How to film professional testimonial videos
The same way that people read product reviews before buying a product, they also watch testimonial videos to know what other customers think of your products or services. This gives them an understanding of the value of your company in the eyes of your customers, and whether they should trust purchasing from you.
In this article we will cover how to prepare for your testimonial, what you need to do to record it, what to do to make sure the shoot is successful and how to edit it into an interesting narrative that grabs the audience's attention, and hopefully helps boost your sales.
Before filming, it is important to make sure you have thoroughly planned ahead of time, as this will allow for a smooth and successful shoot. It is in this stage that you will select who will be in your video, where the filming will be taking place, the result that you want to achieve, the questions you will need to ask and whether you need to hire a video production team.
Finding the right customers for your video
When it comes to asking someone to record a testimonial video with you, it is important to make sure that you find the right customer to achieve the final outcome you are hoping for.
The best customers to use are the ones that you have a good relationship with, whether this be due to an excellent service you provided, or if they are a repeat customer, you want someone who is passionate about what you do or sell, so that the passion comes through in the video and can help show the benefits or working with your company.
The other important thing when selecting someone to interview, is to make sure they are happy to be on camera. It is normal for people to be nervous when first put in front of a camera and these nerves can go away after you start filming, but if they don't really want to do the interview in the first place, you may end up with short answers that can be hard to use when creating your testimonial video.
Asking the right questions
When preparing for the interview, it is important to make sure you have the right questions prepared to get the types of answers you want. It is essential not to script a testimonial for several reasons, but by asking the right questions you can lead the customer down the path to getting the types of comments you are after.
While it can be a good idea of giving the customer a general idea of what kind of questions they will be asked, it is best not to send them the actual questions before the interview. This is because they could write and prepare their answers before the interview, and while they try to remember the answers, it can end up seeming scripted and take away from the authenticity of the comments. Also, when trying to remember their answers it can completely throw them off if they forget or get it wrong, and can hinder the whole interview process.
While the questions you need to ask will be different depending on the service you are in and the products you sell, there are some basic questions that will work for most testimonials. You can use the following questions as a basic structure and add any extra that are relevant to your products/services.
What were the problems/issues you were having?
How did you find out about [company]?
What made you decide to work with [company]?
How did [company] help you resolve this problem?
What were the results?
Would you work with [company] again?
Would you recommend [company] to someone else?
Format of the video
There are two main ways that you can film your testimonial videos: professionally on location or over the internet.
To get the most professional looking video, you will need to film in person by traveling to your customer and filming a high quality video using multiple camera angles, filming additional footage and making sure the audio is clear and clean. To achieve this you will most likely need to hire a video production team as they will have the right equipment and experience in getting the best footage. If you have the capabilities to achieve this in-house, you will need two good quality cameras, lights and good audio equipment to make sure that your video looks professional.
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The other option is to film your testimonial over the internet. With the pandemic introducing most people to services like Zoom and Skype, people are now more used to seeing content that is filmed this way. While it will not look as nice and professional as filming in person, it can be a good, cost effective method. This can also allow you to film interviews with people all over the world without having to travel and saving you a lot of money and effort.
When deciding on the location to film the interview, the best option is to travel to your customer and film at their premises. As you are most likely asking the customer to be interviewed (for free) you should make it as easy as possible for the interviewee so that they are more likely to be willing to help.
The other reason is that you can get a better environment and setting for your video as it will provide context in how your product has helped your customer, and the type of setting/business they are in. The other reason is that while you are at their premises, you will have the option to film additional b-roll footage (we’ll touch on this later) that will really help in the edit and final product of your video.
If you have thoroughly prepared in the last stage, this should be a smooth process. But before your press record, you will need to find a location for your interview, make sure your lights and cameras are set up correctly and make the interviewee feel comfortable.
Setting up the shoot
When filming on location, it is a good idea to have a two camera set up for the interview. This not only makes the video look more professional, but will make editing the video so much easier, as you have the ability to cut bits out without any visible jumps.
When setting up the cameras, you will usually use a mid shot and a close up, however this can be experimented with, and a wide shot can be used if you want to show more of the environment.
When placing the cameras, it is important they are both set up on the same side of the subjects eyeline. This is because jumping between different sides can be quite jarring for the viewer and add some confusion. The best set up is to usually have the two cameras close together, so that the movement between shots isn't too much.
