Video Production Notes

In the following section, we’ll briefly discuss our production process and the lessons we learnt undertaking this project. This may be useful if you’re considering undertaking such a project, either to understand which tasks you’d be comfortable taking on and for which you’d hire professional assistance. At the outset, we were determined to stretch our new unit development budget of $6,000 (AUD) as far as possible for the production of video resources with a useful life of three to five years. We chose to hire graduate videographers but handle the producing, directing and editing roles ourselves.

Production Personnel

Neither of us, the authors, had any formal video production training, only an interest in video and years of informal experiments with consumer video editing software, such as i Movie.

We shared producing, directing and interviewing roles, often switching roles on a shoot. As producers, we followed up leads to arrange interviews with designers based on our discipline backgrounds. We contracted two recent QUT Film and Television graduates to undertake 60 hours of filming each, which consumed all of our budget. These young professionals brought their own equipment to the job, specifically professional-quality mirrorless cameras and lenses, lighting and audio equipment. Their expertise enabled us to capture high quality vision and audio, usually in the offices of our interview participants. Most interview shoots consumed at least an hour of travel time (including parking and moving equipment) plus as many as two hours for “bump-in,” photography and “bump out.” It’s standard industry practice to pay crew for no less than half a day’s work so we tried to shoot several interviews back-to-back whenever possible.

Production Schedule

Preparations for conducting the video interviews occupied approximately three months. Starting in December 2018, we canvased colleagues for recommendations of local designers to showcase and set an ambitious goal of interviewing 3 designers per discipline, potentially 21 interviews in total. When contacting prospective interviewees, we provided designers with an information sheet outlining shooting arrangements, personnel involved, equipment used, time required, questions to be asked and their choice of shooting at their offices or on campus. Responses to enquiries were very positive despite the Christmas holiday period, with most designers agreeing to be involved. Negotiations continued through January 2019 and overlapped filming in February.

Filming took two months. The first interview took place in early January. Twenty interviews had been recorded by mid-February, just under two weeks before classes began and the final recording took place on the last day of February. Post-production began in parallel with the recording. We prioritised editing episodes that would be required for the first week of classes and the remaining episodes were completed by the third week of classes in early March. Including initial contact with prospective interviewees, the total production time amounted to approximately less than four months.

Preparing to Shoot

To maximise authenticity we hoped to shoot the interviews in the designers’ work environments. For many students, this would be their first glimpse of a designer’s workplace. This wasn’t always possible due to either how the designers work, the desire to avoid disruption to the workplace or the lack of available shooting locations. Ultimately, of the 21 designers interviewed, 15 were filmed at their place of work and the remaining 6 recorded on campus. It’s surprising for the layperson how much equipment may be required to record a simple interview with one person. Transporting all of the necessary equipment and personnel is time-consuming and fatiguing, especially in the central city locations where many design firms are located. Figure 8.4 shows the typical arrangement we used, with minor variations, for the interviews.

We always attempted to place the interviewee (1) at least several metres in front of an interesting background, usually their office work environment. Some distance helps the videographer create depth-of-field separation, which creates a subtle blurring of the background (evident in Figure 8.1). The interviewer (2) was seated face- to-face with the subject. The interviewer was off-camera and their voice would be edited out of the final recordings (see Episode Format below).

The videographer (3) framed shots and, once recording commenced, could step back from the camera. Recordings ran continuously for up to 30 minutes, which was a technical limitation of the mirrorless DLSR cameras used for filming, but this was almost always sufficient. Two cameras were used for vision, a main camera (4) for a head-and-shoulders view and a second camera (5) for a wider shot. This dual-camera arrangement is not essential, but gives the video editor an easy way to disguise edits

Our typical video recording setup (at the offices of Anna O’Gorman, 2019)

FIGURE 8.4 Our typical video recording setup (at the offices of Anna O’Gorman, 2019)

by switching between angles while adding visual interest to what is otherwise a largely static recording. Both cameras recorded at high “4K” resolution, allowing the editor a variety of cropping options for the 1080p “HD” resolution used in the final video episodes.

While both cameras recorded audio using their built-in microphones, this audio was not used for production because of its poor quality. Instead, an overhead boom mic (6) or, in some cases, a lapel (“lavalier”) microphone, was used for sound, recorded to a digital audio recorder. This was synchronised with the vision during editing. Finally, the subject was illuminated by the “key light” with diffuser (7), positioned to the left of the cameras, with an additional “backlight” (8) behind them (and out of frame). The key light models the interviewee’s face clearly and the backlight provides definition and highlights to their outline. Many videographers use a third “fill light” to soften shadows but we used ambient light for this purpose.

Conducting the Interview

We realised that to produce natural recordings it was important to make the subject as comfortable as possible during filming. Recording an interview calls for behaviour that makes most people feel self-conscious - “Please sit here and try not to move too much. Look this way. Try not to look at the cameras.” Prior to our first interview, we experimented with the subject addressing the unseen audience by looking directly into the camera lens. It became apparent that this feels very artificial, and it seemed likely that many people would find it difficult to avoid looking at the interviewer. Instead, we set out to create a relaxed, conversational atmosphere.

To establish rapport during the shoots each of us played the role of interviewer for those designers we had contacted, while the other person gave direction. Typically, the interviewer would chat with the subject while the equipment was being set up which gave ample time to discuss the purpose of the questions while building rapport. This could be too successful - there were times when the interviewer would become so absorbed in the “conversation” that they’d lose track of the questions or make conversational noises, “hmm,” “yes” and so on. To counter this, we created a checklist to assist the smooth running of the interview. Ticking off the questions in turn helped the interviewer maintain the flow of the “conversation” without missing questions. Because we decided to remove the voice of the interviewer and replace their questions with titles, these utterances would interfere with the editing process. This required restraint from the interviewer to avoid speaking while the subject answered a question, which doesn’t come easily. Because our interviewees were given the questions in advance, some of them tended to merge their responses to multiple questions, which created problems later while editing to make discrete question episodes.

Here, we discovered the importance of the director’s role. It became the job of the person not asking the questions to carefully monitor the flow of the interview and keep track of what was said and who was speaking. At the conclusion of recording, we’d spend one minute in silence while we recorded “room tone” using the microphones. This could be used in production to subtract ambient background noise to make a cleaner voice track, which was necessary on several occasions.

Packing Up

Finally, we packed up equipment, thanked our guests and departed. While packing up, we’d transfer the two video recordings and the sound to an external hard drive so that editing could commence soon after. As a matter of good practice, our videographers insisted on duplicating essential files immediately to guard against catastrophic data loss. Interviews took between 60 and 105 minutes to conduct, not counting travel time. We allowed 45 minutes for setting up equipment, and with experience we reduced this to approximately 30 minutes. Shooting occupied 30 to 45 minutes and packing up about 15 minutes.

 
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