Help Doing Video Interviews with Consumer Camcorder
January 19, 2009 2:29 AM   Subscribe

I'm starting a project, eventually a non-profit enterprise perhaps, and a big part of it will be doing interviews. I've got a pretty basic camcorder (JVC Everio GZ-MG330), which I know isn't ideal but it's what I have and as I said - this isn't a money enterprise. I'll be doing interviews in people's offices and then posting the video online (probably with Vimeo or YouTube). I'll be doing editing work in iMovie. What I need is help working out the best practices for doing this.

As I said - I don't have a lot of resources, so I'll have to work with what I have. I have a few directional lamps and a tripod but I have very little experience with the matter.

The other big problem is audio... there is no external microphone input so I'll have to use the one on the camcorder (which isn't too terribly, really) so making the best of the audio is also important.

So... any sites you'd recommend? Best ways to setup lighting? Problems to avoid? Thanks so much!
posted by Gideon to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Shot all of two minutes video in my life, but...

I imagine the fundamental lighting principles for video interviewing are going to be similar to those for portrait photography, with which I have a keen semi-professional interest.

So if you're not already familiar with compositional basics like 'rule of thirds', and lighting terms like 'soft light' and 'hard light' get googling.

I'm not aware of any good video resources (although I'm sure there are many), but you could do a lot worse than head over to Strobist, where a former photojournalist has created an exceptionally good resource for those interested in learning about lighting for photography. The site has lots of advice for recreating professional-looking lighting using items you'll already have in your kitchen and linen closet, or that you can get at your local hardware store. I'll confidently suggest you'll get a lot more out of that site than almost any of the video-specific sites that no doubt exist.

Once you've spent a few hours (or days) on Strobist you should be able to start reverse-engineering the lighting setups that are used in quality documentaries, and having a go at recreating the general look that they achieve.
posted by puffmoike at 5:26 AM on January 19, 2009

Best answer: The secret to good audio is having the mic as close to your subject as possible, a cheap lav mic and a small audio recorder might be worth your while (of course then you have to sync your audio and video - but it might still be worth it). Depending on what that's going to cost, you might want to look at moving up to a better camera. Canon HV20s & HV30s can be found relatively cheap, have a mic jack, and provide for great picture quality (given the price) with only a little fussing - a price which will drop even further with the impending release of the HV40.

I think you should set your equipment up in your home or office and just play with it. Move your lights around and see what doesn't work and what does - I'm sure you've found some of the 1, 2, & 3 light setups around the place, read them and try them. Playing can be a pretty good way to learn, IME.

That camera is going to be a problem though, all the reviews I've found point to very mediocre picture quality and terrible low light performance.
posted by The Monkey at 5:37 AM on January 19, 2009

If the whole point of this is to capture people talking about something, then for the love of FSM, invest in a decent mike. I've watched crappy-quality interviews on the interwebs - if the sound is bad, but the picture is good, I quit watching. But if the reverse is true, I'll stick it out.
posted by rtha at 9:31 AM on January 19, 2009

Response by poster: I don't mind returning the camera.. but it will be in credit at Amazon and only for around $300. I don't mind spending a bit more, but I can't go far beyond 500 with it. So if anyone wants to help me decide on a good option, I'm all ears.

The info going into the decision...
I'd MUCH prefer a hard drive on the device. I don't want to have to worry about media all the time.
Need to be able to easily move them to a Mac.
Mic input.

You're right about the lowlight performance and not the best video quality. Been doing experiments around the house with light and such, never get anything 'great.'
posted by Gideon at 10:08 AM on January 19, 2009

Media to your mac is easy (depending on your mac.) New Macbooks don't have firewire. The Hard drive thing? Higher quality on tape.

The external mike thing is so important....return the camera. Pls.
posted by filmgeek at 10:40 AM on January 19, 2009

Response by poster: Already set it up to return. I know tapes are a bit better but these will be going primarily on sites like YouTube or Vimeo... so I think I can take the hit without getting stuck dealing with new media I have to buy all the time.

I've firewire so I'm not terribly worried about much of anything short of something that just doesn't connect to a computer or uses tiny dvd's without USB or Firewire.

Thanks for all the help so far.
posted by Gideon at 10:50 AM on January 19, 2009

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