How To Improve Remotely-Produced Interviews
In the early months of the pandemic, broadcast organizations were forced to shut down studios. Seemingly overnight, anchors and guests forwent the luxury of studio-grade video equipment to conducting shows from home with whatever consumer equipment they could cobble together.
Fast forward six months and the quality of remote broadcast interviews are still mixed. Even as anchors return to the studio, interviewees struggle to create the professional shine that in-person interviews produce. And with a recent survey showing about six-in-10 Americans (61%) are following news about the coronavirus outbreak at both the national and local level equally, more eyes, ratings and dollars are on the line.
If you want to help your broadcast guests and contributors elevate the quality of their segments and create a more premium viewing experience to keep viewers tuned in, here are a few thoughtful ways to bypass tech limitations created by the pandemic.
- Advise against the use of built-in computer cameras. While built-in computer cameras are a common go to for broadcast guests, they are, according to consumer tech reporter Joanna Stern at the Wall Street Journal, among the worst when it comes to picture quality. The location of built-in computer cameras isn’t always flattering and limits where the user must sit in relation to the computer, which can cause issues with composition and clarity.
External webcams, on the other hand, offer flexibility to select better angles, backgrounds, lighting and quality. If your guests are one of the many still challenged finding an external webcam for sale online, or are just going to appear on camera once, see if they have a digital camera sitting around at home or the office. Camera companies have released software to easily turn current digital cameras into broadcast-quality webcam solutions compatible with Windows and iOS. Some of them may be able to give you the same cinematic visuals you might expect from in-studio equipment.
With external cameras, your guests have full control of exposure settings and access to different lenses for depth of field or softer backgrounds — neither of which are options with a built-in webcam. There are a lot more options with a digital camera to maximize picture quality, which in turn can boost how the guest is received in the eyes of the viewer.
- Consider lighting in your setup. Even with the most high-end camera, lighting can make or break picture quality. Avoid backlighting that might shadow your figure and keep an eye on external lighting sources in the background or sides that might produce lens flares. On the market you’ll find many affordable yet effective lighting rigs that can sit adjacent to the camera or clip on like a ring. They provide a soft, bright light with adjustable settings you can tweak to find the right balance for the room.
- External audio is worth it, too. The microphones built into computers are not designed for high-quality audio recording and can sometimes make voices sound distant, pick up room sound and may make communicating during a segment difficult. An external microphone will help ensure a richer and clearer sound. The same applies if you’re using a standalone webcam or professional digital camera, as the built-in microphone is usually not an available option.
- Optimize your internet connection. A hardwired connection will always be the most reliable option. However, if the router isn’t easily accessible, make sure your contributor or guest optimizes their available wireless connection. To do this, run an internet speed test to see what kind of speeds the router is seeing before it gets converted to a wireless signal (like Speedtest.net or Fast.com). Twenty Mbps is a common speed. Compatible laptops, tablets and phones should also be connected via 5 GHz to take advantage of the significantly higher speeds it offers. If your router doesn’t have a 5 GHz band, then an upgrade might be in order.
Also, be sure to maximize available bandwidth by placing your router in a central location by using Wi-Fi connectivity boosters around the house or directly plugging in an ethernet cable.
When trying out a new tech set-up, make sure contributors and guests have everything prepared well in advance. Be sure to send a list of recommended preparations and build in time — ideally one day to a few hours before the segment — with guests to test so there is time to course correct if needed.With in-studio interviews still indefinitely sidelined during the pandemic, making a few adjustments to at-home setups — including external camera and mics and optimizing lighting and internet connections — can make all the difference… Click To Tweet
The upside to all this is how we’ve expanded our options beyond studio-bound equipment, a key learning producing more robust, flexible news reporting going forward once things get back to normal.
Isao Kobayashi is the executive director and general manager of marketing for the ITCG division of Canon.