Friday, August 13, 2010

Thinking In Video

Chances are, if you recently bought a digital still camera, it also has the ability to shoot video.
Text & Photography By Tom Bol Published in Videography
Thinking In Video

3. Use a focus-assist eyepiece.

Since video is shot using Live View with your camera, you need to watch your LCD screen to check focus. Some cameras have autofocus in video mode, but this contrast-based system is typically slower than the still frame autofocus system. Whether you use autofocus or manual focus, if you can’t see your LCD screen clearly, you won’t be able to check focus. There are a number of companies that produce focusing loupes to solve this problem. I use the Hoodman HoodLoupe with the hot-shoe mount that holds the loupe over the LCD screen. This loupe is essential to check focus, especially outside with bright sun. When I use the Stubling, this loupe is positioned right at my eye so I can focus with moving shots.

4. Create a storyboard.

A storyboard helps you organize your video shoot and fosters creativity in your coverage. Before I shoot any video, I write down what the story is about, the scenes that need to be included, the best camera angles to use and what other media I may use, such as stills and audio. During this storyboard process, I often come up with new angles and ideas to cover certain shots.

Storyboards give you focus and efficiency when you’re shooting. If you’re working with models or people, this efficiency will be appreciated by all. Don’t randomly take video on a shoot because that’s how it will play back—randomly and scattered, quickly losing the viewer’s attention. Come with a storyboard plan, but always stay open to spontaneous ideas and angles that arise on the shoot. Shoot lots of B-roll footage, “scene setters” that support the main story. This footage can be edited into the final video and round out the story.

5. Seek out good light.

Most of the lighting principles that apply to still photography are the same for video. Try to shoot with warm evening or morning light, and avoid harsh, midday sunny conditions. Many of the light modifiers you use to create nice light for still shooting are the same with video shooting. Reflectors, overhead silks and softboxes are all used in video production. Since video is shooting continuous frames, lights have to be continuous sources. A small, powerful video light is the Litepanels MicroPro. It’s a lightweight LED light that attaches to your hot-shoe, is powered by AA batteries and puts out an amazing amount of light. I often put my MicroPro on a Manfrotto Justin Clamp attached to a light stand. This allows me to position the light at a nice high angle to my subject. If you’re shooting with overhead sun, try putting your subject in the shade or use an overhead diffusion silk to soften the light.

6. Use a variety of shots.

Video shooting involves what videographers call wide, medium and close-up shots. Just as these terms describe, you want to use a variety of angles and compositions to make your video interesting. Mix up wide-angle shots with close-ups and medium shots; they give your video better coverage quality and make it more interesting to the viewer.

Don’t simply put your camera on a tripod and then shoot the entire movie from one angle. Try putting your camera at ground level or up high for a fresh perspective. Shooting from different angles makes the video “snappy.” Try some shots with your telephoto, and shoot other clips with your wide-angle lens. These different angles and perspectives give you more creative options when editing the final piece.

7. Try selective focus.

Using selective focus is a subjective choice, but it allows you to utilize one of the benefits of still camera video: the ability to use your existing lenses. Many camcorders don’t have the option of using wide-open apertures like ƒ/2.8, which gives soft, silky backgrounds with its shallow depth of field. This soft background effect is a great way to make video clips more dramatic and interesting. You can take this technique even further if you own a tilt-shift lens. Swing the lens left or right, set the aperture at ƒ/2.8, and you’ll have a really soft-focus shot with only one side of the frame sharp.
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