With 4K cameras now standard, you can now actually get a two camera setup using just one camera. This is done by shooting as a mid shot in 4K, and then when editing the video, you create a 1080p timeline which allows you to digitally zoom in on the footage without losing quality. While using two cameras is the preferred method, this is a good option if you have a lack of resources.
When framing your subject on camera there are some simple rules that can make your shots not only look professional, but also what the audience is accustomed to.
When framing your subject, use the rule of thirds to position your subject in the shot. Most cameras already have this built in, but this rule works by breaking the shot into a 3x3 grid, so that there are 4 crossing points in the frame. You then want to place the subject eyes on either of the crossing points at the top of the frame. This means that there is not too much headspace at the top, and allows for a natural positioning that viewers are used to.
When filming on location, it is important that the person being filmed doesnt look into the camera. Instead they should be looking across the frame to the side, where the interviewer will be placed. This makes it feel like the viewer is dropping in on a conversation rather than been spoken to and makes it feel more natural. It can also help distract the interviewee by taking their attention away from the cameras.
However, if you are filming over the internet you can reverse this rule, as due to how the interview is being filmed, it will make more sense for the interviewee to be looking towards the camera, like they would be on a video call.
The background of your shot can be a difficult one to get right, but when you do it will really help improve the look of your video. You want to set the scene for your video, but you don’t want to distract from what is important; the person giving their testimonial.
You ideally want the background to be relevant to the person giving the testimonial and your company. For example if your company sells high end coffee machines, and the customer is a cafe owner, an ideal location for your interview would be at the bar in the cafe with the coffee machine in the background.
But to stop the background being distracting, you need to create space between your subject and the background by having the background out of focus. This can be achieved by either physically having space between the background and the subject, or by using a low aperture lens, ideally you would use both.
If you are struggling to find a relevant background, it is best to then go for a neutral option, such as a plain backdrop or a simple setting. While this won't look as natural, it will look a lot better than an irrelevant setting, such as filming in an office when your client is a sports store.
To make your video look professional, you need to get the right setup with your lighting. While it is possible to use the lighting that is already available to you in the room, using additional lights can really improve the look of your video.
When filming interviews, the go to lighting set up is known as 3 point lighting. This consists of, you guessed it, 3 lights that are used to illuminate the subject and separate them from the background. The 3 lights are known as: the key, the fill and the back light.
The key light is the main light that will be used to light your talent. This is usually placed at a 45° angle to the face of the person being interviewed, and lifted slightly above them and aimed down.
The fill light is used to fill in the shadows that are created by the key light on the opposite side of the face. If you want to create a flat look, you can match the intensity of the key light, but to create a more interesting shot, you can use a reduced output so that it creates a bit of contrast on the subject.
The back light or as it is also known, the hair light, is placed behind the subject and aimed at their head. This light is used to separate the subject from the background by creating a slight light edge around them. This is mostly visible in the hair, hence the name hair light.
For all of these lights, it is a good idea to use some form of diffusion on them, otherwise they can be hard lights and create harsh shadows that can ruin the look of your scene. This can be in the form of softboxes, diffusion paper or by bouncing your light off a white surface.
If you are struggling with lighting, the other option would be to film outside where it will be a lot brighter. However, this then adds a few other problems such as extra noise, changes in the lighting and changes in the weather.
While you may think that the visuals are the most important part of your video, you need to pay a lot of attention to the sound as well. Bad sound is far more noticeable and harder to fix than bad footage, so to avoid this issue you need to be using the right equipment.
You should avoid using the on camera microphone at all costs. These are primarily meant to pick up sound when recording general footage, and not for interviews or narrative work. This is because they pick up most noise as they are not directional, can easily pick up noises from the camera functioning, and are lower in quality due to having to be small to fit in the camera. This microphone should be primarily used as reference audio for when it comes to syncing your footage and audio in the editing process.
So for professional audio, there are two main types of microphones you can use; lavalier and directional microphones.
Lavalier microphones, or lav mics, are small microphones that attach to the clothing on the interviewee. These are usually visible, but not obvious due to their small size. They can pick up good quality audio due to how close they are to the subject and help reduce any external noise.
