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:

What is SCORM?

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.

SCORM stands for “Sharable Content Object Reference Model.” It is a set of technical standards that define how Web-based online learning content and LMSs communicate with each other. SCORM is managed by Advanced Distributed Learning (, a research group sponsored by the United States Department of Defense.

SCORM is composed of three sub-specifications: the content packaging section, the run-time section, and the sequencing section.


The content packaging section specifies how the content should be packaged and described. For example, it specifies that all the content should be contained either in a directory or a zip file. And it specifies that the content must contain an XML file named imsmanifest.xml, which contains all the information the LMS needs in order to deliver the content. The XML manifest file describes the parts of the course, and puts the parts into a hierarchical order. Any SCORM-compliant authoring tool would put its course material in a directory or a zip file, and would include an XML manifest file describing the course. And any SCORM-compliant LMS would know where to look for these files and know what to do with them. (More on XML and manifest files in a future post: they turn up in all kinds of interesting places, including in ebooks.)

The run-time section specifies how the content should be launched and how it communicates with the LMS using its APIs, or application programming interfaces. These APIs permit the LMS and the learning module to communicate with each other via Javascript by using a built-in vocabulary. The learning module can tell the LMS whether the learner passed the module, what grade was achieved, how much time was taken, and other information relevant to course management.

The sequencing section specifies how the learner can navigate between the parts of the course. Like the content packaging section, it is defined by a set of rules and attributes in an XML manifest file. For example, the sequencing section defines which navigation controls the learner will see, determines whether there will be a navigable table of contents, defines any prerequisites within the content, controls which questions display, and determines whether the learner will be taken back to any sections not mastered.

The SCORM specification has evolved over the years. Two versions have gained widespread acceptance: SCORM 1.2 and SCORM 2004.

SCORM continues to evolve. The next generation of SCORM is called the Tin Can API, which we’ll talk about in the next post.


What is an LMS?

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

When you take an online class, you typically go to a Web site, sign in with a login and password, and see a class or a list of classes you are scheduled to take. After going through the material, you and your organization usually receive some sort of notification of completion, and depending on the curriculum, you may be queued up to take the next class. Along with the course material, your learning experience was brought to you by an LMS.


An LMS, or Learning Management System (LMS) is a software application that provides a framework for the course material, and takes care of all the back-end administration that is necessary to make the learning experience happen. This includes a wide range of functionality, including:

  • course registration and profile management
  • course sequencing and scheduling
  • instructional content management and delivery
  • testing and assessment
  • tracking and reporting of individual progress
  • tracking and reporting of organizational progress

Colleges and universities use LMSs like Blackboard and Moodle to deliver online courses, and corporate training departments use a wide variety of LMSs to deliver online learning, finding them very handy for tracking such things as compliance training and continuing professional education.

Since the LMS provides a framework for course material, it has to be able to handle courses developed by a wide range of authoring systems. How can this happen? Through the magic of standards. If an LMS supports the relevant standard, in this case a standard called SCORM, and the authoring tool supports it, then the content produced by the authoring tool will play well with the LMS. Most LMSs on the market today are SCORM-compliant.

SCORM stands for “Sharable Content Object Reference Model,” and is the de facto industry standard for e-learning interoperability. In the next post we’ll take a closer look at SCORM.

Bringing Video Training into your Business

In the not so distant past, utilizing video for training was not a simple undertaking. No quick and easy way existed to share and watch videos globally with your employees unless you created and burned multiple DVDs.  These DVDs would then have to be shipped to the recipients. In an office setting, viewing was usually done in a group, involved reserving a conference room, and often involved the challenge of working around participants’ schedules.

As technology has made so much easily accessible online, it has also made video training that much easier.  Now, all you need to do is to provide a link to a training video, and your employees can watch it anywhere, from their phones, tablets, laptops, or desktops.


This is one reason why video training is one of the best approaches that a company can utilize to bring ideas and new information to their employees. Not only can you reach millions of people with one link, but you can save valuable resources by giving your employees the freedom to train at their own pace.

We have all been in meetings or training sessions where something has gotten past us, or we didn’t quite catch what the person was saying.  With online training videos, employees are able to stop, rewind, and review without having to feel like they are holding up others.  It gives them freedom to really focus on the message and learn the task at hand.

And training videos are more engaging to the viewer. Yes, it would be great if you could give hands on training to all of your employees, but that is often not possible.  Training videos can more easily capture the attention of your employees with animations, music, creative b-roll footage and compelling interviews.  They make it a more personal experience for everyone involved.

At Envision Group Consulting, our team of trained video production specialists can take your ideas and bring them to life, helping you create engaging video at a surprisingly reasonable cost.

