Video: Interview Recording Principles and Tips

Video is a great (if underutilized) communications tool. You can easily incorporate video in ongoing training initiatives, in corporate messaging, and in internal communications related to strategic change. From compliance training, human resources training, and product and sales training to any manner of strategic or executive messaging, video is a powerful way to go. Video is now just as accessible as e-learning, and in some cases more affordable.

Envision is happy to provide expert video production services from start to finish. Sometimes, however, clients like to start by capturing their own footage, in particular interview footage. To that end, here are some principles and tips that will help you get a solid start.

There are four basic principles that are key to recording better video:

1. Always use a tripod.
2. Use good microphones.
3. Always strive for full, even light.
4. Use the rule of thirds to frame your subject.


Always use a tripod; it will provide a markedly better result than shooting by hand. Acquire a tripod that has a leveling bubble, and use it for every shoot.


A video interview cannot be good if the audio is bad, so use external microphones whenever possible to capture the best sound.

If you are using a camera microphone to record audio, make sure the subject speaks loudly and clearly enough to be heard. If the subject is soft-spoken, suggest that he/she annunciate and project.

If you are using a lavaliere microphone attached to the subject’s shirt, blouse, or jacket, make sure that the wire is hidden as much as possible, behind a tie or tucked into a shirt or jacket. Also, be mindful of any rustling sounds that may be generated when a garment rubs up against the microphone. With a lavaliere microphone, the subject should speak clearly and at a normal conversation level.

If you are using an external microphone placed on a desk, make sure the area is free of extraneous noise (e.g., the whirring of projector fans). Place the desk microphone in front of the subject anywhere from one to five feet away, the closer the better.

Regardless of the type of microphone used, check audio levels constantly while recording.


When shooting indoors, turn on as many diffused (i.e., indirect, covered with lampshades) lights as possible. Even if the image looks decent in the small viewfinder, it may end up too dark, too noisy, and too lacking in detail. If the subject has a dark complexion, even more light is needed to allow the camera to focus and record properly.

When shooting outdoors or near windows, be aware of “washout.” If a subject sits next to a window, one side of the subject’s face may have too much light and may washout the shaded side. Strive for even lighting across your subject. Also, look for shadows on the subject’s face. If there is too much light coming from one side, balance it by either adding light or removing light, while still maintaining sufficient illumination.

 Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is one of the most basic rules of photographic composition. This framing technique applies equally well to video. Divide the frame into thirds, both horizontally and vertically. The points where those lines intersect are optimal locations for the placement of your main subject.


When we visualize the grid on the video, we see that the top line of our horizontal grid cuts across the subject’s eyes and the side of the subject’s face is touching one of the middle vertical lines. This creates a tight shot, often used for interviews to frame the head and shoulders. When shooting for online audiences, these tight shots are most effective, since video is often viewed in relatively small windows within a Web browser. Using the rule of thirds creates a sense of perspective and intimacy that is often lost with a straight on, centered shot.



Important Tips

These important tips can take a video from ordinary to extraordinary:

  • Make pan/tilt movements slowly, deliberately, and sparingly. Adjustments, zooms, and constant movement of the camera can be very distracting to viewers. Frame a shot, and do not adjust unless absolutely necessary. Be deliberate when making adjustments; don’t make changes without a reason.
  • Avoid shooting with your subject against a blank wall. Even when videotaping someone sitting on a chair or other furniture, pull the furniture out from the wall. This avoids shadows and gives some depth to your shot. Note in the samples above that the subjects are pulled away from the background. The background is interesting but remains blurred to keep the focus on the subjects.
  • Avoid letting subjects sit in wheeled or rotating chairs. This will keep subjects from moving inadvertently and generating distracting noises from chairs.

These other important tips will help ensure that you consistently capture important interview moments:

  • Watch your time carefully. Know how long your tape, internal memory, or memory card will last. Recording storage is relatively cheap, so missing a shot or an important statement because space runs out is a problem easily avoided.
  • Stay away from lights, windows, or reflective surfaces in the background. Since the camera will set the iris to expose for the brightest part of the picture, all you will see is the bright spot and a black silhouette of the subject in front of it.
  • Have a spare, fully charged battery standing by as you are shooting. It’s amazing how fast they discharge.
  • At the beginning of the recording, say where you are, the date, and subject to be recorded. This tests the audio and also provides backup identification in case other forms of identification fail.
  • Don’t worry about a few moments of silence at the beginning and end of a recording. In most cases, it is a good thing to have for editing purposes. And if your camera uses tape, before beginning a recording session, leave the lens cap on and shoot 10 to 12 seconds of black onto the tape. After your shoot is complete, replace the lens cap and shoot another 10 to 12 seconds of black onto the tape. This is a useful practice because much of the tape contamination and damage happens at the moment the tape begins to move.

