighting that will be at the 85 level, as compared to the $3,000 lighting equipment.

IF you’re willing to spend the BIG BUCKS, then I won’t give you any particular suggestions on what to buy. Just contact my friends at B&H Photo in New York City. Much of what I’m telling you here comes from information I’ve gleaned by picking the brains of folks at that store. They KNOW THEIR STUFF!!

If you don’t want to spend $3,000 and still want to get it to look good, here are some tips for you to remember. First off, remember that one of the keys is to make sure that whatever light source you’re using, you have to SOFTEN it. So you can point a light at you and your interviewee and not have the light covered at all. Point a light at people with no cover and you’ll get really HARSH and AMATEURISH looking video footage.

To get lighting to be soft, you either need to diffuse it, or BOUNCE it. If you point a light directly at you and your subjects without a diffusing element, it will be jarring. You can also diffuse the light by bouncing it. Pointing it in another direction and having it “hit” your subjects or yourself AFTER the light has been bounced.

A cheap way to diffuse your light is to put a white sheet in front of a basic light. Make sure that you keep it far enough away (at least 12-15 inches, depending on the heat of the light) from the bulb. Doing this will create a similar effect that you can get from buying what is called a SOFT BOX for a “professional” light.

This is what the professionals use to diffuse their lighting.

You can also get a Chinese lantern to put your lights in. The kind of thing you can buy at Ikea or a cheap lighting store. This will definitely diffuse your light, but it won’t be easy to POINT the light at you and/or your interviewee.

Another issue you have to deal with is the COLOR of your light. I don’t want to talk about this in this post, because it will get far too technical. Suffice it to say that different lights produce different colors of light. This will affect the look of your video as well. The one thing you SHOULD do is make sure that you use all the SAME types of lights when lightning your interviews. When you do have to “correct” your light color, that will make it MUCH easier to do.

Talk to my buddies at B&H if you want to understand the color issues.

AUDIO

Video LOOKS better when the sound is done right. Sounds weird, but it’s true. IF you make sure and get good audio of your interviews, the video will APPEAR to LOOK better.

You have two choices here. You can either record the audio directly onto the video, or you can record it onto a separate video unit.

Microphones

To record the audio for your videos you have two basic choices when it comes to microphones. First is what is called a “shotgun” mic. Second is the Lavalier mic. With a shotgun mics you have two choices. One is where you point the mic at the subjects and have it set in a stationery position. The second is where you have someone HOLDING a “boom” and pointing it at whomever is speaking at the time.

I suggest you use the lavalier mics. One big reason is that you won’t have to have an additional person to hold the booms and you won’t have to worry about framing your video shot to keep the booms out of the picture.

If you do decide on lavalier mics, then you again have two choices. You can either use WIRED mics, or WIRELESS ones. Wireless ones are “sexier”, but for doing IN-STUDIO interviews, it doesn’t make much sense. Wireless mics can have a BUNCH of problems. They are GREAT if they work, but there can be MANY problems.

For doing interviews IN STUDIO, stick with wired mics.

No matter where else you try and save money, mics should NOT be one of them! I just spent about $400 on two lavalier microphones. I picked up two by Audio Technica (AT 899). Spend money on mics. It’s worth it.

You can then have your audio record directly onto your video media (tape or SD cards) or onto a separate device. I use a separate recorder that I do all my audio interviews with. It’s a Marantz PMD 670. They cost around $700, but do a GREAT job.

They aren’t cheap, but they last forever!

IF you record onto a separate audio unit you’ll have to SYNCH your audio to the video when you do your editing in POST production. Not difficult to do and you will GENERALLY get better quality audio.

Editing

I’m a simple guy. That’s why I use a MAC for the creation and editing of all of my information products. I use IMovie to edit my video. The professionals generally use Final Cut Pro.

At one point I had a copy of the basic version of that program but it was too complicated for me to figure out. IMovie works just fine for basic interviews. If you’re a PC person, I have no advice here. I don’t use one. Never have. Sorry.

IF you decide to go the MAC route, then make sure and purchase a One-to-One membership ($99) when you buy your MAC computer. This entitles you to get training once a week for a year for an hour each time with an individual instructor helping you. You can also get group assistance in addition to those sessions for NO additional charge.

The One-to-One membership is the best money you’ll ever spend!

Doing it REALLY Cheap!

