Self filming technique

Film Your Boss interview, Like A Boss! – Easy Self Filming Techniques

Daryl Burney

Daryl Burney

Creative Director

Want to give filming a go yourself?

Filming_Camera and Phone

Here’s all the essential self filming techniques to film quality boss interviews with your phone or small camera. It’s easy to look like a pro!

We see a lot of great videos on YouTube and it makes it look easy. It can be, but there are some basic steps for location, composition, sound and technique that will ensure you look too like a pro. People’s time is important. This guide will help you nail it the first time.

Let’s get started! These 5 easy steps are all you need.

Self Filming Technique #1 | Location

Quiet, quiet, quiet

Sound is the biggest failure when it comes to amateur videos and it’s something that is very very hard to rectify. We will address sound recording more later, but do your best to find a location without disturbing noises.

Location matches the story

Make sure your environment fits the narrative.
For example, a corporate message may work best at a conference room or desk. Talking about the town or the public? Outside might be a better fit.

Clutter

Don’t just look at the subject, look at what’s around and behind him. Is it messy? Are there sensitive things in view? Are there other brand names in view? Check your frame from corner to corner for distracting stuff. Don’t be afraid to tidy up (if you have permission) or move location.

Location_Pre-Setup

Pre-Setup

If you can, set up in the location while your subject is not there. This way, you can get everything perfect without wasting your subject’s time. When the subject arrives, they simply have to deliver their lines with no fuss. If you need to fuss about while the subject is there, be sure to keep them informed as you do your thing.

Self Filming Technique #2 | Lighting

I’m going to assume that you don’t have a lighting kit.
No worries (as we say down under). You may have light coming in a side window, use it.

Lighting_Foam Core

Foam core to the rescue!

A piece of white cardboard or foam core is a cheap and very handy device to up your game and it can be bought at most arts and crafts stores for a few bucks. Place it at the side or underneath the subject to reflect the light source in the shadow areas. I use them for every shoot .

Lighting_Window Behind Subject

Window behind the subject

Not usually desirable. If it is too strong, you will get ugly flaring. Nice and romantic for weddings, but not usually for interviews.

Pro Tip

If you’re shooting outside, the light can be quite harsh. Your foam core will come in handy again.

Side Lit
Bounce light to fill in the side opposite to the sun.

Lighting_Side Lit

Back Lit
This is the way the pros like to do it. If the sun is not too low, you can put the sun behind the subject and use the foam core to bounce it back up in front.

Lighting_Back Lit

Self Filming Technique #3 | Composition

Vertical or horizontal

Now is the time to make the decision. The answer to this question will depend on the platform the video is used for. The interview of course must match any other footage that will be in the video. If you are shooting on behalf of an external requestor, it is imperative that you ask them for an answer on this question.

Tripod

Use a tripod of some kind. If you hand hold it, the audience can see shaky movement and then the cameraman becomes part of the narrative. This is usually not ideal for interviews.

Framing your subject

Put your camera at eye level with your subject.
There’s a rule that all good photographers and cinematographers abide by religiously. It’s called the Rule of Thirds.

Composition_Rule of Thirds

Pro Tip

Simply draw two horizontal lines across the screen that creates 3 even sections and then place the eye line on the top of the two lines. That’s it. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a close up shot or wide shot, follow the rule and it will be perfect.

Fun Fact

Draw the Rule of Thirds lines on your TV and watch all the interviewees eyes sit squarely on the line.

Separate and conquer

Get some separation. Do not put the subject up against a wall or bookshelf or painting. This is not a mug shot. The further away the subject is from the background, the better. Remember to scan for distractions. Is that a cactus growing out of his head?

Self filming technique. composition

By now, the interviewee is sitting in front of you. I guarantee they will ask the next logical question, “Where do I look?”. Have your answer ready. There are two options. Again, if you have a requestor, the answer to this will definitely need to come from them.

Where does the subject look?

Composition_Looking at Lens

Looking directly at the lens
This is good for addressing the audience directly.

Composition_Looking Off Camera

Looking off-camera, to the left or right
This is good if the interviewee is telling a narrative-type story to an interviewer.

