Join Jeff Sengstack for an in-depth discussion in this video Basic video shooting tips, part of Video Journalism: Storytelling Techniques.
To tell your story well, you need to shoot your video well. In this lesson I am going to present a full range of video shooting tips. I don't plan to go into too much detail in any one tip, since I have done a complete lynda.com course on this topic. If you want to check it out, it's called Video Journalism Shooting Techniques. I have also created a PDF that gives brief explanations of the tips I present here. You can download it from this course's page on lynda.com. The most important video shooting tip is to get a wide variety of shots. Variety as an editor's best friend, and since you or a colleague are likely to be that editor, do yourself or your editor a favor: think variety.
Also, keep the story flow in mind; ask yourself how the editor will be able to go from one scene to the next. Usually going from a wide shot to a tight shot will suffice, but for example, you can shoot a building exterior to segue way to an interior shot, or have someone walk out of a room and then show them in another room. Okay, so let's move on to some specific tips. First, get an establishing shot that lets viewers know where the story is taking place. I'll show some examples of the establishing shots and sequences in another video in this chapter.
(video playing) Follow action. At the Rock Wall Gym for example, there was plenty of action. It was a simple matter to keep climbers in the frame. That said, sometimes it's good to let action enter the frame or leave the frame. That makes it much easier to edit. If you have the person in two shots in a row, if that person leaves the frame, then you can do a cut edit to that person in the second shot without causing a disconnect for your viewers. Use trucking shots. You can do this as another way to follow action, but it can come in handy when you have something static in the scene, like these sticky buns or these photos of Axtell Expressions.
(video playing) At the rock wall climbing gym I wanted to get what amounted to a series of close-ups of the kids, so, I moved the camera along in front of them as a means to reveal them one by one. Find unusual angles. For example, I make a point of trying to get high-angle shots. At the climbing gym, I used the tall stepladder and followed action that way, of kids climbing up the wall and of an instructor hanging from the archway. At Axtell Expressions, I wanted to show just how grand the new animatronic tree is, so I used the ladder there as well.
And even at the Sticky Fingers Bakery, I used a small stepstool to get a high-angle shot. Another take on this is to put the camera in an unlikely location. I like to put it on tables and desks like this, to get tight face and hand shots. I also like to position the camera directly above someone, looking straight down, like you're at the bakery. (video playing) Or here at the climbing gym. (video playing) Or I get down low and look up. (video playing) One other unusual angle I like is to put the camera right next to the person's head and shoulder; it's an effective way to get a good point-of-view shoot.
Create strong foreground shots; that is, shoot something as a wide shot but position your camcorder so there is something close to it in the foreground. I shot through the animatronic trees branches when showing employees working on its control. I got right down next to the cupcakes as the baker added icing, and I put the kids in the foreground as they watched their teacher climbing through the arch. Get wide and tight shots. Our eyes work something like medium-length zoom lenses, so it's best to avoid medium-zoom-style shots. They tend to be boring.
So, to add interest, get close to a subject or far away. I like to shoot wide and tight shots of the same scene to add interest. I've also used tight shots a lot. Shoot matched action. That's kind of a specialized pairing of wide and tight shots, where whatever action is happening in one shot continues in the other. You usually need to get the cooperation of your subject to do this right. Either they stop what they are doing for a moment while you move the camera or you have them do the same thing twice.
Jeff: Ok, go. (video playing) Get sequences of shots. This works well if you have repetitive action--you can shoot it more than once-- or you have a long even process that you have time to shoot it from a variety of angles. This animatronic monster is one example. I present several more in another video in this chapter. (video playing) Shoot cutaways. A cutaway literally let's you cut away from one scene to go to another, or covers what would have been an awkward edit, such as two sound bites from the same person.
To go from one scene to the next, all you might need is a tight shot of the next scene. Or in the case of the rock gym, I could use a tight shot of an instructor or a wide shot of group of kids and put one of those shots between two shots of the same climber. (video playing) Interview cutaways could be tight hand shots as the interviewee gestures or shots over the interviewee's shoulder looking at the reporter. If you do one of those over-the-shoulder shots, don't break the plane. The plane is an imaginary wall that runs through the scene.
You want tot keep your camera on only one side of that wall; otherwise, you'll create a disconnect for your viewers. When I got wide shots of Steve Axtell talking with his audio specialist, I kept the camera on one side of that plane. Adhere to the rule of thirds. This is a standard photo composing technique. Basically, you want the center of interest of your shot to not be in the center of the frame. In general, put it at an intersection of two of the four lines shown here, or put it off-center along the left or right side. Horizon lines should not go through the center of the frame; rather, they should go along one of these two horizontal lines.
Keep your shots steady. I always bring a tripod with me and use it where practical, but when I have to move around a lot, I usually can't use it. In those cases, I try to study my shots using stationary objects. Here at the gym I put the camera on the floor. At the bakery, I used the countertop, and even the oven--it is well insulated. And in Axtell Expressions I use a tabletop, workbench, and the floor. Avoid fast pans, zooms, or tilts. Generally, it's best to not remind viewers they are watching a video. Fast moves break that suspension of this belief.
I usually start rolling on a shot and then count to five before and after panning, zooming, or tilting. Then I try to make the moves go smoothly. The extra time at the beginning and end also means I can use those shots as static shots. Listen for good sound bites and natural sound. The importance of sound cannot be overstated. Even if you're not pointing your camcorder in the direction of the sound, you might be able to use that sound with other video clips, so keep on rolling. I present tips on interviewing and miking techniques and specialized audio edits in other videos in this course.
Use lights. They add life to a scene, improve the color, help you get a sharper focus, and create depth to an otherwise flat scene. I present a number of lighting tips in a separate video in this course. Get a closing shot or sequence of shots. Female speaker: This is to die for. Jeff: This is tremendously important. The closing shots are what people remember, what they take away from your stories. I show some examples in another video in this course. Following these shooting tips will greatly enhance your storytelling ability. I recognize this is a lot to digest all at once. I suggest you print up the PDF file I included with this course as kind of a checklist.
At the very least, remember that variety is key.
Jeff then presents scripting techniques you can employ to ensure your story engages and entertains your audience. Finally, walk into the production studio where he explains the tools and techniques he uses to edit videos.
- Choosing the message
- Planning the production
- Selecting and using mics
- Lighting the location
- Getting visuals and audio to support the message
- Working with people to help tell the story
- Writing a good story
- Tools and tricks for editing video