Guide to Video Production 4 – Filming

The secret to a successful video is to acquire a variety of shots that allow editing choice.  It’s no good just filming everything from one camera position using the camera mic.  You must carefully plan and organise the whole process.

Our advice is to get a professional crew to help out for at least this step of the process.  They will take care of all the camera, sound and lighting for you and this really does make a difference between your film looking great or poor, or at best mediocre.

Cameras can be complex items to operate effectively and the instinctive skills an experienced camera operator brings don’t just appear overnight. Similarly the sound is often overlooked.  Poor sound really lowers the standard of your video.  And if you have invested all your time, you want to be sure the best viewer experience is recorded.

However if you are shooting yourself follow these rules:

  1. For each set up record a wide angle view and then separate close angle views.  Try to re-run what you shoot and move the camera physically between takes to capture different views and shot sizes.  You must think carefully about where you put the camera and ensure that the action doesn’t get masked by something in the foreground.  Capturing different shots will allow you cut a sequence together and the change of camera angles keeps the viewers engaged.  Cameras are becoming cheaper these days so it’s also worth considering shooting most things on two or more cameras.  Perhaps one could be a professional device with the other cameras a high quality prosumer device.  Whatever you choose, think about how you are going to sync up the content.  It is best for all cameras to record sound to allow you to see and hear the same words spoken and then sync up, taking the quality sound from the main camera.  In our experience recording this way, it is best to record for longer durations which takes less time to sync up.  Having multiple short clips on multiple cameras can create headaches so longer takes are easier to deal with.  The downside is the amount of storage space for the project as you can end up with a BIG project.
  1. 25p or 50p? This refers to the shooting frame rate of the camera, which is either 25 or 50 frames per second.  25 frames has been the standard for many years but in the past the recordings were interlaced which gives the illusion of 50 frames as half the frame is replaced at 1/25 second intervals.  This is smoother on the eye as there is less flicker.  Modern cameras shoot what is called progressive which means it records 25 or 50 individual frames per second.  50fps uses more space for storage but in our experience delivers a smoother output and allows more post production techniques to be applied.  For example the effect of slowing down a 50fps shot delivers a very smooth slow motion which you don’t get from shooting at 25fps.  Shooting interviews at 50fps allows the editing to be tighter.  People often say er or um and editing these out is always a good idea where possible.  The extra frame rate allows more flexibility with where the edit play head can cut, as this can only be done on individual frames.
  1. Try to use a tripod at all times to mount the camera on. Unless you are very experienced at holding a camera, tripod shots are more steady, with handheld shots being very wobbly and distracting for the viewer.  This is possibly the biggest single thing that can improve the quality of your output.
  1. Avoid unnecessary camera movements. This is in the form of unnecessary or unmotivated camera pans or unnecessary camera zooms.  The zoom function of the camera is the most abused.  Again unless you have the experience to do the zoom smoothly and with the interest point of the frame remaining correctly framed it’s best to stop the camera, re-frame and then start recording again.  In the edit suite, an editor will never cut away from a shot that is half way through a move, the image jars too much.  So the zooming and panning can also have an impact on the pace of your edit.
  1. Record each shot for at least 5 seconds and if you do any panning, make them smooth throughout, in particular at the start and end. Don’t snatch the panning handle as the camera will jump.  It’s good practice to leave a spare 5 seconds before and after any pans are conducted.  This will allow you the flexibility when editing to use either the static part of the shot or take the camera movement.
  1. Don’t just use the tripod at the same height all the time. Try to vary the height of the camera to keep it more engaging.  A common trap to fall into is just to keep the camera at a comfortable working height.  More often than not the camera will need to be higher or lower than that.
  1. Use a quality microphone for the audio. Avoid using the camera mic.  The camera mic records distant sound and picks up the camera operator breathing and other background noises.  A quality mic placed close to the action picks up far better audio and as long as it is out of shot adds real value.
  1. Use correct lighting. It’s unusual that general room lighting is sufficient.  Proper lighting allows the subject to stand out in the frame and makes the whole thing clearer to see.  Lighting for video is arguably more skilled than pointing the camera.  You must avoid dark shadows, or hot spots.  A professional camera operator will bring a box (or two) of lights, and use one light to light one thing.  This will allow flexibility to make sure that the right contrast ratio is applied across the screen.  Coloured gels can also help.  Adding a subtle colour to the background can help the foreground to stand out better.
  1. For interview filming position the interviewee against a suitable background and if necessary move things around. Avoid cluttered or distracting backgrounds.  You want the viewer to focus on your speaker and not what is going on behind them.
  1. If someone is asking questions get them to sit one side of the camera and talk to the interviewee. Generally it’s best to avoid people talking direct to camera, although this situation does arise from time to time.  Ensure the interviewee is relaxed and not nervous.  This atmosphere is detected in the recording.
  1. Ask the interviewee to answer the question succinctly. Our experience is that each answer should be no more than 30 to 45 seconds and the interviewee should incorporate some of the question in the answer.  This allows a series of sound bites to be edited together without the interviewer being seen on camera.
  1. As mentioned in the previous blog, try not to share the exact questions with the interviewee beforehand. Most videos work best with the first answer which is off the cuff.  Our experience has been that sharing the questions before hand can lead to complicated answers being remembered which are then promptly forgotten when the camera is switched on!
  1. Be very careful of causing trip or slip hazards with any cables and avoid rigging lights under smoke detectors. They can go off easily!

