Basic Shooting Guide
What is video?
Video is quite simply a series of single images being displayed in quick succession. Our eyes perceive this as movement. Different countries have varying standards at which the speed of these images should be displayed for broadcast. In the UK, for example, the PAL standard requires 25 of these images in every second of the video. In the US, the NTSC standard is 30 frames (images) a second. This is know as the frame rate.
Each one of these images consists of thousands or even millions of pixels. The more pixels an image contains, the higher the quality of video. This is the fundamental difference between Standard Definition Video (SD), which has thousands of pixels, and Ultra High Definition Video (UHD), which has millions. In the UK the PAL standard for SD 25fps while in the US the NTSC standard for video is 30fps.
“But my phone films in 4K”?
Although many phones and other device already have the option to record in 4K or UHD (and yes, there is again a subtle difference), most screens hardly meet the technical requirements to make full use of all those extra pixels. The biggest benefit of filming in 4K or UHD lies in the ability to crop your image in the edit without loosing quality. When filming in 4K, you can film a wide shot of a person from the waist up and if you want to shorten the clip or if they make a mistake in the same shot you can crop in to HD a close up of their face, skipping forward on the clip without having an amateurish jump cut. Depending on the style of your video though, a jump cut might be just what you want!
Whoa slow down there! Have you read our other video planning blog here yet? If not you are skipping one of the most important steps in Video Production!
You need to think about everything in your frame, the composition of all that you see on screen, from the lighting, the blocking, the set, props. It is all part of what the viewer takes in, and it is a real skill to understand and direct things to achieve this.
Use a camera that at least gives you a quality that shows you care about the end product and in turn your business. You don’t need to be a camera whizz to get great footage, but if you don’t make the footage look good, your audience will not respond well to it. Whether you are shooting on your phone or if you have spent a couple of grand and get a decent video camera, it is still possible to make your footage look bad if you don’t know what you’re doing. The below advice is highly dependant on the camera you are using, a mobile phone for example will not have half of these options but you can purchase apps for your phone that gives you this level of control:
Make sure that the media your camera shoots on is formatted inside the camera before you hit record. This helps to avoid your footage being corrupted.
Make sure that you are shooting in the right frame rate for the job. 25fps for the UK or 50fps if you want a bit of slow motion and 30fps or 60fps in the US.
Your Shutter Speed dictates how much motion there is in your camera, the general rule of thumb is to have it double your frame rate.
Picture Profile or LUT basically determines how the cameras records light and colour. Depending on how much editing and colour grading you want to do, it’s best to stay standard with this.
Exposure and ISO
Your exposure is in simple terms how light or dark your video clips are. This can be controlled on the camera with the F/Stop or ISO. The F/Stop is controlled by the lenses internal iris and determines how much light passes through the lens and onto the cameras sensor. The ISO controls how sensitive the cameras sensor is to light. With ISO, the higher you go the more digital noise is added to the image, this can be very noticeable when very high but most modern professional cameras are able to remove the vast majority of this. F/Stop does not add any noise when letting in light however you will notice, depending on the lens used, that it becomes harder and harder to focus the image. Whatever isn’t in focus becomes more and more out of focus. This is because more and more light is hitting the cameras sensor. This plays a part in making sure your subject is in focus when recording. Blurry out of focus video does not sit well with viewers!
Shutter speed also plays a part in exposure while it should be factored in, not used to actually change the exposure.
White Balance is telling the camera what kind of light you are filming in. Whether that be sunlight, LED or Tungsten lightbulbs. Every light source emits a different colour, sunlight is a much bluer light while tungsten is more orange. White balance is used to try and determine the colour that the light source gives off to record it in a more neutral white colour.
One thing that an inexperienced video producer does, is forget that the audio is just as important as the visuals. Viewers will switch off, or disengage from, or fail to take away and remember messaging from a video with poorly produced audio. If you want them to listen, get the sound right. A simple rule that so many people even now don’t understand is that sound recording should never be done through the intrinsic on board camera mic. You should record the best quality sound as possible with an external microphone.