Directional microphones are microphones that pick up the audio primarily in the vicinity that the microphone is aimed. They usually pick up very clean audio, but require a lot more to work with in order to get them set up. The best way to use them is to use a boom pole and place it above the subject aimed at their mouth to clearly pick up their voice, just make sure that the microphone isn't visible in the top of your video frame.
Answering the questions
Now that you have the interview set up and the questions to ask, it is time to start recording the interview.
To get the best responses it is important to make the interviewee feel as comfortable as possible, as putting someone in front of a camera can often make people nervous. A trick that we have used before, is to actually start recording just before starting the interview and when you are just talking to the interviewee. Sometimes in these moments they provide answers to these questions before they know they are being recorded and get nervous. Once they know that recording has already begun they usually feel a lot more settled into the interview and more comfortable when giving answers.
When asking the questions, it is important to have the edit in mind. With this, you should ask the interviewee to repeat the question when they start answering the question, making it a lot easier to edit the footage together later on. For example, if you ask the question ‘would you use [company] again?’, which of these two answers do you think will be easier to edit with:
I would definitely use [company] again
If you answered 2, you would be correct. Answering the questions like this can be difficult for the interviewee at first, but it is important to get it right so the footage can be used more effectively later on.
To add more professionalism to your video and to make it more interesting, you will need to record some b-roll footage relevant to what is being discussed.
B-roll, is the footage that you will place over the top of the interviews to add context and interest. For example, say you were filming a client who ran a coffee shop, your b-roll could include customers being served, coffees being made, the staff working, shots of the drinks/snacks etc.
This is also why you should aim to film the interview at the customer premises, as it will make it much easier for you to be able to record these shots.
Something that could save you in the long run, and can often be forgotten, is getting the people you interview to sign a release form.
This will be a simple form (there are many templates you can find online) that they will sign giving permission to use the footage you have filmed of them in your video. You will also need to get this for anyone who features in your footage that is clearly recognisable.
If you don’t get these forms signed, the person you interviewed could change their mind at a later date and no longer want to be featured (which is their right) and it would mean all the footage you have shot and the videos you created would be unusable.
But by having the form signed, you are usually covered in this scenario, meaning you won't have to take down videos or re-edit footage.
It is a good idea to have a lawyer/solicitor look over this form if you are filming regularly to make sure that what you are covered in case someone does change their mind.
Now that you’ve recorded all your footage, you come to what can be the most difficult part, and that is to create an interesting narrative out of the answers to the interviews and supplement it with any b-roll you have filmed.
Create a narrative
To make your video interesting and moving, you need to create a story for your testimonial. It would be simple to have the answers simply play in full and in order, but it won't be as impactful as actually creating a story from these answers.
A typical narrative would follow this simple structure:
Who is the customer, what field do they work in? (this is not always needed as it can be explained in a lower third graphic)
What issues were they having?
Why did they decide to use [company]?
How have they benefited from using [company]?
Would they use [company again/would they recommend them?
This is a simple structure that highlights the problem, how it was solved and the results. You can then supplement any other information in order to build out your narrative.
If you can add emotion to your video, it will make the narrative much more engaging, but this may not be applicable for all types of testimonials.
Using B-roll footage
Now that you’ve created your narrative, it’s time to start adding the great b-roll that you filmed while on location. As mentioned before this can help supplement what is being said in the video, add context and help set up the environment.
You can also use this to hide any of the edits you made while creating the narrative, helping the video flow smoothly and look professional.
Call to action
So you’ve filmed and edited your video and you're ready for people to start seeing it, you have to ask yourself what was the purpose of this video? What are you hoping to achieve?
This is why you need to make sure that your video has a clear call to action so that you can help achieve these results. This could be as simple as sending someone to your website, asking them to get in touch with you or follow you on social media. But if your aim is to sell a particular product or service, this is where you will want to direct the viewer to where they can learn more about this and make it easy for them to potentially buy.
Now that you have created your video, it’s time to start showing off to people, so you need to decide on where you are going to distribute your video.
This could be hosted on your website, posted on social media or even used as an advert on social media. There is no reason that you can’t use all of these platforms, the important thing is making sure that people see it. You want to promote this video like you would any glowing reviews you would get.
Wherever you post your video, you need to make sure that the call to action is easy to see and follow so that you can track the success of your video and see if it is performing the way that you had hoped.
Need help in producing or promoting your videos? Then let’s see how we can work together.