These tips will help you successfully preserve oral history interviews on video.
If you're recording an oral history interview with a videocamera, here are some secrets for success.
• To avoid awkwardness (or worse, a post-interview surprise discovery that you weren't taping, after all), make sure you're comfortable using the camera before the interview.
• Use a tripod for the videocamera and make sure it's placed in the least distracting spot you can find.
• If your videocamera has a light that flashes when it's recording, place a piece of black electrical tape over it. This light can be distracting to your subject and is a constant reminder that the camera is rolling.
• Pick a room that's brightly lit, or use lots of lights to ensure the best quality picture. But don't have the subject sit in front of a window, which will cause everything in front of it to photograph too dark. Do a "screen test" with the subject to make sure the lighting is acceptable.
• Purchase a good microphone and test it as well.
• Have visual materials ready (photographs, artifacts, historical documents) so you can get these items on the video when the narrator begins talking about them.
• Punch the tab on the tape as soon as you take it out of the camera, so it can't be accidentally recorded over.
• Make a copy of the tape and store in a cool, dry place. Or, for a digital camera, copy the file onto your computer and make a back-up copy.