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Old August 17th, 2006, 07:47 AM   #1
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interviews: don't intimidate the subject....

A question for people who tape a lot of sit-down interviews...

I'm involved in a project where the producer hopes to interview domestic abuse victims. I want to get good audio obviously. But I think a lot of it depends on people feeling comfortable and talking about their experience.

I own an Azden shotgun that I've been happy with, but I worry about pointing a shotgun mic at people.

I'm thinking a wireless mic is less obtrusive... But I don't know, I suppose it depends on the interviewee and what bothers them.

Given the subject matter, I'm trying to keep the crew down to a minimum, to keep the subject comfortable in talking.

I know this is another 'no absolute answer' question, but if anyone has experience to share in doing interviews in potentially touchy subjects, how you handled them, thanks mucho.
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Old August 17th, 2006, 09:36 AM   #2
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A great non intrusive audio setup for interviews which we use all the time is as follows: Audio Technica 4073 mic, very directional and great for indoor or outdoor use. Audio Technica 8415 Shock mount, Bogen 3372 compact stand, 30 ft XLR cable, and a Bogen 5/8 stud to 3/8 male thread. What you do is put the mic in the shock mount and put the Bogen stud on the stand. Now you screw the shock mount onto the bogen stud ontop of the stand. Finally you have a stand with a very versatile mic, plenty cable, and a setup you can carry in one hand, place wherever you want around your interviewee(close as possible) and unlike a lav mic you dont have to touch your interviewee. You will find out the quicker you can setup for a interview and the less you intrude on the interviewee's comfort zone the more they will open up to you. One more thing you may want to look into is getting a rycote dead cat wind protector for you mic if you will be doing allot of outside interviews. Hope this helps and remember dont forget your headphones.
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Old August 17th, 2006, 10:44 AM   #3
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I use a lav mic on the subject, and a shotgun as a backup. Honestly, the subject will feel comfortable if you do. Introduce yourself and get involved in some pre interview conversation. I have done some very sensitive interviews and I always try to make the pre interview session light and warm. Believe it or not they pick up on your mood and attitude. Explain things to them before hand about your equipment and so on. Most people have never been on tv before, so talking with them before hand really helps them relax. As I'm putting the lav on I always make a joke about how they will get up and walk away with it still on. Everyone always does, because they forget that I'm even there by the time we're done. Your easiness with the situation will directly reflect how the shoot goes. Ask the person if it's ok to move some things "for background and lighting and so on. Like I said explain what your doing and why. "You need to move some things to put them in their best light and environment" All of these things will help you get a better interview, lighting and sound.

Goog Luck.
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Old August 17th, 2006, 11:19 AM   #4
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I do agree with mark if you have the time and a interviewee who is in a stable frame of mind. So know you have 2 plans of how to attack a interview. If you want to get a persons interview during the time of a crisis and dont have the time to set up a full EFP interview with lights and moving objects try the light stand approach for audio. If you have a stable situation where you have time to set up take your time and make it a interactive situation with your interviewee. If you can preproduce your interview I agree with Mark, If you are grabbing a character after a heated argument within a documentary project and you want to keep the person in the same frame of mind, light stand mic works great. Good info here for you, just shows there are many ways to tackle every aspect and you have to find the right one that works in different situations. good luck
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Old August 17th, 2006, 11:38 AM   #5
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Just remember G Gordon Liddy's maxim: "A kind word and a gun gives you more leverage than a kind word alone."

(couldn't resist!)
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Old August 17th, 2006, 12:21 PM   #6
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No pre-interview session?

http://youtube.com/watch?v=H59Jwqbm43g
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Old August 17th, 2006, 12:40 PM   #7
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Keith, now that would definitly require futher questioning and I sure wouldnt want my Lav mic on that guy. Now thats Compelling TV.
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Old August 17th, 2006, 02:32 PM   #8
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Check out "Gathering Audio" http://mediastorm.org/submissions/howto2.htm
This was written for photojournalists getting into gathering audio. It's a concise bit of info with time tested tips.
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Old August 17th, 2006, 03:29 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Guy Cochran
Check out "Gathering Audio" http://mediastorm.org/submissions/howto2.htm
This was written for photojournalists getting into gathering audio. It's a concise bit of info with time tested tips.
That's a good article. I also like the idea of getting to talk to the person a bit and establishing a good atmosphere. Ideally the interview will just be the interviewer, the interviewee and myself. Of course, that puts a lot on me.
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Old August 18th, 2006, 01:27 PM   #10
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In my experience, as long as your confident in what you are doing, sticking a mic up on a boom pole on a light stand and clipping a lav to the subject is relatively easy and not intimidating.

The people I've been interviewing this past year fall neatly into 1 of 2 categories. The first is people who have been interviewed a million times already. They know the business and don't bat an eyelash. The second group have never been on camera before. They don't know what to expect, so as long as you handle them appropriately, its all good. Between the big camera, the lights, the cables, the interviewer, etc., a little boom mic and a lav are nothing.
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Old August 21st, 2006, 12:17 PM   #11
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I'll leave the techie stuff on microphones, placement etc. to others. A few comments on the "human side" of on-camera interviews.

1) I agree with those who said to talk to the subject before the gear is set up. Establish some rapport and get their general take on the subject to be discussed. This will help you to formulate or refine your questions. But don't ask them to rehearse their answers - keep them natural.

I usually also tell them "I'm not from "Dateline". My job is to make you sound and look as good a possible. Because of that, we may have ask you to re-state something, do another take or change a microphone or light setting. Please bear with us." I usually present the concept of the conversation being between me (or the interviewer) and the subject. The camera is just listening in. Tell them to ignore the camera and maintain eye contact with the interviewer. If I'm doing a solo - I'll turn the LCD or monitor so I can see it and step away from the camera. With kids, a stuffed animal can be used to replace the interviewer "talk to fuzzy".

3) I usually start by telling the subject how their comments may be used in the finished piece - usually in short clips that may or may not be in the same order as they are presented. In this discussion I try to emphasize the importance of inclusive answers since the interviewers questions will not likely be in the edited product. "If I ask you what color the sky is, and you answer "Blue" it is less useful than "The sky is blue"" I also talk about avoiding references to other parts of the interview "like I said before" or "we handled it just like the last question" generally don't work well.

4) While trying to get the perfect SOT, especially in projects that are more scripted, you may have to do numerous re-takes. After a while, this makes the subject very uptight because they feel that they are screwing up. I like to blame myself or my equipment on the retake to help put them more at ease. Try something like.

"Darn - that was great, but I got a buzzing in the audio (or the camera shook, or someone walked by and got footsteps in the audio, or ...) Could we do that again - tell me again about_____. Please start with "The first time I saw...)

5) OK, this is a last resort, but it has saved me a few times with nervous subjects - the "rehearsal" ploy. "It seems like the camera is making you nervous - I know you are really great on this subject, let me turn off the camera and you just tell ME what you are trying to say" Pretend to turn off the camera, remove your headphones and carry on a conversation with the subject. When it works, please make sure you tell them you recorded the "rehearsal" so they won't feel cheated afterwards.
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