Video Testimonial Production

Video Testimonials: The Ultimate Guide (Part 2)

How to Record and Produce a Customer Testimonial Video

In part 1, you learned how to develop a video testimonial strategy.

The next step is to actually shoot and produce your video.

There are a million ways to record a customer testimonial video, so this guide will only touch briefly on cinematography.

Rather, this testimonial video production guide focus on the fundamentals of producing a video that positively represents your brand, and gets results for your business.

Among other things, this production portion of the Ultimate Video Testimonials Guide will cover:

  • How to select a location for your testimonial video recording
  • How to conduct a testimonial interview that get’s soundbite worth responses
  • The video equipment you’ll need to get the video quality you need for your testimonials
  • How to film and edit your video for maximum engagement

Focus on the fundamentals

Again, the internet is full of advice on how to actually capture your subject on video. You could fill volumes on lighting, camera settings, sound levels and other technical considerations.

For our purposes, my advice here is that whichever way you choose to shoot your video, you should concentrate on the fundamentals of focus, exposure and clean audio. Viewers will forgive all manner of technical mistakes in a video, but failure to nail the fundamentals will not be forgiven.

Be sure to bookmark this page or download the .PDF for future reference!

Need someone to produce your video testimonials?

If you don’t have time to produce video on your own, we make it easy to buy client-site customer testimonial video production.

Download this 14-page Video Testimonial Strategy Guide

Selecting a location for your video testimonial

With this topic, we’re beginning to enter the realm of aesthetics, which presents us with an almost infinite range of options, depending on what you want your video to look like, and how much you want it to cost.

So, leaving those two considerations aside for a moment, it’s safe to say that the best testimonial video locations provide the following:

  • A controlled recording environment
  • Sufficient physical space
  • And your desired aesthetic or style

Let’s jump into the detail for some of these factors.

Woman Framing a Shot

A controlled environment

It’s important that your audience be able to see and hear the subject of your testimonial video. Achieving this result will depend on your equipment and your environment.

Offices, ideally theirs, are often the best location for your next video testimonial, especially if you have complete control over the space. Meeting rooms are often an obvious choice, as are individual offices, quiet hallways, low-traffic “cube farms,” and lobbies.

Before selecting a location, make sure it has the following features:

  • Sufficient natural light, and/or enough space to use artificial lighting that you provide.
  • Minimal background noise from HVAC systems, neon lights, nearby elevators, noisy hallways, and office workers.
  • Sufficient distance from floor traffic and people who are trying to get their work done.
  • Sufficient physical space for your equipment, your subject, and the camera crew. (We’ll cover this in greater detail, in the next section.)

If you’re working with a video marketing agency, you’ll want to help them understand location options, within the office.

Asking your customer to send a couple of quick photos of possible locations, will help your agency narrow down the choices, and allow your customer reserve any meeting rooms that might be required.

How much space do you need?

Lights, cameras and film crews can take up a lot of space, so you’ll want to make sure that your chosen location can accommodate them. You’ll want to start with an inventory of everything the space will need to accommodate.

Here’s a sample list:

  • One or more cameras
  • One or more tripod
  • Camera slider
  • Lights on light stands
  • Microphone stand
  • Recording equipment
  • One or more chairs
  • One or more crew members, the interviewer, and the subject
  • Electrical, camera, and sound cords

Needs will vary, but this list should cover many configurations. Be sure to make space allowances for people to be able to move easily and safely around the set.

If time permits, it’s helpful to set up all the equipment you’ll need, before the day of the shoot, so that you can be sure you have enough room.

Finally, if you plan on doing more video testimonials over time, take measurements of the space you fill, as a reference for the future.

Here’s a diagram that will give you some idea of the space requirements for a typical rig we use at Thoughtcast Media, with a two-person crew.

Choosing a desired aesthetic for your testimonial video

You can record in an office to add context, but if that’s not the look you’re going for, you may want to consider shooting against a white background, or shooting in the dark with dramatic lighting for effect.

Looking for aesthetic inspiration? Search the web for something like news interview, for a wide range of samples. Or check these out.