We hope you’ve found these interview recording principles and tips helpful. Feel free to contact us to talk about how we might help you leverage the power of video in your learning or communications strategy. We can not only lead your video projects from pre-production through post, but provide help along the way wherever you need it.


What is Tin Can?

This is next in a series of related posts on Fun Tech Stuff going under the hood with XML and its uses in learning technologies: Learning Management SystemsSCORMTin CanMetadata, and XML, as well as examples of XML in SCORM and XML in eBooks.

The Tin Can application programming interface, or API, (also known as The Experience API or xAPI) is the next generation of SCORM.

Why is it worthwhile to evolve a new standard for learning content? We’ve seen how the SCORM standard can enable Web-based online learning content and a learning management system (LMS) to communicate, and it does a fine job of it. But here’s what it doesn’t do.

  • SCORM is not useful outside the context of an LMS. Tin Can is more versatile because it can manage information about learning that happens both inside and outside of an LMS.
  • SCORM can’t manage any learning that takes place outside of a Web browser. Tin Can is more useful because it can manage information about learning that happens both inside and outside of a Web browser.

What kind of learning happens outside of an LMS and outside of a Web browser? Learning based on mobile apps, for one. And learning that starts on a mobile app or in a classroom and ends up in a Web browser. Or learning that is hosted on a server that is separate from an LMS. Or learning that is based on games or simulations. Or learning that is informal, like learning that occurs via YouTube, a book, a TED talk, a conference program, a Wikipedia article, or a mentoring session. Tin Can can also track information that is interactive, or team-based, or long-term, or based on real-world performance. Because Tin Can handles a much wider set of learning situations, it can provide a much more accurate picture of learners and learning. It also does the usual things you’d expect, such as tracking completion, tracking time, tracking pass/fail, and reporting scores. Tin Can can report more fully on learning because of its wider scope and because more information is collected, which can be broken out or consolidated in many different ways. Many authoring tools (e.g., Articulate Storyline, Lectora) generate output for SCORM, as well as for Tin Can. And even though Tin Can expands the range of learning that can be tracked and decouples the hosting of learning content from its tracking, existing SCORM-based content is usable in a Tin Can environment with an appropriate software interface.

So what does Tin Can look like?

At its heart is a learning record with a date and time stamp that contains a statement in the form Actor – Verb – Object. This statement describes a learning event:

Mike Jones Watched ‘TED video Simon Sinek on how great leaders inspire action’
Gerry Brady Completed ‘Cable Box Z30 Repair’ with score 256
Gerry Brady Completed ‘Cable Box Z30 Repair Workbook’
Loretta Smith Read ‘How To Make an eBook’
Clark Kent Passed ‘Introduction to Flying’

Learners can use Tin Can–enabled Web browser plug-ins and mobile apps to capture and send such learning events to a Learning Record Store, or LRS.


The Tin Can API defines how software applications build and report on the learning experiences described by the learning record statements in the LRS, and all the related information necessary to support it.

Because Tin Can is an open standard, the learning records in an LRS can be scrutinized in many ways, and information in multiple LRSs can be shared, consolidated, and analyzed as necessary. A learner can also post learning records to multiple LRSs.


The learning records in an LRS can also be accessed and reported on by an LMS with the proper software interface, as constrained by the LMS’s reporting capabilities.


Training and Performance

The Tin Can API is based on another specification called Activity Streams, which can record anything somebody does. The core Actor – Verb – Object parts of a Tin Can statement (e.g., “I Did This”), derive from the core Activity Streams specification. This means that it is possible to capture performance data as well, and correlate it with training data. For example, an LRS could record the following:

Gerry Brady Completed ‘Cable Box Z30 Repair’ with score 256
Gerry Brady Completed ‘Cable Box Z30 Repair Workbook’
Gerry Brady Successfully repaired ‘Cable Box Z30’ 30 out of 32 times

Tin Can is still a work in progress, but it provides the flexibility and openness to capture formal, as well as informal and social learning and performance as it actually happens. Like SCORM, Tin Can is overseen by Advanced Distributed Learning, a research group sponsored by the United States Department of Defense.

Both SCORM and Tin Can are examples of metadata, or information about information, which is the topic of our next post.

For further information: