Monday, December 13, 2010

8 Tips to Shoot Better Video

It's the Holiday Season. Time to break in your new HD camcorder and capture those family events, school plays, Christmas concerts, and home or office parties. I've listed 8 easy tips to help you shoot better video. There's nothing new here, just the basics, but you should be able to use a few of these to improve your shots.

1. Use a Tripod – Use a tripod whenever possible, especially for plays and concerts where you are typically shooting at the end of your telephoto range. Even an inexpensive tripod from a place like Walmart is better than none. Make sure that the tripod can handle the weight of your camera.

2. If You Can't Use a Tripod – Some situations have to be hand held. In these cases do what you can to minimize camera shake. Use two hands to hold the camera. Hold the camera with your right hand and support it under the flip out LCD with your left. You can also lean against a wall or other immovable object for support. Stay wide and move closer to your subject. Camera shake is much less noticeable at the wide end of your zoom than the telephoto end.

3. Beware the Potted Plant – The one that looks like it's growing out of your subjects head, and the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show on TV, and Uncle Joe spitting milk out of his nose, or anything else that is distracting in the background.

4. Watch the Light – Take advantage of all your light sources and position yourself so the light is coming from either behind you or from the side. Never shoot into a light source that is brighter than the rest of your scene. Your camera's auto exposure will close under-exposing the rest of the scene. (Silhouettes in front of a sunny window anyone?)

5. Know Your Focus – Yes, auto focus is easy. But it's also ineffective. Focus can shift from your child on stage to the lady's tall feathered hat because the camera thinks the hat is the dominant object in the scene. If using a tripod, know how to switch to manual focus and adjust it. Better yet, set your focus ahead of time by zooming as far as you can into the stage, let the camera auto focus, then switch it to manual. Now you will be in focus throughout your zoom range no matter what moves into your frame. If you are hand held, move a little to reframe your subject without the hat. And be warned – auto focus doesn't work in the dark. If you are going to be shooting in a dark environment be prepared to go manual.

6. Listen To Your Audio – Your camera microphone (mic) picks up the loudest sound closest to the mic. In a noisy environment use an external mic closer to your source. If you don't have a mic, go wide and move your camera as close as possible to your source. For events like a play where you can't get close to the source, try to set up by a loudspeaker to reduce the crowd noise and echos. Also, keep an ear out for sounds we tend to tune out such as traffic, loud music, wind, and so forth. Your camera will record them at full volume.

7. Be the Boss: Ask Them To Move – A lot of times the problem is the location. A simple move to another room or even the other side of a room can make a big difference in your framing, lighting, and audio. Don't be afraid to ask people to move. It's better to interrupt someone and ask them to move and start over then to have unusable footage.

8. Shorter is Better - So Mix It Up! Unless you are shooting a play or concert, keep your shots short and varied. Try to tell a story. Start with a wide shot of the scene. But don't sit on the shot waiting for something to happen. Choose an interesting part of the scene to focus on and get a closer shot. What's going on there? Get the close-up. Pan between people talking, then focus on another part of the scene. Repeat until the scene is covered. Then STOP.

And your bonus tip? Have Fun!