Decide on Eyeline

Will your subject be looking directly at the camera, or slightly off-camera?

While there are some advantages to looking into the camera, most of them are trumped by the much easier option of having a subject respond to an interviewer seated behind and slightly to the side of the camera.

Testimonial Interview on Camera

Cameras make some people nervous. For most applications, when shooting interviews with non-professionals, I work very hard to get my subjects to forget that the camera is even there. Plus, by asking subject to look into the camera, you’re adding “trade craft” to what should be a simple conversation that requires no technique at all.

To create a natural effect, in which the camera reflects the viewer’s perspective, as witness to a conversation between two people, reference the room diagram above for  proper equipment, interviewer, and customer positioning.

Capture B-Roll to lend context

There’s nothing wrong with filming your subject in front of a gray wall. But, you can make your production more compelling and add a lot of context by incorporating b-roll into your video.

B-roll is footage that is added to the interview footage (the a-roll), to help the audience better understand what your subject is talking about.

B-roll is also enormously helpful in covering transitions between video clips, and in hiding bits of a-roll where video isn’t usable (e.g., a subject looking the wrong way).

One of the advantages of conducting your interview in your subject’s place of work is that there is often a lot of b-roll footage to be had, that helps the audience learn more about the subject and the subject’s story.

Does your subject work in a busy office? On a factory floor? With heavy equipment, or maybe with patients? Does your subject work in large groups, small groups, or alone?

How has this environment affected the subject’s need for your company’s products and services, and how might you capture footage of that environment to help flavor your video?

Here are just a few b-roll ideas you might find useful:

  • Subject working with colleagues or staff
  • Subject working with clients
  • Subject working with relevant equipment
  • Subject entering workplace, pan to logo on building
  • Subject in the workplace lobby, pan to logo behind reception desk
  • Subject working at a computer
  • Subject surrounded by your equipment, sharing a humorous moment between takes
  • Subject standing, smiling at camera, with some movement (great for testimonials that consist largely of sitting interviews)
  • Street scene outside of company location
  • Recognizable landmarks
  • Cityscapes
  • Archival footage
B-roll in the Office

Lights, Cameras, Audio…

When it comes to equipment, there are countless options, and the internet is chock-full of information about cameras, microphones, lighting, and other video gear.

Remember, your primary objective is to shoot focused, properly exposed video, with clean audio. You should be able to accomplish that with virtually any equipment rig. So, the difference between less expensive and more expensive equipment rigs often comes down to how easy it is to accomplish that primary objective, and trade-offs between quality, flexibility, and complexity.

Here are three options for you to consider:

Basic Video Rig
tablet-rig-icon
Camera: Smartphone

Stabilization: Smartphone tripod

Audio: Built-in microphone, or wired lavaliere mic that fits into the 3.5mm port on the smartphone

Lighting: Natural lighting. Basic artificial lighting, when necessary

Pros: The current generation of smartphones and tablets can shoot great video, and you probably already own one. Light and easy to transport.

Plus, smartphone cameras are improving all the time, with new features being added regularly, that make shooting professional quality video easy and accessible.

There’s a good chance you already have a smartphone that’s able to capture professional looking, high resolution footage. But, if you’re phone is more than a couple years old, investing in a smartphone with a top-of-the-line camera could cost as much as one of the higher end camera options listed below.

Cons: Most smartphones and tablets provide limited control over creative options, like depth of field, and white balance. Digital zoom is problematic. And it can take some work to hide the fact that you’re using an amateur camera.

Built-in smartphone microphones can make it difficult to isolate background noise. A wired lavaliere microphone will provide better isolation, but quality can still be mediocre.

Relying on natural light can make it very difficult to properly expose your subject, when conditions are not ideal.

Intermediate Video Rig
Camcorder Icon
Camera: Consumer Camcorder

Stabilization: Camera tripod

Audio: On-camera condenser microphone

Lighting: Two-light, LED lighting kit

Pros: Most consumer camcorders provide some control over creative options, like white balance, color saturation, and sharpness. Lens-based zoom capabilities make zoom a creative option.

