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How to Record an Online Video Interview

I have been sharing video interviews with authors and those in publishing and online media who inspire me. Here is a recent example:

Barbara Vey Interview

You can find the rest of them here.

So today I wanted to share with you the “magic” of how this is done. I keep having people ask me about the tools I use, so I figured I would outline the entire process. I have learned most of this from Andrew Warner of Mixergy.com. He interviews entrepreneurs (nearly 600 of them!) and is very open about sharing what he has learned in the process. Highly recommended. Okay, let’s get into it:

Skype
Skype is how I call people on the computer, and the program that ties this whole thing together. Skype accounts are free, and calling between computers with voice and/or video is free as well.

Ecamm Call Recorder for Skype
Since I am on a Mac, I use Ecamm’s Call Recorder for Skype to record these interviews on Skype. It’s $20, and works like a charm. You install it, and then when you launch Skype, you see a little panel that allows you to hit ‘record.’ It’s that simple. It saves a file to your desktop of the video and audio. There are settings in the preferences where you can choose if you want to record side-by-side or picture-in-picture, audio quality, etc.

I believe it also comes with a suite of little programs that allows you to split the one video file into separate files for each side of the video. So one file of me, and another of the person I am interviewing.

The Webcam
Clearly, to conduct an online interview, both you and your subject need a webcam. Most computers come with them built in already, it’s that little black dot just above the screen. My MacBook has one, as does my iMac. I recently upgraded to a new iMac which means it’s a high definition camera.

If you don’t have a webcam, you can buy one relatively inexpensively online. It just plugs into your USB port. Logitech seems to make some that get good reviews. You can get one for as cheaply as $5, but most will run you about $30-45.

Lighting
Even the best webcam will produce a grainy image if you are in a dark room. I recently invested in a 3-point lighting system for my office. This means I have three big box lights on tripods to light me during interviews. One is placed in front of me to the left, the other in front to the right, and the third is behind me, angled towards my back. You can learn more about three point lighting here.

Professional lights are VERY expensive. But this 3-point lighting kit is a great deal at $170. The bigger issue may be where to store these lights when you aren’t using them. They are bulky.

Beyond that, consider your background, and play with placement of lighting. I’m still honing this, my setup is not ideal mostly because my office is not especially large.

Microphone
If there is one investment you should make in creating online video, it would be to buy a USB microphone that attaches to your computer. If people can’t hear you well, then the entire interview is useless. Blue is a company that makes some very highly regarded and affordable USB microphones. The Blue Snowball is a good deal at $60, but I had one big issue with it: some of them have very low gain, meaning it doesn’t pick up your voice as loudly as it should. So I upgraded to their $100 Blue Yeti microphone. Really great mic. In the future I may upgrade again to the Rode Podcaster on a boom arm to reduce vibrations when I type while interviewing. That is a $300+ investment though, so I am holding off. All of these mic’s are plug and play. You plug them in, and your computer should sense it and default to it.

Screenflow
I use Screenflow to edit the video and prepare it for sharing online. I think this is another Mac-only program, and it runs $100. It’s a powerful enough video editor, without too many options that I won’t use. I’m sure iMovie would work just fine too, but I haven’t tried it. I recently invested in Adobe Premier Pro video editing suite as well – much more expensive, but much more powerful. Probably WAY more than you would ever need though.

Posting the Video Interview Online
You have many options, here. YouTube is the obvious choice, but for most accounts, they limit the video length to 15 minutes. My interviews are long-form interviews of 30-60 minutes. There is Vimeo, and I used Wistia for awhile, and really liked it. Recently I switched to hosting my videos on Amazon’s S3 service, and using Flowplayer flash video player within WordPress as the interface. To me, this is the professional solution – one where I don’t have to worry about losing months of videos because a free web host decides to change their terms of service, or merges with another provider.

Recording Other Videos
Besides the interviews, I also record other videos that I share on my site, such as this intro to my Author Platform course. For this, I used a different camera and microphone setup.

For the video, I invested in (and that is definitely the word here) a Canon 7D camera. This is a traditional DSLR camera that also takes high definition video. It’s nice because you can change the lenses, and get a nice depth of field adjustments. So, if setup well, you can get it so that your face is in perfect focus, and the background is nice and blurry. To get good audio quality, I got a Rode VideoMic for it.

How to Get Interviews
Basides the technical stuff, there is clearly a whole other side to interviewing – actually engaging with those you want to speak to! One of the best tips I received from Andrew of Mixergy is to be brief in the emails you send requesting an interview. Be specific about the time, and any relevant details. Give people something that is easy to react to, and set proper expectations.

Interviewing Tips
I am still learning here. I do recommend that you avoid long introductions, and try to get to a clear benefit for the viewer as soon as possible. Skip the 30 second intro music that makes you feel like you have a TV show. You don’t. Just have a great conversation, one that provides a lot of value to everyone involved.

Thanks!
-Dan

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  • Christi Borden

    Any recording and editing solutions for those of us not using a Mac … Other than switching to Mac?

    • http://www.wegrowmedia.com Dan Blank

      Hi Christi, I’m sorry, I just don’t have much hands-on experience with the PC side of this.
      -Dan

  • Anonymous

    Dan

    Great post – looking to learn something about video interviews and learned it here. 

    One tip for you – anyone can get their YouTube account enabled to upload videos longer than 15 minutes.  The process takes about 60 seconds (really).  I just posted on my blog a tutorial on how to do it, but i won’t drop a gratuitious link on the first visit to your site!

    Paul

  • kathy

    good info. But what about the person you are interviewing. What about their lighting? or mic? What seems complicated seems to me is the fact that you don’t have control over your subject’s technology or lack there of

    • http://www.wegrowmedia.com/ Dan Blank

      Hi Kathy,
      You could do a few things: have a tip sheet that you take them through. Things such as: “please turn off all other programs before starting our interview,” have them check the speed of their bandwidth, give them tips on lighting, sound etc. You can even mail them a webcam and mic if needed, esp since Amazon shipping is free.
      Thanks!
      -Dan

  • http://www.praverb.net/ Praverb

    Great post, I really like the depth of this blog post. How do you like your Canon 7D?

    • http://www.wegrowmedia.com/ Dan Blank

      Thanks! I like it a lot, although I will admit I still have a LOT to learn!
      -Dan

      • http://www.praverb.net/ Praverb

        I have the t3i and it is pretty tricky at first. I started just reading everything about photography and just learned the basics of photography. Video is just moving pictures. Dan what do you struggle with the most?

        • http://www.wegrowmedia.com/ Dan Blank

          Ah, there is no aspect I struggle with the most, other than just making the time to learn more of the basics. Thanks.