I’ve laid out TWO options for you above. One is the SUPER expensive way. The other is the mid-priced one. What about the SUPER BUDGET option?

Here ya go!

You can get a Flip Video camera or something similar for about $200. The Kodak Z8 has a mic input as well. OR, if you want to go even cheaper you can use your built in camera if you have a MAC. If you’re a PC person, you can buy a decent external webcam for about $50.

In the MAC world, you could then record directly onto your hard drive. In the PC world, there are similar programs that come free with those systems. Both platforms have free (or low cost) editing systems that you can use to edit your video.

To get good lighting without a lot of money, you can shoot outdoors. The problem there is extraneous noise and uncontrolled lightning. But, you can get creative and make this work.

There you have it. Now you have some options.

Comments? Questions? Thoughts? Idea? Add them right here!!

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6 Responses to “Information Marketing Videos: Interview Style”

  1. Carlin on November 26th, 2010 6:30 pm

    Hi Fred!
    I used to do pro weddings for a living. Shot for 10 years or so, 20 to 30 weddings a year.

    I have to say you really nailed the essence of great video! I agree with all of your points, big thumbs up for BH, I get a lot of my gear there, still, even after stopping doing pro video!

    I have recently gotten a couple of the Canon Vixia HD cameras that record to SD memory, and yeah, I’ll never go back to tape! Nothing is perfect, but tape was awful in my opinion!

    Yup, gotta get good audio too. Hard to go wrong with a couple good lavs, makes SO much difference in the sound quality. I used to use wireless for the weddings, but interference was always there waiting to get ya.

    Lighting. Huge subject to be sure. Great lighting can make a $400 camera look a LOT better. Bad lighting makes a $4000 camera look like a $400!

    Keep up the great posts!
    Oh, and for the PC people, if you are looking for a very good video editor, check out SpeedEDIT from http://www.newtek.com … or buy a Mac 🙂

    Carlin

  2. Fred Gleeck on November 26th, 2010 7:08 pm

    Carlin, thanks for the valuable feedback. I must be on the right track given you did this for a living! lol, Also, thanks for heading the PC folks in the right direction. I had NO idea what to tell people who use those Bill Gates devices. I’m clueless there!

  3. Jeannette Cezanne on November 26th, 2010 11:24 pm

    Excellent advice. It’s really easy to assume that we don’t need the professionals anymore, now that everyone has a small camcorder and iMovie … but there’s so much more that goes into a good shoot, including, sound, lighting, and an excellent script. Use the camcorder for holiday movies and when it counts, hire professionals.

  4. Mark Moxom on November 27th, 2010 9:06 am

    Spot on advice as usual.

    Here’s a way to get top quality sound and have the convenience of a wireless microphone.

    Wanting to overcome the limitations of my video camera’s audio – I have started using a separate audio recorder with a plug in mic.

    These have the advantages of a wireless mic and the recorders themselves are small enough to slip into a pocket – so no trailing wires.

    Using a decent quality tie mic qives excelent sound even on some of the cheaper models.

    These recorders come at a number of price points too. For instance the Sony ICD PX 820 is under $50 and at the top end you can get a “Roland Edirol R-09HR” for under $290 (Both from Amazon)

    The audio file is typically recorded on an SD card so it’s easy to import into most of the popular video editing programs.

    It’s a simple matter to clap you hands at the start of your session (or each take) to provide a visual and audio sync point.

    By using one recorder for each person in the shot you can get good quality and consistent results which give you that professional edge.

    Not only that, but if you are wanting to do outdoor shots, using this system does mean you can move freely around in front of the camera knowing that you are going to have good sound no matter how far you are from the camera.

    Plus you use them for doing other audio works such as podcasts or audio interviews with all the same advantages.

    And they are great for functions (like weddings) as people forget they are mic’ed up and everything becomes more natural

    Hope that helps.

    If anyone want to know more – I’ll help if I can

  5. Fred Gleeck on November 28th, 2010 5:20 pm

    Jeannette, thanks. Only I would NEVER use a script. As a Professional interviewer I use an OUTLINE and let the subject lead me in the right directions by the answers he/she gives to my questions.

  6. Fred Gleeck on November 28th, 2010 5:22 pm

    Mark, good points, thanks! I would only suggest that if you are trying to do something at a higher level that you use a separate audio recording device!

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