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Q: I’m a student at the University of Worcester studying Digital Media.For one of my Modules this semester i am making a corporate video for Worcester Probation services, i was wondering if you could give me any advice into how to make a good video. Are Brief is to make a video for ex offenders to watch while they are waiting to be seen by the staff, we have been asked to include interviews with the staff and ex offenders.
Thank you for your time

Digital Media Student
Worcester University

A: For a broad overview on making corporate video, there are a series of ebooks and whitepaper resources here that describe how to make a corporate video

For a Probation Services video, I’d like to make a few points regarding the questioning/shooting/editing technique you use, as they’re all very linked together.

If you’re not careful (I’m not suggesting you aren’t), the video will look like a long series of predictable platitudes from probation professionals, interspersed with one or two “star ex-offenders” who are plainly sucking up.

I don’t mean to take a negative here, not at all. But it’s fair to point out what you must do to avoid this scenario that so many video makers fall into.

Here’s how to avoid the pitfalls and get a really snappy, relevant and – above all – credible video from your circle of interviewees.

Let’s look at the Questionnaire, the Shoot, and the Edit

The Questionnaire

Make a list of the points you want to cover.

The structure these as questions. Avoid questions that only require a yes/no. Use open ended questions such as “please describe …”

Have two versions of each question – one for the head, and one for the heart. So if you draw a blank when you ask a question, then you have an alternative to fall back on.

Arrange for interviewees to see the questionnaire in advance so you don’t spring surprises on them. And make it clear that they can say what they like. There are no right or wrong answers. Natural speech is vital.

The Shoot

You’ll need 12 to 20 interviewees to get a good selection of responses. The more the merrier.

Get ex-offenders to managers in a ratio of 3:1 otherwise your video will sound like a management-ese puff piece.

Let people speak freely, and don’t interrupt them or you’ll break their flow. Yes, some will ramble. But if you have enough interviewees then you’ll get enough good footage.

For 20 interviewees you can allow a 2 day shoot. As a guideline, schedule them for 2 or 3 an hour.

If somebody says something really good, like a “star sentence”, you can ask them to repeat it so you get a good take on an “anchor line”.

Generally a two person shoot is fine with a camera op in charge of the picture and an interviewee/director with headphones on asking the questions. And use a tie mike, not a boom microphone.

Make sure interviewees don’t look at camera. For a voxpop video, fly on the wall is much better. And make sure the camera op doesn’t get too creative. Still head and shoulders is fine, maybe alternating between tilt-left-straight-tilt-right for each interview.

Almost any location will do. Background activity is fine.

The Edit
Once shot, all the footage needs grading to get rid of all the unusable or inappropriate comments.

For examples, some ex-offenders will probably come across very negative in parts, so forget these sections. Likewise, some managers will sound very formal and stiff and “procedural”. Dump all this stuff, and just keep the natural sounding material.

Once graded and editing proper commences, avoid long sections. Keep the edits short snappy and tight.

For example

Ex-offender 1: I made a big mistake a couple of years ago

Ex-offender 2: Me and mate twoc’d this car

Ex-offender 3: I didn’t think I’d get caught

See how we use 3 people to make one simple point, rather than let one single person say it all?

This calls for very diligent editing. The editor needs to have an excellent memory to remember all the clips too.

Use a manager to head-up each topic section, then edit together the ex-offenders as a series of responses to the manager’s opener.

If you do it this way, it’ll be interesting to watch. Most importantly it’ll be credible, it’ll talk about real issues, it won’t patronise, and it won’t look like a staged piece.

Last point: Don’t let the managers hijack the programme. It’s mostly what the ex-offenders say that will carry the most weight with your ex-offender audience. Use the power of peer group influence, supported by probation officers, but not depending on them.

There are some examples of voxpop questionnaire videos to check out

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