Shooting video interviews via Skype

This month we have been engaged in an interesting film project.

One of our legacy clients approached us to produce a film that will celebrate the achievements of one of their founders.  The time frame was incredibly short, the subject matter spanned four decades, and there were almost twenty individuals that wanted to provide testimony.  We were able to work most of the travel into the short time schedule, however there were three individuals (one in Georgia, and two in Palo Alto) that would just be impossible to get to within the time frame.

The question was how to get the interview without getting on another airplane?

To solve this problem, we set up a SKYPE video chat.  I knew that if we tried to capture the screen grab it would look crappy.  We had to create some context that would put the lesser quality Skype chat in context and make it “believable” to the viewer.


To do this, we set up a scene in the studio whereby we could shoot both the screen and the entire scene.  The “A” camera was set back and captured the entire scene, and the “B” camera focused in close on the subject.  I would sit just off camera with a web cam positioned such that it would shoot my face for the interview, but I could look right past and watch the subjects face.

It took some jiggering, but a 1/8″ mini cable was run out of the laptop into a splitter and then converted to XLR  to feed both cameras.  The subject would be fed my audio via the web cam and since the “A” and “B” cameras were getting their audio from the line source, any studio background noise would not be picked up.

I felt that we needed to show some audio source in the wide shot to give the illusion of sound, so we added some studio monitors (speakers) into the scene.  This  gave a concrete voice to go with the visual.  By breaking the fourth wall and showing the cameras, laptop, speakers and wires in the shot, we would be able to give a bit more legitimacy to the gimmick.

It took a bit of getting used to with respect to conducting the interview, but once we were rolling, we seemed to settle in and get some great stuff.  Stay tuned for the finished film to see what you think.