While the built-in microphone is still an option, a condenser microphone plugs directly into your camera’s mini microphone port, will give you much better results.

Adding a two-light LED kit will give you much greater control over exposure, and allow you to shoot in less-than-ideal natural lighting conditions.

Cons: You’ll have much more control over the way your videos look and sound, with this rig. However, with greater capabilities come greater responsibilities, and added complexity. Added creative camera controls, a separate microphone, and artificial lighting will require more time spent settings, and introduce more opportunities for error.

Finally, while this rig represents a real step up on overall quality, it’s far from able to provide you with the high-quality video and audio available with more professional rigs.

Advanced Video Rig
dslr-rig-icon
Camera: DSLR w/ lenses

Stabilization: Video tripod, with basic rail rig for attaching accessories

Audio: Shotgun or wireless lavaliere mic, separate recording device

Lighting: Three-light, LED lighting kit

Pros: You can capture professional quality video and audio with rigs like this. These cameras have better sensors and most of the creative controls you need. Plus, the ability to use different lenses provides added artistic control, and more flexibility for different applications.

A good quality microphone will result in much better audio capture, and the separate recording device will eliminate the noise associated with in-camera pre-amps.

A three-light kit will allow you to throw light behind your subject, which will help separate him or her from their background.

Cons: Depending upon which brands you buy, the costs associated with this rig could be considerable. You’ll also be hauling around more equipment.

Finally, all the complexity concerns that apply to the intermediate rig will be magnified for this rig. Lots of capability, but lots of complexity.

The advanced rig, described above, is just the beginning in terms of what is available to professional video production teams. Cameras costing tens of thousands of dollars, along with similar costs associated with the rest of a professional rig are common.

However, for marketers just entering the video marketing arena, the three kits described here should provide some understanding of where you might want to start.

ACTION!

On the set of a video testimonial production

When you and your crew arrive at your client’s office, beyond making your client comfortable and getting the footage you need to construct a compelling narrative (more on this coming up), when it comes to video capture, you need to focus on the fundamentals.

With these fundamentals of videography nailed down, your video is going to look better than most amateur-shot videos out there:

  • In-focus
  • Properly exposed
  • Clean audio

However, it does take a lot of experimentation to get right, and is something you’ll only learn through practice. Again, we won’t be covering these things here, but YouTube offers an endless number of tutorials.

Working with customers

For customers sitting for a video testimonial, it can be a pretty big deal.

It involves scheduling, interview preparation, equipment setup and, if you’ve hired an agency to help you, talking to a stranger about the story of your relationship with them.

Video Director

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make your customers’ participation as easy, and stress-free as possible, so they can deliver their best performance:

  • Preparing your customer for the interview, by letting them know what to expect at different stages of the engagement. Who will do what, when it will happen, and what is expected of them?
  • Give them time to prepare answers to questions that require a little homework, like specific metrics.
  • Provide them with recommendations on wardrobe, makeup, and on-screen presence. (Your video marketing agency should be able to help you with this. Here’s the document we send to interview subjects.)

Conducting a testimonial interview

Getting your customer to give you the material needed to replicate the hero story in your video testimonial is a matter of asking the questions that elicit the proper response.

For the story outlined above, you might ask:

  • What were things like before you encountered the big industry problem?
  • What is the big industry problem and where did it come from?How did you first try to solve the problem? Did those measures work?
  • How did Company X come into the picture? What was their suggestion to solving the problem?
  • What was it like trying to implement that solution? Was it easy to do? How long did it take? Who pushed back?
  • What challenges did you encounter along the way? Who helped you make it happen?
  • How are things going now that the problem is solved? How does it feel to know that you solved the problem? What does the rest of the company think about your efforts?
Testimonial Interview

Of course, you will have to adapt these questions to the solutions your company provides, and to how customers are using those solutions to solve their problems. Download 29 Questions to Help Tell Your Customer’s Story.

