How to Shoot Effective Client Video Testimonials

There are three things which make client video testimonials effective.

Good visuals, good audio, and good content.

These are the basics.

On top of that though, you also need to make sure you’ve made your talent (the person appearing on camera) as comfortable as can be.

And naturally, planning things out ahead of time, instead of “running and gunning” is always going to help.

Shooting client video testimonials is no easy task. In fact, there are videographers out there that focus on this practice alone.

And sure, these days, you could technically setup your iPhone and get going.

However:

If you’re looking to make your video testimonials the best they can be, then let’s dive into the nitty gritty of shooting the perfect client video testimonial.

Or, check out this post if you’re looking for other business video ideas.

Visuals

Visuals are the main thing everyone wants to get right. And I agree, they’re absolutely, 100% important.

However, people will watch a video that doesn’t look great, if the audio is perfect. But if the audio is terrible, nobody will watch.

So maybe audio is more important?

Either way, we’re here now, and this is what we recommend you pay close attention to to get your video testimonials looking tip top.

Strive for Depth

A lot of people make the mistake of shooting their testimonial videos up against a plain wall.

At Canny, we call this the “blank wall of death.”

If you’re shooting up against a wall, you’ve got no depth in your shot, and in our opinion, depth makes a shot.

Take a look here:

As you can see, the shot with depth just looks better.

It’s more cinematic and helps the viewer perceive something as 3D. Whereas the shot against the wall looks very flat and 2D.

Putting your subject front and centre, and having something in the background really helps ramp up the production value of your shot.

So, where possible, strive for depth.

And at all costs, avoid the blank wall of depth.

Avoid Bright Lights and Distractions

When shooting video testimonials, try and avoid bright lights and other distractions.

Now, these are both similar.

Your eyes are always drawn to the brightest part of an image.

Essentially, bright lights cause distractions making huge glaring windows in the background the obvious thing to avoid here.

Again, have a look:

If you’re using natural light at all (more on this later!), use it to light your subject, not hinder the scene of your video.

In the shot above, we’ve simply rotated 90 degrees to turn the light in our favour.

Here are some other things to look out for:

  • Brightly coloured flowers
  • Things that move too much in the background (fans etc)
  • Blank sheets of paper
  • Messy desks
  • Flickering lights

Anything with a very strong colour base can easily have your viewer focused on the wrong thing.

When setting up your video testimonial shoot, have several looks through your camera before hitting record.

There’s no harm spending extra time tidying, modifying, and dressing your set.

Check for bright lights in the background. Check for distracting features. And check for clutter!

Control Your Lighting

When shooting testimonial videos, you need to be in control of your lighting situation.

There are a few ways of doing this.

  • Using natural light
  • Using a lighting setup

You either want to use natural light, or a simple lighting setup to help make your videos look as professional as possible.

Natural light is the use of the sun to help light your subjects.

For example, here’s a shot of me standing next to a window. (Note: The window isn’t in the shot, to avoid distractions as mentioned above.)

Natural light can be beautiful, and I’d recommend using it whenever you can.

In the two shots above we’re using natural light.

On the left, the light source is directly in front of me. On the right, it’s off to the side, resulting in a darker, more cinematic looking shot.

However, you might be shooting your video testimonial in a small, dimly lit area or office space.

In this case, you can use a quick and easy lighting setup. Depending on what you have available, you might opt to shoot with one light, or a basic three point lighting setup.

If you’re looking for lighting ideas, check out this great article from Wistia about lighting a video shoot on the fly.

One thing to avoid is strip lights. The sort you find in most office spaces.

They flicker, flash, and act weirdly on camera. Turn them off!

Using natural light or a simple lighting setup is always going to look ten times better.

Watch the Eyeline

Where your subject’s eyes are looking can change the look and feel of your video.

Some people like to have their client video testimonials shot straight down the lens. Others prefer their subjects looking slightly off camera.

Shooting straight down the lens can be tricky. Unless your talent is hugely confident in front of a camera, they’re likely to find talking to a camera lens quite off putting.

However, it does look more direct, and will help engage your viewers.

The slightly off camera style is easier to shoot. You can have someone off camera asking questions in an almost conversational manner.

The trick here though, is to make sure that people aren’t looking too high or too low.

You need their eyeline to maintain a natural height.

As you can see above, your shot can end up looking quite strange quite quickly.

Make sure your talent is either looking straight down the lens, or off to the side at a natural height.

Pay Attention to the Rule of Thirds

There’s a rule in photography and videography called “the rule of thirds” and it goes like this.

To make photos or videos aesthetically pleasing, you should position your subject on one of the “thirds.”

Take a look:

Essentially, you want to imagine dividing your camera screen into thirds using two horizontal lines and two vertical lines, and position your subject where those lines intersect.