Self Filming Technique #4 | Your Subject

Subject_Can't See

Your subject can’t see himself

Make sure they look good. Hair, face, crumpled clothes, twisted collar. Check everything. It takes a concerted effort to do this as you may not think it’s your responsibility, but it is. If they don’t look good, you will not look good. Believe me, he will be eternally grateful that he didn’t present to his audience unkempt. As always, communicate what you are doing so you don’t come across, well, creepy.

Subject_Can't Hear

He can’t hear himself

Often, people say one word when they think they said another. It happens a lot and it happens even more when under the pressure of performing. Listen to what is being said objectively and make suggestions at the end of each take to improve the delivery.

Subject_Tissues

It’s good to have powder and tissues on hand

Being on camera can be a little stressful for some, and sweat on the face is not a good look at all during filming. Just communicate well and dab away the sweat, or politely ask the subject to do it.

Self Filming Technique #5 | Audio

Self filming technique.

Now, arguably the most important section. Bad audio can ruin everything. Don’t get it right and steps one thru’ four will be for naught.

Unless you are in a very quiet environment that is not echoey (like most offices and rooms), you will need to buy a microphone. It doesn’t need to be expensive. Anything is better than recording from a distant iPhone.

These come in a few forms.

Audio_Lapel Wireless

Wireless Lapel Microphone
These enable you to clip a microphone to the subject’s lapel and plug a wireless receiver into your phone.

Audio_Lapel Wired

Wired Lapel Microphone
These are similar to their wireless counterpart, but with a cable running from the microphone to the phone directly.

Audio_Lapel Bluetooth

Bluetooth Lapel Microphone
These are also clip on lapel microphones, but they connect to your phone via Bluetooth. They can be a little unsightly, though.

Hide the cables
Don’t let untidy cables ruin your beautiful composition and well-kempt subject.
Hide them! The cables, not the subject 😉 

Pass the cable up from the bottom of their garment. Let the subject help you pull it out of the top of their garment, and then you can clip it on for them. Don’t forget, communicate.

Audio Hack

Phones are a-plenty!
You could use two smartphones: one to record the vision, and the other to record the audio separately.

First, place one phone on the desk in front of your subject, in his top pocket or even suspended from above him pointing downward. Be careful not to get it in your shot.

After that, select your voice recorder app and just keep it running. You can combine the audio from this phone and the vision from the other phone when you do the editing.

If you are filming with an iPhone, make sure your audio recording phone is an iPhone as well, or you may have sync issues later.

Pro Tips

Don’t forget to press record!

With all the stopping, checking, and communicating it is very easy to forget to press the big red button.

"Camera Rolling!"

A good habit is to verbally say “Camera rolling!” before each take. It is good comms for your subject and forces you to check that the phone is actually recording.

As with everything, practice makes perfect!

Grab a friend and give it a go. Try different locations and see what works best. Remember to check off all the steps so it becomes second nature when it comes to the real interview.

ProTips_Check Your Work

Check your work

Remember to view your work before you move forward. Everything looks good on a tiny phone screen, so viewing your footage on a bigger screen will show up any problems a lot easier. A laptop at full screen will do. After that, plug your headphones in and listen to the audio. It’s probably not going to be perfect, but ensure that the audio is clear and free from noises that distract from the delivery.

ProTips_Advanced Editing

Advanced

If you have an advanced video app, you can improve the quality by locking white balance and exposure. This keeps the image clean from camera hunting during the filming. Advanced apps can also give you more frame rate options to ensure you match the other footages your video will be combined with.

ProTips_Delivery

Delivery

Do not use WhatsApp or Facebook to send files. They compress them and reduce the quality. Ensure you send via a method you know doesn’t add compression. Your receiver will be able to advise on the optimal method. For us, it is usually Google Drive.

Anecdote

A customer recently sent us a bunch of self shot interview videos of their corporate heads to be used in an internal video. Unfortunately, they did not follow these 5 simple steps. 

There were a lot of composition errors and location problems, but none of those problems compared to the audio disaster. The camera person did not use a tripod, he held the phone close to his face and the subject was a fair distance away. The cameraman was a heavy breather. All through the interview you could hear every breath of the cameraman. The customer asked if we could remove it. It was not easy and it cost the customer a good sum of money for an audio engineer to do his magic, which defeated the purpose of the cost effectiveness of self filming.

Our self filming techniques will have you filming like a pro!
Follow them and I guarantee you will be impressed with your results.

A peek at how the pros do it!

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