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Video Shooting Tips

February 6, 2009

I am not the worlds best videographer (I’m not close to the worse either). I know about f-stop and aperture, focus, setting the mood, getting the right details, providing your audience with a clear picture of the story you are trying to tell…

I’ve shot weddings, birthdays, concerts, conventions, sporting events, church services and parties. I’ve been behind the camera and behind the switcher. I’d much rather edit than shoot video but if the Cameraman doesn’t do a good job there is only so much an Editor can do. After all, in a live taping a missed shot is gone forever.

I have a Canon GL2, one of the top of the line prosumer cameras that you can get that isn’t HD (I’ll cover my “issues” with HD at another time). But during a shoot the camera isn’t the only thing you have to be concerned with. Here is a quick list of thing that become *very* important depending on your shoot:

Tripod
Battery(ies)
Lenses
Audio Input
Tape/Recording Media
Comfortable Shoes/Clothing

Tripods – Being the frugal person that I am, I sometime make my decisions based on price. For a client I’ll recommend the best in their established price range but for myself I’ll shy towards the cheaper end of a price range. That doesn’t work with this industry, especially when you want this to be more than a hobby. Case in point, I purchased a tripod from B&H (Great store for your A/V needs especially if you are on the East Coast. I can’t say enough about them) for about $150. For a client I recommended a Davis & Sanford model that cost about $50 more than mine but also came with a free dolly. That $50 was a world of difference. My tripod, while decent, is not in the same class as the Davis & Sandord model. Sure, you can fix shaky video with After Effect but why not just get it right the first time.

Batteries – Get extra, keep them charged and ready to go. You never know when you’ll have to grab your camera quickly or when your cord can’t reach the nearest outlet. Don’t get stuck out there because you were to cheap to spring for a 90 minute battery or “forgot” to charge them.

Lenses – Frankly I shouldn’t talk when it comes to lenses. I’ve wanted a wide angle lense since I shot my first concert and couldn’t get close ups of the entire choir without having to pan. Somehow I can never find the $200 for a simple wide angle lense. Your lense needs may vary so plan accordingly; you’ll just chase away that deer you are trying to record unless you get a good telephoto lense.

Audio Input – Don’t think audio is important? I did a video shoot for a client in an outdoor setting and my wireless mic proved to be inadequate… Ok, inadequate was putting it mildly. The audio was horrible. It made the video unusable (the mic has since been replaced). While car horn and wind noise are good for some settings it got in the way of the setting we were trying to promote AND I wasted time trying to fix it. Have you ever watched those TV shows where the Police/FBI/Interpole is able to isolate clear speech from an audio recording full of noise? Go ahead and try it with your software and let me know how that works for you. While you are at it try to zoom into your fuzzy video and tell me if you can make out license plates and perfect faces. XLR is best. My GL2 needs an adapter to use XLR inputs. (Next on my list of things to buy)

Tape/Media – I’d much rather record video right to my laptop hard drive; makes editing much faster because I don’t have to spend time dumping down tape to my system in real time. But it’s not easy to setup a whole recording station at a kids’ basketball game; not on the bleachers and definitely not on the floor. So I have to keep a healthy stack of tapes available. If you can buy them in bulk do so as some stores give discounts for bulk purchases (B&H gives discounts for some types of tape). Be sure you buy the right kind of media too: DVD, MiniDV, DVCAM, heaven forbid you still have 8mm or <gasp> VHS! I want to move to a Solid State hard drive or Flash media Cam next and eliminate tapes all together.

Comfortable Shoes/Clothing – If you don’t think comfortable shoes are important then you have never shot video standing up in one spot for 2 hours! And don’t dress for the weather you expect. Newflash: Weathermen are sometimes wrong! You want to be sure you have the right clothing just in case there is a change in the weather conditions.

I’m sure some people will say, “That’s not a complete list. There are other things to consider such as lighting, proper access (I have a funny story about this one), snacks, blah, blah. You don’t expect me to put everything in post, do you? See you next time…

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