Please take a moment to view a sample of our video production work, think about how we might help you leverage the power of video in your learning strategy, and give us a call!


Samsara: One Film, A Million Stories

Samsara is a beautifully shot, non-verbal documentary that took director Ron Fricke and producer Mark Magidson over five years to shoot. It is visually and emotionally breathtaking. As the Web site says, “Samsara explores the wonders of our world from the mundane to the miraculous, looking into the unfathomable reaches of man’s spirituality and the human experience. Neither a traditional documentary nor a travelogue, Samsara takes the form of a nonverbal, guided meditation.”


What I personally love about the film is that it gives viewers the opportunity to make up their own narrative on the subjects they see, and lets viewers interpret what’s on the screen in their own individual ways. It makes viewers not only think about the subject matter, but it also allows them the opportunity to participate in the storytelling.


I think it’s safe to say that when most people go see a great film, eat out at a great restaurant, or use a great product, they’ll want to talk about it. They like to share their experiences with their friends and family. Facebook status updates, tweets on Twitter, and photos on Instagram are all ways in which people do this. One thing that Samsara does well is make you think about what you just saw, make you want to discuss it with other people, and hear other viewpoints.  I think businesses could benefit from a similar  approach in training. What if you have a specific message that you are trying to convey, but there are numerous ways that it can appeal to people? What if people came together to discuss what they learned in a training series, and in doing so, saw other interpretations  that they might not have originally understood?


There are films and TV shows and business presentations that feel like they come off an assembly line. They are stale, regurgitated, and uninteresting. Why not have your company stand out from the rest? Exploring visual storytelling, narrative participation, and discussion are all ways to make your training and your company  different and original. A healthy discussion is, well… healthy.

Watch the trailer (in HD preferably) below.


A Very Cool Presentation Tool

One of my favorite tools these days is an online tool (also usable offline) called Prezi. It provides an easy way to collaborate, create, and share great-looking presentations with other people anywhere. Imagine being able to take the animation capabilities of a tool like After Effects, and the presentation possibilities of PowerPoint, and merge them into one easy-to-use program!

The first thing that stood out about Prezi is how interactive it is and how it allows me to work in a non-linear fashion with my presentation. Sometimes I get ideas when I’m working on a project, but if certain aspects of the project are not yet complete, it can be hard to move forward with that new idea. With Prezi, if an idea pops into my head, I can easily move to that part of the presentation, or at least start to create my idea right there and save it for later.

With so many different templates to choose from and the capabilities to upload your own designs, Prezi allows you to easily make your presentation stand out from the usual one-dimensional slide show. The learning curve is simple as well. You simply click where you want to make your edits and move your images where you would like them to appear. You can easily manipulate your Prezi to add images, videos, music, and more. I never thought I would say this, but it is actually kind of fun making presentations now that I use Prezi.

Here are a couple very short videos on Prezi, and a link to the Web site. Check it out!

Training Price Drivers (Part 1)

Creating a custom training solution involves consciously making a large number of tradeoffs between the nature and scope of the training and its costs, in order to achieve the objectives of the training. As each of these tradeoffs is being made, we like to put our clients in the driver’s seat. To that end, let’s take a look at some of the key drivers that affect the nature and scope of training solutions and their costs.

Under each heading, the lists below describe the characteristics of a learning solution that indicate greater or lesser scope and complexity and thus price, going from low to high complexity:

Length of the Training

(LOW): The training will be less than one day long.

(MEDIUM): The training will be several days or up to a week long.

(HIGH): The training is comprised of multiple courses or an entire curriculum.

Complexity of the Subject Matter

(LOW): The subject matter is straightforward and easy to learn.

(MEDIUM): The subject matter is complex and requires ramp-up time to thoroughly understand and apply.

(HIGH): The subject matter is very sophisticated and requires considerable ramp-up time or prior knowledge base to thoroughly understand and apply.

Number of SMEs/Stakeholders

(LOW): There is one or a small number of SMEs and stakeholders that are easily accessible. Decision making and approvals will be fairly straightforward.

(MEDIUM): There are a fairly large number of SMEs and stakeholders. Decision making and approvals will be more difficult.

(HIGH): There are a large number of SMEs and stakeholders that may be geographically dispersed. Decision making and approvals will be difficult.

Extent of New Training Material

(LOW): The training involves an update of existing training materials and may require a change in delivery method. The content exists either electronically or on paper and is fairly up-to-date.

(MEDIUM): The training involves development of a new training course. The content is more difficult to obtain and may require working closely with SMEs.

(HIGH): The training involves a new training course or curriculum or extensive changes to existing training. The content is more difficult to obtain and may require working closely with SMEs and stakeholders and/or conducting outside research.