How to choose titles for a video interview.

Jul 3, 2020 | Blog

What is the best way to title your interviews or onscreen commentators in your video production?  Is shorter always better?

If you come from the world of documentary film or news – you are probably thinking, just keep it simple. 

Is a shorter interview title better?

Why use a lot of words when all you need is “Joan Guest, criminologist, Harvard University”.  Why spend your valuable screen real estate on titles that are more about ego than conveying real information?  Doesn’t a longer title mean your audience will spend more time reading when they should really be listening?

Some clients or funders may insist on a formal title that will appear to distract the viewer from the actual video interview.

Do longer titles mean less listening?

I can remember one project where a client insisted on a long multileveled title related to an organizational chart. We cross faded the various titles. Otherwise the font size would have been so small, it would have been unreadable.

I am sure the audience spent more time reading the titles then listening to the interview.

How to explain your title choices.

Many organizations may want a formal title, so you need to find titles that meet specific needs and a process that explains your choices.

While I am always in favour of short, concise and to the point titling, I ask myself and the client: does the proposed title play a role in your audience’s understanding of the interview? Or does it create a context that will help your audience evaluate what they hear?

A general audience does not require as much information.

In the example above, a general audience’s only need is transparency (who the interviewee is and their organization) and a reason to accept their expertise (criminologist).  For a general audience, that is probably the limit of what you need in the titling. Any more information is probably a waste of time and a misuse of valuable screen real estate.  A general audience will not likely understand the importance of a more specific title.

A long title may just misdirect their attention. They may end up missing the overall point you want them to understand from the interview segment.

Audience with expertise expects more from interview titles.

In general, it takes an audience with some expertise to understand the implications of a title, which comes back to the first question that should be always asked when developing a video.  Who is your audience?”

A shorter title is not enough, if your video is shown to criminologists at a convention.   If the interviewee is part of a well-known policy group at a top research facility, your audience will understand the interview’s importance. Incorporate it into the titles. They will know to pay attention.

So how to choose a title?

Ask what the audience will understand and whether it provides context to an interview, or will just be wasted information. And: how can I make titles in video productions as short as possible since screen real estate is scarce – but not so short that it doesn’t provide important information to your target audience.

June 26, 2020