May 5, 2015

Video Capture In Knowledge Transfer

The use of video is becoming widespread in our society so I would like to share with you some of the things that I have learned about video in the context of knowledge transfer and re-use.

My rule of thumb is 30 seconds is perfect, 60 seconds is good, 120 seconds is 60 seconds too long.  If you are sitting in an office, then you want something that is short and to the point.  Use the video to highlight some aspect that you think is particularly important to get across in the video rather than general education.  I have come across a couple of instances where conferences, workshops or presentations have been captured on video but evidence suggests that people don’t have the time to sit through a long video, they just want the highlights.

Think carefully about the impact of lighting and how the finished article will appear on the screen.  If the light is behind the head of the person being interviewed, their face will be in shadow and the video will add very little beyond that which text would deliver.  If the light is directly above their head it can cause shadows under eyes and give a ‘unhealthy’ or ghost like appearance.  Having the light shining on their face (not a spotlight as they will appear very pale) will probably give you the best results.

I always use a clip on microphone to record the audio as the microphone on the camera can pick up background noise that you might not be aware of.  This might include hum from fluorescent light fittings or sound of air conditioners.

Think about location, I prefer an office with a door that can be closed to keep out noise and distractions.  I once did an interview with someone sitting outside on a bench.  It was only after I started to edit the clip did I discover that you could see the image of people walking past on the lens of the interviewees spectacles.  To say that it was distracting would be an understatement.
I position the camera about half a metre to the right of my right hand.  The edited image will appear on the screen as if they are talking direct to the viewer and not the interviewer.  If you position the camera directly in front of the interviewee you risk the danger of their hands appearing huge if they lift their hand during the interview.
Before I start filming I explain to the interviewee the questions I will put to them so that there are no surprises.  I don't let them write anything to prevent them looking down during the filming.  I brief them on the question, let them think about their response, ask the question, record the clip, let the camera run for 10 seconds, stop, brief them on the next question, let them think about their response, asks the question, record the clip, let the camera run for 10 seconds etc.  The reason that I have a silent gap at the beginning and end of the recording is so that I can get good 'still' image of them on the screen and not one where they have their mouth open or eyes closed.  I also ask them to start their answer by repeating the question, that way the viewer doesn't have to guess what question was put to the interviewee.

Before you put a lot of effort into creating video clips, create a ‘test’ clip and give it to your IT Dept to allow them to verify that your IT infrastructure can host the clips you are going to create.  Video clips are not simple things like Word or Excel documents, there can also be a limit on the size of the clip that can be hosted.

This may seem like a strange point but check that your video editing software is compatible with the file type that your camera will produce.  I bought a particular type of camera with a socket for the external microphone only to find out that the video file that it produced couldn’t be read by my existing editing software.

Always, always, always send the clip to the interviewee to approve before you release it.  It’s not unusual to find that people don’t like what they say or how they say it and will ask for it to be re-edited or even re-created.


  1. Tom some excellent points here thanks for sharing.

    A question/observation if I may.
    The process you describe above is quite a formal one, very often the nugget can come if you are out on site and not with anything other than a smart phone. I've found the quality /authentictiy and lack of formality can aid the piece to camera.
    One other comment/tip - always have spare batteries to hand.
    Again, great post.

  2. I agree Paul, sometimes being able to capture something as it happens can be very valuable but I would encourage anyone doing that to think about how the final product will look and how the viewer will use it.

  3. Yes AND the challenge is often how to unearth the nuggets in the unexpected which is where training and experience are essential. I have found watching others a good way to learn and recall one really enjoyable evening in Darfur watching and discussing The Nixon Tapes with the group from WHO we were working with.