In fact, most camera models now have a grid mode that you can easily switch on.
So why does the rule of thirds work so well?

From Photographymad.com:

The idea is that an off-centre composition is more pleasing to the eye and looks more natural than one where the subject is placed right in the middle of the frame. It also encourages you to make creative use of negative space, the empty areas around your subject.

The rule of thirds is easy to get used to, and when shooting video testimonials, it’s as simple as making sure your subject is sat right on one of those lines.

Typically, the body will sit on the bottom intersection and the head or eyes will sit on the top.

The rule of thirds is flexible, and over time, you’ll learn what works, what doesn’t, and how to bend the rules.

And that’s the fun part about making videos, creativity!

Not every video has to be exactly the same, but the rule of thirds is a strong starting point.

Audio

Like I said before, audio is key in getting client video testimonials to be effective.

Nobody will watch a terrible sounding video. When you’ve got headphones on, even the slightest bit of wind or distracting background noise can ruin your viewing experience.

Now, content is a massive driver towards your audio being great, but here’s how we recommend getting your client video testimonials tuned in perfectly.

Limit External Noise

External noise can ruin your video.

And unfortunately, sometimes, there’s not a lot you can do about it.

Sometimes you turn up to a shoot, and the room is right next to a busy road. Or the client is insistent on shooting outside.

These are all circumstances that are mostly out of your control. Unless you feel confident in your powers of persuasion!

But here are a few things you can do to try and help the situation out:

  • Turn off all of the mobile phones (you don’t want them interrupting the perfect take!)
  • Move away from the noise (shoot on the opposite side of the room)
  • If shooting outside, use a dead cat on your microphone (not a real dead cat!)

Something else to keep in mind, is that you can always make sure the thing that is making the noise is in the frame when filming.

That way, the viewer knows exactly where the sound is coming from and it’s not as annoying.

Outside of that, you could try hanging up blankets and sheets to deaden out the noise.

And, if it’s really bad, you could suggest trying shooting on a different day. At the end of the day, nobody wants their testimonial video to be unwatchable.

Here’s something else that might help…

Get the Microphone Close

When shooting effective client video testimonials, the key is to get your microphone as close to your talent as possible.

You have several options when it comes to placing microphones on or around your talent.

Mounted Microphones

Mounted microphones sit on top of your camera and plug directly into the input.

This means you’re recording directly into your camera and you’ll not have to sync the audio.

The drawback here is that typically this microphone setup will result in the microphone being quite a distance from your talent.

Lavalier Microphones

Lavalier microphones are a great option because they clip super close to your talent’s mouth.

And again, they can go directly into the camera, which is perfect.

The drawback is that you can see them in your shot, but people are used to that these days, so I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

Just be careful your talent doesn’t move around too much and rustle their shirt against the microphone!

A Boom Microphone

A boom microphone like the Rode NTG series sits on a microphone stand or boom pole and are typically the best solution.

You can get them nice and close to your talent, and if you invest in a good microphone, it’ll give you great results.

You hover them just out of shot, but because they’re directional, they’ll typically only pickup on what your talent is saying.

They’re essentially the perfect solution.

However, there are also several other options:

At Canny, we’ve been using Sony voice recorders, which are essentially dictaphones. They clip to the shirt and are completely independent of your camera.

They record onto their own hard drive, meaning you have to sync the footage. They also have a little larger than desired clip.

And if you’re looking for a really down and dirty solution, you can get:

  • A clamp
  • A stand

And clamp your phone to it. Then, use the voice recorder functionality to record your talent.

As long as you get the microphones as close to the talent as possible, you won’t go far wrong.

Just remember to give everything the twice over before recording! Especially if you’re not recording directly to your camera.

Record Ambient Noise

We’ve already talked about background noise and how it can be distracting.

However, it’s always a good idea to record some ambient noise. Ambient noise might sometimes be called “room noise.”

You’ve got two extremes at play here:

  • Too much background noise
  • No background noise at all

And both sound bad.

So, you want to record your talent with a microphone that you get as close as possible.

Then, leave another microphone recording as you film. Usually we place this off to the side and make sure it’s not in shot. Typically we use a voice recorder for this.

What you’re looking to do with the voice recorder is pick up the ambient sound and background noise from the room.

Then, when you get into editing your testimonial video in Premiere or Final Cut, you can layer the talent audio on top of the ambient sound, boost it’s levels, and you’ll have a great sounding video.

Sounds unnecessary, but it can make a world of difference.

Record Using More Than One Device

One mistake people make over and over again, is only recording one audio source.

At Canny, we’re firm believers in making sure you’re picking up sound from at least two locations:

  • The microphone you have on your talent
  • The scratch audio (the microphone on your camera)

We typically make sure we have a mounted microphone plugged into our camera at all times.

