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Making video with real people: the Public and Cameras! Part 1

11JanMaking video with real people: the Public and Cameras! Part 1

Some of the team at Enterprise Screen are just back from a multi-day shoot where the general public were a key feature.  Our digital film-maker, Ailsa McCaffery outlines a quick guide to working with video and members of the public.   

The most typical way you will find members of the public appearing on video is with vox pops. Vox pops (from the Latin vox populi - ‘voice of the people’, if you’re interested in that sort of thing) are like mini interviews and are often essential on a factual shoot.  Whether it’s customers in a new store, attendees at an event or conference, or some punter off the street who has an opinion on your news piece, it’s something that gives an authentic flavour to your film and can give valuable insight, as well as providing soundbites for your edit.

In theory, it should be simple and straightforward, but sometimes when you get down to it, it’s actually more daunting than you realised. Here are some tips to make sure you can still get some good footage even if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed. 

General Practical Aspects: Vox pops are almost no different from other interviews you may have to shoot, they’re just more spontaneous. If you want some tips for general interview tips and techniques, check out this article.

Plan and Prepare - Set your objectives- choose and angle.  What do you want your vox pops to confirm or add value to in your messaging.  This will then lead you to develop the right set of questions.  Then, have a short set of questions prepared before the shoot, like you would for any other interview. The questions should be open ended to encourage thoughtful answers that aren’t just “yes” or “no”.

Radio Mics - Try not to faff around too much with the public but sound is almost more important that visuals here so make sure you get it right. Definitely not as much as you would in a properly staged, lit and setup interview.  A shotgun mic is usually easiest but if you’re using a radio mic, just pin it to their coat and tuck in the wire. Make it as easy as possible for the contributor to get in and out, while still maintaining a clean and clear sound.

Release Forms - Before you lose your contributor to the crowds, perhaps even as you’re setting up the shot, make sure they sign a release form. This is just a simple form that says your contributor gives permission to use their image and voice. It shouldn’t be too long or look too complicated, so you don’t intimidate anyone with a huge legal document. The law may be different depending on where you’re filming, so double check before you start. They can generally be downloaded for free online (

Variety - Is the spice of…filming vox pops. Try to change location or shooting angle for each vox pop you get and make sure you change the eye line direction. This is a stylistic point but can really make a difference - if all your vox pops are from one direction it can look a bit weird when you put it all together in the edit. 

Quantity- If you think you will need 3 good sound bites, try to get 5 or 6 interviews. If you need 5, go for 10. Need 30? God help you! It might end up that some are unusable for sound reasons, or maybe the answers you got don’t fit with the direction you end up going with your film. And remember to speak to a variety of people - you never know who will have the best answers. You’ll thank your past self when it comes to the edit.  In truth, a good interviewer can get virtually any answer you need- see the plan and prepare section above!

Continues with Part 2..


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