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Documentary - 'dull' interview problem

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Thomas Meldgaard
Documentary - 'dull' interview problem
on Aug 18, 2012 at 10:00:26 am

Hello

This is not a technical problem, more one of tempo. I am working on a corporate presentation of a company. We have shot all the footage, and it is not an option to shoot again.

My problem is, that the owner of the company, who I am interviewing, sounds rather dull when talking. I have equalized his voice, so it is less bass-heavy, but it still doesn't quite do it.

Do any of you have suggestions for how to make the video feel more alive?

You can see the video here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75ckVAeKyms
(this is only a rough outline of the first part of the video, with preview music and very quick grading)


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Mark Suszko
Re: Documentary - 'dull' interview problem
on Aug 20, 2012 at 2:23:29 pm

The sample went 404, so I have nothing to see from which to give advice.

But the typical tricks for "jazzing up" a dull talking head include
cutting in some "pull quotes" of what he's saying as manipulated kinetic text. Also, aggressive cropping of multiple screens of the same track, layered, can add visual excitement and a sense of more urgency. Throwing in a lot of b-roll is aanother trick.

All those tools can help a bit, but the honest truth is that they can't save what isn't there in the first place: an engaging monolog, delivered with conviction. We don't have a drop-down menu button for that, I'm afraid.

Something I tell nervous speakers that have not done a lot of video, is that when you talk about what you know well and what you love - what you feel passionate about - you will naturally come across well on camera, pro or not. If you don't believe in what you're saying, it requires Oscar-level acting to hide it. So the most important part of a shoot like this is not the jib arm, the red camera, the crazy expensive lighting and effects, or any of that. The critical thing is; get your subject to activate their passion for the material. You cannot retrieve that in post, it has to be done on-camera, live.


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Thomas Meldgaard
Re: Documentary - 'dull' interview problem
on Aug 20, 2012 at 5:09:57 pm

Hello. Thank's for the elaborate answer. I will try to post the link again, so you can see the unfinished movie:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75ckVAeKyms


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Mark Suszko
Re: Documentary - 'dull' interview problem
on Aug 20, 2012 at 6:23:33 pm

"Elaborate"? Heh, you haven't read my posts much, I can tell ;-)


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Thomas Meldgaard
Re: Documentary - 'dull' interview problem
on Aug 20, 2012 at 11:07:06 pm

Well I thought it was elaborate, considering you had no info to comment on.

Do you have any thoughts about the video, once you've seen it?


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Mark Suszko
Re: Documentary - 'dull' interview problem
on Aug 21, 2012 at 2:48:50 pm

OK, I finally saw the link by cutting/pasting, for some reason the COW page can't get me there... The photography was most impressive. I also like the music change when he srats talking about merging with the other company. One cut, I didn't like, had a left pan cut to a right pan without a transitional shot between them, I thought that was jarring. The rest I thought was quite nice witht the gentle jib/slider shots.

I think the music is too loud under him. Not just in volume, but what might help his voice punch out over the music is to filter out the music in the frequency bands common to the human voice. Maybe break up the music in the first section, and leave it out in places, so it doesn't fight his voice. Add some compression to his voice, perhaps, to push the dynamics a bit.

The character of his voice lacks what we call "affect". He's so understated, he's almost in a monotone. Also, I'm guessing English is not his first language, so there's that working against you.

Since you can't re-record him, I would play with creating virtual close-ups to tighten up on his face, because facial expression plus voice information adds to conveying emotion. I would try to do some split-screen with his face relatively large, but cropped in dynamic ways, played against the great B-roll shots you have. Resolution issues limit how far you can take this, I know.

You know, it is fine as it is, for what it is. It's good to try to improve on it, but you shouldn't beat yourself up about it, if you can't make it much better than what you already have. The real failure, if you want to call it that, was poor decision-making on location when the interview was shot, with a lack of shot variation and a failure to get the speaker to engage with more affect. You don't have a button on your edit system to fix that. You get the right kind of raw material by visiting anD re-visiting the same questions multiple times using multiple angles, and by provoking emotional investment in the answers by how you frame the questions. Not baiting the man, exactly. But framing things in an emotional context as well as a factual one.

A little more "elaborate", yes? :-)


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Thomas Meldgaard
Re: Documentary - 'dull' interview problem
on Aug 22, 2012 at 9:48:57 am

Elaborate indeed. I will take this into consideration when doing the fine-adjustments. Thank you very much!


