Digital Camera/Helpful Filming Techniques

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Helpful Filming Techniques (Focusing on the FlipCam)

This page lists several tips, tricks, and techniques to incorporate while shooting video with a particular focus on filming with the FlipCam. These tips can help:

  • Cut down on editing time
  • Add ease to editing
  • Produce higher quality video and sound
  • Utilize the available lighting properly
  • Make your final production more appealing and interesting to watch
  • Add specific moods to your video


In relation to an interviewee

  • Stand/film close to the subject, as you'll get better sound, and the FlipCams have no microphone port
  • Standing closer will give the benefit of higher quality video over zooming in
  • Distance & zoom can change the visual perspective, distorting a person's appearance
  • Generally, you should film at your subject's height; looking up to or down on someone sets a different mood, skews the perspective, can change the audience's opinion of the subject's credibility, and can even "add weight" to the subject


Listen to your surroundings

  • Noise sources can overtake the voices or other sounds you're trying to capture
  • If something is causing noise, but it's generally non-intrusive, try to film the source of the noise in the background of the shot (show a small part of the street behind the person with cars driving, etc.)
  • Background noise, if utilized properly, is sometimes better than pure silence behind your interviewee's voice; try different techniques and see what works best for you
  • If possible, try to film with the wind behind you, or at any angle that it will not hit the microphone. Wind over the microphone can completely drown out the other sounds. Even if you can still hear the intended audio, the noise from the wind is a distraction


Use your lighting wisely

  • There shouldn't be any reason to buy special lighting for filming
  • Natural and artificial light can both produce good results
  • Typically, you'll want your lighting source to be in front of, generally above, and somewhat to one side of the subject
    • Filming midday with the sun directly above is something you should not do; outdoor filming would be better mid-morning or afternoon so the sun is lower and you can position the subject relative to it
    • Filming the subject in front of a light source (especially a window on a bright day) will backlight him/her, make the face extremely dark, and cause lens flares
    • Light directly in front of the subject will wash out the face, diminish color, and can cause people to look unhealthy
  • Reflector boards can be used to help "position" the light available to you; they are very useful for adding glow/light to a scene without making it look harsh. Nothing expensive is required; white poster-board, cardboard, or cloth are acceptable
  • Don't mix natural and artificial light in the same shot-sources of light have different general color tones, and mixing several looks very unnatural and lowers visibility


Tripods

  • A tripod will keep the shot steady
  • Small tripods are usually inexpensive, but tables, etc. can also be used
  • Don't put the camera on any surface that will be shaky
    • Ex: if it is on a table, don't let people stomp around the room or touch the table while filming


Zoom

  • Zoom can be a useful cinematic tool, but should generally be used in moderation, and not for extended shots
  • Zooming in on a subject before a cut/transition can sometimes add a dramatic effect
  • Do not zoom in and then film the subject speaking for any extended period of time; in that case, you should move the camera closer for clearer video


General tips to remember while filming

  • Film plenty of shots of the surroundings/reaction shots/other things related to the subject at hand to use as good transitions and to make it less obvious when cutting to different parts of an interview
  • After interviewing, leave the camera on for a while to capture the background noise that's been occurring the whole time. Later, it can be inserted into the film during silent scenes to fill the gap and add continuity
  • Instead of one long take, give your interviewee time to rest and regain composure; this also gives you many smaller files to work with, which will make editing much easier
  • There is no reason to NOT try different angles/lighting in shots. Try whatever you'd like, then decide what's best based on results, not on expectations
  • Always start filming a few seconds before what you'd like in the shot, and keep filming for a few seconds after you're done; this will add buffer time for easier editing, and insure a subject's voice will not be cut off
  • Reshoot if needed!
    • If the sound is bad when you film, the sound will be bad in the final product
      • Small improvements can be made, but without an abundance of time and money (and sometimes that doesn't even help), it will be just that: small improvements
    • If the video quality is bad, it cannot be later enhanced; what was filmed is as good as it's going to get

Things that will distract from the film, and generally irritate an audience

  • Out of focus scenes: if the focus is off while you're filming, try zooming all the way out. If the zoom is out, move back from the subject in small increments and let the camera try to focus
  • Shaky filming: some movies are currently using this technique, but the general feedback is either motion sickness or migraines. Shaky filming can add suspense to a horror movie, or intensity to a fight scene, but will just be a confusing distraction in most other cases
  • Frequent zooming: as was mentioned before, zooming can be beneficial when used tastefully. When every scene is zooming in and out, it's almost a burden to watch and the zoom loses its impact
  • Sparsely edited work: watching a lot of blank pauses between questions/answers, etc. can cause people to lose interest
    • Tip-instead of cutting sharply between dialogue, these pauses can be filled with the background/reaction shots suggested earlier


Final Note

* All of these tips are just that: tips. Try whatever you'd like, and decide what works best for you and your film!