Taking your testimonial videos to the next level in post-production

Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals of filming customer video testimonials (what’s known as the “production” phase), you may want to consider some options for taking your videos to the next level in the editing phase (or post-production).

Basic editing software will allow you to stitch all the footage you’ve captured into a coherent production, with a beginning, a middle and an end. You’ll also be able to add titles, transitions between clips, and a soundtrack to keep everything moving along.

It’s also at this stage of the process that you will be able to add elements that represent your brand.

Opening and closing logo sequences help the audience understand who produced the video and remind them to reach out to you for further information.

Calls to action within the video, help focus the viewers’ attention on what you would like them to do next, e.g., share the video, visit your website, complete a form, buy a product, etc.

Video Editing Setup

“We’ll fix it in post.”

Editing software also provides the opportunity to fix both minor and major flaws in your videos. As a result, the call to “fix it in post” can be a popular one at the end of a long day of shooting.

Of course, best practice calls for you to do everything you can to get things right “in camera,” but when that fails, post-production can really save the day.

Among other things, editing software can help you fix:

  • Bad lighting
  • Footage that is slightly out of focus
  • Bad color reproduction
  • Blemishes
  • Audio that is either too quiet or too loud
  • Annoying background noise

And, that’s just for starters. So, acquiring some basic editing skill can be very helpful to your ability to produce your own videos.

But, keep in mind, “fixing it in post” takes time and attention. Additionally, there are some things that are really hard or impossible to fix in post, like bad focus, noisy audio, and poor composition. So, it’s important to focus on the fundamentals when you’re shooting.

Finally, if editing isn’t your thing, it is very easy to outsource. Drop your footage onto a file-sharing platform and provide instructions to your outside editor. When the editor is finished, a rough cut is shared through the same file-sharing platform.

All you have to do is repeat the review process until you have the final production you’re looking for.

Nail the video review process

As with any piece of content, it’s very important that your testimonial videos are reviewed and approved by everyone who should be reviewing and approving them.

A Collaboration Platforms Can Help

If you’ve never managed the review process for video productions before, you might be surprised to learn how difficult it can be to understand what your reviewers are talking about.

Over the years, I’ve had many phone conversations that go a little like this:

Frame.io interface
Client: Hey, you know that part in the video where that guy holds up that book and talks about management practices?

Me: Maybe. (Keep in mind that, at any given time, I can be managing half a dozen video productions.)

Client: Well, I’d like to shorten it a bit, and then move it to just before the clip where the woman in the blue dress introduces her staff.

Me: Huh?

All that goes away with a good collaboration platform, designed exclusively for video.

At Thoughtcast Media, we involve our project manager, our editor, and our clients in the review process. This eliminates the inefficiency and potential inaccuracy of having the project manager miscommunicate client instructions to the editor. We wrote more about nailing the review process here.

To DIY or not to DIY? That is the question.

The cost and complexity of shooting quality video are dropping every day. The quality that can be achieved with nothing more than the smart phones in our pockets, would have been quite costly to reproduce ten years ago.

As a result, more and more people are choosing to do it themselves (DIY), and produce their own video, with their own equipment, at costs much lower than those offered by studios or video marketing agencies.

The falling cost and complexity of video equipment are great reasons to consider the DIY option. But, before you pursue that option, there are some things you should consider. Gauge your ability to produce video content by downloading our video production self-assessment or learn about our Video Testimonial Package Builder.

Coming up in the next chapter

Now that you have an understanding of the fundamentals of filming and producing a customer testimonial, it’s time to learn how to put your videos to use in the real world.

Here’s some of what you’ll learn about:

  • How to use video testimonials in your marketing most effectively
  • Optimizing the performance of your video testimonials
  • Choosing a video platform for your testimonials
  • The power and importance of video analytics
  • Why video marketing is more about marketing than it is video

Video testimonials close deals (when done right). Find the right kind of production company to help tell your customer's story.

Most businesses need outside help to get testimonial videos done right, so it's important you partner with a production company that can help you achieve your goals.

 

Download the Video Testimonial Buying Guide and get it done right!

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