 

Next read our blog 5 of 7 – Post Production

Want to know more? Then why not attend one of our training workshops.  For more information go to:  www.howtofilm.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

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Guide to Video Production 2 – Storyboard/Scripting

Lay out the video in a paper document in the order you expect it to run.  The best way to do this is to create a document in table form with 2 columns and multiple rows.  This will allow you to use one column for the narrative content i.e. what is going to be said, and the second column contains details on the visual content i.e. what it is to be filmed.  Use a separate row for each set up.  This will allow you to cut and paste the document around easily as the project develops.

We’ve never worked with a script yet that has remained in the same order throughout so having the script in table form is a great tip.

To start with this can be very rough to get the flow, with detail being added once the skeleton is formed.

The film should have a beginning, middle and end with each section required to deliver a separate part of the message.  Avoid jumping around too much as this can confuse the message.   Don’t worry about the precise order too much to start with, just write it all down.  You can move things around later, but be sure to finalise the order as far as you can before you shoot.  This ensures you film the right bits and in the right quantities so you don’t waste time filming loads of material that has little chance of ending up in the final film.

Circulate this document with your stakeholders and absorb their comments. If necessary obtain their sign off that the document is a fair reflection of what the content is to be.  It’s a common situation for people to forget what they’ve asked for along the way, so having sign off avoids awkward conversations later.

Interview planning

If you’re including interviews in your film then think about what you want the interviewee to say and design a list of short questions that draw out the right points.  Interviews are a great way to hear the story straight from the horse’s mouth and if you’re filming your company it allows the faces of the organisation to be seen.  It’s common practice for the interviewer not to be seen or heard in the final video.  If the duration is only 3 minutes, why waste screen time with questions?  Ensure the questions are short, that they can’t be answered with Yes or No and that each question tackles just one point.

It’s a great idea to get the interviewee to recap some of the question in the answer.  This puts it in context.  For example if you were to ask “what is the weather like today” they should reply “the weather is very sunny today” rather than “it’s sunny”.  Try to avoid them saying things like “as I said earlier” or list items with numbers.  You may not use the previous items.

It’s common to interview each person for 10 to 15 minutes.  This requires editing later, but in our experience this length of interview allows short soundbites to be extracted from separate answers and joined together.