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Jeff Cadge
Re: Documentary - 'dull' interview problem
on Aug 24, 2012 at 2:54:29 am

Thomas,

Although your client is soft spoken and like Mark says is lacking "affect" or energy I find his shifty eyes more bothersome then his soft spoken nature, it probably would have been better to have him tell his story to someone off camera instead of looking into the camera which he doesn’t do consistently.

Here are a few suggestions to help increase the energy of the video. Start the video with more upbeat music, with a description of what the company does, combine the B-roll from 1:33 -1;35 with the existing opening B-roll to have a stronger open, segue to the softer music when telling the history of the company, edit out the line about the founder dying and then go back to the upbeat music for the close.
Overall try to cleanup the ahs and pauses of the owner’s voice-over, and take out his question “what is the background of KVK?” By cleaning up and tightening his v/o and reducing the running time it will pick up the tempo.

Jeff Cadge


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Mads Nybo Jørgensen
Re: #Documentary - 'dull' #interview problem
on Sep 10, 2012 at 4:59:38 pm

Hej Thomas,

I'm a bit late to this conversation, but since I "wasted" some of my youth making telly in Vejen, Denmark back in the 1980's, I would like to throw a couple of pointers in.

Is this a mini documentary or a sales/corporate promotional video?

As docu it is OK-ish for Youtube.

If it is the other, it needs to be much sharper. As the other guys suggested the "victim" is looking like he was caught in the headlights. English is not his first language and he is not comfortable - too late to fix that. Replace most of him with a Voice Over by a neutral story teller - this will also allow you to pace your interviewee's soundbites much better.

Product, what is it? Show me more - I left the video with the impression of a slow dad (now dead) and a merger with a company that makes the business a steel business, more than a specialist tool business.

Be positive and upbeat through out. Do remember history, but don't use it as an excuse for why things are better today.

Also, what is the market: Local, regional or global?

Where is the customer testimonials?

On the positive side, it is very well shot and there is some nice moving pictures. Just needs the unkind hands of an editor :-)

All the Best
Mads

@madsvid, London, UK
Check out my other hangouts:
Twitter: @madsvid
http://mads-thinkingoutloud.blogspot.co.uk


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Thomas Meldgaard
Re: #Documentary - 'dull' #interview problem
on Sep 10, 2012 at 6:29:55 pm

Hej Mads

Thanks for the interest. Nice that you have personal experience in the place.

For starters - the video I've put on youtube is only the start of an 8 minutes long documentary.

It is a sales video 'disguised' as a documentary. The idea is that people in the same market will watch it as a documentary with interest, and thus get exposed to the products and service of this company.

If you want to see the full-lenght movie I can ask the client for permision, and send a link for you.

The customer testimonials is frankly something I haven't thought about. Good point there!

The Market is global. I see the point that he is not natively english speaking, but I believe it increases his credibility that he isn't some kind of smart ass american. His main goal was to apear trustworthy and dedicated.
Best,
Thomas


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Mads Nybo Jørgensen
Re: #Documentary - 'dull' #interview problem
on Sep 10, 2012 at 6:57:11 pm

Hej Thomas,

Yes, your client is from Jylland and probably more happy doing welding than standing in front of your camera :-)
And that was not meant to sound like a put-down of him, just a reality check from a film makers point of view - not an uncommon situation when working with most directors of a SME, or even large corporates.

As much as re-shooting is not an option, don't be afraid of going back to your client and ask to film "more" footage - it works best for both of you, if the message gets across looking and sounding the best possible.

He does not have to be a native speaker to be loved by an international audience - he just have to look alive and animated. Currently we are not getting the notion that he actually likes what he is selling.

Keep in mind the type of distribution that the video will be doing, don't be afraid of making four short videos, rather than one long one.

I'll be more than happy to look at the 8 minute, and to do so in confidence - feel free to email me a link to madsnj [at] hotmail [dot] com

All the Best
Mads

@madsvid, London, UK
Check out my other hangouts:
Twitter: @madsvid
http://mads-thinkingoutloud.blogspot.co.uk


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Thomas Meldgaard
Re: #Documentary - 'dull' #interview problem
on Sep 10, 2012 at 9:36:48 pm

Thanks. I'll send the link on email.


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