… for Random Weirdness

Tip #324: Improve Your Video Interviews

Planning and communication are the keys to success.

Topic $TipTopic

These first appeared in an article written by Caleb Ward for PremiumBeat as a list of 15 tips. I’ve selected my top 7 favorites from his list.

Shooting a video interview can be one of the most challenging aspects of the filmmaking process. Here are seven tips to take your interview skills to the next level and avoid nasty surprises on set.

  • Do your research and plan your questions carefully.
  • Scout the location.
  • Coordinate costume and logistics with your talent before the shoot.
  • Use a professional sound recordist.
  • Decide where you want the talent to look (their “eyeline”).
  • If possible, shoot with more than one camera to simplify editing.
  • Record B-roll and room tone before leaving the set.

The whole article is worth reading.

Please rate the helpfulness of this tip.

Click on a star to rate it!

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #336: 5 Essential Tips for Editing Soundbites

It takes a lot of work to make a soundbite sound natural.

Topic $TipTopic

This article, written by Jourdan Aldredge, first appeared in PremiumBeat.

Quality audio is the key to any interview. Yet, working with sound bites is always a challenge because they are filled with pauses, interruptions and awkward phrasing.

  • Look for the good stuff. Look for crisp, concise, and complete bites first. Then, go back and look for good bits that can be built into a complete sentence.
  • Remove ‘umms’ and pauses. Make sure you have B-roll to cover your edits, then delete the pauses, awkward beats and ripple edit everything back together.
  • Edit on valleys. When editing audio, always be sure to cut where the waveform is as small as possible.
  • Edit on similar syllables. If you must edit in a word, edit on similar syllables who’s waveform peaks are roughly the same level
  • Verify the soundbites. After the bites are edited, listen to them closely to make sure they still make sense and fit with the rest of the interview.

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #361: Ask Better Questions

Plan so you can “be in the moment” with your guest.

Topic $TipTopic I’ve been doing interviews for decades. Based on that experience, here’s a summary of an article I wrote on how to ask better interview questions. Read the full article here.

  • Plan. Planning is not as sexy as production, but it is just as essential.
  • Handle Guests. Get all your tech checks done before the guest walks onto the set. Once the guest enters, direct your full attention to them.
  • Write Your Questions. Asking questions is part art and part science. The art is really listening to what your guest is saying. Write down your questions so you can focus on the guest, not on what you want to ask next.
  • The Interview. At this point, the interview dance begins. And I view it as a dance — I’m leading and they are following. For me, an interview has an emotional arc, the same as a drama. I always start with easy questions which I never expect to use, just to get the guest comfortable.
  • Questions to Use. WHAT, WHERE, and HOW questions. These cause the guest to describe specific problems, actions, behaviors. These set up a problem and what was done to solve it. I use these for the body of the interview. I also use “For example?” a lot during this section to drill down into specifics. Then, I wrap up with WHY questions. These always elicit emotional responses
  • Questions Not to Use. Questions that start with: could, should, do, can, or any other question that can be answered “yes,” or “no.”
  • Last Question. Just before calling “Cut!,” but when all my questions are done, I always ask the guest: “Is there a question I should have asked that I did not?” This gives them a chance to reflect to see if they want to add, or modify anything.

Finally, when things are done, thank the guest BEFORE you talk to the crew. Reassure them they did a good job – because they are worried you didn’t like what they did.

Then, talk to the crew.

There’s a lot more in the article, I recommend you read it before your next interview.

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #271: Examples of USB Connectors

USB uses nine different connectors and five different speed settings.

The nine different connectors used by USB 1.1 through 3.0.

Topic $TipTopic

USB is known for all its different connectors. Recently, I was reading Wikipedia and discovered this illustration.

USB has nine different connectors and five different speeds. The addition of USB-C makes six different speeds.

The three sizes of USB connectors are the default or standard format intended for desktop or portable equipment, the mini intended for mobile equipment, and the thinner micro size, for low-profile mobile equipment such as mobile phones and tablets. There are five speeds for USB data transfer: Low Speed, Full Speed, High Speed (from version 2.0 of the specification), SuperSpeed (from version 3.0), and SuperSpeed+ (from version 3.1).

If you want to learn more, Wikipedia has a worthwhile article here.

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #323: Practical Tips to Avoid Film-making Stress

Common sense saves time and reduces stress.

Topic $TipTopic

Lewis McGregor first reported this for PremiumBeat. I’ve summarized his key points here.

Often, stress during a project starts as a small thing that can be easily managed. Sure, these ideas might be common sense tips, but it’s the type of advice you don’t really think about until you find yourself in a particularly stressful situation.

  1. Set up as much as possible before you arrive on location
  2. Minimize the amount of “winging it”
  3. Store and label equipment like a grip truck, even if you drive a small hatchback
  4. Quash what-ifs with backups

Perhaps the causes of your stress are a little different than listed above. Regardless, you can minimize the general stress of shooting solo by focusing on setting up gear ahead of time and the organizing your equipment.

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #166: 8 Camera Hacks

8 simple tricks to make still images more creative.