 

Next read our Blog 3 of 7 – Preparing for the shoot

Want to know more? Then why not attend one of our training workshops.  For more information go to: www.howtofilm.co.uk

 

 

Guide to Video Production 1 – Planning

Video is a powerful business communication tool.  YouTube is now the second largest search engine on the planet, and with social media utilising the power of video there has never been an easier way to show off your products or services, or deliver important messages across your organisation.

If you are using video and shooting yourself, are your videos turning out the way you expect them to be?  Are you able to shoot and edit the right material allowing you to use the video as you intended?  Are you able to show your customers the true face of your company and reflect your company values?

If you’re not already using video as a sales, marketing, training or general communication tool then you could be losing out.  Camera and editing equipment has become more affordable over recent years.  It is now possible to film on a domestic grade camera and edit using a standard laptop computer, and have the same flexibility that complex edit suites used to have just a few years ago.

We’ve created a guide to take you through the key steps and highlight how a professional video production company would approach the project.   The aim is to help you avoid some of the main traps that people often fall into, and if you follow what we suggest then you will achieve better results.

A professional video company will always create better results than home produced material, but there are many applications where home produced material is adequate.

Just like most things, the key to a successful project is being organised and well planned.  Having a proper plan allows for deviations to take place on the day, but being organised ensures you keep the final video in mind at all times.  Video production can be a complex process and without the proper planning and execution may yield poor results, which not only use up a lot of your time, but also may have the opposite effect of what you are trying to create.

You must establish what and where you are to film, and what the messaging will be.  What do you want the viewers to do once they have viewed the video, and what is the assumed knowledge of the viewer to start with.  All of this has a bearing on how the video is created.

 Programme style

In your planning phase you should consider the visual style that is best suited to your message.  The most common basic choices are as follows:

  1. Presenter talking to camera
  2. Interviewee talking to an invisible interviewer
  3. Voice over narration
  4. Captions and text

If you opt for an in vision presenter you should choose carefully who is to appear in front of the camera.  Presenting to camera is a good way to get lots of information across but is a hard skill to acquire.

An alternative is the interview technique.  Here the on screen interviewee answers questions which are best asked by an interviewer sitting by the side of the camera.  If you choose this option ensure one question tackles just one point as there will be no interaction between the interviewer and interviewee.

You should also consider where the video is going to be used.  For example if it’s mainly for an office reception or exhibition playback, then it’s likely that the sound will be turned down.  In this case you must plan to ensure the message is still relayed some other way.  This could be floating captions and other graphics.  If the video is going to be seen by individuals online via your website, social media or YouTube, or in presentations, then the narrative can be shared by voice.

You must think about how and where all the filming is to be done.  You should think of the practicalities of the filming and whether any special permissions or authorisations are needed to allow you to film.  In some circumstances it’s a good idea to get participants to sign a release form stating they are happy for their material to be used.  Filming on the street often calls for Police permissions to be granted and some councils demand an extra payment.  So check out the implications of where you want to film.

During the planning phase, face to face meetings with interested parties are vital.  This allows the goals to be set, and expectations managed.  It’s vital that everyone who is involved in the process understands their involvement and what is expected of them.

Duration

This is a big consideration for the whole project.  The internet has changed the way that videos are viewed.  In days gone by, it was common for a corporate video to be 15 minutes or longer, taking the viewer on a journey through the company and delivering a large amount of content.  Now the viewers don’t often stay to watch anything much over 3 minutes and if the video doesn’t grab their attention straight away people switch off.  It’s better to create several short videos and allow the viewer to browse and choose what they want to watch.

You should plan your video accordingly.  From a scripting point of view 3 minutes is about 600 words or so.  As this is such a low number it’s vital that every word counts and there is no waffle or repetition.

 

Next read our Blog 2 of 7 – Storyboard/Scripting

Want to know more? Then why not attend one of our training workshops.  For more information go to:  www.howtofilm.co.uk