The Thing Between Us:
It’s called the Interrotron, and it makes interviews better
At Zendesk we make a lot of videos that feature interviews with non-actors. Not surprisingly, we get the best results when people feel comfortable and engaged. But also not surprisingly, that’s hard to pull off. Plenty of folks are camera-shy, new to the experience of a film set, or are being asked to talk about something really dry — like customer service software. Sometimes they’re just talking about something earnest and personal. (See video at the end of this article.)
No matter who we are talking to, we’ve found that the best way to do it is with Errol Morris’ ingenious camera configuration, known in the industry as…
Morris’ wife, who came up with the name, explains it as a kind of portmanteau of ‘interview’ and ‘terror,’ but the secret is that it doesn’t cause terror, it relieves it.
The setup is basically a parlor trick where two people can speak face-to-face, but they are actually looking directly into a camera lens covered by a mirror. It’s like Facetime, but you’re in the same room with a heavier camera and without the temptation to keep looking at yourself in that tiny window in the corner.
It takes a bit of rigging up and you need a bunch of gear, but the end result is worth it. Filming interviews this way seems to disarm people and calm the nerves of the camera-shy. If you sit down for an interview and see the silvery hologram face of your host—instead of a dead-eyed camera lens—suddenly the game has changed.
When people encounter the Interrotron for the first time, they’re more like kids at a cool science exhibit than professionals on a film set. The novelty quickly becomes normalcy though, and now a connection can be made between interviewer and subject.
Recently we partnered with the Women at Zendesk Employee Resource Group (that’s WAZ-ERG to you) to make something for International Women’s Day. Obviously the Interrotron was there. Watch the video below and you’ll see how this clever magic act helps the camera equipment disappear and make way for honest, remarkable conversations.