Top tips for producing quality qual with video

Here at LivingLens, we’ve been helping agencies and brands to incorporate video into their qualitative projects since we started the business almost four years ago, whilst some of our team have been working in qualitative research, both client and agency side, for almost two decades.

Over time, we’ve seen the applications of video in qual approaches grow and it’s still on the increase. This has spanned a wide array of use cases and methodologies, from a variety of industries. Ranging from patient video diaries in the healthcare sector to offline focus groups for Consumer Packaged Goods product development. It’s not only flexible, it’s a cost-effective way to gain deeper understanding.

So, we thought we’d share with you some of the things we’ve learnt along the way to make self-recording videos or auto-ethno a success, regardless of project type.

Many of the considerations when using video within qualitative projects are the same as when video is not involved. Often video simply provides a means to capture and analyze the feedback efficiently, and in particular, to be able to build engaging, activating stories that bring your research to life. Here we touch on some of the important considerations when video has been incorporated, to help you make the most of your projects.

Clear direction

Regardless of the methodology you are using, to ensure success for video within qualitative research, clear direction is needed. Providing simple, easy to follow instructions helps to reduce any drop out from your project and helps you to achieve high quality feedback.

You want to encourage participation and openness, so start the relationship off with that in mind. Put participants at ease by letting them know what is expected of them and what they can expect in return. How the information is going to be used and who will see it can help participants to understand the influence they could have by taking part. For some projects, it could be the equivalent of getting an invite into a boardroom or the opportunity to shape the next product or service from their favourite brand.

As well as specific information for your project, include more general tips for high quality video. These include; making sure there isn’t a strong light source behind you, making sure that the audio is nice and clear, filming in landscape and making the camera steady. More detail can be found through our best practice video series.


It will help the quality of your outputs enormously if you can ask participants to record a ‘test’ video, which you can consequently review and give feedback on.  In doing this, you can give constructive feedback and screen out for participants who you don’t think will cut it.  Giving self-recorded video feedback requires people to be open and detailed, so a test video can help you prepare participants.


As with any project, consider what you are asking from participants, thinking about how long you want them to be engaged, the time they need to commit and the information they are expected to share. Reward them fairly and avoid changing the goal posts.

If, as the project progresses, you find you need more from participants, communicate that clearly and adjust the incentives accordingly if possible. 

Technical considerations and testing

Everyone tends to have a mobile device, but there are a huge number of different ones out there. It’s good to carry out some testing to ensure no data gets lost and that participants are comfortable with what they need to do. This is also an ideal time to test your question wording or instructions. If any participants have difficulty, you have the opportunity to make any tweaks, before inviting a larger sample to take part or proceeding with additional questions / tasks.

Open, descriptive questions

One word answers are usually something to try and avoid, particularly in a qual setting!

To make the most of video you want to encourage participants to open-up and share. How you word your questions, the task you set and any instructions are fundamental in meeting the objectives of your project. Stick to open wording and try to avoid closed questions, which are too easy for participants to give a one word response to. Video is an ideal way to capture emotional reactions, so encourage this feedback by asking how participants ‘feel’.  It is also a great way of getting participants to show you their actions or experiences in a way that basic text can’t.

For example, instead of ‘Was your experience good or bad today?’, ask ‘How did you feel about your experience today? Tell us as much about it as you can. Show us as much about your experience as possible’.


Ensure that participants have adequate support throughout the project. Depending on what they are being asked to do this could range from simple documentation through to dedicated resources. Having gone through the hard work of recruiting participants, you don’t want to lose them as they can’t easily find answers to simple questions.

Also, like other types of diary or auto-ethno projects, video based feedback works best when reviewed as soon as possible after submission. This allows you to ask for clarity or delve deeper as needed.  Make sure to schedule this into your fieldwork plan if you can.

In this blog we have focussed on auto-ethno, however video is also used for moderated qual, with many projects using a combination of the two. For more information on using video in qualitative research, including a closer look at the methodologies and use cases available, check out our blog.

The technology is available to also efficiently drive insight generation from quantitative video, find our more in our blog post, 6 compelling reasons you should be using video questions in surveys