Top Tips for How-To Record a High-Quality Zoom Interview
Updated: Nov 9, 2020
We may all be social distancing, but we’ve seen that there’s a continued need for stories to be told and interviews, with both your community and experts, to be conducted and recorded. One method for achieving this that has become very popular is Zoom.
Here are some top tips that can really increase the quality of a Zoom interview and ensure that your contributors story is captured in the best possible way.
The first thing is to check-in on the following points with your contributor:
As with all traditional recordings, viewers can excuse poor visuals to a greater extent than they can excuse poor sound.
It’s important to avoid echo as much as possible, so try situating yourself in a smaller room or a room with plenty of soft furnishings such as carpets and thick curtains. Also ensure, as a minimum, that you use headphones with a built-in mic, rather than your computer’s audio. Professional audio recording devices such as a Zoom recorder, or a Blue Yeti will help even further.
Timing is everything: try to leave a decent pause after the interviewer has delivered the question to ensure that there is no verbal overlap which can make things very difficult in the edit.
As with traditional interviews, make sure to answer in full sentences, incorporating the question into the start of your answer.
With Zoom, it’s also useful to provide a ‘filler sentence’ at the start of your response to give the software enough time to ‘catch on’ and recognise that you are the one speaking and switch the camera view onto you.
Should you be interrupted by extraneous sound, like children, pets, motorcycles or roadworks, then feel free to pause and pick-up where you left off once the sound has passed. Refrain from speaking over extraneous sounds, as it won’t be possible to remove them in post-production.
Visuals – Lighting
Always aim to record your interviews during the daytime so that there’s plenty of natural light. It’s best if you can select a day that isn’t too sunny to avoid harsh sunlight. You want that soft and diffuse daylight that a slightly overcast day brings about.
Try to pick a room that has some large windows. Most importantly, situate yourself so that your light source (i.e. window) is somewhere between the 10am and 2pm position to your face. Make sure that the window is not behind you, or you’ll just be silhouette.
Turn off any overhead lights, so ceiling lights or lamps. They can create an uneven yellow caste on the skin and hair that can be difficult to remove in post-production.
Visuals - Composition
With webcams, people tend to be susceptible to two main compositional sins:
The first is having the webcam too low. Make sure to position your laptop at head height, or at your eye-line. Usually this requires propping it up on a pile of books so that it’s tall enough.
The second is leaving too much empty space above the top of the head. Your head should not be in the centre of the screen; rather it should be in the top third of the screen.
Suffice it to say (unlike our example images!) take the time to make sure your background is clear of junk. Most importantly, though, make sure your background is free from copyrighted images such as paintings, family photographs or posters!
Screen view Vs Gallery view
With the free version of Zoom, the software only records one stream (therefore, one angle). The angle recorded depends if you select screen view or gallery view. By and large, it’s best to select screen view so that the interviewer isn’t in the picture. This can be important for recoding case studies or stories where we focus on the contributor. It's also recommended to 'pin' the contributors screen, so that the camera remains on the contributor at all times and interviewer's screen is never recorded.
With the paid-for version of Zoom you have the option to record two streams simultaneously: both screen view and gallery view. This can be useful as it allows an editor to switch between angles and hide cuts.
It’s important to understand that capturing an interview via Zoom has its limitations.
Sound, for example, is the principle element that cannot be rescued in post-production, with things like echo being near impossible to remove. Visuals are much easier to fix, as colours and lighting can be adjusted relatively easily.
Significantly, should only one angle be recorded by the software, it’s important to realise that the end product will have jump cuts. The only way of hiding these would be to cover them over with additional visual material e.g. contributor photographs, or alternatively an editor can mock-up some graphic ‘question slates’ or title cards.
I would recommend touching base with a professional filmmaker or editor prior to your Zoom recording session. Many will be more than happy to provide some free advice.
Should you be interested in capturing a Zoom interview and have any questions, please feel free to get in touch with Mary at firstname.lastname@example.org