Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Production (shooting your video)

Here is where the fun really starts. With a script in one hand and a camera in the other, you start actually shooting scenes for your video project.

Some tips will help your shoot go smoother and be more productive. Before the day of the shoot, look at that camera. You need to know how to operate it, and that’s more than just grab, point and shoot. Learn what the buttons do; for gosh sakes, learn how to turn off the day/date indicator. Nothing makes a project look more amateurish than having “August 14, 1987” in the corner of every shot. So, don’t bother setting the correct day and time, just turn that silly feature OFF.

Many cameras shoot in two different speeds, one for best quality and one for lower quality but longer recording time. Right now, I’m looking at a Panasonic miniDV tape that says 60/LP90. That means that it records 60 minutes at full quality, or 90 minutes in the lower quality Long Play (LP) mode. Whenever possible, use the higher quality recording speed setting, that is, the one that uses the tape the fastest. If you’re using a 60/90 minute tape, record at the 60 minute setting. (And since you learned what all the buttons do on your camera like I mentioned in the last paragraph, that will be a snap, right?)

Make sure your camera batteries are fully charged if you aren’t using AC current to power your camera. In fact, find a spare set of batteries and charge them as well.

Are you recording sound? Do you have a hand-held mike that will plug in to your camcorder? From experience, I know that a $20 mike placed close to your subject will sound better than a $100 mike that is 20 feet away. And if you are only using the on-camera mike, well, you are in trouble. Later in this series, I’ll post an article about shooting with the on-camera mike. For now, find a hand-held mike, plug it in to your camera and keep it close to the source of your sound.

Are you using a nice, fluid-head tripod? Whenever possible, use a tripod!

Always use new tapes for your project; it’s a very small investment that will help you succeed. If you are using miniDV tapes, you might want to exercise them first by fast-forwarding all the way to the end, and then rewinding them to the beginning. I’ve found this reduces any “drop-outs” in the picture.

When you are shooting video for later editing, you have two tricks up your sleeve.

1. You can shoot more than one take of a scene. That is, you keep doing it until you get it right.

2. You can shoot out of sequence. For instance, if you are doing a TV newscast, you can shoot the sports first and put that scene in the proper part of the newscast during editing.

All right. You are out in “the field” with your actors, your camera operator, and somebody to help haul everything around. You have a well planned script with every camera shot written down or storyboarded.

Here are some camera operator tips.

A. Frame your shot. Zoom in or out to frame the shot you want.

B. Pre-roll on each shot. Let camera roll 10 seconds before action starts.

C. Identify each take while the camera is rolling. "This is Take 1" “This is Take 2” etc. Use a clapboard for this, as well as having someone say it out loud.

D. Hold it! Keep your shot for at least 20 seconds. Don’t shoot tiny snippets of action.

E. Don't pan and zoom unnecessarily.

F. Keep the mike close to the subject, so you can hear them.

G. Post-roll on each shot. After the shot is done, let camera roll for at least another 10 seconds before stopping.

Pre-roll and post-roll are essential! Every time you start that camera, let the tape roll at least ten seconds before the action starts. And let that tape roll an additional ten seconds after the action stops before you stop recording.

If you decide that Take 3 is the best take of the first scene, Take 2 is the best of the second scene, and Take 8 is the best of the third scene, be sure to write that down on your script. Why do we have each scene identified with a “take number? When you are editing, it makes it easier to assemble your project in post production.

As an example of how easy this makes editing; imagine editing a scene into our project. Which take do we use on this particular scene? Take 3 because I wrote that down on my script. How do I identify Take 3? It’s right there on the clapboard at the beginning of the scene.


muse said...

That's a real luxury.
I have very few hours as EFL teacher and wish I could work on a project like that with the other teachers.

Ed Z. said...

It's always a struggle to find enough time to do a quality job on a project, especially when you are working with several other busy people.

That is part of the pre-production planning that I spoke of in an earlier post. Your budget in time; how much time can you devote to the project?

Thanks for stopping by.