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6 Tips for Filming Quality Testimonials

One of my current clients is a top education consultant who gives conferences all over the US. Testimonials from these conferences are most valuable when the participants are fresh from the event and eager to share their experiences. Of course, it's not always practical for me to travel with her to every conference, so I came up with some tips to help her record quality video testimonials on her own – and you can, too!

You might think you need an expensive camera to get great footage, but testimonials can be filmed with any kind of camera. Even an iphone or an ipad can produce excellent footage if a few simple guidelines are followed.

1. Find a quiet place. In-camera microphones are notoriously bad, and excess noise of people talking, furniture moving, silverware and plates, etc. can ruin your audio completely. If you hear clinking plates or squeaking chairs, pause the recording and move to a quieter location.

2. Stand close to your subject. In-camera microphones are notoriously bad, so standing close to your subject will help get clearer audio.  

3. Make sure there is light on the participant's face. If there's a window nearby, have them face the window or position them at a 3/4 angle so their face is illuminated. An illuminated face shows expression which can convey far more than words ever can. Avoid filming your subject with their back to the window, the camera will get confused and you'll end up with a dark silhouette. Likewise, avoid direct overhead lighting and harsh shadows.

Here, overhead lighting illuminates the subject's body and the top of her head, but her face is in shadow. Not only is this awkward for the subject, but the shadows conceal her expressions. Simply walking to a different part of the room, or turning the subject, can radically alter the lighting.

Here, overhead lighting illuminates the subject's body and the top of her head, but her face is in shadow. Not only is this awkward for the subject, but the shadows conceal her expressions. Simply walking to a different part of the room, or turning the subject, can radically alter the lighting.

An example of even lighting. There are no shadows on her face, and the language of her expression is clear.

An example of even lighting. There are no shadows on her face, and the language of her expression is clear.

 

3. Stabilize the camera by holding it with two hands, with your elbows pressed against your body. Leaning against a wall will provide additional stabilization.

4. Tell them to rephrase the question in their answer, and be silent as the participant gives the testimonial.

For example:

Q -- What did you think of the presentation?

Answer -- "I thought the presentation was absolutely amazing!"

Q -- Would you recommend this conference to others?

Answer -- "I would absolutely recommend this conference to everyone I know!"

 

5. Get it twice! If you don't get the answer you want, if the camera wobbles or there's excessive noise or two people speaking at once, it's fine to ask the participant to give the testimonial again.

6. Bonus Tip! When filming a conference or lecture, turn the camera around to capture the audience response. Aim to capture applause, laughter, smiling and nodding - a happy, engaged audience will do wonders for your testimonial!

Were these tips helpful? Let us know! Or add your own tips in the comments.

 

 

 

Deconstructing Jean-Baptiste Mondino

I'm really getting into the photography and films of the French fashion photographer Jean-Baptiste Mondino, so I'd spend a few posts writing my impressions of his work.

This video for Chris Isaac's tune "You Owe Me Some Kind of Love", made in 1987, is seemingly very simple. There's no obvious narrative and nothing "happens". Yet the video never gets boring. Let's take a look at why.

Much of the pleasure of this video is achieved with the camera panning from left to right throughout the entire film, as various objects are slowly revealed, and then disappear. Musicians and a model are displayed through multiple image planes, and it's a careful concoction of camera movement, lighting, choreography and textures that holds your interest. Lush flowers pan across the foreground, revealing the model in a floral dress, on a floral sofa. A gold scrollwork rolls through the middle ground for no apparent purpose but to create textural interest. Silhouettes appear against a purple sunset backdrop. These objects are not randomly selected. Like a masterfully blended fragrance, there's no one element that sticks out over anything else, and your attention is gently drawn to a focal point - a pair of eyes or lips, Mr. Isaac's face or the body of his guitar. Objects are lit with flickering lights to create continuity between the textural elements. The camera pans across the back of Chris Isaac's head, taking advantage of his incredible profile (it's so nice, why not show it twice?) and this rotating motion is mirrored in the movement of the guitarist who appears next. These repeating motion effects are simple and pleasing. At nearly every point we have something new to look at, or a new way of looking at it.

The best camera ever.

There are some wonderful blogs that talk about cameras and gear, and this is not one of them. As much as I love shooting, I've never been a gear-head. I'd rather just get out there and film. But I'm about to make a profound change in the way I work (by way of a camera upgrade) and I think it's relevant to talk about why I have stuck with the same piece of equipment up to this point.

Me and my 7D.

Me and my 7D.

I film exclusively with a Canon EOS 7D, mounted on a fluid head, often with a monopod, and sometimes with a tripod. It's a great little machine – portable, rugged and discreet. It looks like the kind of thing you'd take snapshots with, and as a documentary cinematographer, this detail is invaluable. People are notorious for altering their behavior when they think they're being filmed, but the little 7D isn't particularly intimidating. Especially the way that I use it.

I love the look of the 7D. You can get a dreamy look with very little depth of field, and there is a "grain" to the image reminiscent of film.

Many years ago, in 2009, the 7D was Canon's most advanced camera, and one of the first with the capability to shoot video. This revolutionized digital film making, because it offered a video camera with manual controls and interchangeable lenses at a reasonable price. But a lot has changed since then. These days, the camera tends to get associated with entry-level videographers and less sophisticated productions. So I get some strange looks when people ask what I shoot on, and I tell them I use a 7D. I can see it in their faces. . . Why???

The answer is very simple. It's a great camera, and I'm very good at using it. There are plenty of video production companies that make it a point to have "state-of-the-art" cameras. But how many of them make it a point to learn how to conduct a more meaningful interview or craft a compelling story? It's not that hard to upgrade your camera, but being able to create powerful narratives requires skills that money can't buy. In fact, sticking to basic tools and learning to master them can be a highly effective way to foster creativity. 10,000 years ago, early humans painted the walls of caves using the most primitive and rudimentary materials. And yet the paintings are elegant and sublime, and still have the power to move us today.

Cuerva de las Manos, Argentina

Cuerva de las Manos, Argentina