Topic $TipTopic

Peter McKinnon, writing in DigitalRev, shares eight different tips we can quickly use on set to create a different look or fix a problem:

  • Belt Sling – Attach and suspend your camera from a belt to produce stabilized camera steady shots
  • Coffee Hood – Add a coffee cup sleeve to your lens for a cheap hood
  • Dream Chap – Add chapstick to your lens for an easy blur effect (perhaps apply this to a lens protector instead!)
  • Cello-lens – Add cellophane over a lens to distort the image
  • Shade Blend – Snap through a pair of sunglasses for a natural Instagram filter
  • Knife Blade – Introduce reflections by placing a shiny knife beneath the lens
  • Flashlight Flare – Shine a light between the camera sensor and the lens to introduce a light leak effect
  • Smart Flare – You can even use your smartphone to create fancy effects while on the go

… for Visual Effects

Tip #339: Inexpensive Green-screen Kits

Do-It-Yourself is possible, but this kit is better.

This illustrates the contents of the Linco lighting kit.

Topic $TipTopic While there are tons of articles on the web about creating Do-It-Yourself green screen kits, what you save in money, you more than waste in post-production trying to pull a clean key from a cheap background. Instead, consider a green-screen background kit.

Here are three to look at.

There are many others to choose from. With these three, though, for less than $150, you get everything you need to create and light a background.

While the Emart kit is the least expensive, what I like about the other two kits is that they include softlights for the talent, as well.

The key to a successful key is an absolutely smooth and flat-lit background. Then, use separate lights to light the talent. Any of these kits can help.

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #147: 5 Tips for Handling & Storing Fiber Optic Cables

Proper maintenance of fiber optic cables

Topic $TipTopic

Recently, Camplex Fiber Optic Solutions shared these tips to make sure your fiber optic cables provide years of reliable performance.

Tip #1. Keep Cable Connectors Clean & Dry

Connectors can easily be contaminated by dust, oils from hands, film residue condensed from air vapors, and coatings left after water and solvents evaporate. Moisture can also corrode cable terminations, so store cables in dry areas. Before using fiber optic cables, clean the connectors on the cable and on the cables or ports the cable is connected to.

Tip #2 Leave Dust Caps On Until Ready to Connect

Dust caps keep contaminants and moisture away from the connector and protect it from damage. After removing a dust cap, inspect and clean the ferrule before connecting to another cable or device. Only use cleaning products intended for fiber optic connectors.

Tip #3 Take it Easy

Fiber cables are extremely durable consisting of cladding, coatings, and jackets that protect the delicate glass strands and provide strength. Still, if mishandled, the glass strands can fracture which affects signal transmission.

Tip #4 Test for Failure Points

Exceeding the bend radius or crush resistance ratings of the cable can affect performance, so use a visual fault locator (VFL) to find any failure points or a power meter to determine if there is signal loss.

Tip #5 Avoid Tangled Cables

Coil fiber optic cables and secure connectors with hook and loop type fasteners. Since compressed cables could cause signal loss, avoid using plastic zip ties. When zip ties are the only solution, cinch the zip ties loosely.

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #175: Lighting Tricks with Your Cell Phone

A lighting kit is better, but a cell phone can salvage a shoot.

Create low-key mood lighting with an iPhone.
An iPhone can create great mood lighting.

Topic $TipTopic These lighting tips first appeared in PremiumBeat. While you never want to rely on your cell phone as the primary light source, here are some ideas you can use in a pinch.

  1. Moody lighting. Make the room as dark as possible. Search for an image of a solid color on the web, say, the color blue. Save it to Photos, then display that image full screen (as a saved photo) on your phone. Ta-DAH! Instant blue light.
  2. Use your flashlight. Prop your phone on a desk or table. Turn on the flashlight. Works great as a backlight. Bounce it off a wall or white foam core as a fill light.
  3. Quick softbox. Find an image on the web that’s all white. Save it to Photos, then display it as a full-screen image. instant softlight. It won’t light a big area, but it can give you a key in a pinch.
  4. Gaffer tape the phone to the ceiling. Put some gel over it to give it a color.
  5. Shine your light through a bottle of mouthwash or any other clear glass container containing colored liquid.


Just to state the obvious, be sure to pick a phone that won’t break your heart if it falls, gets taped or gets wet.

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #227: Place Audio Before Video in Motion Graphics

Motion graphics and animation need a different audio workflow.

Timecode - or frames - display in Apple Motion.
Click arrow to change between frames and timecode in Apple Motion.

Topic $TipTopic

When it comes to creating animation or a motion graphic video, the hardest thing for folks new to the art is to figure out the timing. How long should a scene last? Or a piece of text hold on screen? How fast are the transitions? Here are some thoughts that can help.

The short answer is that the audio track for anything animated is built BEFORE you create the video, while the audio track for a “normal” video is built after the video is edited.

You could determine timing by dividing a motion graphic video into specific scenes by the clock, then create a storyboard for each scene. But, the problem is that music is not based on the clock. If you are adding a music bed, you need to respect the rhythm of the music, as well as make sure the end of the music in the video is at the end of a musical phrase. This makes your motion graphic sound complete.

NOTE: It is far more important to focus on where music ends than where it begins; because audiences remember the end of something more than the beginning.

Once you start adding dialog or narration, you have two different rhythms working: music and voice. There’s no way you can animate that without carefully listening to and setting your timing based on the actual audio. Which means the audio needs to be complete before animation starts.

This is a key reason why animators prefer to work with frame counts, more than timecode. Frame counts provide a very specific reference that ties perfectly to the sound track. Timecode is better suited to watching video.