As a photographer, there’s no doubt you understand good composition and what it takes to create a beautiful image. But when moving to videography, master these four things to ensure a smooth transition to high quality video acquisition.
Now that you are shooting video, you’re capturing multiple frames per second instead of a snapshot in time. As such, keeping your shot steady is of utmost importance. Nothing is more nauseating to the viewer than jumpy, unsteady video. While there are some stabilization tools you can use in post-production to fix problems, these do have some limitations and it’s best to not capture the problem in the first place.
I’ll admit it is difficult to keep a lightweight DSLR or mirrorless camera steady when shooting freehand video. Unlike heavier shoulder-mount professional video cameras, lighter cameras often cannot be shoulder mounted, may not have hand holds, and lack the weight resistance and proper balance to be controlled smoothly. Therefore, you must familiarize yourself with video accessories that can help ensure stability.
Nothing beats a tripod with spiked or rubber feet for outdoor use or dolly wheels for smooth movement indoor or on flat surfaces. The handle on a tripod can help you tilt or pan, while also holding servo controls for more expensive lenses. Good tripods offer silky fluid heads and drag controls to help you move the camera at precise speeds and even smoothness.
While tripods come in many shapes and sizes, there are numerous carbon fiber options that weigh less than five pounds and may be adequate for your needs.
Gimbals are also available. These stabilizers allow you to mount and operate your camera in different ways by using gyroscopes to smooth out otherwise jerky movements by the videographer. A final piece of equipment that may be of interest to use is the slider. These can be manual or automatic, but allow you to smoothly and evenly move a camera from left to right along rails to add motion to your shot.
As a photographer, you undoubtedly have an eye for sharp focus. But when you shoot video, your subject may be moving and you must constantly ensure focus is maintained throughout the scene.
There are many times when a videographer must control zoom, focu, and aperture simultaneously on the fly to capture a perfect video clip. At the very least, you must be prepared to change focus as the subject moves closer or farther from you. It’s not “set it and forget it.”
Your camera should provide numerous autofocus options, such as allowing you to choose an area on the screen to be in focus, touching a subject to follow or perhaps holding the shutter button half-way down for autofocus. Going on a test shoot to try out these autofocus methods is my best recommendation for the newcomer to video. Hopefully, you’ll find a setting that works for you and your subject matter.
While I have had success moving from professional video cameras to DSLR or mirrorless options, the focusing did take some getting used to. Everything was smaller, from focus rings on lenses to LCD viewfinders, and it is often difficult to see small details.
I prefer to use manual control, providing me total control and fast adjustment on the fly. It also allows for techniques such as rack focusing. To help, I always use an external monitor when not shooting handheld.
If you are using a tripod, there are arm adapters you can get to hold a monitor off to the side. I have purchased several Atomos monitors. These provide a larger image, offer some built-in focus guides and monitoring tools, allow you to capture in various video formats, let you see the video in different color spaces, and record to speedy SSD. They can run off battery or connect to a power adapter or powertap.
To me, this monitor is almost as important as the camera itself. You really cannot compensate in post for poor focus. In video, live action happens fast and you usually only get one shot to get it right.
There’s a lot of differences in shooting video, ranging from camera frame rate to lighting to planning a shoot. First, learn about frame rates. Video consists of multiple frames (or images) per second. Some standard frame rates include 24fps (think of film), 29.97fps or 59.94fps.
29.97 (or 30) fps is usually good for most videos. However, you can increase the frame rate for action shots or if you want to capture better slow motion.
Shutter speed is related to your frame rate. A typical shutter speed is 1/60s, especially when recording at 30fps. If you ever see flickering while shooting electronics or screens, you can often get rid of the flicker by adjusting this.
When it comes to lighting, the biggest difference in video is that you need to light the entire scene for the entire time. You need to light for where your subject is at the start of the shoot and where they will end up. You need to be aware of what is in the background of your shot or what may enter the background of your shot. Check for any weird reflections or abnormalities.
While you can fix some things in post, remember that you typically have to make fixes for every frame of the video.
Always plan your shoot – you may need to be prepared to shoot the subject from multiple angles to tell a story and plan B-roll or cover shots.
Time of day matters. If your shoot goes long, your sunset “magic hour” will turn to dusk quickly and it will be difficult to match shots from earlier in the day. If your talent wears a tight-knit clothing pattern, you may get an unsightly moire pattern. Be sure to check for runaway hairs on the talent, which tend to flare up during motion in the scene.
As the saying goes … without audio, video is just surveillance. While audio is often thought of as the least important part of video, is arguably is the most important. Poor audio can kill the desire for someone to watch a video. Do not rely upon your camera’s built-in microphone.
There are numerous types of microphones available that offer different pickup patterns and connections to the camera. You can get a shotgun microphone for mobile video that attaches to your camera and plugs in via TRS or XLR connection. This picks up audio from the area the mic is directly pointed toward.
Or, you can purchase more expensive wireless lavalier units. With these, the talent wears the transmitter with microphone and you attach the receiver to your camera’s audio connection. The mic’s close location to the audio source provides optimal quality.
Lav mics can have an omnidirectional or a cardioid pickup pattern. Just read about the frequency, pattern and connection to ensure compatibility and a proper fit to your needs. Purchase a variety of clips to attach the mic to clothing and get a windscreen for outdoor shoots.
Whatever you do, always monitor your audio with a good pair of headphones. Capturing audio from the scene is just as important as capturing the video.
I hope these tips help your video acquisition. Have a good video shoot!