I recently accompanied the Anchor Line Team to the UNH Interoperability Lab (IOL) for my very first shoot. The project was to produce a short video that would communicate the importance of the IOL education mission and outreach programs. First, though, we had to explain the IOL (I had never heard of it before). To do that, we interviewed students, staff, and alumni to create a comprehensive story about this special engineering lab.
Interviewing on video introduces a host of considerations and variables—background noise, light, angles, backdrop, coloring—that I had never given much thought before. I watched as the team conducted four interviews in different spaces, finding a balance between visually interesting variety and a cohesive look across the series of clips. They finagled the light and camera an inch here and there, proving to me that small changes make a big difference. And that’s just the technical stuff.
It was also crucial that the team know what questions to ask to get some people to elaborate and also to corral and guide the conversation when necessary. Some people speak freely on camera, which, on the upside, means plenty of footage and effective sound bytes. On the downside, lengthy conversations with the camera rolling translate into more strong footage than can fit in a short piece. At the other end of the interview spectrum are the people who, understandably, get shy once they perch themselves on a stool in front of a bright light, big camera, and handful of strangers. In those cases, the challenge is to create a comfortable environment and a natural conversation flow. I’m not exaggerating when I call it an art form.
The story created by the interview process was only one piece of the shoot. No one wants to watch a series of people talk about a place for five minutes without seeing that place. That’s why several hours of the day were spent shooting b-roll: close-ups of students working, wires and cords, IOL logos, and various shots of the lab itself. This footage makes a more compelling visual narrative when combined with the interviews.
The end result of the day? Almost 7 hours of footage to be cut, spliced, and distilled into about five minutes of polished video. The editing part seemed hard enough even before I attended a shoot. Now, post-shoot, I can admit that I did not fully appreciate all that goes into production before I saw this one key part of the entire meticulous process: capturing compelling footage.