How to capture quality on camera

All these tutorials on editing footage are very helpful, but if you don’t have the smarts to capture the right moments — and I’m assuming most of us aren’t professional videographers — you still won’t have a good video. For those of us thinking about trying to capture candid moments on film, I found a very useful video technique checklist from the Knight Digital Media Center at Berkeley’s graduate journalism program. With 24 sections on filming real life for news or documentaries, the writers of this tutorial cover everything from panning and zooming to changing perspectives and angles.  I’ll highlight what I think are the most salient points.

First of all, when you start filming, keep your script in mind, especially the intended effect of your images. For example, if your narration is intended to be funny, the shots you record should also be light and comical. Filming somebody drinking coffee at Kiva Han on an icky rainy day might not complement it.

Next, if you’re shooting a static scene, try not to pan (move the camera from side to side) or zoom too much, because this can give the video a jarring, unpolished look. Rather, when you do zoom or pan, make sure to hold the image for at least 15 seconds (you can always edit down later.) In order to give your video more depth, especially if you are just filming a person, it’s good to have objects in the background that can create a sense of space. Move the camera around and test out different perspectives other than eye level. Get closer to your subject, get above it, below it, behind it — find the angle that best shows what you want the viewer to see.

If you’re shooting a dynamic scene, think of it in terms of sequences, as in the sequence of events the viewer needs to see for it to make sense. The tutorial gives the example of a girl arriving at work on a bike:

It might break down like this: a wide shot of her arriving. A medium shot of her getting off the bicycle. A close-up of her pushing the front wheel of the bike into the bike stand. A close-up of her chaining the bike to the stand. An extreme closeup of her taking off her gloves. An extreme close-up of her eyes as she looks at her hands while she’s taking off her gloves. A close-up of her taking off her helmet and tucking the gloves into it. A close-up of her straightening her hair and looking at the building. A medium and wide shots of her walking into the building with the helmet tucked under her arm.

They then give, as a framework, the recommendation of  “50 percent closeups and extreme closeups, 25 percent medium shots, and 25 percent wide shots.” If you don’t have the luxury of setting up the scene, but rather are filming candid life, don’t be afraid to let your subject walk out of the frame; sometimes it’s better to piece together two different frames than trying to follow him.

That should be enough to get you started. I recommend you check out that site for more extensive tips on this type of filming. Good luck!

-Kayla Hunter


~ by kah117 on March 13, 2011.

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