This means if the voice recorder fails, or the main audio is lost, we always have something to fall back on.

In more recent testimonial video shoots, we’ve actually been recording on three sources.

Our camera, the voice recorder on the talent, and a separate voice recorder we position near the talent.

This gives us more than enough coverage in case things go wrong.

You can never be over prepared!

Mind The Peaks

Something you need to be careful of, is peaking your microphone.

When shooting your video testimonials, it’s important that your sound doesn’t start clipping or peaking.

At Canny, we’ve found the ideal range is somewhere between -6dB and -12db.

However, there are some much smarter audiophiles out there than us.

This article from Premium Beat by Shutterstock is a great guide to setting your audio levels when recording video.

Check it out if you’re looking for the deep dive.

Content

And finally, the content. This has to be great too, or people will lose interest quickly.

Afterall, if you’re shooting a client video testimonial, the expectation is that other potential clients watch and listen to the video.

To do that, the content must be engaging, flow naturally, and most of all, be an honest, positive review of your business.

Here’s how to make your content connect.

Plan Ahead of Time

When shooting video testimonials, it’s critical that you plan your shoot ahead of time. You also want to make sure you’ve thought about the content well ahead of time.

As the video creator, it’s not just the visual and audio side of things that you’re in charge of.

You need to make sure the shoot runs smoothly, and the content is great too.

To help, research the people you’re filming.

That way, you can ask more intelligent questions, and also help them stay on course if they start waffling!

Get Your Questions Right

The way we shoot client video testimonials, is by feeding the on-camera talent questions. We then edit our voice out of the final video.

For a two to three minute testimonial video, we’ll usually prepare four to six questions.

You want to construct and ask open ended questions.

For example:

Rather than asking “What’s your name and what do you do?”

You should ask:

“Please can you introduce yourself, and give a little bit of information about your company.”

These types of questions help make for flowing answers rather than one or two word answers.

Another thing to remind your talent is to try and work the question into their answer. Remember, the question won’t be heard in the final video so you need to work hard at getting this right.

For example:

If we were asking a client “How have Canny Creative helped you with your rebrand?”

We would prompt our talent to reply with “Canny Creative helped us rebrand by doing X, Y, and Z.”

By feeding the question into the answer, you’re going to make the content that much more compelling, resulting in a better testimonial video.

Silence is Your Friend

When asking your questions, silence is your friend.

You want to ask your question, and then stop talking. Feel free to nod along, but don’t agree, respond, or make any other noises.

The idea here is that it’s the talent talking. It’s not a back and forward conversation between the pair of you.

So, ask your question, then let the talent do the talking.

You also need to…

Let Things Hang

Silence is great when it comes when shooting testimonial videos.

It gives you something to cut from, and cut to.

Remind your talent before they go jumping straight into the answer, to let the question hang, give it two seconds, and then answer.

That way, when cutting your video together, you’re giving yourself enough room to edit effectively.

And the same again at the end.

Once they’ve finished their answer, make sure you don’t just jump straight in with the next question.

If you let the silence hang, you’re making your job easier in the edit, which will result in a better testimonial video.

Speak Up

Here’s where a lot of people lack confidence when shooting videos.

You need to be able to speak up.

If something sounds iffy, or doesn’t quite sit right, you have to have the confidence as a filmmaker to say “I need you to do that again.”

Speaking up is a powerful thing you can do to make sure you get the best video possible.

It also has the added bonus of positioning you as the expert.

Having confidence to know something isn’t right straight out of the gate, shows people you do this all day every day, and know how to get the best result.

If your talent has time restraints, it’s important to be respectful of that.

For example:

You don’t need five takes of each answer they give. Sometimes one will do, more often than not, two is the magic number.

Speaking up with confidence and having pride in your work fills people with confidence, and relaxes everyone on the shoot.

Do it nicely, do it professionally, and you’ll run in to no problems whatsoever.

Conclusion: How to Shoot Effective Client Video Testimonials

Shooting client video testimonials isn’t easy. There are a lot of moving parts to consider.

The three key things you’re looking to get right are:

  • Visuals
  • Audio
  • Content

But you also need to expect the unexpected!

You need to know how to deal with a large room, a small room, a bright room, or a dark room. Or worst of all, how to shoot a testimonial video outside.

The thing with testimonial videos, is that curve balls often get thrown.

People have crazy ideas, and that’s great. You just have to know how to deal with them.

We were on a shoot recently, and we were asked to shoot a client testimonial video in the back of an ambulance.

People often don’t understand the complications of shooting seemingly straightforward testimonial videos.

So, get your talent comfortable, work your way through the visual, audio, and content tips we’ve shared above, and you’ll be on the right track to video testimonial success.

Have we missed anything? Let us know in the comments below.

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