Make sure that the microphone is as close to the audio source as possible without being in frame. This gives the sound less chance to travel and change before you record it. The sound of the echoes in the room tells the audience “we didn’t put much effort into this!” Especially when, for example, Youtubers are producing video content with crisp and clear sound in their bedroom. When you use something amateur to represent your business, you will look amateurish yourself.
Unless you really know what you’re doing, It’s important to let as much light as you possibly can into the room in which you will be shooting your video. The more light you give your camera, the less sensitive it needs to make itself to be able to expose everything correctly. This leads to an overall better image as it will be less noisy. Make sure sure that the light sources are hitting you “the subject” and not the camera itself, otherwise you will create optical flares on the image. Also try and make sure that the light is all coming from a similar source, either all sunlight, all LED or all Lightbulbs of the same colour. This is to make sure you don’t have different coloured lights all in the frame as it will give you inaccurate colour which is difficult to fix in the edit.
Filming against windows
You should also avoid having any windows within the frame of your camera. Windows lead to outside, and outside has the brightest light source available to us, our sun. If a window is in view of your camera, your image quality will go out the window as your camera attempts to expose for the sun and you in the room. It’s not going to happen. Currently only very very expensive cameras are able to do this and even then you need powerful lights to help out. So simply avoid having any windows in your shot, if you aren’t able to avoid a window, draw the curtains and place a thick towel over the rail to block out as much sunlight as possible.
Lighting is the key to producing anything of real quality and you need to know how and why to use it. The equipment you use is important, that said, it is still probably only 10% of what actually makes a video engaging. The rest is down to you and your crew!
If you’re going for a very basic model of video, such as the talking head, the presenter needs to communicate through the screen directly to the viewer. Using people from within your business can be a good idea, but if you can’t help that person out with some nice visuals, a strong sound mix, a tight, engaging and understandable script, then you need to make sure that they have immense charisma and the confidence to get our message a cross. You can have someone who is a fantastic when speaking to a room full of people, but stick them in front of a camera and they just aren’t the same!
Having a person just reading awkwardly from a script off to the side of a camera is being unnecessarily cruel to the presenter, the viewer and your business. You may as well just write your message as a blog.
Make sure that your presenter does not wear any clothes with striped patterns. Even today, some cameras get confused by striped lines close together. This is known as the moiré effect. This visual perception occurs when a fine pattern on your subject meshes with the pattern on the imaging chip of your camera, and you see a third separate pattern. A plain solid coloured shirt is fine, don’t worry, they will still look great! Make sure though that there are no obvious branding logos of other companies on the clothing!
Now you are on location make sure you pick a spot to shoot that in not only visually interesting but is also good for sound, you aren’t like to be disturbed and isn’t affected by changing light or weather. Keep an eye out for safety precautions too; no trailing wires waiting to be tripped over or lights left on to create burn or fire hazards.
Try to get the best you can with what you have! Despite all the planning, scheduling and precautions there will always be things out of your control or problems that occur all of a sudden and you have to find a way around. The trick is to try to keep in mind what you are shooting, who for and why and try to think on your feet and be spontaneous with ideas to get around issues.
The last thing you want during a video presentation is to become distracted by anything. Let everyone at the location who isn’t involved in the filming know what you are doing. Lock the door and put up a sign if you have to! Mute your mobile phone, leave your landline off the hook, so that you have zero distractions.
Also think about how your audience might get unintentionally distracted by your background. Is there is some funny artwork behind you on the wall? Is it reflecting the right image for your company to your audience?
A whole other ball game, best reserved for our other blog here.
We understand why you might want to produce your own video, but there is more to it than just pressing the little red button. You need to look at how you want your business to be portrayed to your target audience. I would like to believe that your business deserves more than what an amateur can produce. Why would you spend 5 or 6 days producing a video that may not work when it isn’t what your company does? That’s time you could be working with your customers, chasing new leads or refining your own processes. You wouldn’t have a go at building your own house would you? No, you would bring in an expert and a team of people who know what they’re doing.
However, if you are going to give it a go yourself, please ask us for some advice, we are always happy to help.