7 Quick Tips for Recording Video Interviews

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If you’re recording an oral history interview with a camera or smartphone, here are some secrets for success.


  1. To avoid awkwardness (or worse, a post-interview surprise discovery that you weren’t recording, after all), make sure you’re comfortable using the camera or phone before the interview.
  2. If your camera has a red light to indicate recording, cover it with a piece of tape. Sometimes this light can be distracting or make interviewees nervous.
  3. Use a tripod for the camera or smartphone, and make sure it’s placed in the least distracting spot you can find.
  4. Pick a room that’s brightly lit, or use lots of lights to ensure the best quality picture. But don’t have the subject sit in front of a window, which will cause everything in front of it to photograph too dark. Do a “screen test” with the subject to make sure the lighting is acceptable.
  5. Purchase a good microphone and test it as well. 
  6. Have visual materials ready (photographs, artifacts, historical documents) so you can get these items on the video when the narrator begins talking about them.
  7. Copy the file onto your computer and make a back-up copy.