Off-Topic, but… (about remote interviewing, via Net)
Sorry for the off-topic, but I really value the combined experience and talent of the group here.
I need to interview a number of people around the country and do it remotely, me in Calif. and others… elsewhere.
-Does anyone know of a low-ish cost way to do that?
-Anyone in News who would know how they do it?
-*Net quality is ok for this project. Delivering for online e-learning.
2. Do you know of any services like Skype or Zoom that are more stable? Zoom can record a conversation at 1280x720 but results can be uneven. I assume Skype is about the same. I can work with one of these if I must.
3. What about recording video/audio on the interviewee's computer? Using something like PhotoBooth (Mac) or Camera? (Windows). Photo Booth records at 640x480 but with much less artifacting, both video and audio. Any other apps you know of that record at higher res?
*Whatever insights or leads you can give me would be MOST APPRECIATED!!!
Do you mean, live, or non-realtime/ edited later? Makes a huge difference.
What's the budget?
And those are the right questions.
Either will be high-risk if it's really low budget.
If it's recorded only, find a good local lighter/shooter who can either ask your questions while standing alongside the camera, or arrange a phone hookup into an IFB earpiece - ideally also recorded on a discrete audio track.
Live will cost you, even if it's over broadband you'll want a good chunk of bandwidth and a solid connection. Don't even think about doing this over wireless. And the good local lighter/shooter will still be important.
Thank you Mark and Alan,
It will be recorded and edited.
The budget can't afford crew present on their end, plus there are overarching problems getting people into the facilities where our interviewees work.
The system needs to use existing office computers, an IT on their end can help set up, and we can send them equipment if needed.
Here is a sample of over-Net video, on TWIT.tv,
This quality is appropriate for our use. TWIT production tips say that most modern computer cameras are sufficient, but we can send a web-camera / mic if needed. Will probably use an over-ear headsets/mic.
I'm wondering how common this sort of production is in our world. Usual production standards are much higher, yet this type is now acceptable for training and learning applications.
"Acceptable" is a loaded word around here.:-)
So, to sum up: you can't afford to send ANY pro to ANY location, and you're asking the interview subjects to handle the shoot on their end, by themselves.
I think this is a job for Skype and/or Google Hangouts, if you want minimum fuss and cost, and minimum tech issues. One other option is to record using the local computer web camera at maximum resolution while the subject hears the interview questions over a phone line, then ask each interview subject to compress and send you their recording via Drop Box or some other FTP system... which is asking a lot from these people, who may not all be tech savvy enough.
Webcam audio off the screen typically has crap audio quality, unless the interview subject adds a better mic to the session and knows how to place it and connect it. Again, if your subjects are not tech-knowledgeable, this could prove difficult.
The other issue is that people's computers are in terrible locations for getting a good picture. Webcams on top of computer screens are usually below eye level, the screens cast ugly light effect on the subject... the webcam lenses typically fisheye a bit, the background of the computer rooms stink, it just looks terrible. 90 percent of video skype and google hangout videos look terrible, mostly because the users are not pros, and not lighting, framing, and micing like pros.
But 90 percent of their users don't care enough to complain or work harder to make better product. So you may well be happy with that as well.
I have another approach to suggest.
Have each subject get the heck out of their computer rooms and record themselves in a well-lit quiet area using their Apple iphone or Android phone's camera. This will be higher def, which means a picture you can further manipulate in post later to change between wider and close-up framing. Or you can fix bad framing, if there's enough margin. The phones already have some method to post the video to you by some means or other, through an upload function, so technical sophistication is not a deal breaker.
If they keep the phone within arm's reach, and follow directions about choice of space to shoot in, the sound should work okay.
You could mail them a rolled-up backdrop to stand or sit in front of, or you could mail them a simple camera mounting device that would let them hang the camera at eye level on a handy nearby wall, or set on a tripod, if they own one. We could work up the parts and design here collaboratively, and make it something you can mail out, or that they can locally source for free or nearly free, just pennies. You can also send them directions on how to make a simple butterfly style reflector board that will light them well and cheaply, on the order of 2-3 dollars. And doing this, the video material you get back will look a hundred times better, even considering you didn't send shooters everywhere.
If this appeals to you, we can keep discussing it here. It might help others doing similar stuff in the future.
I would take all of Mark's very good advice to heart.
But I would also be very very wary having the interviewees do absolutely anything on the technical side of things other than the very very bare minimum... even putting up a backdrop might be surprisingly out of the wheelhouse of a lot of people. I have found that asking non-industry people to anything higher than a "1" on a scale of 1-10 in the "production values" department will often yield shockingly disappointing results.
I don't even know how we got this particular gig, but we do monthly audio podcasts for a government entity a couple hundred miles from us... just tagging them with intros and outros and making the right kinds of files. Their initial self-efforts were poor, so we tried to help them out. We bought and shipped them a Zoom recorder, gave lots of good advice on mic placement, how to pick the right recording environment, how to deaden a room, all the things that seem obvious to us. Their resulting recordings sound like they were recorded with the mic 10 feet away. In a bathroom. At Grand Central. Next to the loudest HVAC system they could find. And I think our repeated additional advice, if anything, only continues to make their results worse.
We also cast actors from all over the country... most auditions from talent agents, but some are self recorded by actors on their phones. Despite clear instructions, at least half of them come in having been shot portrait, not landscape. And frankly, the ones that come in from agents aren't a lot better, on average.
So... do what you can, but don't ask too much. Or any, if possible.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
Here's an idea: two sheets of foam core board, from the dollar store, with the phone fastened to one board or inset in a phone-shaped hole, traced in the top board and cut away. Cost: 2 dollars and a strip of duct tape.
The two boards concentrate a flat, soft light onto the face from arm's length away, and also somewhat shield the phone from sounds to the rear and side. This should make a nice picture outdoors with the sun to one side or the other, indoors, with a neutral background and any overhead light. One could even draw or print on the boards with instructions and arrows, where the sun or indoor "key light" should be for the board to give the best effect. This setup is light enough to hang on the wall at eye height using a nail, like a photo frame. You could even put prompter-like crib notes on the surface and it won't hurt the picture. Take a second phone to use for the audio of the incoming conversation, or, just copy down the questions and answer back "on-camera", since this is going to be edited anyhow.