Remote Interview Recording During COVID
How We Perfected the Method
April 10, 2020 | Andy Linda
One benefit of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it taught us how to do perfect remote interview recording. That is, interviews conducted by someone who is physically somewhere else and appears on Zoom or Teams while a professional camera records the interviewee. At first we did it very simply by pointing an iPhone to a monitor, but the interviewer–usually a producer–could not judge the quality of the sound or the picture. It worked in a pinch, but as the pandemic wore on, we needed an upgrade.
Now we use a box that is fed an HDMI signal straight from the camera, and it includes the sound. The remote interviewer sees and hears exactly what is being recorded. But that’s only half the remote interview.
The interviewee needs someone to talk to, not just a lens to stare at. There are two options: One is to set up the Zoom call on a computer that’s positioned exactly where the interviewer would normally be, right next to the camera. The other is to put the remote interviewer onto a Teleprompter so that the interviewee can talk to a human being while making perfect eye contact with the camera. In both cases we set up a big speaker so that the interviewee can hear the interviewer absolutely clearly.
This second approach, where we use Teleprompter hardware to show the interviewer’s face, is called an Interrotron and we’ve been using it for years in a hard-wired configuration. It’s great for testimonials where you want the interview subject to address the audience directly. It’s not nearly as off-putting for the interviewee to talk to another human being rather than a lens, so their performance is always far more at ease.
Very few of the interviews we ever shoot call for a reverse shot so that we’d see the interviewer. Virtually all of them are shots of only the interviewee. So the result of this remote interview recording is truly identical to what we would get if the interviewer were physically present. And of course the convenience to the interviewer is huge by not having to be on-location.
Zoom recording was OK in the first days of the pandemic as an emergency, stopgap measure. But beyond that it’s not OK to see a corporate executive in their bedroom with a camera looking up their nostril while a bright window in the background makes them look as if they’re in the witness protection program. They deserve to be presented professionally. We can go anywhere to set up professional lights, a great microphone and a 4k camera and the interviewer does not need to be physically present. With our streamlined remote interview recording system the interviewer can verify that the lighting, miking, camera and interviewee’s performance are always at their very best no matter where they are.