The ingenious application Skype was started by a Danish man named Janus Friis and a Sweedish man named Niklas Zennstrom back in 2003. The first Beta version was released on August 29th that same year. I remember when the software came out, it felt very futuristic and created an instant buzz that continued to grow over the years. The company switched ownership a couple times since then, but has maintained it's strong footing in the consumer video telecommunications software industry.
In the past I've have shot interviews for traveling productions using Skype in place of a producer. The interviewee's weren't thrilled, but they didn't mind and I didn't think much of it… until recently. While on a shoot, I got to hear first hand from several interviewee's their negative remarks about using Skype in place of an in-the-flesh producer that is sitting in the same room and engaging you through out the interview. I'm not going to lean one way or the other on the subject until we examine the Pros and Cons of using Skype for interview video production and weigh the options…
Using Skype helps to significantly save money
It cuts out travel expenses for a producer or the cost to hire one locally. For a producer to travel we're talking about flight, lodging, rental car, gas, and contingencies… all of that adds up. To hire one locally might be a cheaper option, but you are still paying money for their services, food, and gas. Using Skype obviously keeps more money in the producer's pockets which can be seen as a positive thing for them if all is well and nobody is offended.
Skype allows people to interview individuals located in restricted areas that don't allow outsider access
This can become handy when interviewing a convict or someone who's location needs to remain secret. Whether one is using a local camera crew to shoot the interview or the computer's internal camera itself, which becomes the most incognito option in low profile situations, Skype becomes a useful tool to achieve important interviews or reporting.
Skype is perfect for interviews needing to be conducted while someone is in the middle of traveling somewhere
Either on a plane, train, or ship is when this option would be recommended and becomes a positive as opposed to missing an interview opportunity. Again, using the computer's internal camera is the only option sometimes which becomes a lifesaver.
Now that we've looked at the pros, it's time to evaluate the...
There is no eye to eye engagement and a loss in emotional response from the interviewee
When someone is sitting across from you smiling when you are happy, concerned when you are angry or sad, or laughing when you crack a joke, there is a more personal conversation taking place which leads to better, longer answers filled with emotional value, thus providing the producers and editors with better content to choose from. Skype tends to yield stale, monotoned, robotic answers that are not nearly as useable and engaging. Though this may not be someone else's experience, this has been my experience when compared to person to person interviews in the flesh. The interviewee is often irritated about the situation and rushes through the majority of the answers if the producers are not connecting through the screen.
There is a significant loss of image quality if you are forced to use an internal camera on a computer
Most professional digital camera's record at high bit rates and yield very clean dynamic imagery that doesn't have the pixilated effects of bad compression. With low-end digital compact cameras, you are shooting through a terrible lens thats smaller than a watch battery and the results are horrendous. Not only will the picture quality be suffering, but the sound quality will be down right awful.
There is a loss of control behind the scenes
When the producer is not present to make executive decisions, they have a tendency to be very compromising and not as picky. This can result in errors in the production whether that be the lighting, camera settings, undesirable objects in the background, etc. The producer would never know if if there were better backdrop settings because he was never there to scout the location. He would be relying on the opinions of the local crew and approving the composition through a screen shot which can sometimes be a misrepresentation. This can be a risky move if you are dealing with a new crew for the first time.
After weighing the options, it's hard not to lean toward a producer who is present and engaging a person during an interview. This option just yields the best results and when you're a freak about quality, you want to make the safest bet. I am however also a fan of using skype as an option when I am completely forced to because then I'm thankful for it. It definitely has it's place and proves it's value as a resource, I just feel that producers should always strive for the best results and not compromise them if the money is there to do so.
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