Monday, April 8, 2013

Shooting Testimonials - Part 1/3 - The Human Factor

As video marketing grows and companies struggle to fulfill the level of proximity that nowadays connected world demands, video testimonials are part of both online and offline communication strategies.

Testimonials are even more valuable for its power of seduction and proximity than for the transmitted message itself. That's what makes the difference with text content or still images.

In these three-part post series about video testimonials, I think it's important to start by the human factor, because it doesn't matter how great are the camera, the lenses, the lighting, the make up, the sound quality or the location: Everything is ruined if the testimony is not comfortable.
Talking in front of a camera is frightening for most of the people not used to it, even for people who is used to talk in front of an audience, and this fear can manifest in different ways, like talking too fast or with low voice, or exaggerated gesticulation.

However, they're ways to prevent or decrease the insecurities of a testimony, and the work of the filmmaker may include the competences to do so. Here are some strategies that have been useful for me.

1. Cast who talks

Sometimes the testimony is imposed by the client for different reasons, but certain times it's possible to be involved on choosing who's going to talk. This is a step to take in serious consideration. If you can meet the candidates in person, try to chat with them while observing how they sound. If there's no opportunity to meet in person or watch a video casting, try at least to make the client consider the importance of choosing someone who is secure and communicative.

2. Meet the testimony in advance

Specially if you couldn't meet the person during the casting, it's very important it happens at best the day before shooting, and if not, an hour or so before, maybe by having a coffee together while talking about the content of the speech in a relaxed way. The idea is to prepare the testimony so that he/she feels confident and with an ally.

3. Stuff scares

Generally, the amount of human and technical stuff in testimonial shootings is proportional to the pressure the subject feels. The more flamboyant the ambiance is, the more overwhelming is the experience for the testimony.
DSLR cameras are great for this kind of shootings for two reasons: They're small and its photo camera shape is easily more familiar to the subject.
If the shooting happens in a room, invite some people to go out before start to record. Only essential people should remind when the interview starts.

4. Testimonials are conversations

"Everyone is ready? OK. Camera Shooting? Okay, so, question 1...". It shouldn't be like that. The relationship established by meeting the testimony in advance must continue on set. Try to minimize conversations with other people during the shooting unless they're truly necessary, and focus strictly on the subject. When shooting starts, make the questions flow as part of the conversation, don't say "question number...".

5. "Let's make a test"

It works so well. The word test makes the subject feel the decisive moment hasn't arrived, the pressure is not at its top. You record the test and sometimes it becomes good footage to be used.

6. Forbid reading!

The main insecurity of testimonies is to think that they're not going to remember what they have to say, and they will ask you if someone can hold papers with the printed speech (sometimes they have already printed the text with a big-sized font). While it's comprehensive that they come up with this idea in order to solve their insecurity, it never works. The reason is very simple: If talking in front of a camera is already uncomfortable and unnatural for them, reading while trying to look like they don't do it is worse.

7. Forbid reciting!

Reciting a memorized text is also a bad option as it doesn't sound natural at all and makes the testimonial be more aware of concrete words than the content itself. Encourage testimonies to talk with they own words. If they have been chosen to talk means that they are qualified to do so. I've seen cases where the interviewer recites sentence over sentence so that the testimonial repeats it. The result is a kind of mass that the editor is supposed to edit by cutting the parts of the interviewer. It's bad for the image, because it forces you to cut the interview in little pieces, limiting the edition, and it's also bad for the content as the testimonial doesn't sound like talking about a topic, but just like reciting a list of sentences.

7. Just one interviewer, please

If there's an agency, a marketing director or whoever involved in the content of the interview on set, supervise the questions and the points that should be answered in advance and come to an agreement on who's going to be the interviewer. It really confuses the testimony to have two voices talking, and the ambiance we've tried to create in order to have a relaxed conversation becomes a chaotic interrogatory.

9. Low voice? Move away

If the person is shy and doesn't project its voice, place yourself farther away and be sure that the subject talks for you. Generally the person will be forced to talk louder, improving the projection.

10. Too much gesticulation? Move the camera away

A certain level of gesticulation can be bothering in close shots. If the testimony gesticulates too much or just too fast, open the shot.

11. When the interview is finished, start it again

And finally, by the end of the interview, the level of the testimony's pressure generally decreases. If time is in your favour, ask the testimonial to repeat the first questions now that the situation is settled.
Also, if you couldn't avoid the testimony to recite or to read, invite him / her to answer again with its own words.

Those are just some ideas that worked for me. Do you have others in addition? Don't hesitate to share them!

No comments:

Post a Comment